Experts clash over ‘uberisation’ of aged care

The Productivity Commission has supported the use of independent contractors to fill the worker gaps in the aged care sector, contrary to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety’s recommendations that favoured in-person staff. 

In a report released today by the Productivity Commission, the ‘Aged Care Employment – Study Report’, found that independent contractors – in what unions have described as ‘uberisation’ – could make a difference in the aged care sector.

Rural providers are especially lacking in staff to provide home care services and the use of these external workers would help address the huge workforce shortages seen in the sector, Commissioner of the Productivity Commission, Martin Stokie, told the ABC.

He warned that stopping or restricting the use of independent contractors was counterproductive to solving the shortages that are putting older Australians out of services they need. 

“Aged care providers, and workers for that matter, already preference direct employment,” Mr Stokie said.

“We don’t believe there’s a necessity to have a preferencing of a preference – it’s probably counterproductive.

“Independent contracting, albeit very small – less than 4% of the workforce, is in fact an

option which helps alleviate and provide choice and options for workers and for older Australians.”

The use of contractors in aged care could also potentially assist with the current outgoing workforce believes the Productivity Commission, which is estimated to be 65,000 aged care workers a year.

But National Secretary of the Health Services Union, Lloyd Williams, disagreed with going against the recommendations of the Aged Care Royal Commission and said using independent contractors would lead to a “dangerous decline in standards for both the worker and care recipient”.

The Royal Commissioners found a scheme should be established by the Federal Government to reimburse providers of home support, home care and residential aged care for the cost of education and training to expand the direct care workforce and fill workplace gaps. 

“This type of employment is the opposite direction that the aged care sector should be going,” said Mr Williams.

“Further precarious work and insecure income is not the way to go.”

Tim Hicks, General Manager of Policy and Advocacy at the Aged & Community Care Providers Association (ACCPA) agreed that direct employment is vital for the sector, expressing the importance of having interpersonal contact with aged care staff. 

“As the Productivity Commission report states, independent contractors account for less than 4% of aged care staff,” Mr Hick explained. 

“In ACCPA’s experience, providers generally prefer to directly hire staff so that residents and clients have familiar faces providing them with care and support.”

Mr Hicks added that direct employment also ensures there is a more stable workplace and consistent pay and entitlements for employees. 

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  1. Casualisation is the enemy of good quality aged care. A ridiculous recommendation from the productivity commission.

  2. As an independent contractor I specialise in a way I couldn’t working for a provider. I charge so that I am fully covered with my own insurance and qualifications and training, I pay my own super and ensure I am covered for leave and illness. I can work hours that suit me and I tend to work with only one or two local clients who need longer, dementia support and end of life care. The providers call me when they get these clients as I can give one on one support. I am also a family carer for my mother who lives with me, so my hours are limited and this ‘gig’ suits us and supplements our income.

  3. Like chasing your tail. Ongoing saga with the shortage of staff in the Aged Care industry. We have not been mentioned in a long time by the Labor Government. We were promised a pay rise and the Fair Work Ombudsman were going to see what the value of the staff’s work was by October. Still not a mention in this upcoming Budget report tonight. They keep putting Aged Care residents and particularly the staff on the backburner. So this new idea of hiring staff does not surprise me in the least. Inexperienced people coming into the sector with little or any training shows how the government really values the staff particularly the AINs who do it all!
    The quietness is deafening.
    We have been scrutinized like no other and yet here we are still short staffed all because no government really believes it is important to give decent rates of pay to staff in this particular work sector.
    Child Care which is another rort is getting all the support to (as they say) get women back to work. We all know that as soon as the gov subsidize the childcare industry they put their prices up again. There are 5 childcare businesses in my suburb alone. 2 new ones now with one being built atm. So these people know there is government money coming their way. I pay for these women to place their children in childcare with my meazley wage. But nothing for the Aged Care workers again!!

  4. I am discussed that care workers are not paid more.
    The problem cannot be saved by bringing people from over seas to fill the gap. Besides with housing shortages, where are they going to live, not to mention it makes it tougher on those already here trying to find a place to live.
    We need to look after those wanting to do the work from
    here but are put off by the wage they would get paid.
    Govt needs to step up and realise this if they want to have better Aged Care in this country

  5. I have been working in community aged care support, via an agency, for about 1 year. I started off with high hopes but very recently I have become disillusioned and concerned with regard to insurance and my employment status. My agency pays very well, including extra for working weekends etc, but in order to secure work through them I had to have an ABN and am working as a Contractor. I was given no choice as to whether I wanted to be employed by them or contract to them. Through reading one of the articles from HelloCare, I have become aware of the disconnect between being a contractor, where there is no coverage for insurances and Workers Compensation, and being employed, where these are covered even as a casual. I am particularly alarmed from reading that not all workers in this field are eligible to be classed as contractors/work under an ABN, and that the Australian Business Register is cracking down on this practice. I certainly dont want to be caught up, through no fault of my own, in any audit or other investigation just because the company that gives me work, wants me to be a contractor for their purposes even though I am possibly not actually fulfilling the Government criteria for contract work (eg sourcing my own clients, sending my own invoices). I am waiting for the agency to send me information about some kind of insurance that they say I am covered by, but I am expecting that there will be some flaws. I would consider leaving the industry due to these inconsistencies and potential exposures to liability, not to mention the poor pay rates and conditions of staff employed in facilities etc. Perhaps the Productivity Commissioner can give me some hints on how to deal with agencies which want the best of both worlds – they want to set the amount I receive yet don’t want me to be in a position where I am covered by Workers Comp or other insurances.

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