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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3 Responses to “Minimum wage denied to workers who support the elderly and vulnerable”

  1. Nick

    absolutely disgraceful. my wife works in a care home looking after those at the end of their lives and earns just over the minimum wage. however her standards are way higher then the nhs and has to account for all of her duties undertaken even including how much food and drink has been taken by the inpatient
    lucky for her she works in a class leading care home and the standards set for her care home should be available for all care workers whatever requirement they work in

    all care workers should be classed as the nhs staff as professional with the same types of pay and structure

  2. Michele Beers

    I work in social care and work long hours for a minimum wage. This is historically unfair to the army of workers across the United Kingdom and should have been addressed long before now. It is all too easy to be cynical about this state of affairs and believe that the situation will change for the better. It may not be easy to achieve in the current economic climate, but if politicians take on this commitment to improve the lives of Carers and support workers and for the people they support it is not impossible. It is time that wealth was shared more evenly across the social divide.

  3. ted francis

    For a few yearsI worked in social care when I retired as being a means of “putting something”. Initially I was employed by the county social services department. I had to attend formal training sessions and not allowed to operate on my own until that training was completed satisfactorily. There were updates and annual refreshers for which we were paid. I was paid just above the MW, paid travelling time and mileage. It was zero hours contract but I was content to have access to enough clients to feel that I was making a contribution. Came the local authority election and a regime change. Tt resulted in down-sizing by out-sourcing (their jargon not mine). My roster of clients gradually reduced to none. It was suggested that I join one of the agencies that had been given contracts. I did so and discovered training was only available upon request, it was unpaid as was the travel time. We were all asked to turn our petrol receipts over to management (I discovered they were claiming the VAT) and allowed insufficient time between clients. The client slots were “rationalised” (management-speak for shortened). Eventually I’d had enough. I was angry. I demanded a meeting with the managing director. At the meeting I listed my grievances, told him what changes ought to be made. He smiled and offered me a management position. I told him to apply his offer as an enema. I latterly discovered that the agency was a franchisee of a large American organisation. This long diatribe was not about me, it was about the result of government cuts and the ideology of capital makes the world a better place.

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