2021 is shaping up to be another big year for aged care as we juggle the potential of another COVID outbreak with the big task of rolling out vaccinations for aged care staff and residents. Behind the scenes, HACSU, our sister unions and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have been working to ensure aged care workers and your needs are a top priority for all levels of government.
In good news, the third round of the aged care retention bonuses is due this month. You may have missed the announcement for this round as it came after the government fanfare of the first announcement. We told the government another round was needed and that it should be expanded to all aged care workers. While the government seem to live in some fantasy land where “direct care” doesn’t rely on the support of a variety of aged care workers to function, we live in reality – and we’re fighting for them to extend payments.
The aged care sector is still under close examination at the royal commission. Major policy and operational reform will very likely follow the commission’s final report.
Here are some key dates coming up for the aged care sector in federal parliament and at the royal commission:
- Aged Care Financial Transparency Bill hearings (exact dates TBC)
This is a good opportunity for you to get involved!
- Serious Incident Response Scheme legislation to be debated
• 26 February: Royal commission final report handed down
• 18 March: Aged Care Financial Transparency Bill inquiry report due
Our aged care workload survey has just closed. Thanks to everyone who took the time to tell us your thoughts. Your responses will help to up the pressure on government and employers to change aged care workloads.
The government have announced plans to bring forward the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination, and we are pleased that aged care workers will be included in the very first phase.
Here are the things unions have been talking to the government about:
• Requesting information on the training requirements and workforce preparedness for those administering the vaccine
• Ensuring health and social care workers are educated about the vaccine
• Providing communications in diverse languages other than English
• Addressing questions from workers about how and when they access the vaccine
• Providing clear definitions of what groups and roles fall under each priority category
• Ensuring there is national consistency across states, with leadership from the federal government, in any rollout plan
We have met the Minister for Health and others to make sure workers’ voices – and not just employers’ – are being heard at the highest levels. HACSU will be keeping an eye on the latest public health advice and research on the vaccines, and we’re here to give clear and consistent advice as things continue to develop.
There are a lot of casual workers in the aged care sector. Some may enjoy the benefits of being casual – like the higher pay rate, and the choice of declining shifts when you want to – but many would prefer the job security, sick pay and annual leave granted to permanent employees.
Some agreements and awards offer casual employees the opportunity to convert to permanent contracts. Generally, to convert, you’d need to work regular shifts and have done so in the same job for a certain period of time (without the hours being the result of backfilling for another employee on leave).
Even if there’s no conversion option spelled out in the agreement, if you’ve worked in the same place doing the same job for several years, it’s still worth having a conversation about the possibility of converting to permanent work. After all, if you never ask then you never know.
If you’d like to know more about what options might be available to you or a friend, feel free to contact HACSUassist.
It’s common for aged care workers to get in trouble for not reporting incidents or behaviours. To protect yourself, it’s important to always complete documentation.
If there’s an incident, it’s best to get in first and report it straight away rather than be on the back foot, sometimes weeks later, and then have to try to remember what went on. You should make sure the report includes at least the initials of the people you were working with at the time or people who may have witnessed what happened.
Aged care can be challenging at the best of times. Most aged care providers have increased the number of tasks required of care staff due to COVID-19 but haven’t increased the number of staff to make up for the additional workload.
We often hear from workers who are struggling to get the allocated tasks done in the shift time and we know that some of you are staying behind to complete your tasks.
We know you’ve always been task-driven and doing your best, but now is the time to hand it over to the next shift if it’s impossible to get everything done on your shift.
If you don’t hand it over, then your employer will just expect that you will do everything you are allocated on your shift, be it in paid time or unpaid time. Once your employer starts to see what can’t be done on a shift, we may have a case for increased staffing levels.