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We have started this blog to focus on the impact of COVID-19 on the more marginalised and vulnerable people and communities with whom much of our research is concerned.

Will aged care workers finally get the better wages and conditions they deserve?

Wendy Taylor

November 6, 2020

In late October Counsel Assisting the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality & Safety published their Final Submissions for consideration by Commissioners Briggs AO and Pagone QC in the final Royal Commission report due in early 2021. Counsel Assisting’s submissions provide the most in-depth and thorough examination of Australia’s aged care system ever undertaken. This is no exaggeration. They have dug broad and deep. They have scrutinised relevant facets of a flawed system from the process when people access aged care services when they first need them to the support older people receive, or don’t receive, in their finals days of life. Structures, systems, funding, and policies have all come under the microscope. The result? The Counsel Assisting’s summary report calls for sweeping reform of the aged care sector, contained in the 124 recommendations

There are many notable elements in this refreshingly frank and direct report. Significantly, home care finally gets the attention it warrants. It’s long been the less visible poor cousin to residential care in the aged care sector. But not in this report. Even more notable, the Counsel Assisting’s team have shown a dogged determination to resolve an issue at the core of quality and safety: the pay and conditions for aged care workers. Perhaps, unsurprisingly given how COVID-19 illuminated the ramifications of low pay, poor working conditions and often fragmented schedules on care for older Australians.

Other investigations into aged care, and there’s been many over the past decade, have typically concluded with genuine but predictable statements around the need to address low wages and poor conditions in aged care. However, this time Counsel Assisting and the Royal Commission team has closely examined how industrial and policy mechanisms might finally be harnessed to achieve decent work in the sector. Early on, the Royal Commission established many key issues for workers and for a national workforce strategy  (See Chapter 4 Workforce Matters in their Interim Report). Here Counsel Assisting sets about answering the more challenging question around ‘how’ to address these issues. How can you achieve and enforce higher wages and more reasonable conditions for frontline workers across a fragmented sector? How can aged care workers achieve pay parity with other workers doing similar roles in the health sector?  How can you ensure aged care service providers will spend any new funding allocated for workers’ wages on workers’ wages? Counsel Assisting’s Recommendations 41 and 42 provide answers to the first questions.

The Counsel Assisting’s submission drew on available, mainly academic, experts to understand the handful of mechanisms available to improve pay and conditions, decide the best options and then map out what needs to happen and who needs to work together to make it happen. Five full pages of Counsel Assisting’s submission (pp 198-202) are devoted to setting out both industrial and political pathways to achieving aged care workers’ legal right to improved wages.  One of the key recommendations is  for employers, unions, and the Australian government (as the principal funder) to jointly apply to the Fair Work Commission to vary the wage rates in the three aged care awards to reflect the actual work value of aged care work and ensure equal remuneration for workers.

There are many more steps before aged care workers finally receive the pay and conditions commensurate with the skilled and essential work they perform. The Commissioners must take up Counsel Assisting’s recommendations on workforce matters in their Final Report. Then the Australian government will need to accept and act on the Royal Commissions’ recommendations. Counsel Assisting’s admits that the process to achieve this sector-wide pay increase is far from simple, nor is success guaranteed. However, placing a clear industrial and political pathway to this end on the policy agenda is a huge leap in the right direction. COVID-19 has lifted the profile of aged care workers and the valuable work that they do. They are now recognised as essential workers and action to improve their pay and conditions will receive widespread community support.



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Collectivising the gig economy: In the pandemic, it’s a matter of life and death

Anthony Forsyth

October 29, 2020

Anthony Forsyth, RMIT University and Labour Law Down Under Blog.

This post was recently published in a collection of articles: ‘Focus on Impacts of COVID-19 and Work and the Challenge for Union Rights’ – in Volume 27, Issue 3 of International Union Rights. Thanks to IUR’s editor, Daniel Blackburn, for bringing the collection together. It has a lead article from Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation. All articles are accessible at: http://ictur.org/IUR.htmlhttp://ictur.org/IUR.html

A landmark Australian inquiry calls out the gig economy’s rotten core

In July 2020, the Report of the Inquiry into the Victorian On-Demand Workforce was released.[1] This was the first full-scale government inquiry into platform work in Australia, possibly even globally. Inquiry Chair, Natalie James, tackled head-on the problem at the core of the gig economy: work status, and therefore access to protective employment regulation, is generally controlled by the platforms.

