At least 150,000 support workers and care assistants in the UK may be paid less than the minimum wage, according to research.
A study by the Social Care Workforce Research Unit, King’s College, London, found that about 9% of care workers and social work assistants in England are being paid less than the national minimum wage of £6.08.
If the figures are extrapolated across the UK, this amounts to between 150,000 and 200,000 employees, according to Shereen Hussein, senior research fellow at King’s College.
The study, due to be published next month, reveals that the pay distribution is narrowest in the private sector, which provides 75% of care services, with most care workers’ rates on or around the minimum wage.
“Many are paid just above the minimum wage, so any changes to their outgoing costs, such as increased fuel prices, would push them under,” said Hussein.
“Current local authorities’ cuts may force many workers to experience further reductions in their already very low pay.”
The findings reflect those of the Low Pay Commission, which revealed in April that 9% of social care staff were earning less than the legal minimum.
However, Hussein said the commission estimated the size of the social care workforce in the UK to be 800,000, whereas Skills for Care estimates it to be closer to 1.75m in England alone.
“Given the continued growth of the care sector, the size of people affected by low pay is alarming,” she said, adding that financial pressures could lead to staff burnout.
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enth of social care workers paid less than minimum wage