Thinking | 5 April 2022

Federal Budget Reply 2022-23: implications for Australian employers

By Alison Baker and Iona Goodwin

We look at the implications of the Opposition’s 2022-23 Budget Reply announcements for employers if Labor wins government at the federal election in May.

The Budget Reply targets the aged care sector, revealing a number of new measures aimed at improving aged care including a requirement for aged care providers to have a registered nurse on duty 24/7, mandating that every aged care resident receives a minimum of 215 minutes of care per day, and providing funding to support a permanent increase in aged care workers’ wages.

The Budget Reply also included a commitment to implement all 55 recommendations in the Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report 2020 and foreshadowed further policy announcements on creating secure, well-paid jobs.

Requiring registered nurse on site 24/7 and mandating care hours

The Opposition has announced that every aged care facility will be required to have a registered, qualified nurse on site, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Opposition will also mandate that every Australian living in aged care receives a minimum of 215 minutes of care per day, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety in its final report.

Funding a permanent wage increase for aged care workers

The Opposition will support aged care workers’ call for better pay at the Fair Work Commission (FWC) and fund the outcome of a work value case presently before the FWC.

In the work value case, the Health Services Union, and Health Services Union members Virginia Ellis, Mark Castieau, Sanu Ghimire and Paul Jones have applied to the FWC to vary the Aged Care Award 2010 and increase wages for workers covered by this award by 25%.

Similar applications were filed by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation seeking to vary the Aged Care Award 2010 and Nurses Award 2010, and by the Health Services Union seeking to vary the Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010.

The Opposition is proposing the Federal Government will pay workers the increase as determined by the FWC (if any), rather than relying on employers to foot the bill.

Implementation of all Respect@Work Report recommendations

The Opposition will implement all 55 recommendations in the Respect@Work: Sexual Harassment National Inquiry Report released by the Australian Human Rights Commission in March 2020.

Implications for employers

Many of the specific initiatives in the Budget Reply had already been announced by the Opposition, including its commitment to implement all 55 recommendations in the Respect@Work Report.

Employers in the aged care sector may be significantly impacted by the Opposition’s reforms if Labor wins government. The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated significant nursing and aged care workforce shortages, which may put pressure on employers to find staff to meet the Opposition’s proposed mandates.

We expect the Opposition to provide more details on its policies after Prime Minister Morrison calls the election, which will be held on Saturday 14 May 2022 or Saturday 21 May 2022. Stay tuned for more announcements.

Read our commentary on the 2022-23 Federal Budget announcement.

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