Fair Work Commission’s recent decision regarding penalty rates is forecasted to affect some nurses and midwives according to the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF).

Nurses and midwives working in some parts of the health and aged care sectors are at risk of losing their penalty rates and entitlements, according to legal advice obtained by ANMF.

The Fair Work Commission have recommended cuts to Sunday and public holiday penalty rates in retail, fast food and hospitality industries.

From a legal standpoint, it has been suggested that “much of the reasoning relied upon in the penalty rates decision could be adopted when reviewing awards in other industries” including workers in “aged and health care (particularly non-essential care) and nursing, where it isn’t deemed to be in an ‘essential service’.”

It’s been suggested that these findings should be taken as a warning for nurses and assistants in nursing, especially those working in aged care, that they are at risk of losing their penalty rate.

Many nurses and midwives rely on penalty rates, and for some it can make up to around a fifth of their income.

It’s been a worry that this action has taken place because aged care and other services in the sector are considered ‘non-essential’ services, are would be the next to suffer from a lack of penalties and other awards.

“It would be absolutely devastating if they were to lose their entitlements for working on Sundays, public holidays and other unsociable hours away from their families, friends and loved ones, given that nurses and midwives rely on penalty rates for a fifth of their income,” says ANMF Federal Secretary Lee Thomas.

In the aged care industry, majority of the staff are women. Many are lower paid and have less capacity to accumulate decent superannuation savings. For many, they are about to suffer the loss of paid parental leave (PPL) entitlements.

One nurse who works in aged care says, “the loss of penalties will severely impact my, and many others, overall weekly wage.”

“Often we are allocated weekend and public holiday shifts, when all our family and friends are enjoying their time off. Part of our job is to work when others aren’t.”

“For that I believe I should be compensated,” she says.

According to ANMF, more than 80% of their have said that “they will abandon nursing and midwifery” if they lose penalty rates.

In response to this, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dismissed such claim when he spoke with Adelaide radio station FiveAA.

“The decision applies only to the retail and hospitality sectors and … of course nurses and police officers are under state awards and agreements anyway so they’re not under the jurisdiction of this commission in any event,” Mr Turnbull said.

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