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Ask Paul: Aged Care Work Value Case

Ask Paul: Aged Care Work Value Case

Paul Gilbert, ANMF (Vic Branch) Assistant Secretary

The application by the ANMF to vary the Nurses Award and the Aged Care Award to recognise changes in work value was finalised in early September 2022. We are now awaiting a decision from the Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission (FWC).

What is ANMF seeking?

Our application is for a 25 per cent increase to Award rates for personal care staff, enrolled nurses and registered nursing working in aged care.

What is the legal basis for the case?

There are very few legal grounds for seeking improvements to wages under the current Award system. We are relying primarily on two grounds

  1. The first is that the nature of aged-care work has changed over about the last 20 years, including in that the work is now more complex and stressful than previously, it involves more skill and responsibility than previously, and is performed in conditions that are in many ways more demanding of employees than previously. These are all “work value reasons” within the meaning of the Fair Work Act; yet wages have not increased in a way that accounts for these increases in work value.
  2. The second is that, in any case, the wages of aged-care workers have historically been undervalued. The fact of aged-care workers being overwhelmingly women is at least a substantial explanation for this historical undervaluation.

What is an Award?

An Award is essentially a set of minimum terms and conditions of employment that apply to someone who is not covered by an enterprise agreement.

I am covered by an EBA. Will I benefit from the case?

Almost certainly yes. The Fair Work Act states that if an EBA applies to an employee, the base rate of pay payable to the employee under the EBA (the EBA rate) must not be less than the base rate of pay that would be payable to the employee under the award (the award rate).

So how much you benefit depends on two things:

  1. The extent to which you are already receiving above award rates; and
  2. The extent of the increase in award rates determined by the Commission in the case.

So if your EBA rate was currently 10 per cent more than the award rate, and the Commission handed down a 15 per cent increase to award rates, your hourly rate would rise by 5 per cent, not 15 per cent.

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