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Retention bonus ‘broken promise’: sector reacts to payment details

Aged care workers and providers are saying the government has broken its promise after it released further details about its retention bonus grant.

In March, Minister for Aged Care Richard Colbeck announced $234.9 million for a COVID-19 retention bonus that would see direct care workers receive a payment of up to $800 after tax and home care workers get $600 after tax.

However, in a fact sheet released on Friday, the government confirmed that, like the JobKeeper payment, the retention bonus payments “are considered income and are subject to income tax”.

Leading Age Services Australia (LASA) chief executive Sean Rooney called the move shameful.

“This is a broken promise, a tax turnaround on what was promised in March with great fanfare,” Rooney said.

Annie Butler, federal secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation, said its members “are dismayed and disappointed”.

“This bonus was intended to recognise the dedication and commitment aged care workers have continued to show in treating and protecting older Australians during the crisis, potentially putting their own safety and their families’ safety at risk,” Butler said.

On top of the tax issue, the United Workers Union was also disappointed to see that the payment will still not extend beyond direct care workers in residential aged care.

“As sold to the workforce the original intention was that the bonus was to retain staff in the sector at this crucial time and to recognise the hard work aged care workers have been doing on the frontline. But roles including admin staff, cooks, cleaners and facility managers are excluded, leading to division across a facility,” the union’s aged care director, Carolyn Smith, said.

LASA also called on the government to extend the retention bonus to all staff working to protect older Australians receiving care.

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