30th January 2019

Homecare workers paid less than the minimum wage, says UNISON

Thousands of care workers across England and Wales are being paid less than the national minimum wage because councils aren’t insisting that homecare companies pay for travel time, says UNISON today (Wednesday).

Using a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, UNISON reveals that more than half (54%) of local authorities in England don’t state in their contracts that firms must pay employees for time spent travelling between visits.

According to the report – Pressed for Time and Out of Pocket – the situation is even worse in Wales where only two in five (40%) councils stipulate that private companies should pay for travel time.

A recent UNISON survey of homecare workers revealed that three in five (63%) were only paid for time spent in the home of people they care for.

Only paying for this contact time can bring care workers’ hourly pay rates well below the government’s national living wage, currently £7.83 for those aged 25 and over, says UNISON.

The situation has improved since UNISON last carried out an FoI in 2016, when just under a quarter (24%) of local authorities in England, and fewer than one in ten (9%) in Wales made pay for travel time a contractual condition.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “It is an absolute disgrace that hard-working homecare workers are being penalised in this way. Poor rates of pay along with the pressure to keep time spent in each home to a minimum make life tough and play a huge part in the high turnover of staff. 

“Both the Westminster and Cardiff governments should bring in a new legal duty for councils so they are clear that homecare providers must pay employees for every hour they are at work.  

“Any companies who fail to do this should be prevented from delivering care services in the future.”

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