Concerns raised about new minimum engagement times

Aged and disability care providers will have to roster or pay home support workers for a minimum of two hours from July under changes to their award.

Aged and disability care providers will have to roster or pay home support workers for a minimum of two hours from July under changes to their award.

Kerrie Langford, NDS head of employment

It follows a review of the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry (SCHADS) Award by the Fair Work Commission which sets a new minimum shift time for part-time and casual workers.

The updated award also includes loadings for remote work, broken shift allowances and compensation for cancelled shifts.

While some industry insiders have expressed hope that the changes will be an improvement on what’s viewed as a confusing and inflexible award, others are concerned about the implications for providers.

Major cost increases feared

Kerrie Langford, head of employment and ACT manager at National Disability Services (NDS), says while the modelling is yet to be done, the change in minimum hours could have a significant cost implication for providers.

“There will be potentially a 100 to 200 per cent cost increase,” she told Community Care Review. “We’re unsure of what the potential impact, financially, will be on the sector.”

Ms Langford said NDS strongly encouraged providers to seek their own industrial advice in relation to the new award, as much of it was unclear, untested and open to interpretation.

Unions welcome change but call for wage increase

UWU Public Sector Director Demi Pnevmatikos said providing a 2-hour minimum engagement would give certainty to workers and to NDIS participants.

“This decision was made by the Commission after it heard evidence from workers about a lack of time to provide support to people in their homes,” he told Community Care Review.

“The disability sector is currently struggling to attract and retain workers, anything that goes to addressing inadequate hours in the sector is a start to remedying that.

“While we welcome the minimum engagement time, we need a drastic increase in wages and improved conditions if the sector is serious about attracting and retaining skilled and passionate workers.”

Another layer of complexity

ACSA CEO Paul Sadler said the change to minimum engagement times would create another level of complexity for operators and could compromise client care.

ACSA CEO Paul Sadler

“It’s common for older people to receive their personal care via two short visits at the beginning and end of the day, and providers will now have to adjust their arrangements to fit in with the two hour minimum engagement,” he told Community Care Review.

Mr Sadler said those most likely to benefit from the change are online platforms, who pay staff as independent contractors.

“The side effect of these sorts of rules is that you’re going to end up with some older people potentially having to change their routines to accommodate the new minimum requirement, or you get providers and older people choosing to go with independent contractor engagement models,” he said.

Mr Sadler says the changes will put more pressure on the sector, especially smaller operators who may not have the appropriate integrated software.

 “It’s just another pressure for these small players in terms of how they manage the link between their workers and the clients,” he said.

“We’re not opposed to the minimum level per se and we accept the umpire’s decision. But we need to sit back and ask what does this mean for how we schedule workers, and how the government pays for home care packages, particularly as we move towards a new support at home model.”

Broken shift allowance

Under the changes, there will be a scale of payments for employees performing remote work outside of their rostered hours, and if a client cancels a rostered service, the employer must either find an equivalent shift for the worker or pay them the full rate.

An employee required to work one broken shift will be paid an allowance of 1.7 per cent of the standard rate, while employees who work a broken shift with two unpaid breaks will get 2.25 per cent.

Other changes include the introduction of a 32 cent per shift laundry allowance and an obligation for employers to pay for the repair or replacement of damaged clothes.

The review of the SCHADS Award is part of the Fair Work Commission’s four yearly review of modern awards. The FWC announced its determination earlier this year.

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16 thoughts on “Concerns raised about new minimum engagement times

  1. Is the two-hour engagement really going to double costs as has been suggested. Clients can still receive a one hour service its just that you will have to engage the staff member for 2 hours so you will need to have one hour with Client A followed by one hour with Client B and the staff member gets paid for the time from the start of Client A to end of Client B. Nost providers who charge for 1-hour services charge a highly hourly rate when the service is one hour and that will pay for the travel time between the clients. We have known about these changes since last year.

  2. This is going to be challenging if the HCP clients have to pay for these shifts and penalties from their packages, especially level 1 as there are limited funds.

  3. It would be utterly ridiculous to force older people to have a minimum 2 hour service time when this does not meet their needs! Guarantee workers minimum shifts between 2 clients pay them adequate travel time; address the fair wage issues with travel and shift allowances. For goodness sake Australia stop just going through the motions and learn from the example of actual developed countries like the UK and Germany. In terms of Aged Care, Australia is still doing the bare minimum, determined to throw provision onto the private market, even though it keeps failing the aged over and over again (notwithstanding there are many good providers in themselves).

  4. Why should the elderly be forced to have a 2 hour shift if they don’t need or want it. Some elderly require multiple visits throughout the day and now their funds will be eaten up in one visit. Can the 2 hours not be made up of a number of clients

    1. Yes Amanda , that is how it would work. It is not 2hrs min per client, but 2 hours minimum for the worker to be rostered/booked for the day.

      1. Minimum engagement is for a continuum of 2 hours. You would have to pay staff an hourly rate for travel in-between clients, not just kilometers if providing one-hour services. Then the travel would be classed as part of the two-hour minimum engagement.

  5. My mother has home personal care for 1 hour 3x per week and cleaning 1 hour per fortnight . Why does she now have to have each service for 2 hours each at an extra cost to her which she is not receiving. I find this a very bitter pill to swallow particularly when her money is very tight. She will now have to pay an extra $280 per month out of her own pocket for no service. Her provider cannot find another client in her area for the HC worker to cover 2 clients within the 2 hour shift. I find this totally unacceptable for the elderly. She is under the Commonwealth Home Care Scheme so she pays the balance out of her own money and not a package.

  6. If this goes ahead, with 2 hour visits it’s going to cut our clients down by half in a day, this is ridiculous as we don’t have the staff to make up half of everyone’s clients per day, so how is everyone going to get their service? With the 2hr visits the days are going to be longer than what they are already to be able to fit everyone in that is ludicrous, our own families suffer as it is so we can take care of those who need it, not only are you going to be taking more from our clients but your taking it from the carers as well. We are already stretched beyond our limits , and what is charged just for a shower and then travel to give that shower is ridiculous and you want to take more from them they are all going to be back to square one, suffering at it’s finest. You will find we will loose clients to independent people who charge half the price so eventually we are all going to be out of a job !

    1. Are you understanding this correctly? It is not 2 hrs visits to each client. It is a minimum shift booking for the WORKER of 2 hours-they could see 2 or even 3 clients in that time if they lived close together.

  7. This is 2hr minimum and the onky working 3 shifts in a day are going to effect so many persons care, close bussiness and cost people there jobs

  8. Was first introduced to this change last week by a client and not my company. She said 2 hour for her shift. Then yesterday again another client said 2 hour minimum for her shift. Then yet another today saying she received letter in mail from the company stating shift change to 2 hours but preferred usual shift of 1.5hrs.
    I called today to ask work about this and they said they’re still working through how to incorporate the change into rostering. Few mistakes here:
    1. Why did they send a letter/email out to clients about this change when workers have not received any formal written communication about it? Major error on company’s side.
    2. Clients now presume it’s 2 hours per each of their shifts and not 2 hours min. For the worker for the day as per explanations in replies to previous posts.
    3. A lot of confusion and frustration as result of this change from workers and clients, I have no doubt the company’s pulling it’s hair out over this as well!
    Am a HC worker doing mostly cleaning.

  9. So a client has there usual 1 hour homecare per week, but because the provider has no staff available, they have to use a third party, and the client gets charged for 2 hours. Is this right.?

  10. I was told my Level 3 cleaning of 3 hours x 1 worker, would now be scheduled at 1.5 x 2 workers. For Health and Safety…. what a crock! Then my service provider started having the workers arrive an hour apart…. Then I had to teach one worker what to do, answer simple questions over and over again and show any new workers the ropes again, all the while , listening to their Family dramas. ps my husband’s dying.

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