Health unions are putting disability providers “on notice” as concerns grow around disability workers leaving the sector to work in aged care.
Earlier this week, disability providers, unions and advocacy groups raised concerns that the 15% pay rise in aged care confirmed during last night’s Federal Budget will push employees to leave the disability sector for what they see as a better wage.
But health services unions have said that the disability service providers who are scared of this are likely not paying their staff correctly as concerns have been raised around providers underpaying workers to pocket a profit.
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations Chief Executive, Ross Joyce, told The Australian the pay rise “does create an issue for a slide across for people in disability support, who might think ‘that’s looking rather good, that’s getting the wage to where I should be’,”.
“As with aged care, in disability support work the wages do need a lift. It will be curious to see what the Disability Royal Commission says on that.”
Similar concerns were also raised by health unions over the aged care pay rise with some workers reporting that their providers are rushing to lock them into new Enterprise Agreements – offering wage increases that won’t pass on the full amount of additional funding allocated to cover a 15% wage increase for aged care workers.
But the pay rate for most disability workers is higher than aged care wages, even with the 15% pay increase. This still poses a risk for disability workers segueing into aged care, but not because the funds aren’t there.
The problem occurs when disability support workers feel like they are underpaid because the aged care rates might be more attractive for them.
“We are aware that there is a big problem with many disability workers not being paid properly and, in some cases, deliberately being underpaid by dodgy providers who have tried to pay them less than aged care rates,” explained Australian Services Union Secretary, Angus McFarland.
“We are putting all providers on notice -if you’re not paying your workers the correct rate of pay the minimum rate for disability workers, we will be reporting them to the NDIA fraud squad.”
Reforms to the disability sector are expected out of the Disability Royal Commission in September and the NDIS review in October with predictions indicating more support workers will be needed.
NDIS Minister, Bill Shorten, said he was pleased with the outcome for the aged care wage rise and would “continue being committed towards the best outcomes for NDIS workers”.