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About the campaign

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) developed the National Health Care and Social Assistance Campaign (the campaign) to promote a culture of compliance within the Health Care and Social Assistance industry (the industry).

The industry is the largest employing industry in Australia. It is comprised of large numbers of small businesses and high levels of part-time and low skilled employees[1]. Between July 2010 to June 2015:

  • FWO received 5 763 Requests for Assistance (RfAs) from the industry
  • The Fair Work Infoline received over 180 000 calls from the industry, averaging 3 000 calls per month. This call volume is trending upwards.

The industry has a high business retention rate. Seventy four per cent of businesses operating in June 2012 were still operating in June 2016.[2] This stability, coupled with a high proportion of businesses expanding their staffing profile, provides the FWO with an opportunity to influence long-term compliance behaviours. The campaign was spread over three phases and focused on the following sectors of the industry:

Phase 1: Medical services (Including GP medical services, medical clinic operation, psychiatrists and dermatologists)

Reasoning:

  • Employed approximately 155 000 employees, with just over 44% employed on a part-time basis[3]
  • Over a third (34.7%) of the workforce born overseas, higher than the industry (32%) and the labour market overall (28%)[4]
  • During 2014/15, a total of $65 402 was recovered for 22 employees
  • Highly fragmented with a large number of small business (98%)[5], higher than the national average (93%)

Phase 2 – Allied Health Services (Including chiropractic and osteopathy, dental services, optometry and physiotherapy)

Reasoning:

  • During 2014/15, more than $150 000 was recovered for 70 employees
  • Had a large number of employing entities and showed strong employment growth (23.2%) compared to the projected employment growth for the five years to 2019 for all industries (10%)[6]
  • There were a large number of small businesses (98%)[7]  compared to the national average (93%)

Phase 3 – Residential Care Services (Includes aged care and retirement village operation)

Reasoning:

  • Was the second highest employing sector in the industry with almost 210 000 employees[8]
  • During 2014/15, more than $57 000 was recovered for 79 workers
  • Highest proportion of migrant workers (36.5%) of any sector within the industry[9]
  • High proportion of part-time employees (58%) compared to the industry overall (45%), with the majority being female employees (85%)[10]  which is significantly higher than the proportion of women in the workforce overall (45.7%)[11]

Fair Work Inspectors conducted a total of 696 audits. The audits were conducted in three phases starting with the Medical Services sector (203), followed by Allied Health Services (266) and Residential Care Services (227).

The businesses were audited against the requirements of the Fair Work Act 2009 (the Act), the Fair Work Regulations 2009 (the Regulations) and the applicable federal award or agreement, in particular:

  • record-keeping
  • pay slips
  • base rates of pay
  • penalty rates/overtime
  • allowances/loadings.

The most predominant federal awards identified were:

  • Health Professional and Support Services Award 2010
  • Social, Community, Home Care and Disability Services Industry Award 2010
  • Aged Care Award 2010
  • Clerks-Private Sector Award 2010.

The size and make-up of businesses in the sector determined the number of audits conducted. Geographic distribution in the industry was also considered. This closely linked with population size and spread which led to most audits occurring in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.

In all audits initial contact was made through a telephone conversation with the employer. These initial conversations enabled Fair Work Inspectors to readily establish that the business was operating in the industry and to tailor the audit. During the telephone call inspectors were able to explain the scope and reasoning for the campaign as well as the process and what to expect as a result of the audit.

Fair Work Inspectors also promoted the key educational messages developed in consultation with industry stakeholders. These messages included:

  • There are productivity gains to be made from properly managing workplace relations.
  • You can rely on our advice and act with confidence.
  • The FWO’s website and online resources have been updated to be more user-friendly and efficient, with time poor small businesses particularly in mind.

 
  1. Labour Market Information Portal, Industry Reports, Health Care and Social Assistance, 2014
  2. ABS cat 8165.0 - Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, Jun 2012 to Jun 2016, viewed 7 September 2017
  3. ABS, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, May 2015, data cube: SuperTABLE E06, cat. no. 6291.0.55.003, viewed 9 July 2015
  4. Census 2011
  5. ABS cat 8165.0
  6. Dept. Employment, Labour Market Information Portal, Employment projections, Industry projections – five years to November 2019
  7. ABS cat 8165.0
  8. ABS cat. no. 6291.0.55.003
  9. Census 2011
  10. Census 2011
  11. ABS (2014), Labour force, Australia, Apr 2014, cat. no. 6202.0