Welsh Government cracks down on zero-hour contracts in homecare

UNISON praises ‘one step forward in dealing with the complex issue of precarious employment’

UNISON has welcomed the Welsh Government’s decision to curb the use of zero-hours contracts for thousands of homecare workers.

Care providers are now required to give homecare workers a choice of contract after a three-month period of employment.

New regulations also oblige those providers to ensure that time allocated for travel and care is ‘clearly and transparently set out’ – with the aim of tackling ‘call-clipping’ and preventing care time being cut short by travel time between visits.

The move follows Welsh Government research that found a “substantial number” of Wales’s 18,000 homecare workers – possibly as many as 80% – were on zero-hours contracts.

Social care minister Huw Irranca-Davies said that the new regulations “offer staff in the social care sector a fairer deal and help to safeguard the quality of care and support which people receive in their own homes.

“There is a very clear link between the use of zero-hours contracts and a reduced quality of care, due to issues around the continuity of care and communication between workers and those they support.

“These measures will ensure workers are offered a choice of contractual arrangements, Mr Irranca-Davies added. “Requiring providers to distinguish clearly between travel time and care time when arranging services will also improve the experience of people needing care.”

The Welsh Government has also opened Social Care Wales’s workforce register to include homecare workers, as part of its ongoing commitment to professionalise the workforce.

Responding to the announcement, a UNISON Cymru/Wales spokesperson said: “Zero-hours contracts are exploitative, so it is great news that the Welsh Labour government has acted in this way.

“UNISON Cymru/Wales has been continuously lobbying ministers here on the issue. Their action is a good example of partnership working, where the input of the care workforce and trade unions is valued.

“This measure is one step forward in dealing with the complex issue of precarious employment,” the spokesperson added. “We continue to campaign for social care services to remain under the direct and democratic control of local authorities and under national pay bargaining.”

The region recently launched the union’s Residential Care Charter and re-launched its Ethical Care Charter at the Welsh Assembly. And it’s actively involved in discussions with Social Care Wales about the professionalisation of care.

Earlier this month, general secretary Dave Prentis attended a signing ceremony as Blaenau Gwent became the first local authority in Wales to adopt the Ethical Care Charter.

“Hopefully others will follow,” the Cymru/Wales spokesperson said. “We are determined to do our level best for care workers across Wales.”