Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck said at the time the ‘bonus’ for aged care staff was in recognition of the “ongoing pressure and challenges” of working in the sector during that period.
The payment was intended to “provide a financial incentive for workers to continue to provide the frontline care that is needed in facilities across the country”.
Colbeck announced that qualifying direct-care aged care staff who were employed as of 30 November 2020 will receive the payment.
However, a quick poll of members of HelloCare’s Aged Care Worker Support Group has found that 43% of workers who believe they are entitled to the payment have not yet received it.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health told HelloCare the third payment began to be distributed in February 2021 and is “in process”.
“The majority of providers have completed the required steps to receive the third payment and have two pay periods in which to pass the payment on to eligible workers.
“The Department is following up with providers that have not yet completed the required steps to receive the third payment.”
To ensure that providers pass the payment on to staff, the Department has commissioned external auditors to ensure “all eligible workers receive their correct entitlement”.
The government has paid out more than $370 million to over 235,000 aged care workers across Australia for the Aged Care Workforce Retention Bonus to date.
The first two payments have been completed.
Meanwhile, the bonus has been plagued with controversy from the start.
Designed as a way to reward frontline aged care workers during the pandemic, it left many in the sector feeling excluded, undervalued and unappreciated.
Aged care workers not providing face-to-face care – such as laundry staff, kitchen staff, cleaners, activity managers, diversional therapists, allied health and administrators – felt they should also have received the payment, as they faced many of the same issues as the entitled workers. These workers, they correctly claimed, were also essential to the running of an aged care home during the pandemic.
Another blunder was the payment’s tax treatment. Initially announced as tax-free, the government backtracked on this promise and later announced the payments would be liable for tax.
Many in the aged care workforce told HelloCare the payments were so small they became insignificant by the time they were adjusted for part-time hours and had tax removed.
Nevertheless, the payments are being eagerly anticipated by the HelloCare community.