The aged care sector plays a crucial role in providing care and support to the elderly in our communities.  To ensure fair working conditions and employment opportunities for aged care workers and address labour shortages in the aged care sector, the Department of Home Affairs introduced the new Aged Care Labour Agreement to boost the workforce in this sector.

The new Aged Care Industry Labour Agreement allows support-care providers to:

  • Sponsor overseas workers under the Temporary Skill Shortage (subclass 482) visa in direct care occupations such as:
  • Sponsor overseas workers for permanent residence under the Employer Nomination Scheme (subclass 186) visa program.  Workers must have at least two years of full-time work experience in Australia in a relevant direct care occupation.  The two years of work experience is not tied to a particular employer or visa subclass.

To be eligible for this labour agreement as a sponsor, the provider must enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with one of the following unions(s), subject to the type of service being provided and their location:

Last week, our team at Gilton Valeo Lawyers met with the United Workers Union regarding the process of entering into an MoU with the relevant unions.  Thought we’d share some of the discussions with you.

Understanding the MoU

For the Aged Care Labour Agreement, the MoU serves as an alternative to the traditional practices of Labour Market Testing (LMT) by demonstrating that the provider has offered additional hours to all current workers, and minimised barriers to attraction and retention by providing predictable rosters with set hours, decent wages, and good working conditions.

The Negotiation Process

Below is an outline of some of the steps involved in establishing an MoU with a relevant union:

  1. Initial Contact: Aged care providers interested in establishing an MoU should have their immigration representatives reach out to the union first to express their interests.
  2. Meeting with the Union: After the union has confirmed the provider’s eligibility and is within the union’s coverage, the union will schedule an in-person meeting with the provider and its representatives to discuss the requirements and implementation of the MoU.  This meeting is to ensure a mutual understanding of the agreement’s terms and conditions.
  3. Discussion with Current Employees: For the union to determine whether the provider is maximising their current workforce hours and undertaking additional measures to support local, permanent recruitment and employment, they will also schedule to meet with the provider’s current employees to understand their current allocated work hours.  If the provider can demonstrate the labour shortages successfully, the process of establishing the MoU can then commence.
  4. MoU Preparation and Approval: The MoU is a template document agreed upon by all unions involved.  Although minimal adjustments may be made to tailor to the specific provider needs, the core elements of the MoU remain consistent.  Once the MoU is fully executed, the aged care provider can proceed to apply for the Aged Care Labour Agreement and commence negotiations with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Based on the information provided by the union, the negotiation process typically takes up to six weeks, with the scheduling of the meetings subject to the provider’s availability.  However, as we can expect more providers trying to access the labour agreement, the processing time may be longer depending on the union’s capacity.  We would recommend aged care providers who are interested in this pathway commence their negotiations as early as possible.

Our thoughts

With the increase of the Temporary Skilled Migration Income Threshold (TSMIT) to AUD 70,000 from 1 July 2023, it is inevitable that certain industries with lower awarded salaries, such as the aged care industry will need to utilise labour agreements as a pathway to bring in more workers to maintain the normal operations of their business.  Consequently, we can expect more and more businesses to engage in negotiations and/or consultations with the government to seek potential concessions to the employer-sponsored visa pathway.

Therefore, we recommend that businesses intending to sponsor overseas workers or those currently experiencing a labour shortage actively communicate with the unions or relevant industry associations starting now.  This proactive approach will help initiate their accessibility to employer-sponsored visa programs following the changes that will take place in the migration system in the months to come.

Please also note that the Aged Care Labour Agreement only covers Residential or Home Care Aged Care providers.  Disability care/support providers and on-hire/labour hire agencies are excluded from the coverage of this Industry Labour Agreement.  However, if your business is in disability care or an on-hire agency, we recommend getting in touch to discuss other options that may be available, such as Company-specific Labour Agreements or On-Hire Industry Labour Agreements.

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