The Inquiry found that platforms exercise significant levels of discretion and control over how gig work is organised, with no independent oversight. This presents challenges to Australia’s system of labour regulation, and uncertainty about which laws apply to gig workers.

Arguably one of the most striking features of the Report is its public calling-out of what we know platforms like Uber, Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Foodora have been doing around the world for years:

While there are a small number of notable exceptions, the arrangements established by the platforms with the workers are usually consciously framed to avoid an employment relationship arising between the worker and the platform.

The Report also exploded the myth, propagated by the platforms, that gig workers are (universally) flexibility-seeking entrepreneurs who do not wish to be stifled by conventional employment arrangements:

While certain platforms may characterise their workers as ‘entrepreneurs’, some platform workers do not fit the typical epitome of self-determined, self-employed small businesses or ‘non-employee’ workers. Further, some platforms are highly controlling in how they organise elements of the work including, in some cases, setting prices for end users.

A significant consequence of these arrangements, the Inquiry found, is that many gig workers are paid less than the Australian minimum wage (once the various costs and payment structures applicable to non-employee platform workers are calculated).

Further, many platforms design contracts and control systems which are imposed on workers on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis, including work allocation through algorithms. This level of control, the Inquiry concluded, does not sit comfortably with the platforms’ entrepreneurship narrative.

Noting that a person’s work status is ‘pivotal’, the Report went on to observe that the determination of that status ‘is rarely the subject of formal or regulatory scrutiny at the outset’ of a platform work relationship. The question of the worker’s true legal status is only tested if they challenge the presumption that they are not an employee and fall outside applicable employment law rules. However the putative contractor status of gig workers has been successfully contested in only one Australian case to date.[2]

The Inquiry found, further, that:

Platforms are unapologetic that they have chosen to operate outside the employment regulatory framework. … Platforms claim to be inhibited from extending more beneficial arrangements to workers by the risk that the relationship might then be characterised as employment, making their model untenable. The arrangements they have put in place are designed to mitigate this ‘reclassification risk’.

The Inquiry made a series of recommendations for reform of Victorian and federal law to provide more choice, fairness and certainty for gig workers – in other words, to counter the platforms’ deliberate structuring of contractual and work arrangements in their favour.

One critical recommendation was to ‘codify work status’ through a new statutory definition in the Fair Work Act, rather than relying on the present imprecise common law tests. This would involve placing the concept of entrepreneurship at the core of the employee/independent contractor distinction.[3] It would ensure that only genuinely self-employed, autonomous business people operate under commercial arrangements – and workers who operate as part of another’s business or enterprise are covered by protective labour regulation.

Union representation and collective bargaining for gig workers

The Victorian Inquiry noted that there are significant legal barriers to platform workers seeking to improve their pay and conditions by organising collectively. Their assigned contractor status excludes them from access to collective bargaining under the Fair Work Act, which is only available to employees. At the same time, as self-employed small business operators (unless they prove to the contrary in the courts), they are precluded from bargaining as a group by Australia’s competition law regime.

The Inquiry’s recommendation to allow collective negotiations by (so-called) independent businesses in the gig economy would only go so far. Any such negotiation process would be regarded by the platforms as voluntary, and most likely ignored. Further changes to competition legislation would be needed to enable gig workers to take collective action – equivalent to protected industrial action under the Fair Work Act – in pursuit of an agreement.

Despite these limitations, and the refusal of most platforms to engage in collective discussions, several Australian unions have been at the forefront of organising and representing gig workers in recent years.

Unions NSW has fought to obtain improvements for workers engaged through the Airtasker platform. Airtasker facilitates the matching of home-based tasks created by ‘job posters’ with people to do the work, through an online bidding process. Unions NSW has highlighted concerns that this business model is actually based on the ‘bidding down’ of workers’ pay rates, with the result that they are often paid below the minimum pay rates set down in awards (legally enforceable, industry-level instruments setting pay and conditions). Further, without proper safety checks in place, Airtasker workers go into private homes to do electrical or plumbing work, or asbestos removal, in some instances without the required trade qualifications.

In 2017, Unions NSW negotiated an agreement with Airtasker which was described as ‘a world first for the gig economy’. Under the agreement, the company agreed to post recommended pay rates (based on legal minima) on its site; and to enter into further negotiations on safety guidelines and a personal injury insurance policy for workers obtaining jobs through the platform. Although this was not an industrial agreement made under legislation, and therefore was unenforceable, it provided a foothold or entry point for unions to build more effective forms of organising in the hostile terrain of the gig economy.

