Young man with down syndrome having fun with his psychologist at home.

Extending leave entitlements to NDIS workers might help stem the looming workforce exodus in the disability support sector, according to a report from the McKell Institute, that was commissioned by the Australian Services Union. A portable entitlements scheme would allow casual and contractor NDIS workers to accrue leave including annual, sick and carer’s leave.

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 leave within five years, with an estimated 83,000 addition workers required by the end of 2024.

Report author and McKell 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.” 

He said it has been demonstrated that portability works citing siloed long service leave schemes across various states, and the now axed Paid Pandemic Disaster Leave for sick casual and contract workers.

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. “There is no NDIS without a dedicated workforce.”  

The Institute has recommended 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.