Home | Industry & Reform | Improving wages and conditions for staff key to sector transformation: report

Improving wages and conditions for staff key to sector transformation: report

New research by industry super fund HESTA shows that the Australian aged care sector will miss out on a significant opportunity to grow the aged care workforce if there is not an adequate national effort to improve wages and conditions in the sector.

The State of the Sector Aged Care Workforce Insights: COVID and Beyond report found poor pay and a lack of career opportunities were causing workers to leave the industry.

It found that around a third of respondents did not feel valued and appreciated by their community and employer.

The top three reasons for wanting to leave their employer were: 1) skills development; 2) wanting to try something different; and 3) pay.

“Our research shows we must act now to improve wages and working conditions if we’re to attract the skilled and talented people needed to provide high-quality care for older Australians,” HESTA chief executive Debby Blakey said.

“We have more than 200,000 members who work or have worked in aged care. Transforming the aged care system must start with the people central to delivering these critical services and improving outcomes for older Australians.

“Improving the quality and sustainability of aged care jobs will improve the financial future of our members working in the sector. A stronger aged care system is also vital for our members and all working Australians who will directly rely on these services as they age.”

The report also found that staff under 30 and nurses were most likely to intend to leave aged care within two years and in 2020, 32 per cent to 38 per cent of aged care employees said they were highly unlikely to recommend their employers, leaders, or a career in the sector.

Over the past year there was improvement in aged care workforce sentiment across a range of measures in a challenging year, the research finds, with 84 per cent of aged care respondents saying they felt somewhat or strongly supported by their employers during COVID, and staff also reported that they feel prouder to work in the sector than before.

"Workforce strategies implemented now could be particularly effective at attracting and retaining aged care professionals,” Ms Blakey said.

“We can’t afford to waste this opportunity.”

“The Royal Commission warned of an understaffed, underpaid and poorly trained workforce. The research is clear – our members are telling us these are key concerns and would cause them to leave the industry or not recommend others work in the sector,” Blakey said.

Blakey said that the pandemic has highlighted the precarious financial position that many aged care workers are in, made more apparent by the quarter of HESTA aged care members (45,000+) who made a claim to access their super early under the Government’s scheme.

She said that the issues highlighted in this report will affect how the sector will be able to grow the workforce, which the Royal Commission said needed to increase by 70 per cent by 2050 to maintain current staffing levels in the face of rising demand.

“Without strong advocates from employees in aged care, we’ll struggle to attract the people needed to lift standards and meet the expected increase in demand from our ageing population.”

The full report can be found here.

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