The Transport Workers Union has supported legal challenges to misclassification by Foodora, Deliveroo and Uber Eats delivery workers. The TWU has also worked with Victorian Trades Hall Council’s Young Workers Centre to compile survey data highlighting the exploitative pay arrangements, intrusive surveillance and safety risks encountered by food delivery riders. Their joint work informed the On-Demand Food Delivery Rider’s Charter of Rights, published in late 2019 as part of the ‘Rights for Riders’ campaign and seeking the following:

  1. a fair minimum wage and pay for waiting times
  2. transparency in how companies assign orders, and disclosure of the order distance and delivery fee before a rider accepts an order
  3. penalty rates for weekends, nights and public holidays
  4. bad weather allowance
  5. workers’ compensation insurance and other safety measures
  6. collective voice and recognition of Delivery Riders Alliance unions.

This lobbying by the TWU and Young Workers Centre, along with similar campaigns by other unions, was influential in bringing about the Victorian Government’s decision to establish the On-Demand Work Inquiry – and at the time of writing, these same representatives are providing data on gig workers’ views and experiences to the state government as it implements the Inquiry’s proposals.

A matter of life and death: gig workers, unions and COVID-19

Soon after the pandemic hit Australia’s shores, it was clear that workers in the gig economy would be extremely vulnerable. Rideshare drivers and food delivery riders were directly exposed to coronavirus infection through daily contact with the public, and very minimal safety protections. Their designation as contractors meant they had no entitlement to sick leave or other forms of leave. This had the effect that many would simply work through, even if they developed symptoms, rather than being tested and self-isolating. It was this kind of dilemma which led Victorian Premier, Daniel Andrews, to describe the mounting COVID-19 infections in the state’s ‘second wave’ as a phenomenon attributable in large part to insecure work.

In the early weeks of the crisis, the TWU pressed Uber and other platforms to provide workers with sick leave and suspend their customer ratings so drivers would not be penalised for wearing face-masks or taking other precautions. Then, Uber and Deliveroo allocated their drivers and riders up to 14 days’ payment if they contracted the virus or were directed to quarantine. Several food delivery platforms introduced contactless delivery to customers and provided some personal protective equipment. The rideshare company Ola went further, installing transparent hygiene screens in vehicles and frequent driver temperature checks. However, this was only available to drivers who elected to join the ‘Ola Pro Program’ as part of a new service offered to customers wanting ‘super sanitised’ transportation.

In late July, the TWU and US food delivery platform DoorDash announced they had entered into an agreement which included their shared belief ‘that open, honest, and constructive dialogue and engagement on issues of concern to workers will help improve the safety of food delivery workers during the COVID emergency’. Under the agreement, DoorDash committed to measures including free provision of PPE to drivers, and payment of two weeks’ earnings to delivery workers who ‘(a) have tested positive for COVID-19, (b) have been individually instructed to self-quarantine by a medical professional or public health official, (c) are at higher risk for severe illness due to COVID-19, or (d) have a housemate who fulfills [sic.] at least one of the above criteria.’ These payments are based on a driver’s average weekly earnings over the previous three months.

The agreement also included this rare concession from a platform company: ‘DoorDash recognizes that collective representation from workers through regular dialogue and engagement with the TWU is valuable to identify, discuss, and resolve issues of general and specific concern and enhance food delivery work in the emerging gig economy.’ Time will tell whether the TWU is able to convert DoorDash’s apparent willingness to engage in collective dialogue into more substantial progress on countering the contracting model which subverts the rights of so many gig workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home the brutal effects of the gig economy’s legal fantasy – that all workers are independent contractors until they prove otherwise. As a result, these workers have been locked out of income protection schemes with no access to sick leave entitlements, at the same time as working amidst heightened risk of infection. All of this hammers home the vital importance of an effective collective voice for gig workers. Australian unions have been taking on this formidable challenge. Although significant obstacles remain, they are starting to build worker power in the world of platform capitalism.

