The underpayment of care workers is an absolute disgrace

Up to 220,000 care workers are being illegally paid.

Up to 220,000 care workers are being illegally paid

The people who look after the most vulnerable in our society are being illegally underpaid and it is an absolute disgrace.

Between 160-220,000 care workers are routinely being paid below the National Minimum Wage. UNISON are now asking people to sign this petition calling upon the government to help end the practice.

We have been campaigning extensively on this issue for the last year. We have shown how it is bad news for care workers and bad news for the people they care for.

We have also drawn attention to the fact that the government has been failing to do enough to ensure the law of the land is being obeyed in one of the most important parts of our society.

HMRC investigated the care sector for not paying the National Minimum Wage between 2011 and 2013 and found that 50 per cent of the care providers they investigated were guilty.

Despite identifying such a high level of illegally low payments, and along with a damning report by the National Audit Office identifying that up to 220,000 care workers are being illegally paid, Vince Cable has failed to instruct HMRC to again proactively investigate the sector.

The Public Accounts Committee, chaired by Margaret Hodge, looked at the issue in the summer and said “We are astonished that up to 220,000 care workers earn less than minimum wage and seemingly little has been done to rectify this”.

Not one care company has been named and shamed yet by the government for non-payment of the National Minimum Wage.

Even though HMRC is aware of the situation, the onus is on care workers to report illegal payment.

Sadly HMRC is currently just relying on care workers to call their Pay and Rights Helpline to report their employer for paying them less than the National Minimum Wage.

This is the only way that an investigation will be triggered, but putting the emphasis on individual care workers to report their employers is unfair.

Many care workers have never been made aware of the existence of the helpline, and hundreds of thousands of them are employed on zero hours contracts and are afraid of losing their jobs if they speak out; UNISON has heard many examples of care workers who have had their working hours severely reduced after raising concerns that they were being illegally paid.

And over a three year period an average of only 17 homecare workers called the helpline each year.

Vince Cable must act now. Given the scale of the problem and the devastating impact it has on the quality of care, the government must order a prolonged and well resourced investigation into National Minimum Wage compliance in the care sector.

Andrew Smith MP has been leading these calls within parliament and recently secured a debate on the issue where the care minister Norman Lamb stated that he has requested that HMRC begin a new series of investigations into the care sector.

Despite this call, the Department of Business Innovation and Skills has failed to instruct HMRC to proactively investigate the care sector for National Minimum Wage compliance.

Therefore UNISON and the TUC have launched this petition addressed to Vince Cable, asking him to instruct that this crucially important work is begun.

We hope that you can sign and share it for the good of our care workers and the elderly and disabled people they care for.

Sign the petition to end the illegal under-payment of care workers.

Matthew Egan is assistant national officer at UNISON’s local government, police and justice section. Follow him on Twitter

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9 Responses to “The underpayment of care workers is an absolute disgrace”

  1. Jayne Linney

    I totally accept and agree with all your write here but I would like to remind you, and readers, this paltry pay is still a huge amount more than those carers who are family members; how about getting £61.35 per week for caring 24/7?

  2. madasafish

    Agree fully.

    The wife of a friend works as a carer. Some of the treatment she and her colleagues receive is Victorian .. how about a clause that if they leave employment in a period under the four week period in their contracts, their wages are deducted the cost of hiring a replacement?


    She has handed in her notice…and found another job with a less Dickensian employer.

  3. Guest

    No, people doing what suits your economics is entirely believable.
    You want this to happen. Stop whining.

  4. madasafish

    I treat your comments with the attention they deserve.

  5. Keith M

    Tories and their mates dont believe in fair pay.

  6. Guest

    Your poor English…you sign it “Nil”, and then admit you read my posts attentively.

    You whine and whine and whine – you WANT this, stop doing your whining when your plans work.

  7. Guest

    Home Care workers are real live angels among us who do an invaluable, needful, vital job. Without them our caring social community needs, particularly for the elderly and those unable to look after themselves, would see society fall back into the dark ages when the needy were totally on their own without hope – until the Welfare State came into being. Now with a growing elderly population home care worker skills are required even more. Status, respect and fair remuneration to these ‘angels’ MUST NOW urgently be reassessed for the sake of us all who one day may need a care working angel by our bedside or when we are in old age or disability need. Thank you to all our care workers whether statutorily employed or home carers to their elderly relative.

  8. Mrs D Claridge

    Yes I had that happen to me when I left because I was fed up of being abused by not being paid my legal entitlement of the National Minimum Wage. I gave 2 weeks notice and was told I too would have my wages deducted as I had broken their contract. Their contract that was wasn’t worth the paper it was written on because they didn’t even paid the NMW.

    They also illegally deducted my holiday pay. In my last 2 weeks they slashed my hours, Only for my last day to suddenly be called at 7.00 am to go to a service provider because they had made an error and now needed me to double up with my previous doubles partner and who had turned up at the service users home with a trainee.

    This meant rushing out the door, just about managed to clean my teeth, comb my hair and throw on my uniform.

    These companies are an utter disgrace. They treat the care workers like dirt. They are totally immoral, it’s all about profit.

    The actions of these care companies and abuse of their own workers,
    which ultimately has a knock on affect and is detrimental to the service users
    by way of high staff turnover, can no longer be allowed to continue. How can we
    as a society entrust the delivery of care into the hands of such untrustworthy
    and unscrupulous employers. Service providers that purport to ‘care’ but in truth
    such actions of refusing to pay the legal minimum of the NMW shows a treachery
    that is truly beyond the pale; and is not only totally and morally unacceptable
    but which also fails the very standards of common decency.

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    There’s nothing special about care home workers. They’re workers. And carers do deserve support, like anyone else.

    That’s why I argue for a Basic Income.

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