An end could be in sight for the 220,000 care workers who are estimated as being illegally paid below the National Minimum Wage after Alex Cunningham secured a statement in the Social Care Commitment requiring employers in the sector to meet this level as a minimum.
The Stockton North MP has backed UNISON’s Ethical Care campaign which highlights how many care workers are on zero hours or temporary agency contracts and are being denied basic employment rights. Primarily, while advertised pay rates may exceed the National Minimum Wage, employers frequently cut out paid time wherever they can and homecare workers are consistently not paid for travel or training.
The result of such practices is that a hard day’s work often ends up with only a handful of hours being paid, and an investigation into care providers by HMRC between 2011 and 2013 found that 48 per cent were guilty of non-compliance with National Minimum Wage legislation.
After tabling a series of Parliamentary Questions seeking to clarify what steps the Government is taking to remedy this situation, the Labour MP secured a pledge from the Minister for Employment Relations and Consumer Affairs that the Social Care Commitment will formally require employers to take active steps to ensure that National Minimum Wage legislation is complied with. He also highlighted the issue in a debate.
“I know the National Minimum Wage by law, must be paid, but many employers find ways to wriggle free from that commitment. After working with UNISON to push for changes in this area, I was delighted to hear that the Minister has taken these significant concerns on board and included a statement within the Social Care Commitment that obligates employers to comply with National Minimum Wage legislation as a minimum.
“The practice of underpaying care workers significantly undermines care standards and condemns a large proportion of the workforce to endure poverty rates of pay. No one can deny the importance of maintaining high morale amongst care workers and, while I recognise that there is more still to be done to bring an end to the current situation, I hope that this is a step in the right direction.”
Heather Wakefield, UNISON National Secretary for Local Government, said: “The knock on effect of paying illegal wages to care workers is that it hits the people who rely on these services every day. Ensuring decent pay for care workers is all about improving the quality of life for the people they care for. A decent wage and more secure employment makes it possible for dedicated care workers to stay in the job and focus on giving the best possible care.”