Parliament’s final sitting week has seen Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter put forward the Government’s planned overhaul of workplace relations in the wake of COVID – and a number of the proposed changes will impact aged care providers.
Aged care has historically relied on some staff being employed on a casual basis.
The legislation includes a new definition of a casual employee in the Fair Work Act as someone offered work without “firm, advance commitment” of ongoing opportunities – which the majority of aged care workers would not fit.
Businesses would also be compelled to provide casual workers who have a regular pattern of hours a permanent part-time or full-time job after 12 months, unless they have reasonable grounds not to.
However, employers’ liability for paying casual leave loadings and other benefits would be reduced because these would count towards any entitlements a casual employee may be found to have.
The Better-Off-Overall Test (BOOT) – which ensures workers can’t be disadvantaged under an enterprise agreement compared to the relevant award – would also be suspended for two years while the changes were put in place.
All of the proposed changes would apply to current employees from the time they began working for their employer and to all prospective employees.
The legislation is now due for more consultation and will not be voted on until next year.
Peaks still reviewing the legislation
There has been no discussion yet on how aged care providers will be affected, with the peaks yet to develop advice on the issue.
LASA’s manager of policy and advocacy, Tim Hicks told us LASA is reviewing the legislation and will provide advice to their members. ACSA said it was also monitoring this issue closely, but had no specific comment yet.
Cynthia Payne (pictured above), Managing Director of the aged care transformation executive and management firm Anchor Excellence, says however that the reforms should benefit the sector if they can reduce reliance on a casualised workforce.
Cynthia says that while there is a balancing act for providers when it comes to developing a workforce plan appropriate for their services, their work shows that using a relationship-based roster model – with an adequate proportion of permanent staff – has a direct connection with good outcomes for consumers.
Anchor also finds that providers that have a sufficient focus on roster management and good systems tend to steer clear of having an overly casualised workforce.
The only issue that she expects will concern the peaks is that some casual workers may not want to become permanent part-time staff if it does not suit their circumstances.
Expect to hear more then on this issue.