[1] See: https://engage.vic.gov.au/inquiry-on-demand-workforce

[2] Klooger v Foodora Australia Pty Ltd [2018] FWC 6836; cf. the following decisions: Kaseris v Rasier Pacific V.O.F. [2017] FWC 6610, Pallage v Rasier Pacific Pty Ltd [2018] FWC 2579, Suliman v Rasier Pacific Pty Ltd [2019] FWC 4807, Gupta v Portier Pacific Pty Ltd; Uber Australia Pty Ltd T/A Uber Eats [2020] FWCFB 1698.

[3] Based on the approach taken in decisions including On Call Interpreters and Translators Agency Pty Ltd v Commissioner of Taxation (No 3) [2011] FCA 366 and Fair Work Ombudsman v Quest South Perth Holdings Ltd [2015] FCAFC 37.

***

Many thanks to Prof Anthony Forsyth for permission to repost his blog entry from COVID-19 & Work on the Labour Law Down Under website: https://labourlawdownunder.com.au/
(originally posted on 26th of October, 2020)



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(Dis)connection in times of social distancing

Naomi Whiteside, Tuba Boz, Vanessa Cooper, Hariz Halilovich,
Elizabeth Tait, Huan Vo-Tran

October 16, 2020

COVID-19 has presented a new and unique challenge for communities around the world. It has highlighted the importance of community resilience during a pandemic and the innate need people have to remain connected, even at times when we cannot physically be together. 

For many of us, digital technology has offered an important lifeline during COVID-19 — one just has to pause for a moment and imagine the different experience we would be having living through this pandemic only two or three decades ago, prior to the Internet being as we know it today.  Yet digital technology does not always result in positive outcomes. Not all communities have equal access to technology or equal levels of digital literacy. Further, not all activities can be easily transported online. 

In Australia, Melbourne has been at the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic. The second wave in Melbourne saw the highest case numbers reported in local government areas having significant migrant and refugee communities. Migrant communities were reeling when public housing towers were locked down within hours during the second wave. For many Australians watching events unfold on the news, it has highlighted the challenges that these communities face.  

We are currently wrapping up a Melbourne-based research project which explores how young refugees use sports and arts to develop a sense of identity with peers from different cultural backgrounds. Our research shows that sports such as soccer, play a key role in building community connections and resilience.  One of our project participants noted, “I think football helps unite people, like through gatherings, getting close, easier to get connections, and friends, even makes your job relaxing”. Another elaborated, “…it’s good for you as well, health-wise and it gets you going you know? It sort of got me out of that phase of depression and yeah, I have stuck with the club ever since”. 

COVID-19 paused the project – some things like our final community arts and cultural event, just can’t go online. We check in with participants and reschedule as advice on restrictions comes to light. But as time passes, community enthusiasm is naturally waning. So, we asked ourselves, are migrant and refugee communities disconnecting during the pandemic? While our project wasn’t initially designed to focus on digital technology, it has uncovered the benefits and limitations of technology during the pandemic.

The pandemic has posed enormous financial challenges for soccer clubs in Melbourne who have had to shut down for months. One club member noted, “… more than ever before the club members realised the importance of having such place in their daily lives, where they can socialise and have a feeling of belonging. It will take a lot of effort to get the ball rolling again”.   

A soccer club participating in our project has a Facebook and Instagram group for the senior team that keeps players connected during the pandemic. It has become an important way to touch base, “…everyone checks up on each other to see how are things, to make sure everyone is trying to keep fit and not just sitting down and playing play station all day”. “… It has brought us even … closer because you know before, we would see each other two or three times a week and now we keep in touch almost every day…” 

Migrant support services are facing unprecedented demand during the pandemicStage 4 lockdown in Melbourne has had a significant impact on the way they connect with migrant and refugee communities. They have become a holistic support service for the communities they serve, ensuring no one falls through the cracks. As with the hospitality industry, they have had to pivot overnight, moving community outreach services online, transforming the way their organisations work.  

An important part of support service adaptation during the pandemic has been choosing the technology that stakeholder groups are comfortable with. Vicky Fisher, Team Leader, Settlement Services at the Migrant Resource Centre North West Region noted, “…we run a women’s group, and they were really comfortable with using Messenger… We tried several different platforms, but we found Zoom was the best platform for our [youth] group”.

The move online has enabled service providers to connect with community members who had never engaged with their services previously.  Many clients have a mobile nowadays, and they provide migrants with access to critical information. However, service providers can’t reach all their clients. Some face digital literacy challenges and others prefer face-to-face engagement. Some are conducting telephone welfare checks, ensuring communities have the support and connection they need to make it through this challenging time.

