Govt urged to provide workers with 'portable' leave entitlements

'We're facing a workforce exodus and the NDIS is under threat if we don't act'

Govt urged to provide workers with 'portable' leave entitlements

The Australian government is being urged to provide National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) workers with expanded leave entitlements amid high attrition rates within the workforce.

According to a new report from The McKell Institute, one quarter of all NDIS workers are leaving the sector, and over half hope to within five years.

To address the problem, it suggested providing employees with "portable" entitlements to help improve workforce retention.

These entitlements would pin workplace entitlements to workers instead of the job, where employees will contribute to a centralised entitlements fund that follows an employee around from job to job, according to the report.

"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," said Edward Cavanough, report author and McKell's director of policy, in a statement.

"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."

According to the report, Australia should consider commencing a legislative process this term that will extend portable entitlements to registered NDIS workers to have them operational by financial year 2025/26.

An independent, statutory authority should also be established to oversee, implement, and manage the portable entitlements scheme.

Providing the entitlements will have a "minimal" impact on additional costs, according to the report, granted that leave is already included in NDIS pricing and is only withheld by scheme employers.

"As one of the most insecurely employed workforces in the country, the disability support sector is the perfect candidate for portable entitlements and is crying out for this solution," said Angus McFarland, Australian Services Union (ASU) NSQ and ACT secretary, in a statement.

'Insecure' roles

The "Flexible but Fair" report, which was commissioned by the ASU, comes amid the increasingly insecure nature of the NDIS sector, with more casual employees or independent contractors entering the workforce.

"You have a situation where one-third of the workers are casual, and the rest are on short-hour part-time contracts. This makes it impossible to accrue leave for breaks or if you are unwell," McFarland said.

According to the report, while employees enjoy the flexible nature of the job, they also suffer from poor pay and experience barriers in sustaining a career in the sector.

"This is leaving disability support workers feeling undervalued and burnt out, which is unsustainable for the NDIS and its participants," McFarland said. "We're facing a workforce exodus and the NDIS is under threat if we don't act. There is no NDIS without a dedicated workforce."

The report estimated that by 2025, the scheme will need more than 370,000 workers with dozens of "often niche skillsets" to meet the demand of the NDIS participants.

"This rapidly increasing demand for NDIS labour comes at a time where all employers in Australia are finding it challenging to attract and retain labour," the report said.

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