The decision to make international Registered Nurse qualifications equivalent to the New Zealand Certificate in Health and Wellbeing Level 3 is proving controversial with the residential aged care sector.
Careerforce’s announcement on 4 July about the equivalency of the qualifications came as a shock to the sector, with the New Zealand Aged Care Association (NZACA) initially advising its members to ignore it.
The NZACA is now advising its members to transition their staff to the relevant pay band as per the equivalency. It is urging its members to attend workshops run by Careerforce over the next month to discuss qualification equivalencies and the process under the pay equity settlement.
However, the NZACA says it “strongly disagrees” with the way the change has been carried out and is considering a complaint to the Ombudsman. In addition to meetings with Careerforce and the Ministry of Health, the NZACA has sent an urgent Official Information Act request to New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) asking for correspondence between NZQA and Careerforce relating to implementation of the pay equity settlement.
There has emerged some disparity and confusion between NZQA’s and Careerforce’s equivalency assessment of the same qualifications.
The NZQA has advised that the international nursing qualifications in question meet or exceed the health and wellbeing qualification requirement at Level 4 on the New Zealand Qualifications Framework (NZQF). However, Careerforce says it assessed the qualifications against different criteria – the specific qualifications outlined in the Pay Equity Act, which are the New Zealand Certificates in Health and Wellbeing (Level 2, 3 & 4), not the levels of the NZQF.
INsite understands NZQA provided Careerforce with a list of nursing qualifications which had already been assessed as being aligned to Level 4 on the NZQF. Careerforce has then assessed these nursing qualifications against the New Zealand Certificates in Health and Wellbeing Levels 2,3 & 4 and determined these qualifications did not meet the cultural outcomes required of the Level 4 Health and Wellbeing qualifications, but did meet the level 3 outcomes so were deemed equivalent to Level 3 for pay equity purposes.
However, many employers have expressed their frustration with the change, particularly as it amounts to yet another cost to the pay equity settlement implementation.
Among them is Chris Sanders, manager of Sprott House.
“I note that the ‘price’ for pay equity was set well before the various add-ons (including New Zealand and overseas nurses’ rates) and most of us couldn’t afford it before these changes. Having people being paid at the top rate that you cannot use in all areas of the organisation is nonsense,” she comments on INsite.
Her comments relate to staff working in aged care facilities with dementia units. Sanders says Careerforce has failed to consider the repercussions for these facilities.
“It would be much more sensible for Careerforce to add the four dementia units needed to the two cultural component papers and then award the level 4 qualification in full; this would allow us to utilise them efficiently and properly. Otherwise they will be getting paid at level 4 but would still have to complete the four papers required with no incentive to do them.”
Other correspondents agree.
“You are either a nurse doing nursing work or a support worker requiring dementia qualifications and cultural competency. This is even more important in Home Support as there is no other person with these qualifications immediately available to turn to,” writes Diana.
Careerforce says mechanisms have been put in place to enable staff to complete the two additional cultural competency units, either through further training of Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) or Recognition of Current Competency (RCC).