The Crux of the Aged Care Worker Pay Rise

An elderly woman smiles joyfully while looking at a smartphone screen, accompanied by a masked aged care worker, likely sharing a moment of connection.

The Government’s recent aged care worker pay rise is “one of the best outcomes” of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety, according to the Health Services Union National President, Gerard Hayes. The much-lauded pay increase was spurred on by commission findings that aged care workers have been underpaid and undervalued.

The sector has long called for equitable pay. The raise is a positive step into properly compensating and acknowledging aged care workers in our country. Here’s what you need to know.

Why did we need an aged care worker pay rise?

Historically, aged care workers have received lower wages compared to other sectors, despite the demanding nature of their work. A significantly higher number of women work in this sector than men and many believe this is why these services have been undervalued.

Australia has an ageing population, hence the demands on and for aged care service providers is on the rise. The need for an aged care worker pay rise in Australia was clear.

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in Australia delivered its final report in March 2021, finding that the sector has inadequately compensated aged care workers for their work. These low wages have contributed to challenges in attracting and retaining staff, with the sector facing a workforce crisis.

The Commission made a clear link between the pay and conditions of aged care workers and the quality of care they’re able to provide. The conclusion? Pay aged care workers better so that they can stay in their jobs and do them well.

What is the aged care worker pay rise?

The Fair Work Commission announced on 15 March 2024 that aged care workers will receive an average pay rise of between 18% and 28% depending on their role. A personal carer’s salary, for instance, would go from earning $23.10 to $32.52 per hour.

The increase includes a new benchmark pay rate for certain qualified employees. This varies between 18.2% to 28.5% for personal care workers, depending on skill and qualification.

Experts expect the pay rise to prompt further investment in the sector and to help make aged care competitive and dignified.

Support staff not as rewarded

Aged care support staff like kitchen hands and cleaners will receive a lower increase of only 6.8%. Many have criticised the move for widening the gap between the highest and lowest paid staff. It also reflects how we value direct care roles over support roles, despite the essential services these support staff provide.

A recent article in The Conversation highlighted the need for compensation and recognition across all roles in aged care, pointing out that “the disparity in the treatment of indirect care workers could further entrench a serious equity divide, the impacts of which we may already be seeing.”

When will the aged care worker pay rise take effect?

A specific date for the increase has not yet been set. The Albanese government now has the opportunity to make submissions about the timing and phasing in of these new pay rates.

A healthcare worker supporting an elderly patient after the aged care royal commission.

Read more about aged care

Our comprehensive blog contains lots of articles about all things disability. Some of our aged care and seniors related articles are:

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