Uber for aged care?
This year we’ve seen a noticeable increase in two worrying trends in aged care.
The first is what we like to call “cowboy operators”. These tend to be new starters in the industry that are paying as low as they can for aged care and community care workers. Unlike some of the more established and unionised providers, these places are generally for-profit and operate off the smell of an oily rag. We call them “cowboy operators” because they often operate like it’s the wild west – where they pretend the law doesn’t apply to them.
The other is a big uptick in the uberisation of aged care. With some operators, such as Mabel, it feels very much like booking a driver, except it’s a client booking a care worker. Much like Uber drivers, workers providing care through providers like Mabel are easily exploited and often squeezed as independent contractors. Some providers (not just Mabel) now bill themselves as “just the payroll” – the client employs you directly and they just organise payment. All well and good until you are underpaid and they tell you they aren’t your employer.
How do we counterworker exploitation? By unionising. Workers sticking together is the only way that we can improve working people’s lives. Encourage your colleagues to join your union!
Millions in unpaid wages at Southern Cross Care
Just when we thought Southern Cross Care couldn’t get any worse, they’ve done it again.
You may have seen in the news that SCC underpaid staff $6 million in wages. After we uncovered the July underpayments, it became clear that SCC weren’t paying their workers properly. While they’ve been sitting on this information for almost two years, they even have the gall to tell workers they will have to wait months to get it back. This is disgusting.
Meanwhile, in bargaining, they are determined to take away paid meal breaks from workers and have offered a pathetic wage increase over the next three years.
To top it off, they are now proposing to cut more than 220 hours per week in the servery at four facilities in the south.
Again, in typical SCC style, they are treating their staff terribly and don’t care what the community think of them. As the biggest aged care provider in Tasmania, SCC should hang their heads in shame.
We’re working to make the CEO accountable for this entire fiasco. Our union’s delegates have passed a resolution on our annual conference condemning SCC management and urging them to do the right thing by their workers:
“If Southern Cross Care refuses to [value their workers], this conference calls on the Board to intervene and replace the CEO in order to protect workers and residents alike.”
Roster change rules
We’re often contacted by members wanting to know where they stand when aged care employers decide to restructure and therefore roster changes are needed.
Here are the rules when making roster changes:
If you are a permanent employee with a formally documented pattern of work, there needs to be both consultation and agreement for variations outside of this pattern.
In most cases, your workplace agreement will require consultation on roster changes. Normally a notice period is required before any changes can take place, but this depends on whether the change is for a group of workers or just your roster.
It’s important to remember that if you are a permanent employee with permanent contracted hours, your employer must meet your contracted hours. If they’re unable to do that, then they must consult with you and seek your agreement on suitable alternative work, a partial redundancy, or a slight reduction in hours, but they cannot reduce your hours without you agreeing to it.
If you are unsure about your rights when roster changes are occurring within your workplace, please give us a call and we’ll make sure your employer is following the rules when it comes to consultation and change.
Parental leave in aged care
Some aged care employers have told workers that they are not eligible for any sort of parental leave when that isn’t true, so we will try to set the record straight here and answer your questions about parental leave.
What is parental leave?
Parental leave is leave that can be taken after:
• An employee gives birth
• An employee's spouse or de facto partner gives birth
• An employee adopts a child under 16 years of age
Parental leave entitlements include:
• Maternity leave
• Paternity and partner leave
• Adoption leave
• Special maternity leave
• A safe job, and no safe job leave when there isn’t safe job for you
Is parental leave paid or unpaid?
• Employees are entitled to up to 12 months of unpaid parental leave. They can also request up to an additional 12 months of leave.
• Employees can get Parental Leave Pay (PLP)from the Australian Government and paid parental leave from their employer
• Employees who get PLP and employer-funded paid parental leave are still entitled to unpaid parental leave
According to Australian Government Parental Leave Pay Scheme, eligible employees who are the primary carer of a new born or newly adopted child get up to 18 weeks' PLP, which is paid at the National Minimum Wage. From 1 July 2020, eligible employees can claim PLP for 1 set period and 1 flexible period.
• The first PLP period is a set period of 12weeks. This has to be used in 1 continuous period within 12 months of the birth or adoption of a child.
• The second PLP period allows an employee to use up to 30 days of flexible PLP. The flexible PLP period:
a. Can be taken in flexible periods as negotiated by the employee with their employer
b. Has to betaken within 24 months of the birth or adoption of a child
c. Usually starts after the first PLP period ends
Who is eligible for parental leave?
All employees in Australia are entitled to parental leave.
Employees can take parental leave if they:
• Have worked for their employer for at least12 months:
a. Before the date or expected date of birth if the employee is pregnant
b. Before the date of the adoption, or
c. When the leave starts (if the leave is taken after another person cares for the child or takes parental leave)
• Have or will have responsibility for the care of a child
Employees also have a right to return to their old job after taking parental leave.
Are casual employees eligible for parental leave?
For casual employees to be eligible for unpaid parental leave, they need to have:
• Been working for their employer on a regular and systematic basis for at least 12 months
• A reasonable expectation of continuing work with the employer on a regular and systematic basis, had it not been for the birth or adoption of a child
We’ve negotiated with some employers for employer-funded paid parental leave to be included in their workplace agreements on top of what’s available from the Australian Government, so you will need to check your workplace agreement to see if you have extra leave.
Unfortunately, we see some employers giving different amounts of leave to different classifications of workers.
Only recently in bargaining, we found one employer giving 14 weeks paid parental leave to nurses but no leave to other general staff members. When pushed they came up with offering $1000 to workers when they go on leave and $1000 when they return to work. Another employer has given nurses 14 weeks paid parental leave but only 6weeks to general staff.
As far as we’re concerned, no inequality in paid parental leave is acceptable. We’re urging employers to provide equal leave arrangements for all workers, and we will continue to push for paid parental leave in all agreements.
If you’re unsure about your leave entitlements, you can contact us through HACSUassist.
Supporting the Tasmanian residential aged care workforce for COVID-19 recovery
During COVID-19, there have been changes to the workplace practices and procedures within Tasmanian residential aged care facilities. Yet little information has been formally collected about how residential aged care staff have experienced these changing circumstances under intense pressure and scrutiny.
Sociologist Peta Cook at the University of Tasmania believes it’s vital to capture and amplify the voices of aged care workers and has therefore designed a project that examines the personal and professional impacts of COVID-19 on Tasmanian residential aged care workers.
The project involves participating in a confidential interview for which you will receive a $20 gift voucher. You will be de-identified in all project outcomes.
The information you provide will be used to generate a report with recommendations on how to support the aged care workforce now and into the future.
This is your chance to have your voice heard! If you’d like to find out more and participate, please contact Peta Cook at email@example.com or (03) 62264726.