This bonus will be provided to staff in two instalments of up to $400 each and will be paid to workers in home care and residential aged care, including clinical care workers and those providing direct care, food or cleaning services through Government subsidised residential care.
Minister for Health and Aged Care, Greg Hunt, says that this payment from the Government acknowledges the aged care workforce for its hard work throughout the ongoing challenges presented by the pandemic.
"The Government is providing these bonus payments to aged care workers in recognition of their dedication in continuing to care for our vulnerable older Australians during these difficult times," says Minister Hunt.
"These workers have been caring for those who have been most at risk throughout the pandemic and their dedication has been outstanding.
"These payments will also be an extra bonus for those who recently retired but have responded to the request to return to work during the recent workforce shortages."
Minister for Senior Australians and Aged Care Services, Richard Colbeck, says the Government is committed to supporting the aged care workers who are "the backbone of the care and services provided to older Australians".
He adds that the aged care workforce is an area that the Government wants to invest in, grow, and upskill, and this payment should encourage the current workforce to continue working during the difficulties of COVID-19.
"[Workers] continue to show their dedication and resilience in caring for older Australians during the COVID-19 pandemic, whether it’s through achieving one of the highest workforce vaccination rates in the world or a myriad of other ways," says Minister Colbeck.
"The payments will provide additional encouragement to continue working through the pandemic and will help to attract additional workers into aged care."
Workers employed on 28 February, 2022, will receive a bonus payment of up to $400 with another instalment of the payment to be paid to staff that are employed on 28 April, 2022.
Aged care providers will need to apply for the bonus payments on behalf of their staff and pass on the financial assessment to their employees.
Minister Hunt encourages all providers to make this payment available to eligible employees as soon as they have confirmation of the amount of the payment.
Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese has responded to the Federal Government's bonus funding announcement, stating that the $800 payment for workers isn't sustainable and won't fix the current issues facing the aged care workforce.
"[There is] no problem paying a cash payment to workers, the problem here is this is a cash payment in the lead up to an election with no sustainable increase in their pay. Why is the Government not providing support for aged care workers…on a permanent basis?
"There is a case before the FairWork Commission where the Federal Government is refusing to support a submission saying they should have their pay increased. So aged care workers will be onto this bloke, he is not interested in them, he is interested in their votes."
A group of aged care peak bodies and unions have joined together to release a statement agreeing that the staff shortage issues are not going to be fixed by two payment bonuses.
At a press conference today, Chief Executive Officer of peak body for non-profit providers Aged and Community Services Australia (ACSA), Paul Sadler, spoke on behalf of the unions and organisations saying that the $800 figure is deceptive and not enough to fix workforce issues.
"We welcome the fact that the Government has finally acknowledged exactly what aged care is going through at the moment and it has recognised the importance of a payment being made to our workers," says Mr Sadler.
"But aged care providers and unions are resolute in saying to the Government - this is not yet enough. We need to do more to support aged care and we need to do more to support our workforce in aged care.
"This one-off payment which will be happening over a two payment period in February and [April] is important for our workforce but it only amounts to around one dollar per hour extra for the workers in aged care. The headline number is $800 dollars but most aged care workers will not receive that because it is pro-rata according to if you work full time or part time.
"The $800 only goes to the full time workers and they are the minority of our aged care workforce. So from our point of view, we welcome Government to the whole question of what is happening during COVID, but we need to do so much more than what we are doing."
Carolyn Smith, United Workers Union (UWU) Aged Care Director, adds that while today's announcement of two financial bonuses for aged care workers is a welcome relief for the workforce, it won't fix wages in the long term.
"In particular, the Union is pleased that the bonus has been extended to include all aged care workers, including catering and cleaning staff, as well as care workers," says Ms Smith.
"The aged care industry is at absolute breaking point, and I am not sure these bonuses will fix the systemic issues in the industry.
"Aged care workers are struggling with low pay, understaffing and the poor rollout of COVID-19 response by Scott Morrison. The fact that workers are still not receiving regular RATs (Rapid Antigen Tests) and adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) is indicative of the Federal Government’s failure in this area.
"Although we do welcome Scott Morrison’s admission that aged care wages need to be substantially improved, it’s something we have been saying for a long time now."
The Australian Aged Care Collaboration (AACC), a group of six aged care peak bodies, and a number of unions, including UWU, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), Health Services Union and Australian Workers Union (AWU), have thrown their support behind the call for better wages for an overwhelmed and overworked aged care workforce.
In a joint statement, they say, "The recent announcement of two pro-rata payments of up to $400 is grossly inadequate and it remains to be seen how this short-term payment will prevent a feared exodus of staff from the frontline.
"The escalating crisis in aged care due to the Omicron surge has left aged care workers experiencing extraordinary levels of worker stress as they do their very best to meet residents' needs, while being dangerously understaffed, working double shifts and enduring long hours in personal protective equipment.
"Aged care staff are exhausted and burnt out, with many working for days around the clock. Resignations due to fatigue and feeling undervalued continue to devastate the sector. We need an ongoing COVID-19 payment to be paid on each shift to recognise and incentivise aged care workers."
The peak bodies and unions add that the structural deficiencies in the sector are being magnified by the pandemic and the Government needs to make sure the aged care workforce is well resourced to enable better care for older Australians - which means having a plan for more staff, better pay, and improved skills and qualifications.