A new report has found extending leave entitlements to allow casual and contractor National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) workers to accrue annual, sick, and carer’s leave would help stem the sector’s high attrition rates.
The McKell Institute's "Flexible but fair" report commissioned by the Australian Services Union (ASU), found that one quarter of all NDIS workers are leaving the sector, and half hope to within five years.
The report showed that while employees enjoy the flexible nature of the job, they also cite poor pay and conditions as barriers to sustaining a career in the sector.
According to the ASU around one-third of the workers in this sector are casual, and the rest are on short-hour part-time contracts, a factor which makes it “impossible” to accrue leave for breaks or when workers are unwell, the union said.
To address the problem, the report urged the federal government to consider providing employees with portable entitlements to help improve workforce retention.
As the NDIS has grown, so too has its workforce, the report noted.
“It is expected that, by 2025, the scheme will require more than 370,000 workers spanning dozens of often niche skillsets to meet the demand of the 500,000-plus participants the scheme supports.”
The report stated that the NDIS needs to consider how it can improve the quality of work for those supporting the scheme to retain and attract as many workers to the NDIS as it requires.
The establishment of a Portable Entitlements Scheme for NDIS workers is key to this.
The report said that typically, workplace entitlements have been “pinned” to a specific occupation with a specific employer and when this occupation ends, certain leave entitlements expire or are paid out to the employee.
By contrast, portable entitlements are pinned to an employee, who can accrue entitlements while working with several different employers within the same industry.
The report stated that these entitlements should pin workplace entitlements to individual workers instead of the job, where employees will contribute to a centralised entitlements fund that follows an employee around from job to job.
The report recommends the federal government consider commencing a legislative process this term that will extend portable entitlements to registered NDIS workers to have them operational by the financial year 2025/26.
It also recommended such a scheme be administered through an independent statutory body reporting to the NDIS minister.
Report author and McKell’s Director of Policy, Edward Cavanough, said workplace conditions needed to catch up with the increasingly insecure nature of NDIS work.
“The NDIS sector is reliant upon fragmented and flexible work to meet participant needs. The increasing use of contractor or ‘gig’ labour means many workers are engaging in full-time hours without the full-time benefits,” he said.
State versus federal
“Portability works. It’s been demonstrated through siloed, long-service leave schemes across various states, and the government’s now axed Paid Pandemic Disaster Leave for sick casual and contract workers. Now’s the time for the federal government to expand the accessibility of entitlements to retain and attract the workforce that hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities are relying on."
He labelled the scheme a “necessary” policy intervention that will help deliver “better care for NDIS participants, better employment conditions for NDIS workers, and better value for money for taxpayers that fund the NDIS”.