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Report recommends leave entitlements to stem NDIS workforce exodus

A new report has found extending leave entitlements to all NDIS workers would help stem a looming workforce exodus in the disability support sector.

The McKell Institute’s ‘Flexible But Fair’ report, commissioned by the Australian Services Union, concludes an extension of portable entitlements to all registered NDIS workers would improve workforce retention and care for people with disabilities.

The report highlights the NDIS sector has the highest rate of attrition in the Australian economy, with up to one quarter of workers leaving the sector and over half wishing to within five years.

A portable entitlements scheme would allow casual and contractor NDIS workers to accrue leave including annual, sick, and carer’s.

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.

“A portable entitlements scheme would improve working conditions for a sector that is seeing a high rate of attrition while demand continues to soar.

“High rates of NDIS staff turnover is costly to taxpayers and service providers. Any additional costs for a portable entitlements scheme would likely be minimal, given leave is already factored into NDIS pricing but often withheld by scheme employers.

“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.”

ASU NSW & ACT Secretary Angus McFarland said a lack of basic entitlements is dissuading workers from pursuing or staying in disability services.

“In the NDIS, 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,” he said.

“This is leaving disability support workers feeling undervalued and burnt out, which is unsustainable for the NDIS and its participants. 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 Albanese Government has committed to consulting with the states, unions and industry to develop portable entitlement schemes for Australians in insecure work. 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.”

Report key points:

  • The NDIS sector has the highest rate of attrition in the Australian economy. Up to one quarter of NDIS workers are leaving the sector and over half wish to within five years.

  • The NDIS has growing workforce needs, with 83,000 additional workers required by the end of 2024.

  • NDIS workers often enjoy the flexibility of NDIS work, but also cite poor pay and conditions as barriers towards sustaining a career in the sector.

  • A portable entitlements scheme would retain and grow the NDIS workforce, and ensure participants receive consistent care and support.

  • Any additional costs associated with such an intervention would likely be minimal, given leave is already factored into NDIS pricing, but often withheld by scheme employers. High rates of staff turnover within the NDIS sector imposes a significant cost on government and on service providers.

  • The McKell Institute recommends the Federal Government consider commencing a legislative process designed to extend portable entitlements to registered NDIS workers during this term of parliament, with an intention to have a scheme operational by FY2025/26. The scheme should be funded by the government and administered by an independent, statutory authority.

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