All work, no pay: substandard care could be tied to wages

Posted 7 months ago by David McManus
The new report suggested that improving the NDIS could start with the workforce wages. [Source: Shutterstock]
The new report suggested that improving the NDIS could start with the workforce wages. [Source: Shutterstock]

In the disability sector, the rate of full-time employment has ranged between 20 percent and 24 percent over the last five years.

Key points:

  • A new report published by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work claimed disability support workers were often casualised and poorly paid
  • The report stated that improving workers’ pay could improve care for NDIS participants
  • 40 percent of NDIS workers work in the disability sector on a casual basis


The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work has released a report highlighting the urgent need to protect NDIS participants from substandard care by improving pay and opportunities for support staff.

The report, entitled ‘Going backwards: How NDIS workforce arrangements are undermining decent work and gender equality,’ claimed that conditions had worsened for the quarter of a million workers supporting the Scheme — which is increasingly reliant on digital platforms, third-party intermediaries and independent contractors.

Dr Fiona Macdonald, industrial and social policy director at the Centre for Future Work, warned that unfair pay compromises the efficacy of the Scheme itself.

“The NDIS is a major employer and a huge source of indirect jobs, but despite its size and importance to society and the economy, unfulfilled promises for workers — predominantly women — around fair pay, decent working conditions and career opportunities — risk jeopardising the Scheme’s sustainability,” Dr Macdonald explained.

In December, the Behavioural Economics Team of the Australian Government reported that there was a 17 – 25 percent NDIS workforce turnover per annum — which means at least 45,900 workers leave the NDIS workforce each year.


NDIS workers cited four key reasons for why they planned to leave:

  • The heavy workload — with 43 percent of workers feeling burnt out during the majority of their time at work

  • Concerns about the service quality under the NDIS

  • The high volume of paperwork and NDIS procedures

  • Negative workplace culture or management issues


“Limited regulatory oversight of the NDIS has eroded fair pay and working conditions. This has resulted in an overreliance on casuals, who make up a staggering 40 percent of workers supporting the Scheme and endure fragmented hours and poor pay relative to the demands and risks of the job,” Dr Macdonald said.

“Undercutting their pay and conditions does not just deter potential workers from joining the sector, it compromises the quality of support provided to vulnerable NDIS participants.”


The Centre for Future Work’s report called for comprehensive reforms, including:

  • Mandatory requirements within NDIS pricing arrangements to lift minimum pay for all NDIS-funded disability support workers under the Social and Community Services Award

  • Establishing a national mandatory worker registration and accreditation scheme for disability support workers

  • Requiring all NDIS providers to be registered, with registration requirements proportionate to the risks of service provision

  • Ensuring all NDIS support workers have access to adequate supervision and support, secure work and employment entitlements and collective representation and bargaining

  • Establishing portable leave and training for disability support workers
  • Reviewing funding and pricing so workers can collectively bargain for over-award wages


The Centre for Future Work policy advisor said responses, including the National Care and Support Economy Strategy, along with the independent NDIS Review, were welcome changes. However, Dr MacDonald added, “[…] the fixes proposed so far are fragmented and not enough to ensure the Scheme is effective and sustainable — protecting jobs and people with disabilities.”

“The NDIS has great potential to do more for the people accessing and working for it, but only if we face up to the real problems that risk undermining its purpose.

“Ensuring decent jobs within the NDIS is not just about economic sustainability; it’s about achieving societal equity and fulfilling the promises of quality employment and support made a decade ago.”


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