Jun 09, 2020

Government breaks promise as aged care staff taxed on bonus

Late last Friday afternoon, on the eve of a public holiday, the government quietly issued a policy backflip that will strip millions of dollars from the pockets of hard-working aged care staff who have been on the front line, protecting older Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The government revealed the aged care worker Retention Bonus will be liable for tax, despite the government saying the payment would be tax free when it was first announced, amid much fanfare, back in March

In an earlier letter to all aged care staff, the government also said the payment would be tax free.

Aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, confirmed the details for HelloCare.

“The retention bonus of up to $600 for eligible home care workers and up to $800 for eligible residential care workers… is income and as such is subject to income tax,” he said. 

“This is consistent with other COVID-19 measures, such as JobKeeper,” the minister said.

“An insult to hard-working aged care staff”

The United Workers Union, which represents aged care workers, says the “mean and tricky” policy backflip is a “broken promise” to residential aged care and home care workers across Australia.

United Workers Union’s aged care director, Carolyn Smith, said, “When the retention bonus was announced, workers finally felt like they were getting some recognition for their hard work.”

But Ms Smith said the “tax back flip” makes the retention bonus “too unfair, too little and too late”.

The payments are “an insult” to hard-working aged care staff, Ms Smith said.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation federal secretary, Annie Butler, said the “bonus was intended to recognise the dedication and commitment aged care workers have continued to show in treating and protecting older Australians during the crisis, potentially putting their own safety and their families’ safety at risk. 

“But just as we’ve gained control over the pandemic… the government has backflipped on its promise, which was in writing to every aged care worker, and now said ‘we don’t actually think you’re worth the full amount’.”

“Mean spirited” and “misleading”

Aged & Community Services Australia also condemned the change in policy, saying the government has “backtracked” on a financial commitment it made to aged care workers at the height of the pandemic.

ACSA CEO, Patricia Sparrow, said, “This has been simply mean-spirited and misleading. Workers were led to believe the payments would be more generous.

“The government has shortchanged some of the nation’s hardest working people on some of the lowest wages.

“Everyone knows aged care is the frontline of the pandemic now, and our workers deserve the best possible support,” Ms Sparrow said.

Taking $50 million from aged care workers

Leading Age Services Australia CEO, Sean Rooney, said the government is taking at least $50 million from the pockets of aged care staff by reducing the promised bonus.

“These tireless workers… have done, and are continuing to do, their best to protect the most at-risk older Australians from COVID-19,” he said.

Typical aged care workers who earn between $37,001 to $90,000 a year, will lose over 30 per cent of their payment, Mr Rooney explained.

“It is shameful that what was announced is not being delivered,” Mr Rooney said.

Admin, cooks, cleaners should also be in line to receive payments

As well as the tax policy backflip, the government has also failed to act on other elements of the retention bonus scheme that have been divisive to the industry.

The government has failed to address concerns about the bonus only being paid to direct care workers in residential aged care facilities, including personal care workers, registered nurses, enrolled nurses and allied health workers.

Other residential aged care staff, such as laundry workers, cleaners, cooks, drivers and reception staff, are exempt from the payment, despite their important roles in delivering care to residents.

By comparison, the payment to home care workers has been extended to staff providing clinical care, personal care, cleaning, home support activities, meal preparation, social support, shopping, community access, transport, allied health and respite.

Ms Smith said the exemption of other roles is “leading to division” in residential aged care facilities.

Mr Rooney said LASA is calling on the government to extend the retention bonus to all staff working in residential aged care.

No consideration for part-time workforce

The government has also failed to address concerns the payment is to be made on a pro-rata basis for part-time workers. 

Because the aged care workforce is largely made up of part-time staff, many aged care workers will not receive the full $800 or $600.

“Astounding” that home care workers receive less

Ms Smith also questioned why home care staff should receive a lower bonus payment than staff working in residential aged care.

“All workers in the sector have been on the frontline caring for our elderly during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. 

“For the Morrison government to say that the work of home care workers is worth less at this time is astounding.”

How much will you receive?

The government issued tables to illustrate how much each aged care worker will be paid before tax. The amount of tax paid will depend on the taxable income of the aged care worker.

