Councils still moving too slowly on home care travel time payments, says Unison

Figures collected by trade union show three-fold rise in councils requiring domilicary care providers to pay for workers’ travel time

Photo: Photofusion/Rex Features (posed by models)
Photo: Photofusion/Rex Features (posed by models)

Councils are not doing enough to ensure home care staff get paid for time spent travelling between clients despite a three-fold rise in the number of authorities making this a requirement of domiciliary care providers, says Unison.

Figures collected by the union reveal that 21% of English councils now require employers to pay home carers for travel time, compared to just 7% in 2014.

In Wales two of the nation’s 22 councils now require travel time payments for home care workers compared to none in 2014.

However, Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said this is still not good enough.

“More councils might now be insisting that home care contracts ensure payment for travel time, but there’s still too many that don’t,” he said.

“This shows just how little local authorities value care staff who do such a vital job looking after the elderly and disabled. Councils shouldn’t be awarding contracts to firms without ensuring they’re prepared to pay travel time.”

Spot inspections

The average home care workers spends around fifth of their working day travelling between clients, according to UK Homecare Association (UKHCA) estimates. By not being paid for travel time, home care workers can end up earning less than the national minimum wage.

Unison is calling on local authorities to regularly survey home care workers to ensure they are being paid for travel time and on the Care Quality Commission to inspect council commissioning of care services. Under the Care Act, the CQC can only inspect councils in exceptional cases and with government approval.

Unison also wants spot inspections of provider payroll records and for the UK and Welsh governments to instruct councils to “ensure all their homecare providers are paying workers for their travel time.”

Unsustainable rates

Colin Angel, UKCHA’s policy and campaigns director, said: “It is helpful that Unison has contributed to the ongoing debate which links the unsustainable rates paid by councils and the legal obligation of employers to comply with the national minimum wage regulations.

“UKHCA agrees with Unison’s recommendations that the CQC should be given powers to inspect how local authorities commission care and that councils should provide transparency around how rates paid to providers cover all the elements of the costs of care.”

“In relation to spot checks on payroll records, we believe that this would duplicate work undertaken in a much more targeted way by HMRC, who already employ inspectors with an accurate understanding of how the minimum wage operates in practice.”

Government guidance

The government’s Care and support statutory guidance, under the Care Actsays: “When commissioning services, local authorities should assure themselves and have evidence that service providers deliver services through staff remunerated so as to retain an effective workforce.

“Remuneration should be at least sufficient to comply with the national minimum wage legislation for hourly pay or equivalent salary. This will include appropriate remuneration for any time spent travelling between appointments.”

Councils must follow the guidance unless they can demonstrate legally sound reasons for not doing so.

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