What does the FWC’s decision mean for Aged Care?

  • Published June 15, 2022

Late on a Friday afternoon in early November, the Fair Work Commission quietly released in an important announcement – something HSU members have been spent years fighting for. The FWC declared an interim 15% pay rise for aged care and home care workers in direct care roles was, and scheduled hearings about pay increases for other classifications. Additional increases for direct care roles have also been scheduled for further FWC hearings.

This decision comes after years of dedicated campaigning, and gives some hope that change is coming – but it simply doesn’t go far enough.

When the FWC handed down their decision on the HSU’s Aged Care Work Value Case, they acknowledged that the existing minimum rates do not properly compensate direct care workers, including RNs, ENs, and PCWs. The Bench recognised the fact that the work undertaken had changed significantly in the past two decades, and that there is ample evidence that the needs of those being cared for have significantly increased in terms of clinical complexity, frailty, and cognitive and mental health.

This should mean that all aged care workers benefit from this long overdue decision, right? That the FWC recognises that all aged care workers, regardless of seniority or professional qualification, are the front line of aged care work, of giving elderly Australians the care and dignity they deserve? That everyone who works in the aged care industry, regardless of seniority or qualification, is in real need of a pay rise?

At the time of print, this is unfortunately not the case. According to the FWC, the evidence that support and administrative employee workloads have increased in volume and complexity is “not as clear or compelling” as the facts presented to them by HSU and other unions when they declared the interim 15% for direct care roles.

We say this is unfair and wrong. While we welcome the 15% increase for direct care roles, HSU members know that larger and broader increase are needed across the industry in order to stem the staffing and wage crisis in aged care. Aged Care workers have been on the battle lines so long, they don’t know if they can continue. With poverty pay in the sector, we are headed towards total collapse - or mass exodus. Time and time again, HSU members have told their stories to the media.

HSU members stand united to keep campaigning for a 25% pay rise for all aged care workers.

Members have been confused, grateful and angry. Confused over who exactly was part of this interim decision and when it was going to actually happen, grateful that their pleas had finally been heard, at least partially, and angry over the perpetual neglect of the aged care system and this partial offering to help repair it.

At the directions hearing on 22 November, we took our message directly to the Fair Work Commission, telling the media the case should be dealt with as quickly as possible, to make sure that every aged care worker gets a pay increase. HSU members agreed all aged care workers must be covered by the pay increase, that the full 25% pay increase must be awarded by the Fair Work Commission, and any pay increase must be implemented as soon as possible.

The good news is that we have a timetable we’re working towards. Stage 2 of the Work Value Case will determine when the 15% interim decision for direct care workers is implemented. This has been set for hearing on 13 February 2023. Stage 3 of the process, which will examine our claim for a 25% increase for the rest of the aged care workforce, as well as the outstanding 10% pay rise for direct care roles. No timetable for Stage 3 has been set yet.

HSU members stand united to keep campaigning for a 25% pay rise for all aged care workers.

We will continue to build our response and keep the pressure on. Through flexing our collective power, we’ve already made real, positive changes to the lives of aged care workers across the nation, and we’ll do it again.