A senate inquiry investigating Australia’s aged care workforce has been told that a portable entitlement scheme for aged care workers should be introduced to help tackle the sector’s retention problem.
Due to inadequate and unpredictable hours, many aged care employees worked for multiple employers, but their continuity of service and accrued long service leave entitlements were not recognised, United Voice has told the inquiry.
“Implementing a portable entitlements scheme would recognise the nature of work in this sector and demonstrate a valuing of aged care work,” United Voice wrote in its submission to the inquiry.
The union estimated 14 per cent of community aged care workers held multiple jobs, which was more than double the rate for the general workforce.
The scheme should also include the disability sector to recognise the entitlements of those employed across both sectors, the union said.
The ACT Labor Government has committed to introducing portable long service leave entitlements for aged care workers, extending its scheme which already covers the community sector, cleaning and construction industries in Canberra.
A senate inquiry into the feasibility of portable long service schemes was completed last month and recommended the government undertake detailed modelling to determine the potential cost to employers of extending portable long service leave entitlements.
Aged care employer peak bodies oppose extending portability of long service leave to the sector citing concerns regarding increased costs and administrative burden.
Zero hour contracts
United Voice also told the senate inquiry it was concerned about the emergence of zero hour contracts in the sector, which do not provide any guaranteed weekly hours or income for direct care workers.
The union said these contracts were a “troubling emerging trend” across both the aged and disability sectors.
“Zero hour contracts are not compatible with developing a professional, loyal and skilled workforce delivering quality care services. Continuity of care is more likely to be disrupted where zero hour contracts are used.”
The union also recommended that block funding of home care packages remain an option for specific groups of consumers where individualised funding is not working and in regional and remote areas to ensure the sustainability of services.
The inquiry into the future of the aged care workforce continues.