Some aged care workers were pleasantly surprised to learn they were entitled to a pay increase this week, having forgotten that the care and support workers’ pay equity settlement included a series of annual pay rises until 2021. This year’s increase took place on 1 July.
Wairarapa aged care worker, Simone O’Connor says she’s been reminding her workmates about the increase.
“Many had forgotten they were due another pay rise. The year has gone so quickly! But it’s great. We’re on the right path and we’re moving ahead – more money means a better life.”
Home support delegate, Shannon Crowley says a year on, the settlement has changed her life, allowing simple pleasures like taking her son to the movies, and planning her first holiday in years.
“I haven’t stressed out about money so much because I just feel more cushioned – just less stressed and cornered,” she says.
“And there’s a lot of clients who really are happy for us. They all say to us, ‘It’s about time, love!’, which is great.”
Yvette Taylor, E tū Campaign Lead Organiser says the increase is another step towards care givers really being valued.
“The higher pay rates have made a big difference to our members with many finally able to take a holiday, visit their dentist, and pay the bills.”
E tū is urging its members to check their pay, and also that they are getting the training that is an entitlement included in the settlement.
“Qualifications mean higher pay, but it’s also about ensuring the best quality care for the people our members look after,” she says.
Meanwhile some employers have struggled to keep pace with the increased wages as a result of the settlement, with some closing as a result.
Taranaki’s Mission Rest Home recently closed due to its inability to afford the pay rises brought about by the pay equity legislation.
“Our staff deserve pay increases, but the reality is that the funding received along with our occupancy is not sufficient to make ends meet and we are not prepared to compromise our quality of care,” said general manager Kim Poynter.
Rest homes will receive a pay equity supplement to help aged care providers mitigate the effects of pay equity as the settlement enters its second year.
Under the new legislation, more caregivers than expected have transitioned to the higher pay bands of Level 3 and 4, placing pressure on employers. When the pay equity settlement was first announced 14 per cent of caregivers were on Level 4, the highest pay band. Now it is 30 per cent.
The New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) says despite the supplement – which is welcome – there will still be some employers who continue to struggle.
However the Government has set aside $3 million for transitional funding for rest homes that are still in deficit due to the pay equity settlement.
“But I would expect there wouldn’t be nearly as many given the fact that we’ve now got recognition of the number of workers at Level 3,” says NZACA chief executive, Simon Wallace.