Community & disability services newsletter

Posted on
June 28, 2021
Social Community and Disability Sector

Your union update.

This month has seen a flurry of activity in the disability sector in Tasmania, although not necessarily in all the right places.
With state governments stepping in to fill the void left by parts of the federal government vaccine rollout, we're still seeing delays in disability. With the Victorian outbreak, there has been a lot of talk in aged care in particular about changing rules for workers. At this stage, this hasn’t translated into real changes for the disability sector.

As a national union we’ve been working to make sure workers have a voice in the process. Unfortunately at present there are still many support workers, clients and operators who have been left to navigate the complexities of the program themselves. It’s clear that the federal government need to focus more on supporting the sector and those who deliver hands-on care.
We’ve also started to see an increase in issues with workers in ‘mum and dad’ disability providers. That means small family-run providers where partners or family members increasingly run the show and might well own some of the furniture too. Some of these providers do an excellent job, but remember, just because you are dealing with a ‘family organisation’ doesn’t mean you don’t have rights. As an employee it doesn’t matter whether you are working for an organisation of 500 or 5 workers, your rights are your rights.
You’ll also see below there has been an uptick in the providers falling outside their enterprise agreement obligations. We negotiate agreements to improve your working lives but that doesn’t stop providers trying to bend some of the rules to save pennies here and there. If something seems dodgy, remember to check your agreement or Award! Just like with sleepover provisions, all too often if something seems dodgy – there is a good chance it is!

Workers compensation is a right, not a privilege

If you injure yourself at work, you have the right to apply for workers compensation. In the disability sector, some organisations try to persuade you to take up their own injury prevention programme whereby they pay your doctor’s bills and also pay for your time away from work. But we have serious concerns that down the track if you have another injury and did not put in a workers compensation claim, the insurer may dispute the claim as being a previous injury.
Whilst HACSU encourages organisations to have injury prevention schemes, this should not be in place of you applying for workers compensation if you’re injured at work. WorkSafe Tasmania states the following as to who is eligible to claim for workers compensation so why would you risk doing anything else.
Who can claim workers compensation
Workers compensation is compensation payable to a worker who suffers an injury or disease arising out of or in the course of the worker’s employment.
A worker may be entitled to compensation for:

  • Weekly payments while incapacitated for work
  • Medical and other expenses
  • Rehabilitation expenses
  • Permanent impairment

In some circumstances, a worker may also be able to make a common law damages claim.
Who is a worker
To be entitled to compensation, a person must be a worker. A worker is someone who works under a contract of service or a training agreement. This includes casual employment. A contract does not have to be a formal, written document; it could be implied and/or a verbal agreement.
When a worker is entitled to compensation
A worker is entitled to workers compensation if they suffer an injury or disease that:

  • Arises out of or in the course of their employment, or
  • Their employment has contributed to by a substantial degree

Excluded injuries
Injuries suffered in the following situations are specifically excluded:

  • Any injury that occurs while a worker is travelling between their home and work (unless the injury occurs during a deviation from their normal route that their           employer tells, asks or authorises them to make)
  • Any injury that occurs during an absence from the workplace that was not authorised, directed or requested by their employer
  • Any injury that is caused by a worker’s serious or wilful misconduct (unless the injury results in their death, or serious and permanent incapacity)
  • Any injury that was intentionally self-inflicted

A worker is entitled to compensation for a disease where their work is the major or most significant factor in their disease.

Some injuries and diseases are contracted by a gradual process, or may not become apparent until sometime after initial exposure or contraction.

Unfortunately, injuries are a common occurrence in the disability sector since it’s a hands-on occupation. If you sustain an injury from work – contact us and get advice!


Rosters and restructures

A while back the NDIS introduced client choice, which without doubt can be great for clients.
However, we’ve also seen employers using client choice as a catch-all excuse for restructures and roster changes, which can be a stressful time for employees.
What is happening is that your employer views this as an opportunity to reduce their financial obligation to you by cutting your contracted work hours or changing the days and locations that you’ve been working. This can mean that you no longer get shift loadings or even weekend penalties and miss out on your take-home pay.
But your employer can’t wash their hands of you just because clients move providers. It’s their obligation to give you enough hours of work as contracted and pay you for those hours, and they can’t make you work shifts outside your pattern of work unless you agree.
If you’re going through roster changes or restructures and feel unsure about your entitlements, get in touch with us and we can help you to protect your rights.

Able sleepover issue goes to Fair Work

Able Australia has seriously breached their workplace agreement by regularly and systematically rostering staff to perform sleepover shifts for over 8 hours.
After we asked them to conduct a full audit to backpay all affected staff state-wide, they wrote back agreeing that they have an obligation to do so. They also committed to finishing the audit by the end of May and to provide HACSU with the legal advice and methodology of how they were going to backpay affected workers.
But in true Able fashion, they went back on their word and didn’t give us results of the backpay audit. They also decided to blatantly ignore the deadlines to respond to us, which leaves us with no other avenue other than to escalate this matter to Fair Work.
Watch this space as we’ll update you as this saga progresses.

Do your clients need reviewing?

Staff at St Michael's asked us whether they should be paid a higher amount when supporting certain clients one on one or whether there should be extra staff attending to them, particularly those clients that show increasingly bad behaviours or are at a high risk of choking or having seizures.
Management at St Michael's replied that they conduct a risk assessment on each participant but they do not decide on the support category as it is the participant’s coordinators who provide a Request for Service (RFS). So staff should talk to management if they believe that the support ratios are not correct or need reviewing.
This is the same for most providers. If you believe that the client you’re supporting is of a higher need than one person is able to handle, then be sure to chat to management about a review of that client. Perhaps you should be paid more or the staff ratio for that particular client may need to be updated.
If you feel that a review is needed for your client but management are reluctant to do one, give us a call and we can talk about the next action.

HACSU has you covered.

If you need any more information just give us a call on 1300 880 032.

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