Aged care sector warns of exodus over proposed criminal penalties

Hon Anika Wells, Minister for Aged Care

As reported by The Australian, aged-care operators are warning that the Labor government’s plan to impose criminal penalties on directors, executives, and nursing managers could lead to an exodus of key personnel.

The proposed legislation aims to hold “dodgy aged care providers” accountable with penalties, including up to five years in jail.

The government has faced delays in introducing the Aged Care Act as it seeks bipartisan support. The Australian newspaper reports that Labor plans to address the Act and respond to the Aged Care Taskforce’s recommendations after the winter break, with legislation expected in August.

The sector is concerned about the lack of clear guidance on the proposed penalties and fears the impact on staffing.

Aged Care Minister Anika Wells, who has been criticised for slow reform actions, stated that the new Act would include statutory duties to ensure accountability for the health and safety of older people.

However, industry leaders, including those from regional groups and the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), argue that additional liabilities will deter skilled individuals from taking on roles in aged care.

“We need high-quality directors willing to lead their organisations…Layering liability on top of existing obligations is only going to deter good people from serving, just at the time when the sector needs them more than ever.”

AICD Managing Director and CEO Mark Rigotti

Sector representatives are urging the government to reconsider the criminal liability provisions, suggesting that punitive measures should be limited to civil penalties to avoid deterring capable directors and managers during a critical time for the aged care industry.

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