Labour Research May 2016

Law Matters

Illegal homecare wages exposed

The UNISON public services union has produced a report exposing the extent to which councils in England and Wales don’t ensure that homecare workers receive the National Minimum Wage. 

Calling time on illegal wages in the homecare sector is based on Freedom of Information requests submitted by UNISON to all local authorities with responsibility for social care. The report highlights that less than a quarter of councils in England contractually oblige care providers to pay for workers’ travel time. Even fewer do this in Wales.

UNISON says that many councils are breaching statutory guidance for the Care Act 2014. The guidance provides that when commissioning services, local authorities should make sure service providers “deliver services through staff remunerated so as to retain an effective workforce”, and that wages should be “at least sufficient to comply with the national minimum wage legislation”, including payment “for any time spent travelling between appointments”.

UNISON general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Councils shouldn’t be awarding contracts to firms without ensuring they’re prepared to pay travel time.”

The report explains how illegal low pay causes high staff turnover, poverty for care workers and negatively impacts on care standards. UNISON is now encouraging councils to sign up to its Ethical Care Charter which includes a requirement that homecare workers are paid for travel time. Thirteen councils have already adopted the charter.