Homecare workers make a vital contribution to our communities, helping vulnerable people to continue living within the comfort of their own homes.
Staff in the social care sector often work long and unsocial hours with too many not getting paid for travel time between home visits, despite statutory guidance which requires councils to ensure that home care providers pay their staff the national minimum wage, including travel time.
The Low Pay Commission, which advises the government on the national minimum wage, has highlighted the underpayment of workers in the social care sector. A study of 183 social care employers by HMRC found non-compliance in 48 per cent of employers, identifying £338,835 arrears of pay for 2,443 employees.
The new National Minimum Wage – the National Living Wage (NLW) – came into force on April 1 this year. The NLW must now be paid to those workers who are aged 25 and over, and has been set at £7.20 per hour. However, concerns have been raised about the potential impact of the NLW.
The Local Government Association estimate that the NLW will cost at least £330 million for home care and residential care providers. It is disappointing that the government has not provided additional funding and has risked leaving providers under additional financial pressure while severely cutting council budgets in cities like Liverpool.
Tackling non-compliance with the National Minimum Wage and the new National Living Wage is important. We need employers and commissioners to publish, or provide employees with, a statement that they comply with the basic wage levels, thereby increasing transparency. During the last Parliament, Labour pressure led the Coalition Government to order HMRC to carry out an investigation into the six largest care providers in order to identify possible breaches of minimum wage law. This investigation has still not been completed.
Care work is a demanding job that requires skilled compassionate staff to provide good-quality care. The work has been undervalued and is still being exploited today. Some workers in this sector are not being paid the basic wage. Only when staff are valued and paid adequately will service users receive the good-quality, compassionate care they need.