When negotiating for better terms and conditions, the VHPA is constantly given the excuse that any salary increase needs to be weighed against the ability to salary sacrifice. While the VHPA supports any practice that benefits our members, this benefit should not be exchanged for a decent wage. If salary sacrificing is done outside of any collective agreement it does not form part of members enforceable terms and conditions, and can be taken away at anytime.
Salary sacrificing was introduced to help not-for-profit organisations like public hospitals and charitable organisations attract staff from the normally higher paid private sector and depending on your organisations’ tax status, eligible individuals can ‘sacrifice’ either $9010 or $15,900 per year- meaning that significant tax savings can be made in some circumstances.
One issue is that only items that have been approved by the ATO can be sacrificed and of this list the employer chooses which items it will offer. The offered items may or may not be useful for some of us- for example meal cards offered by some organisations may not be of use if you don’t eat out very much.
Also, casual and part-time workers may not be able to salary sacrifice as much as full time workers, if at all. Some organisations exclude casuals from salary sacrificing altogether as their weekly income is variable and can change from week to week.
The amounts that can be sacrificed can be altered depending on the government and policy changes. For example, due to the medicare levy going up to 2% in April, the amount people can sacrifice will be slightly lowered. Although in this instance the changes are small, the fact that Salary Sacrificing is subject to changes outside EA is another reason that this benefit cannot be substituted for a wage rise.
Salary sacrifice is a great add-on that many workers can benefit from but the benefit may not be equal to workers across an organisation and is not the same as a wage increase. A wage increase means that regardless of whether you are casual, part or full time, you will have that extra money to spend as you need. Although a great for some, Salary Sacrificing shouldn’t be an excuse not to pay Health Professionals a wage they deserve.