Laundry staff, cleaners and kitchen staff working in residential aged care will not receive the government’s retention bonus, even though home care workers performing similar duties are entitled to the payment.

On 20 March, the government announced it will pay a ‘retention bonus’ to aged care workers to help providers keep staff employed through the COVID-19 crisis.

Aged care minister, Richard Colbeck, told HelloCare that full-time “direct care workers in residential care facilities”, including personal care workers, registered nurses, enrolled nurses and allied health, will receive a ‘retention bonus’ of up to $800 per quarter.

A broader scope of home care workers will also receive a payment.

“Full-time home care workers will receive payments of up to $600 per quarter,” Mr Colbeck said.

“This includes workers providing clinical care, personal care, cleaning, home support activities and meal preparation, social support, shopping, community access and transport, allied health and respite.”

Payments are “inequitable”

Aged and Community Services Australia CEO, Pat Sparrow, told HelloCare the government payments are well intentioned, but “inequitable” and need to be reviewed.

“We think the government’s tried to do the right thing here. It’s welcome, and it’s got a good intention,” Ms Sparrow said. 

“But the things that we’re concerned about, that we think it needs to address, is that there’s an inequity in what a home care worker will receive and what a residential worker will receive.”

It seems “inequitable” that aged care workers receive $800 while home care workers only receive $600, she said.

Meals, laundry, cleaning essential in residential aged care

She also said the way the government has defined those who deliver “direct care” in residential aged care is too narrow. 

Those in residential aged care preparing meals, doing the laundry, and cleaning, for example, are not included in the payment while nurses and care workers are. 

“We think that they are facing the same level of contact with residents,” said Ms Sparrow. 

“They’re carrying the same level of risk and doing it because they think it’s important work to do. We think they should be getting the recognition and retention payment as the other staff.”

She said the work of ensuring residents have clean rooms, food to eat and clean bedding is as important as the work the nurses and the care workers are doing.

Payment a “significant source of anger and distress”

Leading Age Services Australia CEO, Sean Rooney, said the government should reconsider its decision to exclude some aged care staff from the retention bonus. 

“All staff are essential to the delivery of safe and effective aged care in the context of COVID-19,” he said.

“Providing the retention bonus to some staff and not to others has been a source of significant anger and distress among employees. 

“Services overseas have reported that retention can be more of a problem for cleaners and food services staff than it is for direct care staff, who are generally better able to understand and manage the risks,” Ms Rooney said.

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