Organisations are now planning for a post COVID future where digital plays a key role in service delivery. The Footscray Community Arts Centre has done an assessment of their use of technology during the pandemic and is now developing a digital strategy for the future. Senior Producer, Bernadette Fitzgerald, notes that they’re asking themselves, “How do we overcome barriers to participation and also how do we work with… strategic visioning in what seems like a really challenging time? …we need to have that vision for the future that will …continue to engage the community and to be accessible in the digital domain“.

Most of the research relating to technology and disasters in Australia has focused on the bushfire context. The COVID-19 pandemic presents a different set of challenges. Further research is required to understand the role of technology in connecting communities and responding to a pandemic. The stories emerging from support services and migrant communities illustrate the challenges, but they also speak of resilience and connectedness – qualities we all need right now.

Photo credit: Tuba Boz, RMIT


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Women in the informal world of work – experiences of lockdown under COVID-19 in India

Annie Delaney

September 24, 2020

The experience of lockdown under Covid-19 has become familiar to many of us, but women’s voices from the global south are rarely heard over the din of the daily case count.  The effects of lockdown on an estimated 60% of the world’s informal workforce is harsh, demeaning and in many instances, impacting on mental health, livelihood and the sustainability of life, disproportionally experienced by women.

In the developing world, the effects of coronavirus on workers engaged in the formal sector are incredibly harsh, but devastating for informal workers. Women in India represent 88 per cent of the informal labour force, yet the government policies are mainly geared toward business and assisting those with the most resources, abandoning others. In India, the Covid-19 cases have reached 5 million, many of the poorest people are experiencing Covid-19 related health expenses, which creates are a further burden on women.

Emeritus professor Barbara Harris-White has called the lockdown on informal labour in India a ‘declaration of war’ linking government ‘policy inaction’ to threatening informal workers survival. Indian Prime Minister Mody announced with 4 hour’s notice a hard lockdown, including a shut down in public transport, but offered very little in relief. His critics have accused the State of imposing extreme suffering on the informal labour in India that account for about 90% of the labour force. A consequence of the lockdown notice employers and landlords cast out many informal labourers, could not collect wages and were forced to walk for days to return to homes few had visited in years, many dying on the way. 

In the meantime, women are disproportionally shouldering the responsibility to support families and communities to survive.  In a recent survey of Indian informal women workers across five sectors, home-based, domestic, waste pickers, street vending and construction work, many are not able to pay rent or know where their next meal would come from.  In another survey, homeworkers and domestic workers surveyed across 12 states of India, found that only 5% of the 300 women surveyed still had money coming into the household.  A small number had savings that they estimated could last only a short time, and others reported surviving by trying to etch out new forms of income generation linked to the health system or in rural areas by selling animal stock. Women faced with such harsh conditions are doing whatever they can for their family to survive. Households are turning to local money lenders to survive and are subject to high interest that they may spend many years working to pay off,

Women working in the informal sector are inevitably involved in some productive or reproductive work. Still, much of their work is invisible, and they are employed mainly in low skilled, low paid work often performed in their homes or other homes, with little or no social security. The invisibilisation of women’s productive and reproductive labour, which is undervalued as non-work, results in ‘invisibilising’ both work and workers. This pattern of inequality is replicated for informal homeworkers working in global supply chains. Before Covid-19, homeworkers working in global supply chains were already facing low piece rates, insecure work and not recognised by brands. Since Covid-19, suppliers and brands have not paid workers for the work they had completed before the lockdown, and since that time all work has ceased.  The conditions of Covid-19 lockdown have perpetuated the invisibilisation of informal women’s work by the State, employers and global brands. Covid-19 has highlighted the power asymmetries and gendered and racialised patterns of inequality. However, understanding the processes that construct informal women workers invisibility can help to identify alternatives.

What strategies can be used to reverse invisibility and bring about the recognition and rights that come with visibility?

Women working in the informal sector are used to performing the precarious, low paid, unsafe and invisible work that is undervalued.  The unpaid reproductive labour they contribute is central to care and support in their communities, which creates economic and social benefits taken for granted by government, employers.  Women workers have been deeply affected by state and corporate policies enacted under Covid-19; consequently, they need support to defy invisibility.

