Some home care workers are paid as little as £5 per hour once you factor in the non-payment of travel time between visits, a report by independent think tank Resolution Foundation has shown.
Researchers looking at the diaries and payslips of home care workers found that, while their headline pay rates were set at or above the national minimum wage of £6.19 per hour, in practice many lost at least £1 per hour because they were not paid for the time spent travelling between appointments.
In some cases, home care workers were further penalised because they stayed at a service user’s home for a longer period of time than was allocated by the employer for that visit – sometimes as little as 15 minutes – in order to provide decent levels of care.
The Resolution Foundation estimates that, under these conditions, a care worker who spent an average of 35 hours a week at work for 48 weeks would lose out on more than £1,600 over the course of a year.
The report comes days after the government announced a crackdown on employers across all sectors who fail to pay the national minimum wage. However, the Resolution Foundation called for a much larger, co-ordinated effort to stamp out this practice in social care.
Its recommendations included:
- Phasing out 15-minute care slots and ending work schedules that over-cram appointments
- Increasing the penalties facing companies which break the law
- Clearer payslips, including average hourly rates
- Ensuring care firms include a reasonable payment for staff travel time when bidding for contracts
- A greater role for local authorities in monitoring legal compliance, more resources for HMRC’s compliance unit and a focus of resources on care work, as a high risk sector
- Considering making both local authorities and care firms legally responsible for payment of the minimum wage to care workers
- Ensuring local authorities factor in the cost of the minimum wage when calculating the price they pay for care
- Better government guidance for the sector on applying minimum wage legislation
Vidhya Alakeson, deputy chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, said: “We hear a lot about the need for dignity in social care but how can we achieve that if care workers are under such pressure in their jobs and not paid even the basic wage?
“The government has signalled it wants to take this issue seriously, which is welcome, but the care system itself needs reform to wipe out this kind of abuse. If we believe in better home care for people we should start investing in the workers who provide it.”