Community & disability services newsletter

Posted on
February 25, 2021
Social Community and Disability Sector

Your union update

Vaccine rollout

On Friday 12 February we participated in a briefing with state health and disability services employers around the vaccine rollout. Unfortunately while we did get some general information, they could not relay any details around the rollout for disability or aged care services because the Commonwealth are administering the vaccine in those areas. HACSU has kept trying to gain further information, but it’s frustrating with the Commonwealth choosing to outsource this work to a private provider.

What we know is that the vaccine rollout starts this week, but there are limited supply at this stage - around 1000 vaccines for public health and quarantine workers and around 1000 for aged care and disability services a week. That will continue for the next two weeks. By the fourth week, some staff will receive their second dose.

The first doses of vaccine are the Pfizer vaccine. The government believe that in early March the AstraZeneca vaccine will also become available in Australia. An added benefit of this vaccine is that it will be able to be produced in Australia and doesn’t have the same requirements in terms of storage as the Pfizer vaccine.

We are told that initially staff will be contacted and booked in to receive the vaccine, but this may change down the track. The good news is that both vaccines have been through, or are going through, rigorous assessment and approval processes by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration. The assessment demonstrates the vaccines are safe and prevent severe and serious cases of COVID-19.

We’ll keep an eye on the rollout and will update you as soon as we know more.  


Are you being ripped off working sleepover shifts? 

As you know, a sleepover shift is a shift where a staff member is paid an allowance to sleep away from their own home and sleep in a bed in a residential setting so they can aid the resident if needed. Disappointingly HACSU has discovered some providers abusing the use of sleepovers.

At one disability organisation, the employer has regularly and systematically rostered staff to work 9-hour sleepovers at one of their worksites and only paid them for an 8-hour shift.

The employer and their staff are bound by a workplace agreement which sets out quite clearly that they can only perform a maximum of 8 hours per sleepover shift.

This has been ongoing for several years. Staff have approached their employer on numerous occasions only to be given lip service about investigating the issue.

HACSU got involved and uncovered a systemic underpayment problem where the employer has knowingly allowed this practice to continue and left our members exploited and ignored.

Now we’ve requested an urgent meeting with the management and a full audit of all sleepover hours rostered at this worksite. We plan to expose the full ex-tent of the underpayments and work out the potential amount of the underpayments owed to the affected employees.

Here are other cases of employers abusing the use of sleepovers and short-changing support workers:  

•  One provider thought it was acceptable to allow staff members to sleep in a garage without floor coverings, a ceiling, windows or ventilation.

•  Another provider had a planned interruption rostered into the sleepover shift and asked the sleepover staff to wake at a specified time each night to check on a client and they tried to say that it was only one disturbance so they didn’t have to pay anything.

•  Another provider tried to roster staff members for a 9-hour sleepover shift and in another case10 hours and only pay the normal 8-hour sleepover rate.

•  Another provider believed it’s acceptable to use sleepover staff as on-call staff, so they get away with paying other staff members an on-call allowance.

•  Another provider had a duress alarm panel in the sleepover room and if one of these alarms is triggered in any part of the complex, the sleepover person is woken.

•  Another provider rostered a staff member just for the sleepover shift whereas in a normal practice a sleepover should follow an afternoon shift or precede a morning shift.

•  If you get disturbed 3 or more times during the shift, you can claim for the disturbance. But some providers try to make it difficult to claim. 

HACSU has already addressed a lot of these issues and is currently attempting to rectify others. If you are having issues about sleepover with your employer, please get in touch with us.  


Is it wage theft? You be the judge 

We are currently going through a formal industrial process on behalf of a member employed by an award-based employer, the issue being that the worker has regularly been paid for fewer than their contracted hours for many months.

HACSU contacted the employer on the matter and requested a thorough audit on all underpayments. Based on the audit outcome, it has been decided that the affected member will receive back pay and all associated leave entitlement accruals for all the short hours.

This is an important win for our member, but this single case is only a tip of the iceberg of the big scheme of wage theft.

If you are a permanent employee and experience wage theft, you will not only be short financially in your pay but your accruals into all your leave entitlements (e.g. annual leave, sick leave, long service leave, etc.) will also be short as they accrue for each hour you are at work. It becomes a double whammy when it comes to your take-home pay.

To avoid this, read your payslip, check the hours that you have been paid for against what you are contracted to work. 

If you are short, contact your payroll/HR team initially and if you do not get a response or are not satisfied with what your employer has told you, then give us a call immediately so we can help you to get back the money owed.  


HACSU has you covered.

If you need any more information, just give us a call on 1300 880 032 or reply to this email.

For more information about this or any other industrial matter, members should contact HACSUassist on 1300 880 032 or email or complete our online contact form

Social Community and Disability Sector