Aug 24, 2020

Is wages theft of aged-care staff more widespread? Union calls for sector-wider audit


The union representing aged care workers has called for an audit of providers to ensure staff are receiving their full entitlements, after the Fair Work Ombudsman found that two providers had underpaid staff over several years.

Health Services Union national president, Gerard Hayes, said underpaying aged care staff could be much more widespread in the industry, and is calling for a sector-wide audit.

“BaptistCare and Uniting are among the largest, most sophisticated aged care operators. If they can’t get their payroll correct, what possible confidence can we have in the rest of the sector?” Mr Hayes said.

More than 3,500 aged care shift workers underpaid

Earlier this month, aged care provider Uniting revealed it had failed to pay shift workers their full leave entitlements, and had not paid laundry or vehicle allowances to some employees. 

The error affected 2,354 staff over a six-year period and occurred due to “outdated manual processes”, Uniting said in a statement.

Less than a week later, BaptistCare issued a statement saying that it too had failed to pay some shift workers their full leave entitlements, including superannuation.

The error affected 2,140 current and former staff.

Both Uniting and BaptistCare apologised for the errors and have committed to repaying the amounts owed to staff, following an ‘enforceable undertaking’ from the Fair Work Ombudsman.

Penalties for underpayment must be tougher: union

Mr Hayes said tougher penalties are needed to deter providers who fail to adequately pay their staff.

“Until we beef up the penalties for wage theft, employers will keep trying it on. BaptistCate is paying a paltry $40,000 penalty for this rip off. 

“That’s less than four per cent of the cost of their underpayment. 

“It’s almost an invitation to employers to see what they can get away with, safe in the knowledge they’ll get nothing more than a slap on the wrist if they get sprung,” Mr Hayes said.

Aged care workers already struggling

The underpayment is all the more galling because aged care workers are already so poorly paid and because they are battling on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Aged care workers are risking their lives to care for the elderly,” Mr Hayes said.

“Aged care workers earn a very modest income but do some of society’s hardest work. 

“The fact they are being ripped off on basic entitlements like leave and superannuation is unforgivable.”

A warning to aged care providers: Ombudsman

The Fair Work Ombudsman Sandra Parker, said the case illustrates how important it is that aged care providers take care to ensure they are complying with Awards.

“This matter serves as a warning to all organisations that if you don’t prioritise workplace compliance, you risk underpaying staff on a large scale and face not only a massive administrative exercise calculating underpayments but the cost of a significant back-payment bill,” she said. 

Hotline for staff enquiries

Uniting and BaptistCare must operate a hotline for the next four months so employees can make enquiries about their entitlements, underpayments or related employment concerns.


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  1. Wage theft also involves the extra time aged care workers work overtime unpaid. At my workplace we do not have hand over time between shifts. That means we come in early or stay late to handover. Another wage theft area is not being paid when unable to take a full 30 minute meal break.

  2. Contact the ATO tip off line (better to do this in writing and attach evidence) if you are being underpaid, because if you are then the government cannot collect taxes to put towards the better aged care providers, and on top of that towards hospitals and courts. I’ve been ripped off 4 times now, and they put in contracts sometimes that you are part time then they play around with your hours. We all should be getting paid as per the Award or the Enterprise Bargaining Agreement rates. Look them up.

    Then also too, the sometimes are not declaring the right amount to the taxation office and I think that is because they want to get more money back on tax.

    There definitely needs to be an audit. I worry each day about my retirement because of greedy and incompetent management not doing their jobs properly and I think they are taking from us.


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