Nurses, midwives and their patients all suffer if penalty rates cut

Nurses and midwives working in Australia’s public hospitals would receive a pay cut of over $1900 a year, while all nurses, midwives and carers working in acute and aged care would be $359 million a year worse off if their Sunday penalty rates were reduced to Saturday rates, according to a new report by the McKell Institute, titled “The Importance of Penalty Rates for Our Health Workforce”.

The McKell Institute report, commissioned by the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), highlights the devastating impact of cutting penalty rates on nurses, midwives and carers and the local economies where they live and work. The key findings of the report include:

  • Nurses, midwives and carers rely on penalty rates for 20% of their income;
  • Registered nurses in public hospitals would lose $1921 a year in wages if their Sunday penalty rates are cut to Saturday levels;
  • Collectively, nurses, midwives and aged care workers would lose over $359 million a year if Sunday penalty rates are reduced to Saturday levels and a further $3 billion would be under threat if changes go further.

The ANMF’s Acting Federal Secretary, Annie Butler, said the findings were a dire prediction about the “flow-on impacts” to nurses, midwives and carers and the level of care they provide to the community, if recommendations by the Productivity Commission (PC) to reduce penalty rates are implemented by the Turnbull Government.

“As most will be out enjoying the Australia Day public holiday with our family and friends, there’ll be no respite for our nurses, midwives and aged care workers, who will be will be hard at work in hospitals and nursing homes across the country,” Ms Butler said.

“As the report finds, health is the ‘ultimate 24/7 industry’ with nurses, midwives and carers required to work inconvenient and unsociable hours, and weekends and nights often the busiest times in health and aged care settings. Whether it’s 2am on a Saturday night or a public holiday like Australia Day, they’re always on the job and it’s only fair and reasonable to expect that they be rightly compensated for the constant care they give to the community. Instead, their penalty rates are at risk.

“The PC has already targeted hospitality and retail workers and the report warns that reducing penalty rates in one sector will affect other industries, with a particular threat to health, where the constant increase in demand is leading to rising costs and the need for cost savings.

“With a growing shortage of qualified nurses to care for Australia’s rapidly ageing population, we need to recruit and retain nurses. That won’t happen if the Government even considers dramatically reducing their wages by cutting their penalty rates.”

Download the McKell Institute report

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