Source: Workforce retention bonus grant fact sheet.
Source: Workforce retention bonus grant fact sheet.
Source: Workforce retention bonus grant fact sheet.
Source: Workforce retention bonus grant fact sheet.

When will the payments be made?

The government expects the payments to be made in July and September. 

Employers must apply for grants to pay the bonuses. Grant applications are open now until mid-June and the September bonus will apply to staff employed as of 31 August 2020.

Image: freemixer, iStock.

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  1. Absolutely disgusting that this bonus is not being paid to all aged care workers. Admin and lifestyle staff are taking the brunt of extra duties and family abuse.

    1. So true Cas. Is anyone really surprised??. Let’s face it, the word, “carer” actually undermines women’s lives financially and socially. We should all probably go on strike and march the streets of our major cities, and let the politicians, (“Carers Of The People”)Ha Ha scurry around finding last minute “Advocates Of Our Forfathers” to do all the hygiene cares!

      1. Oh geez, please, no more covid-spreading protests! We’ll all be locked inside for the next year… In the current climate, I’d rather see people hanging banners from their balconies and sticking large signs on their cars, bombarding their local MPs with email and snail mail. Physical protests at the moment are just too dangerous 😬.

    2. Very disappointing that as a Services Manger providing services to residents and working very closely with residents that I will not receive this payment. I am a direct care worker too. Why have we not been included. It is appauling.

    3. Typical isn’t it ? We work so hard in Aged Care with the abuse we have faced from
      Families telling us we are killing their relatives sooner by not allowing visitors for those few weeks ! No , we are keeping them and us safe ! The looks at supermarkets if u were in Uniform , yeah we have pets and families to feed too . Its been so stressful. Thanks Government

    4. The reason most complaints in aged care are because the care staff are so under paid it all comes from that area.they have to much work to do and not given enough time and are always pressured to go faster. So residents dont ever get quatity time. And mistakes happen its outragous to tax them on their bonus.

  2. Please tell me no one is surprised by this? All the LNP does is take take take, unless of course you are a billionaire, then they are very generous!

  3. I’m sorry but we’re surprised why exactly?? Of all Governments this one just fails Australians at every turn – older Australians in care and those who provide that care – nurses; carers; maintenance; hospitality; laundry; environmental services; lifestyle; administration – they all pitched in and made the difference and saved many lives. On a pro-rata basis with the UK [comparison of the number of beds] Australia would have lost 10,000 of our loved ones to Covid19. And what does Morrison et al do?? Criticise their efforts and penny pinch the commitment. It’s bloody unAustralian!

  4. This is really disappointing and shows a lack of care and understanding for the great work all staff in Aged Care do. Of course our nurses and carers should received the payment, and the govt should have kept the faith and made it an after tax payment, however the biggest injustice is that our cleaners, caterers, lifestyle, maintenance and admin staff are basically told they are not valued enough by the government to warrant this bonus.
    I have largely supported although sometimes begrudgingly some of the measures government has taken over the past few years in aged care, but this move loses them my vote as it clearly shows they do not understand us.

  5. Arrogant and totally unconscionable Morrison government will go down in history as the mean spirited god botherers they are.
    Anyone, just anyone can tell you how hard its been for Aged Care workers during this covid health crisis.
    I do not believe for one second this harsh and cruel decision was not already in the govts heads when they grand standed the bonus in March. They knew theyd do this.
    Vote them out!
    Unions Stand Up.
    Union MEMBERS Stand Up!

    1. My partner is in the union, but if management ever found out, she would face instant dismissal . Where she works is in a blue-ribbon National Party Seat, I work a 42 hr week in private industry ,and I have never been entitled to a RDO, for a 38 hr pay. for 20 years I was told to shut up!And when there is a public holiday you don’t get paid for it, once again I was told to shut up or get out, greed is rampant !She’s right, The Nationals will look after you !wink wink !.

  6. It’s just typical that this government treats all working class people like a captive audience in a totalitarian government environment

  7. It is a very unfair payment. Everybody in aged care has worked hard. Why do some get the bonus and not others? How is it the worth of those providing clinical care higher than those who are ensuring a clean sanitised environment. Why not also the cleaners and cooks? It is yet another example of those employed in aged care being under valued.

