Sunday 26th July 2009
The NSW Nurses’ Association and the Workplace Ombudsman are working together to investigate underpayment of nurses in the community-home nursing industry.
A union survey of members showed non-payment and insufficient payment of travel time was particularly common.
The survey covered employees of seven private contractors including Department of Veterans’ Affairs contractors.
All but one company appeared to be systematically underpaying nurses.
The union sent the survey results to the Federal Government’s Workplace Ombudsman, which agreed to audit employers.
Meanwhile, the union is dealing with one employer in more detail through the courts.
‘We are determined to clean up the community-home nursing industry and ensure nurses are paid according to industrial law and agreements,’ said NSWNA General Secretary Brett Holmes.
He said the survey revealed widespread underpayment of travel time.
‘Travelling in your normal duties, such as between clients, is clearly work time and should be paid at the hourly rate of pay.
‘It is our view and nursing industry practice that nurses who are directed to travel to a client as part of their normal duties should be paid their hourly rate of pay plus a vehicle allowance if they are using their own car.
‘Some employers are only paying a vehicle allowance. Others are paying the wrong allowance.
‘Some are correctly paying registered and enrolled nurses but not less qualified employees such as Assistants in Nursing.’
Brett said the survey also revealed underpayment for afternoon shifts and casual employees not receiving a minimum three-hour shift.
In at least one company, nurses who insisted on their legal right to minimum shift periods were victimised by having their hours cut back.
Some casual employees worked split shifts during a single day (for example, from 7am to 11am and then from 4pm to 7pm) but were not paid overtime as required by the Award.
‘Most nurses in this industry are paid under the Nurses Other than in Hospitals (State) Award. Some have a workplace agreement while others are on individual contracts,’ Brett said.
‘What you are entitled to depends on what award or agreement you are under.
‘If you think you may not be getting the correct pay, telephone the union on 1300 367 962.’