The Aged Care Wages Gap


The wages gap between aged care and hospital care continues to grow each year. We need the federal government to fix the shortage of nursing staff in aged care by closing the wages gap, so we can deliver quality care.

We need the federal Government to fix the shortage of nursing staff in aged care by closing the wages gap between aged and hospital care.

Public sector nurses doing a similar job make between $168 and $390 on average more each week.

  • Investment of $494 million delivered in the 2012 Federal Budget can close the wages gap between aged and hospital care. Additional investment to maintain competitive wages would require additional funding of $97.9 million per annum indexed.
  • Aged care falls through the cracks — only the Australian Government can close the wages gap in aged care.

The cost of closing the wages gap between aged and hospital care for nursing staff would cost $494 million in 2012. This investment would deliver competitive wages to aged care, and address the nursing staff shortages, putting aged care on firm foundations ahead of sector reform.

Aged care falls through the cracks.

Only the federal Government can close the wages gap in aged care. This is because competition for nursing staff in aged care comes from hospitals where nurses doing a similar job make between $168 and $390 on average more each week.

We can close the wages gap now through a National Framework agreement between government, aged care providers and nursing staff.

  • A National Framework agreement providing additional funding to close the wages gap and implemented through enterprise bargaining is the best mechanism to deliver competitive wages in aged care.
  • This mechanism remedies the failures of the past, by making sure additional funding goes to wages and delivering competitive wages quickly and with minimal disruption.

Closing the wages gap requires immediate action and the provision of additional tied funding.

A National Framework agreement between government, aged care providers and nursing staff would be delivered through enterprise bargaining and would:

  • Enable aged care providers to access additional funding to pay competitive wages to nursing and care staff while maintaining care standards and enterprise flexibility;
  • Guarantee that additional funding flowed through to wages through an enforceable industrial instrument that preserves existing sector industrial arrangements; and
  • Deliver competitive wages to the sector quickly and effectively, complementing proposed reforms, and addressing existing staffing shortages.

‘The care of aged care residents would be improved with the right number of staff, the right mix of staff, improved stability of staff and proper pay. Aged care facilities are run on a shoestring.’ — Patricia Kun, Aged Care Resident

What are your thoughts on the wages gap?

Source and image credit: ANF

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  1. I expect to be shot down for this, but I believe there should be a gap. Not as large as it is currently, but certainly a “gap” of some type. I work once a week with casually at a aged care facility. I do the dressings, administer the pills, write the notes, and ensure AIN’s and EN’s are all ok. I finish my shift, and head home feeling I have covered all I was asked.
    I return to my regular job in a very heavy and busy medical ward. I have often 8 IV’s plus IV antibiotics, numerous meds that I have to sort, not just open from a pack, I have admissions, discharges, bed moves. Often in one shift we can have 10 bed moves to accomodate dying patients, infectious patients, or patients that need to be moved close to desk. I carry the MET page, so have to attend emergencies in the hospital. I handle numerous patient enquiries each shift about how someone is from often extended families. Patients have often complex dressings, cannulas to be flushed each 4 hours, IDC’s, and often pt’s needing IDC’s inserted.I oversee junior staff, agency staff and casual staff. I liase with ED re admissions. A cannula tissues, so I often end up putting numerous cannula’s in any one shift. I juggle underwater seal drains, pleural taps, PICC line insertions, Central Lines, grasby pumps. We have insulin infusions goings, hourly BSL etc etc.

    Personally, I love this type of work… it is hard, frustrating but rewarding.

    I believe I deserve more than if I was working in aged care where the complexity is minimal.

    I still believe they deserve more…. but I do think there needs to be a gap.

  2. Clearly RN8, you approach your job in a task orientated fashion. Try a person centred approach, and then ask yourself this question. “Is this the type of care I would like when I am old?”.

  3. I see the point both of you are making ( and I currently work in Aged Care, and am studying a course that focuses upon the Person-Centred approach )…
    But I also feel, that there are a number of ‘hard’ jobs in Nursing, as well as a number of ‘easy’ jobs in Nursing. So, I don’t think that keeping a wage gap in Aged Care is fair, if you’re not going to identify some of the other ‘soft’ targets.
    Eg., When I worked in Mental Health inpatient facilities, several units I worked in ( and I do mean several ) would have a standard three ( 3 ) hour sleep break on Night Shift. You got paid for 10, and really only worked 6 – 7, as there is usually plenty of ‘slack’ time during Nights. Now, there will be plenty who want to ‘shoot’ me too, for coming out with the truth !!
    Fact is, it happened, and in many of thos places, it still does. Are those staff any more deserving than Aged Care Nurses? or Medical Ward Nurses?

  4. I do approach the job with a person centred approach, but in the main stream public hospitals, tasks are what are needed to deliver patient care. These patients need client centred approach, but they are sick and have complex issues, and need the tasks to be done in order to get better. Simple.

