There are big changes coming for the aged care workforce and the government, through the department of health, has released a consultation paper about an aged care worker regulation scheme, and we’ve already seen this in the disability sector, with a whole lot of new laws and regulations currently being rolled out for those workers.
Given COVID-19, the royal commission and the increasingly high profile of aged care we're likely to see just as big - if not bigger - changes.
We're building on your survey responses and working with our national office to make sure workers' voices are heard and influence the process but it’s important to know the kind of things the government is looking at include:
• Assessment of criminal history and other disciplinary history
• Codes of conduct
• Minimum qualifications, language proficiency and continuing professional development
• Registers of aged care workers
• Who'll regulate the workforce
Clearly the introduction of regulation in these areas will have an influence on everyone in the sector - we'll be fighting for positive, not punitive, changes.
Don’t get caught out by sneaky EBA voting rules
Here’s one from the bag of dirty tricks: In May 2020 the federal government changed the way voting on EBAs can occur, which could affect workers in the aged care sector - an employer can propose a new EBA with only 24 hours’ notice to finalising the voting on it, though they can give more time if they choose to.
It means an employer could propose an agreement on a Friday and have the voting finish on the Monday, which would prevent you from being able to discuss it with us or give reasonable to time to assess the changes and how they might impact on you.
Please be on the lookout for this type of action as we may not be aware of it until it's too late to get information to members, and we strongly recommend you and your colleagues vote NO to any proposed agreement distributed with less than the full 7 day access period.
If any employer provides less time than what was the norm it’s likely to be for underhanded reasons.
Not getting your break?
We often hear of aged care staff not getting to take meal breaks, so this is a breakdown of what you're entitled to:
• If you're rostered to work in excess of 4 continuous hours, you're entitled to take a meal break of 30 minutes
• Meals breaks for shift workers are paid
• If you're a day worker who's unable to leave the facility, and may be called upon to return to work during your meal break, the meal break is paid
• If you're on a paid meal break and you're interrupted during the meal break by an authorised call to duty, you're allowed a meal break as soon as practicable during the remainder of your ordinary work hours
• You can claim overtime for the interrupted meal break
• If you're directed to work during an unpaid meal break, for all work performed during such period and thereafter you're to be paid at the rate of time and one half of your relevant agreement rate until a meal break is allowed
If there are circumstances where there are so few workers you can't safely leave the floor to have a break, you are essentially being directed to keep working, so make sure you put the claim in.
Not having breaks is a serious workplace health and safety issue and should be treated as such.
If you’re having issues with breaks or claiming overtime when you work through a break, please contact HACSUassist.
Fighting for paid pandemic leave & COVID-19 allowance in the Fair Work Commission
HACSU has been busy advocating in the Fair Work Commission over the past two weeks.
There was a hearing on 25-26 June before five FWC members to consider our claim for paid pandemic leave for health, aged care and social and community support workers where we argued these workers need paid leave when required to quarantine, self-isolate or when they contract COVID-19 and there was a separate hearing on 1-2 July to consider a claim for a COVID-19 allowance for disability support workers.
HACSU members and expert witnesses gave compelling evidence in support of our claims.
We’ll let you know when the Fair Work Commission makes a decision about both of these things.
Proposed aged care regulation scheme
The federal government has begun work on a proposed Aged Care Worker Regulation Scheme and the union has provided feedback on its proposals because regulation in any form will impact the workforce and sector more broadly, and to make sure we understood member views on this important issue so we could include them in our feedback, branches surveyed members and got nearly 1500 responses in just one week - we thank all members who participated for their invaluable contributions.
Currently, providers and workers have certain responsibilities they must meet under law, but there are no direct regulation requirements for workers, such as minimum training and qualifications or ongoing training.
Worker regulation schemes can take different forms such as a screening system focused on criminal convictions or a registration scheme linked to training and qualification requirements, or it could contain both, but we've advocated for a positive regulation scheme that introduces clear career structures, a register of cleared workers, improved qualification and training regimes, and clearer employer responsibilities because a regulation scheme that's well designed around these elements it'll improve wages and conditions for a range of occupation groups across the sector.
We'll continue monitoring the government’s work in this space and providing submissions where we can, including in further comments to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.
Assisting aged care workers
We recently helped an aged care worker whose role includes checking COVID-19 details for a visitor entering their facility.
Visitors are to have a temperature check and complete a form answering questions about feeling unwell, positive diagnosis, quarantine and stating whether they've had the current flu vaccine - our member made an error by misinterpreting the flu vaccine information and the employer began a formal investigation, even threatening termination of employment as a potential outcome to the disciplinary process.
We gave advice on the disciplinary process, reviewed the member's response to the allegation in preparation for the formal meeting and provided representation at the with management.
Our member’s job was saved and they're very glad of having had an expert and experienced representative with them through the process.
Remember, if you never need advice or representation, your first call should be HACSU on 1300 880 032.