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What does the Fair Work Commission’s Stage 3 Aged Care Work Value Case decision mean?

What does the Fair Work Commission’s Stage 3 Aged Care Work Value Case decision mean?

The Fair Work Commission on 15 March handed down its final decision in Stage 3 of the Aged Care Work Value Case. It is more complex than stage 2 (where all nurse and carer Award rates increased by 15%) and ANMF is still assessing what it means for members. Do not take what you hear in the media as fact! Some media are reporting, for example, 28% – but that includes the 15% already received.

In short, the decision proposes:

  • substantial increases of a further 6.96%–5% for personal carers and lifestyle assistants depending on whether they hold a Cert III, a Cert III with more than four years’ experience, or a Cert IV.
  • Further, but yet unstated, increases for nurses. While the Commission agreed there should be further substantial increases for work value, they have deferred a final decision on the actual classification structure and increases to be awarded to aged care nurses until further proceedings are completed in relation to all nurses under the Nurses Award 2020.

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The main takeaway from the decision is that the Commission has agreed that for direct-care workers:

‘there are “work value reasons” for the minimum award rates of pay for such employees to be increased substantially beyond the 15 per cent interim increase determined in the Stage 1 decision … the Full Bench made it clear in the Stage 1 decision that the interim increase was not intended to exhaust the extent of the increase justified by work value reasons … A further substantial increase is warranted in our view having regard to the following work value reasons…’

Those additional work value reasons go mainly to additional infection prevention and control changes, which were not assessed in Stages 1 and 2.

But what does this mean for nurses and carers specifically?


The Commission decided to deal with the Aged Care Award first, including personal care workers. Nurses are covered by the Nurses Award and there is a further decision is pending for nurses covered by this Award.

Interestingly the Commission did state, for example, that they recommend that the minimum entry rate for a four-year degree graduate RN increase substantially from the current $1301.90 specified in the Award to ‘$1470.80 per week, with this becoming the benchmark rate for the fixation of minimum wages for RNs in aged care.’, noting however that the majority of graduate registered nurses complete a three-year degree rather than a four-year degree.

The Commission has also recommended that the rate for an EN in aged care who has responsibility for supervising other PCWs should be increased to $1370.80 per week, or the equivalent to the rate they have proposed for a Level 6 direct care employee (Team Leader) with supervisory responsibilities.

How all other RN and EN rates are set relative to this proposed new entry rate for RNs will be the subject of further proceedings (ANMF has made an application for a review of all RN and EN classifications and rates under the Nurses Award 2020).


The Commission is proposing a new direct-care structure for PCWs (and Leisure and Lifestyle) that includes some major changes, such as a 6.96% increase to the Certificate III rate (now Level 3 rather than 4 in the Award). Further, the Commission recommends that Cert III employees with more than four years of experience (from the date the Award is varied) will be able to access new Level 4 as a Senior PCW:

  Definition Current Award rate Recommended weekly rate
Level 3 – qualified An employee whose primary role is to provide direct care to residents and who has obtained a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) or equivalent. $1144.20 $1223.90
Level 4 – senior An employee whose primary role is to provide direct care to residents and who has obtained a Certificate III in Individual Support (Ageing) or equivalent and has obtained 4 years’ post-qualification industry experience as a direct care employee* $1144.20 $1272.90

* Note: it is proposed that Level 4 will not come into effect until four years after the Award is varied.

These are very substantial increases to the Award rates. If FWC adopts these as the final rates, then no Cert III carer could be paid less than $1223.90 per week, including a Cert III PCW under an enterprise agreement.

What does this mean for our enterprise agreements?

This is unclear. It will depend on how the Commonwealth funds these increases. They have committed to fund all Stage 3 increases. However, it depends on exactly what amount they are funding as to whether enterprise agreement rates of pay are increased as they were in Stage 2 – a fixed dollar amount added to your current rate regardless of what that rate is.

For example, for a Cert III PCW on an EBA rate of $31.90 per hour ($1212.20 pw), $2.10 would be added to give a new hourly rate of $34 and $1292pw – a 6.6% increase.

This will take some weeks, even several months, to clarify.

In any event you cannot be paid less than the Award rates. The proposal by the Expert Panel should be finalised by late May.

What the ANMF will be doing

The Commission will provide an opportunity for unions and employers to comment further until Friday 10 May. We will be taking this opportunity to talk to:

  • the government about exactly what they are funding and ensuring that those on EBAs are treated fairly
  • the Department of Health about their advice to the industry
  • most aged care employers (about 160 private aged care providers in Victoria) to discuss the impact of the decision and, eventually, new wages schedules that will apply and to ensure they are passing on all of the ACWV money. These meeting are likely to be in June/July.

Find the Commission’s decision summary in full on the FWC Major Cases page: