Australia’s nurses are set to benefit from changes to legislation and also new legislation passed in Federal Parliament, heralding pay rises for the nation’s aged care nurses and also greater jobs protection with new laws for 457 visas.
In a major boost to aged care nurses and care workers, the Federal Government’s $3.7 billion Living Longer, Living Better aged care reform package was passed through both houses of parliament on June 26, ushering in historic changes to the sector.
$1.2 billion in pay rises to Australia’s 350,000 aged care nurses and workers
The new legislation will result in $1.2 billion in pay rises to flow through to the pay packets of Australia’s 350,000 aged care nurses and workers from today.
Pay rises of about $46 a week or $2390 a year for registered nurses, $35 a week or $1820 a year for enrolled nurses and $29 a week or $1510 a year for assistants in nursing (AINs) will be delivered by 2016 under the reforms.
For the wage increases to flow through to the pockets of aged care nurses and care workers, aged care employers must vary the current enterprise agreement or negotiate a new agreement through the Workforce Compact.
Shortage of 20,000 aged care nurses
ANF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas said the legislation was a “once in a generation” reform of the aged care sector.
“Currently, 20,000 nurses are urgently required to work in aged care to meet the challenges of Australia’s ageing population, which is of great concern to the ANF,” she said.
“That’s why we welcome this reform of the sector which will provide improved wages for nurses and care staff and deliver quality care to the most vulnerable people in our society – Australia’s elderly.”
The reforms also deliver consumer directed care packages, which will be rolled out nationwide to provide people with more control of their care, almost $1 billion in new funding for home care which will almost double the number of home support packages from 60,000 to 100,000 over five years, tailored care packages for people with dementia, and increased funding to residential aged care with 30,000 new places over the next five years.
In other developments, changes to the 457 visa system will ensure nurses and midwives are not exempt from labour market testing.
Employers must demonstrate they have tried to employ local nurses and midwives before overseas recruiting
“With nurses and midwives not exempt from labour market testing, employers will now have to demonstrate they have advertised and tried to employ local nurses and midwives before recruiting overseas workers on a 457 visa,” Ms Thomas said.
“As Australia’s largest health union, the ANF has long been concerned that the use of 457 work visas to bring in workers from overseas could undermine training and job opportunities for local nursing and midwifery professionals.
“The legislation will now at least offer greater protection for local nurses and midwives and graduates by tightening requirements for 457 visas.”