Collective organisation is the most important way that women informal workers can begin to defy the invisibilisation of their work.  Critical for informal women workers to become more visible is to encourage more unions and NGOs to back actions for women workers in the informal sector becoming leaders.   Informal women workers face many challenges to organise together, to become more visible and for their voices to be heard. There are many examples of this happening. You can also support women workers in the informal sector to organise by supporting initiatives that focus on developing workers as leaders and prioritising collective organisation over individualised development programs. 



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Home Care Work in the COVID Era

Sara Charlesworth & Wendy Taylor

September 16, 2020

Concern about the impact of COVID-19 in aged care has focused almost exclusively on residential aged care. In Victoria, in particular, the spotlight has been on the rapid spread of this virus through facilities and the tragic number of deaths among residents. There has also been a belated recognition of the importance of frontline staff in providing daily care for residents in these facilities, despite their historically poor pay and inadequate working conditions. 

In contrast, we have heard almost nothing about home care clients or the workers who support them. Today home care workers support nearly 1 million older Australians to remain living at home through the Commonwealth Home Support Program and the Home Care Packages program.

Department of Health data suggest as of 13 September that 82 home care clients have been infected by COVID with 7 COVID-related deaths of home care clients.  As in residential age care, both infections and deaths in home care have been concentrated in Victoria.

However, there has been no media focus on home care workers and public data is not available on the numbers of workers who may have been infected by COVID.

Despite their invisibility, both now and before COVID, home care workers remain essential workers. Yet their minimum award pay and working conditions are some of the poorest in the country. We highlight six conditions of home care work that are in urgent need of reform

  • Home care workers pay rates are very low  

The Award minimum hourly rate of pay for entry-level home care workers is just $21.35. Of just as much concern though are effective limits to any further wage increases. The minimum rate for experienced home care workers, who provide more complex personal care, is only a couple of dollars more, at $23.81.

  • Home care workers don’t have to be paid for the time they travel between clients

Travelling between clients is an integral part of the job of home care. But while in New Zealand and the United Kingdom home care workers must legally be paid for this time, in Australia there is no Award provision for paid travel time. It is hard to think of any other job where work-related travel time is unpaid. A recent UK Employment Tribunal decision underscored the right of home care workers to be paid for the time spent travelling between clients and extended this right to paid time to cover up to 60 minutes ‘waiting time’ between client visits.

  • Rostered ‘shifts’ can be as short as one hour

Casual home care workers can be employed for shifts as short as one hour and could have one, two or more of those shifts in a day. This compares to a four-hour minimum shift for casual manufacturing workers and a three-hour minimum shift for casual health workers.  

For permanent part-time home care workers, it’s even worse, they have no entitlement at all to a minimum shift time. This compares to a four-hour minimum shifts for part-time manufacturing workers and four hours minimum for part-time patient transport workers.

  • Workers wear the risks and costs of staff shortages and client cancellations

Permanent part-time home care workers are expected to nominate their ‘availability’ outside their ‘guaranteed’ minimum hours. This basically means they are effectively ‘on call’ for this period, yet are not paid any allowance for being available. Patient transport workers and other health workers are paid an allowance where they are on call and available to work if needs be

If a client cancels their scheduled visit before 5 pm the previous day, permanent part-time home care workers are not paid for this visit and have to make up the time lost.

  • Home care work is increasingly complex and demanding

Population ageing and a long-term policy shift towards home care means older people living at home are increasingly frail and have complex health issues.

Caring for older people with dementia, depression, diabetes, heart conditions, cancers or arthritis can be extremely challenging.  Many people approved for home care packages are so frail or disabled they meet the requirements for permanent residential care.

Yet the home care skill descriptors in the Award do not recognise or reward the greater level of specialist skills, judgement and decision-making or the interpersonal skills increasingly required by home care workers to provide good quality care to frail older people. 

  • Home care workers suffer high rates of injury

Health and safety regulators have identified home care work as a high-risk occupation. Common conditions reported include musculoskeletal injuries, injuries from falls and trips, work-related stress, injuries from vehicle accidents, verbal abuse and assault. Common risk factors are poor systems of work, such as not enough time allocated to complete care tasks. Despite this, home care workers are often reluctant to report health and safety risks such as having to transfer very heavy clients alone or work-related violence.

 

These working conditions have existed in Australian home care long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Poor working conditions compromise sustainable good-quality care in government-subsidised home care services. The need for reform of home care workers’ basic working conditions is urgent.



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