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.