Banning employees from working in more than one care home without guaranteeing wages will plunge thousands of low-income families into poverty, trigger staff shortages and put residents at risk, says UNISON today (Friday).
Many will suffer immediate hardship if the government goes ahead with legislation limiting workers to one care employer, without ensuring staff are supported financially, the union says.
Minimising work in multiple locations is sensible to control the spread of Covid infections, but cannot be achieved by government diktat, says UNISON.
Many care workers earn barely more than the minimum wage and are on zero-hours contracts. The union says this leaves them no choice but to take up jobs with several employers.
The union’s call comes in a response to a government consultation on the new rules,which ignore the need to maintain wage levels. UNISON believes the failure to address this could have disastrous consequences.
If the ‘one job’ rule becomes law, UNISON wants a guarantee that staff can work additional hours or get compensation for lost wages. Otherwise already low-paid workers won’t have enough money to survive, says the union.
Local authorities or the Care Quality Commission should be given powers to ensure care providers set up these arrangements, says UNISON.
The union also wants the level of the infection control fund* to be reviewed amid concerns insufficient money is available for even current needs.
Commenting on the government plans, UNISON assistant general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Poverty pay is why so many care staff have multiple jobs in the first place. This is despite the skilled and courageous work they do.
“The way to limit employees working in multiple locations is for employers to guarantee hours so staff no longer need to work in other care homes.
“Alternatively care homes can pay staff for the hours previously worked elsewhere. The government must ensure funds are available to achieve this.
“Defeating the virus and protecting lives is paramount. But it can’t be done without proper support for the employees who keep the country’s care homes running.”
Notes to editors:
*The adult social care infection control fund (ICF) was introduced in May and was initially worth £600m. The fund has been extended until March 2021, with an extra £546m. Funds are passed by local authorities to care providers. The money can, among other purposes, be spent on replacing lost income for care workers limited to a single location and ensuring self-isolating care workers do not lose wages. However, UNISON has warned about problems in getting cash to care staff.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.
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