Clients paid below minimum wage as work providers ignore guidance

A “worrying” number of employment providers for people with learning difficulties are paying workers less than the minimum wage, a report this week revealed.

Many local authority and voluntary sector providers are in breach of national minimum wage rules, with some “simply avoiding the issue”, according to the study.

Traditionally, local employment workshops were the mainstay of employment provision for people with learning difficulties, it said.

Clients would be paid a minimal sum because their work was designed to be a meaningful activity and not intended to create an
employer-worker relationship.

But this changed with the introduction of the national minimum wage in 1999, which is now £5.05 an hour. Anyone meeting the government definition of a “worker” should be entitled to the minimum.

The report, produced by the Department of Health and Department for Work and Pensions, warned that organisations could be
taken to employment tribunals and forced to close if they continued to ignore guidance on pay.

The report also said benefit rules and regulations were a barrier to encouraging people with learning difficulties to find work.

People living in residential care or supported living faced financial disincentives to seek paid employment and would not be financially better off if they worked, it said.

The report also found that people with learning difficulties were not finding or staying in jobs because of a lack of support from social workers, Connexions, schools and colleges, day centres and Jobcentres.

The Connexions service lacked “both the skills and capacity to provide effective support to all young people with learning difficulties” and was not sufficiently resourced.

Some Jobcentres offered unsuitable provision and were unable to provide long-term support to help people find jobs and keep them.

The report recommended that young people with learning difficulties leaving school or college should be given more opportunities to work to prevent them becoming reliant on day centre provision.

Improving Work Opportunities for People with a Learning Disability

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