Austin Health. changing the story


Turning 65 doesn’t have to mean hanging up your scrubs.


An ageing population that will require more long-term medical care, and an ageing workforce that was being adversely affected by lifestyle diseases and injuries – this was the dual challenge facing Victoria’s Austin Health.

What became clear was that Austin Health, which comprises the Austin Hospital, Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital and the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre, needed to retain its most experienced and knowledgeable staff, 70% of whom are female.

Austin Health started by launching its comprehensive broad workforce-planning initiative, the Mature Workforce Program, in 2011, explains Alison Smith, Manager Wellness Programs.

The program has now been rolled out across all clinical units and initially focused on collecting data, followed by transition to retirement meetings with managers and mature staff from each unit. Rates of personal leave, workplace compensation claims and a variety of other demographic data was analysed and over time the program has expanded to address key health and safety issues for employees such as manual handling, wellness and injury prevention.

“[In these jobs] the physical demands are very high and emotionally it is very demanding work. People are exposed to a lot of demands and workplace aggression,” says Alison.

“We [also] found that older people, particularly those over 50, were starting to suffer some lifestyle-related diseases and were taking quite a lot of sick leave,” she adds.


Creating a more flexible environment

Austin Health quickly realised that one way to help retain valued employees was to offer them more flexible working arrangements.

“We are trying to be a lot more flexible [and] to reduce their exposure to the physical and emotional demands of the work, if that is what employees want. We still want skilled employees to keep working, possibly in a part-time capacity, and also to create the opportunity to pass on their skills, knowledge and experience to the next generation,” says Alison.

Running planning workshops

Austin Health then went on to roll out planning workshops, which cover a number of topics.

“We inform employees of our transition to retirement policies and procedures; what their superannuation entitlements are; what their Centrelink entitlements might be; where they need to go to get more information; and what they need to consider in terms of their own physical and emotional health.

These workshops play an important role in the planning process for many of Austin Health’s employees.

“Workshops are incredibly well received as super is a complex area. The government keeps changing the rules; Centrelink is very complex and they keep changing the rules. Our team members can have a one-on-one with HESTA or their superannuation fund manager and discuss their personal circumstances,” says Alison.


Putting plans in place

Austin Health has reported that the program has helped its employees put realistic goals in place and to make solid plans for their future. In addition, some 90 workers have gone through training programs or completed diplomas, because they were keen to up-skill.


Working with partners

HESTA also ran a pilot Create your future workshop at Austin Health, which Alison says was highly successful.

“We had an evening session and people could bring their partners – HESTA was very flexible and that was valuable. Often in a household, women like to have their partner there and when you are talking about retirement and your financial situation, it is a joint planning process.”

Due to the interest and success of the pilot, Austin Health and HESTA partnered together on more evening workshops in September 2016, which is all part of creating a stronger, more flexible workforce for the future.



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