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Sacrificing workers? The curious case of salary sacrificing in non‐profit community services in Australia

Sara Charlesworth (Centre for Work + Life, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Helen Marshall (Centre for Applied Social Research, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 4 October 2011




The purpose of this paper is to describe a distinctive strategy used in the Australian non‐profit community services sector to recruit and retain care workers. The paper argues that the implementation of salary sacrificing illuminates a wilful blindness to the interests and rights of paid care workers and the genesis of this blindness lies in the gendered nature of care work.


The paper draws on a brief review of relevant literature on the gendered nature of paid care work, Australian industry debates, interviews and data from a small case study to examine the context and paradoxical outcomes of salary sacrificing.


The findings illustrate the consequences of New Public Management models of funding and management in the non‐profit community sector, including how inadequate resourcing of agencies can work to pit the interests of clients against the interests of workers. The findings also suggest the limited impact of salary sacrificing as a retention strategy, while revealing the links between gender, domesticity and care that play out in the undervaluing of paid care work.

Research limitations/implications

The research suggests that sustainable change to address the looming “crisis of care” in community services needs a rethinking by governments of funding and service models so that quality services are supported by properly valued and remunerated care workers.


The paper explores the paradoxical effects of an Australian industry recruitment and retention strategy.



Charlesworth, S. and Marshall, H. (2011), "Sacrificing workers? The curious case of salary sacrificing in non‐profit community services in Australia", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 24 No. 7, pp. 673-683.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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