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Minimum wages set to rise for aged care workers in the Aged Care, Nurses and SCHADS Awards

by  | 20 Mar 2024 | Employment LawModern Awards

On 15 March 2024 the Fair Work Commission issued a decision to increase the minimum wages of aged care workers covered by the Aged Care Award 2010 (Aged Care Award), the Nurses Award 2020 (Nurses Award) and the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010 (SCHADS Award).

The Commission also determined to make changes to the some of the employee classification level structures in the awards (for employees working in aged care), as well as transferring coverage from the Nurses Award to the Aged Care Award for some employees.

The pay increases and classification structure changes will only apply to aged care workers under these awards and not other workers. For example, disability services and disability home care workers under the SCHADS Award will not be affected by these changes.

The dates the changes will come into effect are still to be determined, and we are likely to know more about the exact timetable after April.

Why did the Fair Work Commission make this decision?

The Fair Work Commission has been reviewing minimum wages for workers in the aged care sector for some time, following claims that work in the sector is currently undervalued due to:

  • assumptions based on gender (ie aged care has historically been a female-dominated industry and female-dominated industries have historically been subject to lower minimum wages than male-dominated industries); and
  • the growing complexity of the work performed in the sector, meaning that minimum wages should increase at a higher rate than the standard annual increases to wages in other sectors.

The Fair Work Commission had previously made an interim decision that the wages for aged care workers should increase by 15%, such change taking effect on 1 July 2023, but had signalled at  the time of the previous decision that it would consider increasing minimum wages even further.

The Commission has now made a further decision on the full increases to be awarded to aged care workers, as well as decisions concerning award coverage for certain workers.

What has the Fair Work Commission decided?

Direct care workers

The Fair Work Commission has determined that further increases to minimum wages should be awarded for workers providing direct care to elderly people, but of differing rates depending on the employee’s role.

It has also determined that:

  • The coverage of home care workers who work in the aged care sector should remain in the SCHADS Award and should not be moved to the Aged Care Award, but their classification structure under the SCHADS Award and rates of pay should be aligned with those of personal care workers under the Aged Care Award.
  • The classification structure for home care workers who work in the aged care sector under the SCHADS Award will therefore be amended. You can see what this is proposed to look like in a tracked changes version of the SCHADS Award here (see Schedule F).
  • Personal care workers in the Aged Care Award and assistants in nursing (currently covered by the Nurses Award) who work in aged care perform the same role and there is no justification for them to be covered by two different awards. Accordingly, the coverage of assistants in nursing in aged care will be moved from the Nurses Award to the Aged Care Award. The classification structure also should include a supervisory level. See the proposed amendments to the Aged Care Award here and to the Nurses Award here.

The Fair Work Commission has also determined that the following pay increases will apply (inclusive of the 15% increase awarded on 1 July 2023):

Aged Care Award – Personal care workers

Existing personal care worker classification – Aged Care AwardNew direct care employee classification – Aged Care AwardPay increase (inclusive of interim increase)
Level 1Level 120.9%

Level 2

Level 3

Level 2

22.8%

18.2%

Level 4Level 323%
Level 5 (without Certificate IV)Level 423.7%

Level 5 (with Certificate IV)

Level 6

Level 5

28.5%

21.9%

Level 7Level 624.2%

Aged Care Award – Assistants in nursing

Existing assistant in nursing classification – Nurses AwardNew classification – Aged Care Award

Pay increase

(inclusive of interim increase)

1st year if less than 3 months’ experienceLevel 117.9%

1st year, after 3 months’ experience

2nd year

3rd year

Level 2

24.5%

 

22.6%

20.6%

ExperiencedLevel 323%
Level 4
Level 5
Level 6

SCHADS Award – Home care workers in aged care

Existing home care worker classification – SCHADS AwardNew home care worker classification – SCHADS Award

Pay increase (inclusive of interim

increase)

Level 1

Less than 3 months’ experience After 3 months’ experience

 

Level 1

Level 2

 

19.5%

26.1%

Level 2

Pay point 1

Pay point 2

 

Level 2

Level 2

 

19.3%

18.4%

Level 3

Pay point 1

Pay point 2

 

Level 3

Level 3

 

23%

19.3%

Level 4 (without Certificate IV)

Pay point 1

Pay point 2

 

Level 4

Level 4

 

17.3%

15.0%

Level 4 (with Certificate IV)

Pay point 1

Pay point 2

 

Level 5

Level 5

 

21.8%

19.4%

Level 5 

Pay point 1

Pay point 2 

 

Level 6

Level 6

 

17.8%

13.3%

Indirect care workers

The Fair Work Commission also made determinations regarding indirect care employees in the aged care sector.

Indirect care employees in the Aged Care Award are engaged in the ‘general and administrative services’ stream or the ‘food services’ stream (eg office workers, cleaners, cooks, etc).

The Commission found that these workers do not perform work of equivalent value to direct care workers and therefore there was not justification for awarding them equal rates of pay.

However, the Commission did consider that a three per cent increase for indirect care workers under the Aged Care Award was appropriate.

It also made the following further determinations in respect of indirect care workers:

  • Home care workers in aged care covered by the SCHADS Award who perform non-personal care work (eg changing bed linen, doing laundry, cleaning the home, etc) should, going forward, be paid the same rate as those doing personal care work. Such employees will therefore be covered under the new home care worker payment structure in the SCHADS Award;
  • Laundry hands, cleaners and food services assistants under the Aged Care Award interact with residents significantly more regularly than other indirect care employees and this justifies an additional adjustment to their rates of pay.
  • Accordingly, laundry hands, cleaners and food services assistants will be moved from Level 2 to Level 3 in the Aged Care Award classification structure for indirect care employees. This will result in a total pay increase for workers in these roles of 6.96 per cent, inclusive of the three per cent increase awarded to indirect care employees generally.
  • There will be no further increase for Head Chefs/Cooks.

When will the changes be finalised and when will they come into effect?

The Fair Work Commission has published draft determinations of the changes (links above) which are open for comment until 4pm on 26 April 2024.

It then may confirm the changes, or make further changes, based on the comments it receives.

It has also asked the Government to comment by 4pm on 12 April 2024 on the dates that these changes should be made (given that the Government is likely to increase funding for the sector as a result of the changes). People may file any submissions in response to the Government’s submissions by 4pm on 10 May 2024.

Once all submissions are filed, the Commission will determine whether any further hearing is required to finalise the changes, including in relation to the dates they will come into effect  and any phasing in.

The Commission will also make further determinations regarding registered and enrolled nurses and a hearing has been listed on this subject at 2pm on 4 April 2024.

We will be publishing further guidance once the Fair Work Commission has confirmed the dates the changes will come into effect and exactly how the awards will be amended.

In the meantime, if you require any assistance, please contact us.

Disclaimer

The information provided in these blog articles is general in nature and is not intended to substitute for professional advice. If you are unsure about how this information applies to your specific situation we recommend you contact HR Connect for advice.

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