Up to 200,000 homecare workers ‘paid less than minimum wage’ says UNISON

Multiple failures in the homecare system has resulted in up to 200,000 workers being paid less than the minimum wage with clients also losing out, UNISON said today.

The endemic non-payment of travel time for homecare workers means that thousands of work hours, travelling between clients are unpaid, pushing their incomes below the statutory minimum wage. Inadequate enforcement of the National Minimum Wage laws means that homecare workers are being illegally paid on a staggering scale.

The UK’s largest union is urging the government to address this, and begin fixing the broken homecare system ahead of a Westminster Hall debate taking place today.

The debate could pave the way for necessary improvements to the homecare system, which is currently failing both those who work within it, and those who rely upon it, UNISON said.

At the heart of the crisis is a lack of regulation; there is no longer any regulation of Local Authority homecare commissioning. The result is that price has become the overriding priority in the commissioning process, negatively impacting on clients and staff.

Understaffing and under-resourcing mean that homecare workers are stretched to their limit, having to ‘cram’ calls and provide care in their personal time. The rise in zero hour contracts, teamed with inconsistent, unregulated training standards, means that staff are not always able to provide the quality and continuity of care they want to give their clients.

Heather Wakefield, UNISON head of local government said: “This debate is an opportunity for the government to show they really care about the vulnerable people in our society, and the people who work hard to look after them. The situation has gone on far enough; it is time for the government to invest, and to put in place regulation that can ensure our homecare service is designed in the best interests of those who rely on it, and not to cut corners to line the pockets of shareholders.

“Homecare staff provide a vital service to some of the most vulnerable people in our society, and yet they are amongst the lowest paid, and have the worst terms and conditions. Homecare workers have no option but to travel between clients, and not paying them for this time is a cynical circumvention of minimum wage law. The Government, councils and providers must provide a definitive solution to this issue and stop this widespread flouting of the law.”

The LPC has expressed ongoing concern over the non-payment of travel time, which appears yet to have become an area of targeted HMRC investigation.