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Historic aged care wage rise

Australia’s under-valued 320,000 aged care workers are celebrating a big pay rise. National Seniors says more can be done.

Our Better Aged Care campaign

Our recommendations to government aim to build a better age care system, emphasising improved access to home care.

Our key policy recommendations are:

  • Keeping people at home. We are calling for an exemption from the aged care assets test for home care recipients when downsizing to more age-appropriate housing.

  • Let pensioners work. We are calling for a trial of changes to pension and government payment rules to give a greater incentive to work in the health care and social assistance sector.

Join the campaign and learn more about our comprehensive suite of policies to help transition the age care system to deliver quality care and conditions for older people, their families and age care workers.

You have told us how much you value the hard work and dedication of so many of the nation’s army of aged care workers. 

You have also expressed concern about their traditionally poor pay and conditions and the effect that may have on the quality of care that can be delivered. 

National Seniors Australia supported the long-standing wage case brought by aged care workers to the Fair Work Commission. We believed care workers, who are mainly women, have been undervalued and underpaid. 

A fair wage is a foundational building block to improving the sector. This will help attract the qualified and well-trained workers necessary to deliver quality care to older people. 

Recently, the Fair Work Commission brought down an historic decision, ordering that aged care workers be paid significantly more. It is a decision we support, wholeheartedly. 

In fact, we believe more can be done to reward care sector workers and boost the workforce. 

The Federal Government should exempt work income from the Age Pension income test for those workers receiving the pension. 

To find out how this works and why it’s necessary, read on. 

The pay rise

Workers across the sector will receive a 7-28% salary boost, ranging from $23.10 to $32.52 an hour. 

The hourly wage for direct care workers will increase between 18% and 28%, which includes the interim 15% pay rise ordered by the Commission in November 2022. 

The Commission’s recent order means support services workers such as laundry hands, cleaners, and food services assistants will share in the increase – 6.8% through a combination of increased wages and reclassification.  

The Health Services Union, which pursued the case through the Commission, is understandably delighted.  

“These are life-changing improvements,” national president, Gerard Hayes, said.  

“Most of the aged care workforce itself can now imagine and plan for fully fledged careers, where people can plan a life around their work and really commit to it. 

“Many workers have subjected themselves to the edges of poverty and homelessness to work in this industry. Now they can care for the elderly and also provide for themselves and their family.” 

Who pays?

Ministers Tony Burke, Mark Butler, and Anika Wells supported the decision saying the government was committed to providing the funds. 

Earlier this month, the government released the Final Report of the Aged Care Taskforce, recommending that older Australians with greater wealth should have to pay more for the cost of their care. 

Age care providers were supportive of the wage rise for carers but emphasised the need for the government to foot the bill. 

“Our sector can only afford such increases for our valued workers with matching government funding,” the Aged and Community Care Providers Association said in a statement. 

“With our sector losing billions of dollars over the past five years, there has been almost no investment in growing our services to cater for the increasing numbers of people who need them. 

“Lenders won’t lend money to providers to fix these problems because they can’t afford to pay back those loans, creating a vicious cycle.” 

National Seniors policy to boost workers

The Age Pension income means test discourages older people, including retired care workers, from working. Many pensioners want to work more to supplement their pensions but can lose payments the more they work.

This stops mature workers from staying in the aged care workforce, or rejoining it, at a time when care recipients want mature-minded workers. 

What we’re calling for:

  • Age Pension recipients should receive an exemption from the income test for any work undertaken in the care sector (disability care, aged care, and childcare). 

  • The exemption should be available for two years to assess the effectiveness of the policy. 

  • Eligible workers could have Centrelink withhold a portion of their payment to ensure they do not incur a tax bill at the end of the financial year – as can already be done for Centrelink payments. 

Related reading: Inside Ageing, AFR, HSU, Guardian, NSA Aged Care page, NSA budget submission  


John Austin

John Austin

Policy and Communications Officer, National Seniors Australia

Dr Brendon Radford

Dr Brendon Radford

Director of Policy & Research, National Seniors Australia

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