    I worked in ED for over 15 years and the number of patients arriving by ambulance into the ED because they needed an IDC change and not one RN at the nursing home was capable of changing it, indicated many (not all) RN’s in aged care have deskilled themselves.

    I believe if the gap was closed on wage differences between aged care and acute care in the public, it still would fail to attract staff because it is just not challenging enough to those who want to maintain skills.

    I am NOT saying aged care nurses aren’t worth their weight in gold…I have been VERY impressed by the care and the love the AIN’s especially showed looking after their “Shirley’s” and their “John’s” They build up a special relationship and that is special.

    I am saying it is about skills and abilities and knowledge…something you have no choice other than staying ontop of in the acute areas, and I think that should be rewarded.

  5. GORDO, the thing is, doctors get paid differently according to there skills.

    Do you think Dr Teo, the famous sydney neurosurgeon thinks a general surgeon that cuts out lumps and bumps, or a surgeon that breaks a nose and re aligns it, should get what he gets? A geriatrician and a cardiothoracic surgeon should be on same wage?

    Medicine/nursing is task related and the gap in nursing is way behind the differneces in medicine for various areas.

  6. Specialst medical officers are on a completely different renumeration system. They don’t get paid an hourly rate. Most are their own boss, with their own Public Indemnity policy and other insurances etc.
    As a Nurse, of any specialisation ( not counting Midwifery ), we are on either an Agreement or an Award. We are on a fixed rate, regardless of how ‘good’ you are.
    I don’t think doctors can be included in the argument about Nursing wages.

  7. Oh, and BTW, I have often been asked to do a male catherisation is the nursing home environment, because the female staff are ‘ordered’ ( by employer policy ) not to carry out the procedure. By the same token, as a male, I have been told, not to attempt a female catherisation at the facility. It’s not just a matter of not wanting to…. Aged Care is subject to a high degree of employer policy and direction. I do agree, that it would ‘seem’ that Aged Care RNs could do more onsite, it’s just that we are not permitted to by the employer…

  8. Gordo, I take your point about different renumeration system within the medical system. Maybe it was wrong of me to use that as an example.

    Aged care is very important, and I guess I get frustrated some are deskilled. You are correct, maybe some are deskilled as a result of employer policy, but some also because skills are not kept up to date.

    I guess, bottom line for me, is I like aged care. I wont work in it fulltime because I would have such a large pay drop, it is not worth my time. As a result, I stay in the public system, in a very very busy ward where I work by butt off and get a little more in return financially.

  9. Working casually in aged care can never give a true feeling the the role of registered nurse working in a nursing home or hostel.
    True, employer policy often dictates what can and cant be done, However with poor support from some of the medical profession and limited training for AIN’s who do give excellent care. (Not Nursing specialised care) and require supervision to properly care for the increasingly sick elderly residents, RN’s in aged care are often relied on to be specialists in many fields of nursing. Most elderly residents in nursing home also require Medical nursing care, Assisting to rehabilitate and mantain mobilty after # NOF’s or arthritic conditions,general fraility. Working out and impliment continence programs to assist the elderly maintain continence and dignity. Provide support to elderly dementia sufferers and assist to maintain their dignity whilst reducing anxiety associated with challenging behaviours. Complex pain management is also required in aged care and not just during palliation E.ct. No I do not care for post op paitents nor do I just put a nappy on some body or insert an IDC because they may wet the bed. I need to be aware of all medications and possible interaction just the same as Nurses in acute sector, the mode of delivery doesnt matter.
    Aged care nurses wages should be closer to acute care nurses wages and it should not be us verses them.

  10. Do we really have to have yet another argument about which area of nursing is better than another? For God’s sake why can’t we work together to ensure better working conditions for ALL nurses and better pay for ALL nurses. Looking down on other nurses because some people perceive they are better than others is a low act.

    • Here here Julie! How sick I am of the competition between ward trained and uni trained nurses! I have to say I haven’t personally come across any negativity from the uni trained nurses but ward trained nurses who feel that uni trained nurses could not possibly know anything about the running of a ward, clinical skills etc do my head in. I recently had a nurse tell me she had been nursing for 48 years and was so tempted to let her know that was actually the problem and without further education could not possibly be a good thing! Why can’t we support each other in what is often a very difficult job instead of “eating our young”, as is so often the case.

  11. hi, I’m an AIN in aged care and yes I think we should be getting paid like an acute care nurse. Our work in this feild isn’t easy as most of you know, we are no diffrent to an AIN who works in a hospital. We do what an AIN would do in a hospital although having said that our workload is al ot more than what a lot go on about. Yes we have dementia sufferers with very challenging behaviours etc so why shouldn’t we be payed the same as any AIN nurse in a public hospital…


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