On Friday, the Government lodged a submission to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) that the 15 per cent pay rise for aged care workers would be phased, with a 10 per cent increase in July 2023 and a further 5 per cent in July 2024.
The increase was awarded last month by the FWC as an interim decision and described as ‘plainly justified’, with the door remaining open for further increases.
Aged care industry stakeholders including the Aged Care Workforce Industry Council (ACWIC), Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) and Catholic Health Australia were quick to signal their concern at the proposed delay, citing immediate workforce shortages compounded by low pay and cost of living pressures.
In a statement, the ACCPA CEO Tom Symondson shared, “We welcome the government’s decision to deliver on their election commitment to fully fund the pay rise and to include employees on costs like superannuation, worker’s compensation and payroll tax.
“However, we are concerned that the pay rise is to be split into two parts and that workers will have to wait until 1 July 2023 before the first increase and a year later to get the second,” Mr Symondson added.
One of the sector’s biggest employers, Catholic Health Australia (CHA) called for the full 25% – the original claim made by unions to the FWC – to be paid as soon as possible.
Libby Lyons, Chair of ACWIC, said that while it is very disappointing that workers will not receive the long overdue pay rise immediately, there are complexities involved in making changes in a sector that is primarily funded by the government.
“We understand the challenges and costs of implementing a full 15 per cent pay rise immediately.
“Aligning the pay rise with the start of the financial year and planned reforms will reduce the potential administrative burden on providers and employers, which is a significant concern in a sector that is undergoing a major transformation.
“At the same time, we acknowledge that this is a bitter blow for affected workers, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet in these challenging times, with ever-increasing costs of living due to high inflation and interest rates.
“Ultimately, staged improvements to wages will assist with the retention and attraction of direct care workers, but I think that 18 months will be too long for some workers to wait, and we may well see more workers exit the sector in the meantime,” Ms Lyons said.
Recent aged care workforce research by Complispace suggests half will leave the sector in the next three years.