Unacceptable Risks

The Dangers of Gig Models of Care and Support Work
by Fiona Macdonald

The gigification of care is creating insecure work, undermining gender inequality and damaging workforce sustainability.

New research reveals the unacceptable risks of digital labour platforms and the expansion of gig work in low-paid feminised care and support workforces. Risks are to frontline care and support workers, people receiving care and support and to workforce sustainability.

The report calls for comprehensive industrial reforms to address gig work as part of broader workforce strategies for the NDIS and aged care sectors.

The research finds that care and support ‘gig’ workers, treated as independent contractors, are in highly insecure work without minimum standards and effective rights to collective bargaining.

  • Many essential frontline care and support workers earn below award-level pay.
  • Work and incomes are insecure: work is on-demand, working time is fragmented, pay can be unpredictable.
  • Workers must cover their own superannuation, leave and workers’ compensation.
  • Gig work in the feminised workforces poses a serious threat to better recognition and equal pay.
  • Better jobs and careers for frontline workers are vital to closing the gender pay gap.

Four in every 5 of the 240,000 aged care and disability support workers are women.

  • Care and support workers on platforms are younger, less experienced and more likely to be migrant workers.
  • Platform workers lack access to support, training and progression opportunities.
  • Gig workers lack employment benefits and entitlements, including leave and superannuation.

Flexibility of work is only possible with short hours work and comes at the expense of decent pay and working conditions. Workers cannot earn a living wage.

  • Risks to workers are also risks to vulnerable people with disability and the elderly.
  • Care and support platform workers are isolated and largely invisible, working in private homes without organisational supervision, support, guidance or training.
  • Workers bear risks and responsibilities for care and support quality and client safety, including for highly vulnerable people.
  • Care labour platforms compete unfairly with other NDIS and aged care providers.
  • Unfair competition poses a significant threat to the sustainability of Australia’s long-term care systems.

Platforms compete by avoiding the costs and risks of business fluctuations, of employing workers and of accountability for care and support quality and safety. Costs and risks are devolved to low-paid and insecure frontline workers. Platforms profit from retaining public funding that is intended to employ and pay essential workers fairly and to provide them with supervision and support.

Full report