Minimum wage denied to workers who support the elderly and vulnerable

Government needs to do more to protect homecare workers' rights


Homecare companies are breaking the law on a grand scale by denying minimum wage to home care workers, UNISON said today.

While care companies claim to pay minimum wage, many carers are only paid for time spent face-to-face with patients and not for time spent in transit.

Judith Montgomery, a former Sevacare employee who took a case against her employers, was recently awarded £3,250 in withheld travel time payments.

‘My service users became like a family to me and I didn’t want to let them down,’ she commented today. ‘I worked on a zero-hours contract and would be paid only for time spent in my clients’ homes, never for the time spent travelling between them. So I could be paid for 30 hours a week but actually worked many more.’

“I started work at 7am doing breakfasts, and would get home after the bed run at 10.30pm, yet I would only get paid for six or seven hours. I’d be on the go all day, I was shattered and it took a toll on my health.”

While Montgomery and other’s have successfully challenged their employers in court, the firms tend to make individual payouts without correcting payments across their work forces.

‘Judith’s case shows just how companies can profit by denying staff payment for their travel time,’ commented UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis. ‘The government should be doing far more to ensure these firms meet their legal obligations across the board.’

He said that the pay and conditions of care workers ‘doesn’t reflect the importance of the work they do’, caring for the elderly and vulnerable.

UNISON has called on the government and HMRC to take concrete steps to improve the situation of these workers, calling on them to

  • Act of behalf of these workers, taking a pro-active approach to minimum wage laws rather than expecting low-paid and precarious workers to stand up to their employers.
  • Step in when companies like Sevacare are found to be denying pay for travel time, ensuring that the correct payments are extended to all workers.
  • Make pay calculations easier to understand, since confusing wage slips undermine workers’ ability to demand adequate compensation.

Many care workers are concerned that the pressure they face from their employers is impacting on those they care for, particularly the increased enforcement of 15-minute visits.

Earlier this year an anonymous former care worker wrote about her experiences for Left Foot Forward:

“15 minute calls treat people receiving care like customers at a fast food restaurant: a number, an order, a box to be ticked, and then onto the next one. There is little ‘caring’ about arriving at someone’s home, heating something up in the kitchen, checking a medication box and leaving with barely a conversation in between.”

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

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