New information showing that cuts to penalty rates could spread to other industries has given legs to concerns from those working in the aged care sector.


Independent advice provided to the Australian Council of Trade Unions shows that the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates is not specific to just the hospitality and retail awards – many other workers penalty rates are at risk too, including aged care workers.


Shadow Assistant Minister for Ageing, Senator Helen Polley says that fears for aged care workers penalty rates were raised last week at the Senate Community Affairs References Committee’s inquiry into the future of Australia’s aged care sector workforce hearing in Wollongong.


“Our aged care workers are amongst the lowest paid workers in the country and penalty rates are fundamental to their livelihood,” Senator Polley said.


“A reduction in penalty rates for those caring for vulnerable older Australians would have a devastating impact on our aged care system and deter people from entering the profession, and exacerbate the aged care workforce shortage crisis.


“This is also a gender pay gap issue, because just like the hospitality, retail and pharmacy sectors, our aged care workforce is also dominated by women.


“A cut to penalty rates for aged care workers would mean another pay cut for women who are already struggling to balance their budgets and scraping by on low incomes to support their families.”


Tim Jacobson, State Secretary of the Health and Community Services Union Tasmania says that the majority of aged care workers rely on penalty rates to boost their salary.

"A lot of our members actually say that they couldn't afford to stay working if they lost their penalty rates,” said Mr Jacobson.

“We cannot meet the challenges of an ageing population or the care expectations of the community by reducing penalty rates,” added Senator Polley.


“It’s time for the Liberal Turnbull Government to wake up and realise how deeply the penalty rates decision will impact hundreds of thousands of low paid workers.


“There is still time for Turnbull and his Government to come to their senses and join with Labor to support our legislation that will stop unfair cuts to the take-home pay of low income workers.”