Unpaid overtime and heavy workloads

Immediately on gaining office the Abbott government abolished the Aged Care Supplement guaranteeing increased wages. The way forward to better pay and conditions now lies with enterprise bargaining.

The NSWNMA has been conducting various surveys as part of the consultation process leading into the campaign to achieve a new template for the not-for-profit aged care sector.

According to the Association’s research unpaid overtime is widespread in the aged care sector, with 56% of respondents saying they regularly work more than their contracted hours.

Workloads and staff shortages were frequently blamed for members having to work back beyond their normal shift hours. This impacted on the care that nurses were able to provide to residents.

“I really need extra staff to watch the residents so I can finish my work or I just stay back until it’s finished,” said one RN.

“It would be good to see staff have enough time to interact with residents rather than a frantic rush to get the basic jobs completed in the allotted time,” said another.

“Stop ALL unpaid overtime: it is unacceptable that essential tasks have to be completed in our own time, as overtime must be pre-approved,” said another respondent.

The research shows that bullying and violence from residents are perennial problems for staff in the sector. Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said they had experienced violence from residents in the past year.

While most people were satisfied that the issue was dealt with appropriately by management, over a third indicated that the issue was not managed appropriately.

“Dementia residents are often physically aggressive towards staff, especially at night where there is less staff on duty. Priority is given to resident safety as is required, but in most cases staff are left to their own devices. The main advice is to walk away, which in some cases is difficult to do,” said one respondent.

“Violence in the workplace is usually dismissed. There is no formal education of de-escalating situations with residents when they have cognitive impairment and they become aggressive towards staff,” said another nurse.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents said they worked on a set roster. For those without a set roster more than 41% had to deal with unpredictable shifts.

Two thirds of the respondents had permanent part time jobs while 22% had permanent full time jobs.