Briefing paper

Day in the life of a care and support worker

Aged care nursing Caregivers Labour rights Australia

This research uses time diaries and interviews to obtain detailed data on workers’ time during the working day and their paid and unpaid work. Days typically comprise several short paid ‘shifts’, interspersed with periods of unpaid time, making workdays long with lots of unpaid ‘dead’ time in between paid shifts. Workers experience a lot of ‘time out of life’ and the accumulation of unpaid work time.

Disability support workers provide care and support to people with a disability needing help with daily living and/or social and community participation. They work in people’s private homes, in the community and in residential settings, such as group homes. Their work can involve personal care, household assistance, and support with social and community participation. Women make up 70% of the disability support workforce in Australia and 34% of are aged over 45.

Low pay and undervaluation of work are problems for disability workers in Australia, as is the case for care workers internationally. In comparison to workers in male-dominated jobs requiring similar levels of skills, wages are low for the mostly female disability support workforce. In 2020 the SCHADS Award wage paid to disability workers supporting people in their homes started at $21.20 and could be up to $29.05, depending on whether the worker is classified as an ‘attendant care worker’ or a support worker. The National Minimum Wage is $19.49 per hour.

Irregular, fragmented and short hours’ working time patterns contribute to insecurity in work, work-life problems and low pay for disability support workers who provide support to people in private homes and the community. Most support workers (60%) work part-time hours, averaging 21 hours a week, and almost half (46%) are in casual jobs, up from 40% in 2015. Disability support workers have high levels of multiple job-holding

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