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Attracting great employees – How aged care can face the future shortage of workers

Posted by arenburg
10 January

Did you know that the number of people aged 85 years and over in Australia is expected to reach 1.8 million by 2050?

That’s according to Australia’s former Age Discrimination Commissioner, the Hon. Susan Ryan. It’s also estimated that the aged care workforce must grow from approximately 366,000 to 980,000 employees by 2050 to meet this demand.

But difficulties in retaining staff and skills shortages means Australia is significantly under-resourced when it comes to aged care workers. With last year’s Royal Commission condemning Australia’s aged care system, employment in this sector is looking extremely unattractive. 

According to the Commission, employees are ‘underpaid, undervalued and insufficiently trained.’ A report by leading community and healthcare provider HESTA found that 22% of aged care workers left their job due to low payment, 30% felt that needed further training to perform their role and 23% were planning on leaving the sector within the next five years.

At Arenburg, we firmly believe that the aged care sector must implement changes to meet the demand of the growing sector and improve the quality of aged care and retirement services. In our opinion, the following changes are necessary to meet community expectations of aged care and encourage great employees.

  • Implement recommendations from the Royal Commission 

The Commission’s findings were particularly damaging to the reputation of the aged care sector, which will need to work hard to rebrand its image and appeal to potential employees. 

It’s imperative that aged care facilities implement the Royal Commission recommendations quickly and effectively. Recognising their failures and committing to better services is step 1. 

Compliance with regulatory frameworks is a must. We also advocate for a self-reflective approach, in which aged care service providers constantly review their staff and processes as well as identifying areas of improvement, as opposed to a dollar-based approach to aged care.

  • Educate, educate, educate

Because the curriculum of aged care qualifications vary depending on where people study, many workers are entering the field lacking basic skills. Providers should include in-house training for their staff to equip them with the necessary skills they have identified as lacking in their facility.

Current staff identified public perception in their training as a deterrent factor. If employees have sufficient training their confidence in their abilities and job satisfaction will rise. 

  • Diversify the workforce

A more diverse workforce will appeal to a larger number of young Australians. An aged care sector that adopts an inclusive attitude to Australia’s LGBTQIA community, those from different ethnic backgrounds, rural communities and those with disabilities will better serve the diversity in Australia’s future elderly population as well.

  • Encourage career growth and create employee benefits

Given that stunted professional development was a major discouraging factor by employees, providers must consider an increase in opportunity for professional growth in their facility or more versatile roles. 

Working in aged care can be seen as a natural step in career progression if providers focus on seeking employees from similar industries that require exceptional customer service skills (such as hospitality and retail). At the same time, aged care has been described by Ms Ryan as a ‘fantastic option’ for older workers struggling to find work, as there is ‘less discrimination against workers in aged care.’

Moreover, HESTA’s report showed that providers who delivered health and wellbeing programs to staff saw huge improvements in job satisfaction. These initiatives are also highly beneficial to elderly in aged care facilities. A simple example is a provider who installed a gym within their facility, which managed to reduce fractures by 54% among residents and provide health and recreational benefits to employees.

  • Encourage migrant workers

According to the New South Wales’ Social Policy Research Centre, care workers from overseas are generally younger and better-educated. One in four holds a bachelor’s degree, while for Australian-born aged care workers the matching statistic is one in twelve.

Currently, where providers cannot find an appropriately skilled Australian worker they can employ an overseas skilled worker who has a Temporary Skill Shortage Visa. This, in turn, will allow providers to better support elderly Australians from multicultural backgrounds.

While there’s certainly a long way to go, at Arenburg we’re hopeful the aged care sector will be implementing these (and other) changes to attract great employees and improve the industry as a whole. If you have any questions or concerns regarding transitioning into Aged Care or retirement living, please don’t hesitate to contact Arenburg Legal on (07) 3181 5554.