TUC: Agency employment abuses rife in care sector

The TUC has called for agency social care workers to get increased protection from rogue employers, saying its research had shown employment abuse was “rife” in the sector.

Nicola Smith, senior policy officer for the TUC’s Commission on Vulnerable Employment, said research carried out with Citizens Advice had identified the care sector as having “some of the highest incidence of employment rights abuse”. A report is due on the research on 21 August.

Smith cited legal migrant workers employed by agencies to work in care homes, who need 12 month’s employment before they are entitled to UK rights and benefits, were often threatened with deportation or the sack if they reported abuse. These commonly included issues on pay, dismissal and working hours. 


She expressed disappointment that the government had not extended the writ of the Gangmasters Licensing Authority to cover the care sector, as ministers announced fresh measures to tackle employment abuses.

The GLA licenses organisations supplying labour in the agricultural, horticultural, shellfish gathering, and food packaging and processing sectors, and can take enforcement action against gangmasters who breach standards on workers’ conditions. These include not housing workers in sub-standard accommodation, not deducting money from wages, for instance for transport, without workers’ explicit consent and ensuring statutory rights to benefits are upheld.

Smith added: “There doesn’t seem to be any rationale not to extend the GLA to other low paid sectors where there is evidence of abuse.”

Highly regulated

Peter Cullimore, chair of the Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s nursing and social care group, which represents employment agencies, disagreed with the TUC’s call for the GLA to be extended to the care sector, saying it was already “one of the most highly regulated sectors”.

He added: “I’m sure any employment issues would be exposed by the Commission for Social Care Inspection”.

However, Smith countered that the regulatory regime operated by CSCI did not cover the practice of temporary labour providers.

Vulnerable workers forum

This week, the government issued proposals developed with a Vulnerable Workers Enforcement Forum, including business and union representatives, set up to look into abuses of employment law. They included doubling the number of inspectors in the Employment Agencies Standards Inspectorate, which inspects agencies, and increasing its investigative powers.

A telephone helpline for vulnerable workers will also be introduced and the government will launch a £6m government information campaign later this year to raise awareness of employment rights issues and encourage workers to report abuse.

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