Why aged care pay rates are lower

Nurses and personal care workers in private for-profit and not-for-profit nursing homes

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ANMF is often asked by members employed in nursing homes why they are not paid the same as hospital nurses.

It’s a good question because it’s the same work.

You have to go back in workplace law history to understand how and why there is a pay gap.

Less than 30 years ago, whether a nurse or a personal care worker, you were paid the same rate for the same work in a public hospital or a nursing home.

Until the early 1990s Australian wages and working conditions were decided by a legal tribunal. In 1992 the country moved to a process where employees (usually represented by unions) negotiate their wages and conditions with their employer. This means ANMF is legally required to negotiate employer by employer.

This new process, called enterprise bargaining, has benefited nurses and midwives employed in the public acute and aged care facilities who are paid more and have better conditions such as mandated (now legislated) nurse/midwife patient and nurse resident ratios and 10 weeks parental leave. The same cannot be said of nurses and personal care workers employed in nursing homes.

Today private-for-profit and not-for-profit nursing home pay rates for registered and enrolled nurses are between five and 17 per cent less than public and private sector hospital rates. Personal care workers are between five and 10 per cent less than a similar role in public aged care.

In the current round of talks with employers ANMF members are seeking a 13 per cent wage rise over four years, plus additional catch up payments calculated on whether aged care employers are paying below the Victorian standard rate. Fair aged care wage increases are critical because in 2019 nurses in private and public hospitals and public nursing homes will receive a pay rise of between four and 26 per cent depending on their classification. See examples of weekly rates below:

Registered nurse, grade 1
  • Victorian standard rate $1019
  • Bupa $961.07
  • ACSAG $1019.30
  • BlueCross $1019.10
  • Opal Aged Care $989.50
  • private hospital and public nursing homes and hospitals in 2019 $1188.40
Registered nurse, grade 2, Year 9
  • Victorian standard rate $1400
  • Bupa $1321.88
  • ACSAG $1400.80
  • BlueCross $1400.70
  • Opal Aged Care $1360.90 
  • private hospital and public nursing homes and hospitals in 2019 $1678.50
Enrolled nurse pay point 8
  • Victorian standard rate $1069
  • Bupa $1007.76
  • ACSAG $1069.10
  • BlueCross $1068.80
  • Opal Aged Care $1037.78
  • private hospital and public nursing homes and hospitals in 2019 $1155.60
Enrolled nurse pay point 8 with medication allowance
  • Victorian standard rate $1112
  • Bupa $1048.04
  • ACSAG $1111.86
  • BlueCross $ 1111.55
  • Opal Aged Care $1079.29
  • private hospital and public nursing homes and hospitals in 2019 $1276.70
Personal care worker WSG 6, Year 6
  • Victorian standard rate $911
  • Bupa $854.81
  • ACSAG $911.70
  • BlueCross $911.55
  • Opal Aged Care $886.57
  • private hospital and public nursing homes and hospitals in 2019 $1015.50


There are a couple of reasons for the different outcomes:

  • The level of union member activity and engagement is higher in public and private hospitals and public aged care. Nurses and midwives are able to take widespread legal industrial action that places pressure on the employer to negotiate a fair agreement. Asking for a wage increase and better conditions and taking industrial action can be more difficult for nurses and carers in a smaller workplace such as a nursing home. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

  • The Federal Government controls private aged care funding, but it does not control how aged care providers spend that funding. To achieve public sector wages the Federal Government would need to provide additional funding, and your employer would need to agree to use it to increase wages. ANMF has previously achieved this funding, in 2008 and 2013, and both times private aged care providers refused to use the additional funding to properly fix wages.


What can aged care nurses and personal care workers do?

ANMF elected officials, organisers and staff are currently visiting every BlueCross and Aged Care Services Australia Group (ACSAG) nursing homes. If you see us out the front come and have a snack and a chat about your wages, staffing levels and conditions.

If you’re a strong believer that you and your colleagues should be valued, recognised and rewarded for the important work you do, now is the time to become an ANMF job rep