    1. What the hell weshould all get the bonus dont hospitality and cleaners matter and maintainence matter weve been safe ourselves to keep our elderly safe
      We feed clean up mess and are friends to our elderly WTF

  8. We all work hard, I am a carer in a facility and sadly so often, aside from the sheer obscene workload we have to carry out with insufficient staff on the floor, I am subjected to verbal abuse, punches, kicking, slaps, scratching, being spat at, and having my wrists and fingers grabbed and bent back by residents. We are all bearing the brunt. To be treated as second class workforce, often looked down upon by the general public and the Government, and paid peanuts for the privilege, how wonderful. So many times I have been told Oh I couldn’t do your job, no way. I genuinely care about the people I am tasked to look after, and I would never have entered the aged care industry had I not cared about our seniors in the first place, and yes I went in with my eyes open and knowing it was never going to be an easy gig, but several years on, I’m losing the joy. And I’m not the only one. A little RESPECT and a little RECOGNITION goes a long way Prime Minister! And yes, I agree with the first poster – this payment should go to ALL workers in all areas of aged care, because we all work together to care for our residents in one way or another.

    1. Couldn’t have said it better myself. We are underpaid just for the responsibility this job entails let alone all the other reasons you mentioned. Well said Maree. 👍

  9. Oh geez, please, no more covid-spreading protests! We’ll all be locked inside for the next year… In the current climate, I’d rather see people hanging banners from their balconies and sticking large signs on their cars, bombarding their local MPs with email and snail mail. Physical protests at the moment are just too dangerous 😬.

  10. I’d also like to point out that because of the isolation rules, a lot of home care workers have lost hours because their clients can’t go out for their shopping or social support services – why should they also lose out and get given a lower rate of bonus when they probably need it more due to their reduced income? When wealthy people are given a $25’000 bonus to tack onto $150’000 home renovations to keep the tradies in work, why are the frontline workers being treated as though they make a lesser contribution to society? I would even say they should have included all nurses, medical receptionists and paramedics – regardless of whether they are in aged care or not, they have all been at higher risk of both contracting covid and being abused by the public. Never mind the doctors, they make more than enough anyway but if the govt wanted to help them out, maybe just drop their tax rate for the current tax year to a flat rate as a once-off “thank you”.

  11. No one should be surprised that aged care is being trampled on, the government has been doing everything in its power to destroy residential care so why would they come good on this promise.
    Carers are valued by those around them their residents and families and the wider community. But it can’t be forgotten that the Federal government controls those wages and conditions. Why haven’t they implemented mandatory staffing levels????
    Because then they would have to pay for it.

    In 2015 they lopped funding by 25%, 2016 and 2017 another 13% cut out of funding through ACFI etc so don’t anyone tell me that this government carers about carers or residents at all.

  12. Who does the government think they are….i am a home care health care worker and have I been on the front line everyday since the COVID19 pandemic ….My work is very important and I listen to my clients concerns console them sometimes I am there only contact with the outside world ….so how dare you say we are not of worth…maybe one day one your family members may need me then I do hope you will appreciate the work I do from shopping showers cooking appointments cleaning and to also ensure my clients are safe in there homes….so you the government may need to rethink our worth as a home care health worker

  13. No government past or present has recognized aged care or the workers not just the Morrison Government. Has anyone seen any drastic changes in aged care? Exactly! All talk and no action! I have to say that the discrimination isn’t only coming from governments and society of the work Indo. I often hear my son jokingly say to me that I am just a bum wiper! Lovely hey? I wonder how people and family would treat us if we brought home a bigger pay every fortnight? We may very well get more respect and “Carers Of Our Forfathers” would never leave their jobs. There would be a tone of applications applying for our jobs. I can always dream I suppose. As it is my $23.00 an hour with a pay rise of 50 cents in the dollar every three years makes me feel like I am a stay at home mum again with tax benefits. Just working even harder!

  14. That’s a disgrace, Scomo you need to keep your promises , aged care workers work dam hard under under normal circumstances not alone under a pandemic and good aged care workers are hard to come by these days as working conditions are extreme.

