Daily BulletinHoliday Centre

The Conversation

  • Written by Fiona Macdonald, Senior Research Fellow in Work & Employment Relations, RMIT University
Disability workers are facing longer days with less pay

Disability support workers are being significantly underpaid as some core tasks and activities do not get counted as work, our research finds.

We investigated disability support workers’ working time patterns and pay by analysing 30 self-completed work diaries kept by 10 workers over three consecutive work days. We also interviewed the workers.

Like most frontline care workers, the disability support workers in our research are low-paid and work part-time hours only. Employed to provide support to people in their own homes and the community, their working time is highly fragmented, with multiple short periods of paid work spread out over long working days. This means that many also have to work six or seven days a week to earn a living.

Read more: The NDIS costs are on track, but that doesn't mean all participants are getting the support they need

It’s not unusual for the businesses who employ care workers to limit employees’ paid work time. However, under the tight pricing arrangements of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), this appears to be leading to excessive unpaid overtime and unfair pay. For low-paid workers this can mean their actual pay rates are being pushed well below minimum award rates.

What workers are spending unpaid time on

We found that the disability support workers regularly spent unpaid time on two types of work activities.

Workers travelled directly between different locations to provide support and care and were not paid for this travel time as each incidence of support was treated as a separate work shift.

As a typical example, one woman provided support to four people in four separate locations on one day and she was paid for a total of 3.5 hours’ work for the four separate work shifts. However, she also spent an additional unpaid 55 minutes, 20% of her total work time, travelling directly from one work location to the next.

The workers we studied also regularly spent unpaid time providing direct support, completing mandatory or essential paperwork, and communicating with support recipients, families or supervisors. While the periods of unpaid work were mostly short, say 10 minutes or so, they occurred several times a day.

This type of unpaid overtime amounted to an additional 10% or more on top of paid time over three days, for half the workers we studied.

The financial cost of these two forms of unpaid work combined was significant for these part-time and low-paid employees. Over the three days, for five of the workers, unpaid work made up between 2% and 6% of total work time. We estimate this cost them between around A$9 and A$30 in unpaid wages over the three days.

For the other five employees unpaid work time was between 12% and 21% of total work time. The estimated to cost in unpaid wages for three days was between $25 and $182. These are significant amounts for workers whose earnings for the three days ranged from around $150 to $600.

Why are workers forced to work for free?

Underpayment of social care workers is often invisible and ambiguous.

Under the NDIS personal support and care provided by disability support workers is funded on the basis of a set hourly price. In 2017 research highlighted problems with the NDIS pricing model, including: inadequate allowance for workers’ time spent travelling between clients, for tasks other than face-to-face support and inadequate provision for supervision and training. All of these are essential to workers’ ability to provide safe, personalised support.

The recently released review of NDIS pricing undertaken for the National Disability Insurance Agency acknowledged that many service providers are unable to operate profitably under current NDIS pricing arrangements. The report describes the providers that are “working economically” as those operating with more casualised workforces or utilising sole trader care workers.

In contrast, providers that weren’t considered to be working economically were those that offered greater supervision of workers, had more experienced workforces or had enterprise agreements that paid wages above the award minimum.

A strong theme running through the report is that these service providers should be able to reduce their labour costs. Yet, our research suggests low-paid disability support workers may already be subsidising the system and bearing the consequences of inadequate prices for disability support, through wages underpayments and unfair pay practices.

Read more: NDIS needs the market to help make up at least 60% shortfall in specialist disability housing

Disability care is a female-dominated industry and the undervaluing of women’s work underpins inferior minimum employment conditionsin the industry. This includes an absence of minimum shift times for part-time employees and lack of an explicit provision for payment for time travelling between work assignments.

The NDIS is expected to generate about one in five of all new jobs in Australia in the next few years with many of these jobs likely to be frontline disability support jobs. The nature of these jobs is not only critical to the working lives of many employees, now and in the future, but also to the quality of support provided to people with disability and others requiring care.

Authors: Fiona Macdonald, Senior Research Fellow in Work & Employment Relations, RMIT University

Read more http://theconversation.com/disability-workers-are-facing-longer-days-with-less-pay-93953

INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

The Conversation

Politics

Closing the Gap Statement to Parliament

Mr Speaker, when we meet in this place, we are on Ngunnawal country. I give my thanks and pay my respects to our Ngunnawal elders, past, present and importantly emerging for our future. I honour...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Alan Jones

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, Alan.    JONES: I was just thinking last night when we're going to talk to you today, you must feel as though you've ...

News Company - avatar News Company

Prime Minister Bridget McKenzie press conference

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon everybody. The good news is that the Qantas flight is on its way to Wuhan and I want to thank everybody for their cooperation, particularly the Chinese Government as...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Choosing the Right Coworking Space For Your Business

As the capital of Victoria in Australia, Melbourne is inhabited by millions of people and is known as one of the most liveable cities in the world. The latter is due to the city’s diverse community...

Sarah Williams - avatar Sarah Williams

What Should You Expect from A Carpentry Apprenticeship?

Those wanting to pursue a career in woodwork, whether it be to make furniture, construct buildings or repair existing wooden structures, will have to first commence a carpentry apprenticeship. This ...

News Company - avatar News Company

4 Tips To Choosing A Reliable SEO Company For Your Digital Marketing Agency

Working with a digital marketing agency Perth is the best bet in ensuring that your business is promoted well in the online space. If you are an app developer Perth, you may have to work closely wit...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

How to Be a Smart Frugal Traveller

You are looking through Instagram, watching story after story of your followers overseas at a beach in Santorini, walking through the piazza in Italy, and eating a baguette in front of the Eiffel ...

News Company - avatar News Company

HOW TO PREPARE FOR YOUR GRADUATION TRIP

Graduation is the stage of life when a student receives the rewards of hard work of years. It must have taken sleepless nights and tiring days to achieve the task. Now, as you have received your cov...

News Company - avatar News Company

A Travel Guide for Vacations Overseas

There are two types of tourists. Of course, that's a sweeping generalization, and we could be talking about any possible part of traveling.  In this case, we're discussing those who stick to the ma...

News Company - avatar News Company

ShowPo