Sep 03, 2020

Aged care staff feeling excluded and angry over retention bonus


Aged care staff have aired their frustrations on HelloCare’s pages over the government’s bungled handling of the aged care worker retention bonus.

Earlier this week, the federal government announced a third retention bonus for aged care workers, but HelloCare has received hundreds, if not thousands, of comments expressing frustrations over the government’s poor delivery of the payment.

Some complain they are entitled to the bonus but have not received the payments yet. It remains unclear why this might be so.

Many have commented the payments are so small by the time tax is taken out, they are almost insignificant and only serve to disappoint. The bonus was initially announced as tax free, and the government’s decision to reverse that decision has left many fuming.

Many claim the bonus is unfair because so many staff – including those in laundry, kitchen, cleaning, recreational activities, diversional therapy, allied health and administration – do not qualify to receive it. 

These workers are also risking their health and that of their families by going to work every day, and without them aged care facilities would grind to a halt. Even at the best of times these workers are essential, but particularly so during the pandemic.

According to comments on HelloCare’s pages, the aged care retention bonus is making many aged care workers feel excluded, undervalued, unappreciated – and they’re angry.

Large section of workforce ignored

Aged care workers are still turning up to work every day (unless they have been directed not to do so due to COVID-19, or if they are unwell). 

Of course, the carers who receive the bonus are there to care for residents. But the other staff who don’t receive the bonus are just as essential in aged care during the pandemic.

Kitchen staff are essential for keeping residents well and strong so they can fight infection. Cleaners are keeping aged care facilities free of germs. Laundry staff help to keep the environment clean too, and clothes and linen free of infection. And administration staff are busier than ever, coping with the additional demands of visitor restrictions and an increase in in-house activities.

Just like the direct care workers who do receive the bonus, these staff are living with the stresses of COVID-19 in aged care every day.

And yet the government chose to ignore them.

Recognition breeds loyalty

It appears that some aged care providers have taken it upon themselves to ensure all staff receive a bonus, and the recipients of these payments have expressed their gratitude on HelloCare’s pages.

The carers who have received the bonus are not ungrateful and many have noted the payment is appreciated, and certainly better than nothing. 

It’s time aged care workers received the recognition they deserve

The payment that was intended to reward aged care staff during the pandemic and preserve the workforce has become a policy that has driven division and disappointment among the very people it was designed to help.

Instead of making aged care workers feel appreciated, it has simply made many feel angry and served to highlight how little they are valued.

There’s no doubt the government had the best intentions when it designed the payment, and some allowances should be made because the policy was initially rolled out in a rush at the start of the pandemic. However, any errors or omissions in the bonus’s initial design could have been fixed by now.

The government’s handling of the aged care retention bonus, its failure to recognise aged care workers across the board, feels like a decision made from afar, without a clear understanding of how an aged care facility operates. It seems to be yet another case of the government grappling to understand and failing to deliver what the industry really needs.

Aged care workers have been operating at the beating heart of the COVID-19 crisis. They are the ones witnessing residents becoming distraught because they are not able to see their loved ones. They are the ones having to live with the fear of bringing the virus home to their families. They are the ones having to dress in PPE, and undertake more training. They are the ones having to work longer shifts every day for weeks because their home is short staffed. They are the ones seeing residents die. They are exhausted. They are frightened. For many, working as an aged care worker during COVID-19 will leave emotional scars they will carry for years, if not forever. 

It’s such a great shame the government couldn’t have shown greater understanding and compassion for these extraordinary people at this difficult time. It’s time aged care workers were given steady jobs, with proper worker entitlements and decent pay. That’s the bonus that should come out of the pandemic for these essential workers.

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  1. I have sent about 4 emails to my employer in regards to this payment ..I have not been payed anything or informed of any outcome ..I shouldnt have to chase it should be paid without issues

  2. Caroline add to your article homecare workers who also got side swiped by the retention bonus we still go to work on the frontline every day and are completely the forgotten silent army in the community. Well the government tied the retention bonus to govt funding so if you worked for a client under chsp funding or ndis you got nothing only clients under the aged care package system were counted so that mystical promise of $600 was a lie and most of us got less than $250 or nothing at all and still taxed as well. This just shows how little we are respected or valued. I’m disgusted its no wonder 50% of our workforce are considering leaving in the next 5 years. Good luck providing services to baby boomers I’m one and I hope I can survive without aged care services its not a pretty future.

  3. This is absolutely reflective of how the government officials deciding on the terms of the payment are completely out of touch with the aged care workforce. The additional stress of COVID-19 has impacted on ALL workers in aged care. Instead of promoting a sense of pride it has created discord at a time when team cohesion is most needed. Every single staff member stepping through the doors of an aged care home at the present time is putting themselves at risk and the retention bonus terms do not reflect this whatsoever.

  4. Thank you for this thoughtful and well written article. I’m amazed that a person who, reading your CV above at least, has little connection with residential aged care can understand the issues around this retention payment, yet the government who is actually responsible for the management of the industry is apparently ignorant of how the industry actually works on a day to day basis.

    At the facility where I work there has been quite a bit of minor conflict about who gets these crumbs from the government. Maintenance, for example, who go into wards and mix daily with residents, and know our residents very well, do not get it, as of course do the other groups you pointed out.

    Never mind. Scotty, the marketing expert will no doubt spin it in a positive way.

  5. As a General Manager of an aged care facility I am appalled at this mean spirited and devisive program. It is impossible to promote the ever increasing demands on staff that are imposed as part of the strategy to protect residents and others during Covid when they are confronted by this double standard. Yet another fail from Government and unfortunately I will be joining many others to leave the sector.

  6. To stop infection spreading our kitchen staff are not allowed to go onto the wards. The AINs deliver, feed and clean up after then deliver the food trolleys to the lifts. Smart but more work for AINs with so many taking sick time off for whatever reason at the moment. And yes the Nurses and AINs need more staff and a better wage rise to reflect what they are exposed to daily pandemic or not. We are sick of home with bruises that don’t show up for days after being hit, punched verbally abused. The only way to rectify the system is to tax the worker more to pay for the system, just take over the whole aged care industry and pay the right hrly rate including all the over time most never get!! I cannot understand why any government believes that they need so many over paid and over staffed people to work in our major public hospitals. These nurses have mostly 4 to 6 patients each and I feel extremely angry that even the AINs in the public system are well looked after compared to Aged Carers. God k owns what they do all day and night with so little to do. Makes you wonder if they could handle any challenge aced upon them if the need arises!!!And hire better English speaking staff who will show loyalty to our elderly and not be in this environment just to get residency. As I have said before make the aged care industry attractive for the right people. You know the old saying… Pay peanuts….

  7. It is sad that it is like the government is trying to cause arguments and dissension between workers. Why are only carers who are full time getting the bonus which is being taxed through the pay system? When the cleaners, housekeepers and kitchen are all important. We are all in this together, the government and society really have not idea what is happening with the age care system. I have worked for over 20 years and looking at leaving due to the stress of the job.


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