Benchmarks for aged care work conditions urgent: experts

24 April 2019
A new report released today has called for urgent reform of the working conditions in the aged care sector, which will address the shocking stories emerging from the aged care royal commission.
Stock image of an aged care worker helping elderly man.

The introduction of 12 weeks of paid end-of-life leave for carers and including superannuation in paid parental leave are among a suite of research-informed policy recommendations detailed in the report.

The report by the Work and Family Policy Roundtable – a multi-disciplinary network of more than 32 experts from 17 universities – is calling for reform of the national policy settings of work, care and family policies ahead of the Federal election.  

Australia’s public expenditure on long term care is currently at 1 percent of GDP compared to the OECD average of 1.8 percent, highlights Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill from the University of Sydney, the roundtable’s co-convenor.

“The shocking stories emerging from the aged care royal commission stress the urgent need for reform,” Associate Professor Hill said.

“Australia would be in a much better position to deliver a sustainable and high-quality care system if public investment in care infrastructure was increased by an additional 2 percent of GDP expenditure.

“Our research shows current funding models underwrite fragmented and insecure work in frontline care work. We need to shift the dial so that Australia’s care infrastructure can meet the demands of an aging population.”

Gender equality in the paid workforce cannot be achieved unless new and equitable ways of organising care are found.
Associate Professor Elizabeth Hill, co-convenor

Co-convener Professor Sara Charlesworth of RMIT University said: “The care workforce, including child care, aged care and disability care, is female-dominated with poor working conditions; many jobs are low-paid, casual and insecure.

“Decent working conditions, including higher wages for the care workforce are essential for the delivery of high-quality care for our children and elderly as well as those living with a disability.

“The federal government is ultimately responsible for ensuring the sustainability of the care sector and workforce,” Professor Charlesworth said.

Policy recommendations detailed in the report include:

  • Aged care benchmarks that recognise the importance of decent working conditions and time to care in providing good quality care
  • National and state-based occupational health and safety laws to explicitly recognise gender-based violence
  • Establish a Federal Agency for Work, Care and Community responsible for overarching design and implementation of equitable work, care and family policies
  • Improving access to replacement care for carers of a person with a disability, chronic illness, or frailty due to old age
  • Introducing 12 weeks of paid end-of-life leave for carers
  • Including superannuation in paid parental leave.

“Policy settings for a prosperous, healthy and equal Australia must provide households with time to work and time to care for family and community in a way that suits their circumstances,” said Associate Professor Hill.

“Australians are very clear about their care preferences: family care is highly desired, but so too are high quality formal care services delivered professionally in both centre-based and in-home settings.

“Successive Australian governments have pursued gender equality focused on increasing women’s participation in paid work. Gender equality in the paid workforce cannot be achieved unless new and equitable ways of organising care are found.”

Jennifer Peterson-Ward

Media and PR Adviser (Humanities)

Katie Booth

Media & PR Adviser (Business School)

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