One in five aged care workers intend to resign within a year, and two out of three say they will quit in five years, according to a new study.
The Perfect Storm report, from governance and risk management firm CompliSpace, found low pay, combined with high stress and paperwork were major factors in workers’ choice to stay or go from the industry.
CompliSpace CEO David Griffiths said the hourly pay rates of aged care workers were not much higher than the minimum wage.
“An impending crisis of staff turnover is emerging with 180,000 workers planning to leave the industry in the next five years, including 110,000 in the next three years and 47,000 within the next 12 months,” he said.
“The impending staff exodus from aged care is not surprising when you realise we pay more to those who stack our supermarket shelves than those who care for some of the most vulnerable Australians in society.”
The report highlights ongoing concerns about chronic workforce shortages, an issue recognised in the A Matter of Care report.
The Aged Care Workforce Strategy also led to the creation of a high-level industry, government and sector Aged Care Workforce Industry Council, which is tasked with rolling out the strategy.
The survey of more than 1000 respondents – at more than 250 services across Australia or about 10 per cent of the operational residential aged care facilities – was conducted in July 2021.
The report raised concerns about the pipeline of workers needed to service the growing industry, which will increase in budget and demand as Australia ages.
Almost half of new entrants to the sector do not intend to stay beyond three years, compared to one in three experienced workers who said they were intending to stay for at least another decade.
“This suggests that aged care providers will need to identify these contented experienced workers quickly, and introduce incentives to ensure that they stay and mentor the next generation,” the report said.
“In addition, once established in aged care, workers tend to want to stay, with almost 40 per cent of those with three to five years’ experience planning on staying for more than five years. This suggests that career pathways, once established, have a stabilising effect on the workforce.”
So what is pushing workers out of the industry?
Three out of five people said stress was their biggest driver, with 85 per cent saying their workload had increased over the last year due to the added burden of COVID-19 restrictions and regulations.
Similarly, the additional regulatory requirements following the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety have meant three out of four workers experienced an increased workload.
More than half of respondents said the Australian Government’s response did not go far enough.
“All they have done is added more bureaucracy, cost, and missed every important strategic issue,” a Board member with more than a decade of experience in aged care said.
“There are few direct benefits for the residents or resources for the providers to produce better outcomes.”
The Australian Fair Work Commission is currently reviewing an application to increase rates of pay for aged care workers by as much as 25 per cent and will announce a decision in July 2022.
If granted in full, the minimum wage would increase by $5.08 to $25.41 per hour.
Mr Griffiths said despite the ongoing efforts, it remained insufficient to meet the need for acceptable care and standards in the post-royal commission world.
“Workers are trying their best, the 800 aged care providers are trying their best, and the government has committed an extra $17 billion over five years to lift standards in the sector,” he said.
“But the inescapable truth is more needs to be done, because Australia is on the brink of an aged care staffing crisis, despite the best efforts of the overwhelming number of those involved.”