  15. Mongrel act but what do you expect? Colbeck and his cronies continue to disappoint, ripping off some of the lowest remunerated workers in our community. Solidifies the attitude of society toward ageing, aged people and all those who work with and care for them.
    Hoping the 400,000+ people working in the aged care industry remember this low act come election time…alas, they’ll likely suffer amnesia and vote the buggers in again. Short memory.

  16. Yep l agree we can’t to our work without. our co workers life style admin, hospitality wats wrong with the bloody government all the standards required is pathetic all about money nothing for us little people.Now there’s no payment till August wat happen to June

  17. It is all governments past and present that have neglected the industry! Labor have done nothing for the private sector of any real substance. None of them have. Labor is good for fattening up the government health care systems they own! I could only dream of having a better wage and only 4 patients to look after! Would deffinately be bored though! Meanwhile we put up with little pay and recognition and are supposed to care for our vulnerable elderly with all the behaviours and mental health issues that alot come into aged care. Liberals have got it so wrong, I agree but you know that labor wouldn’t have been any better. Let’s be honest. They make us all broke!

  18. I can not be a party to why you are complaining.
    It is interesting that on Mable Care age care prior to the government giving money out most people wanted work. And with an ad for work i got 20 people for 3 hrs work on one day.
    After money was given out i posted a job for 3 hrs work over 3 days an got no replies

    1. Well Noel, maybe it costs more to travel to work and return home for one hours work,with fuel here a@$2 + a litre, and then the 1 hr worker will most probably have to get an ABN , and arrange public liability insurance, just maybe .

  19. How do we the workers know that employers have applied for grant to pay this bonus to employees??

    1. Some of us were wondering the same thing. We have had no information on this at all. My large corporation will probably sit on the millions of dollars for a month before handing it out to staff. Good interest for the company. Who knows? The only people this pandemic has effected at my place are the carers laundry staff and office staff!! Kitchen staff don’t have to come to the floors to dish out meals at the moment. The poor Wins have had to pick up the flack and dish out the meals and wash and stack for kitchen to collect! DATS do nothing different but sit all day playing mindless card games or giving dementia residents colouring in books and magazines. No outdoor trips on the bus either to organize. Cleaners do very little as we AINs do most of the cleani ng of resident’s rooms. We sweep floors and even mop. We wipe tables down with disinfectant and clean toilets. I asked staff why the dining room floors are stained and dirty when I start my shift and apparently the cleaners only spot wipe the stains they see not the whole floor. Great when dementia patients are bending down to pick up stuff off of the floor! Curtains never get washed and are bug carriers! Just remember that! Some of us were taught that years ago until the trainer was never replaced! There should be no curtains in aged care. I see faeces and foods and some dementia residents have urinated on them. For goodness sake. Who is running the show here it is a disaster waiting to happen.

  20. How about maintenance has everyone forgotten about maintenance we do care we clean wheelchairs we monitor sensor mats checking them to make sure they are working at all times to keep resident safe painting their rooms when walls are damaged looking after their princess chairs to make sure that they safe at all times. Fixing there for Willy frames breaks a working properly and safely making sure all exits accessible nothing in the way. I can keep going. It’s just a big joke I wonder if a facility becomes infected by cova19 and everyone walked out would the prime minister step in to help

  21. Aged care should haveI internal venetian blinds like they have in a lot of hospitals.Any ideas at how to shower dementia resident that refuses all attempts? NOBODY has been able to do this with our resident due to his mental health issues. Hard to believe that someone can be allowed do go on like this for 2 months! Yes 2 months! Akin to what you would see if you found a homeless person squating somewhere with mental health issues. I would appreciate anyone’s help here. This has to be solved without heavy handness.

  22. It is not really fair in nursing home, some nurses are chatting and lots of sitting, office staff smoking all the time and poor kitchen staff and cleaners work so hard.

  23. Were all of the Government Covid support payments, and the previous Rudd Labor Government GFC stimulus payments were classified as income,and were taxed ? I do not know as I did not qualify. If those handouts were tax free, well the Morrison Federal Coalition government can never ever be trusted again.I clearly remember the announcement in the March Budget 2022 that these bonus payments to health and aged care workers, ‘who are on the front line” would receive these bonus payments TAX FREE!. I hope all candidates contesting against the Liberal -National Party Coalition Government announce what they intend to do ,to change this mean selfish decision to tax all of you “Who are on the front line”

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