UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Social Care ‘backbone’ paid less than minimum wage

200,000 direct care workers, “the backbone of the social care workforce” are being paid less than the minimum wage according to research by King’s College London, which UNISON helped with. http://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/kpi/scwru/pubs/periodical/issues/scwp16.pdf

The union’s low pay commission submissions informed the research which shows that complex pay structures, along with unpaid work and travelling time, conspire to disguise how private employers are getting round paying the legal minimum wage.

The research stresses that its assumptions underlying the findings are ‘very conservative’ and it is likely the problem is even worse.

In the New Statesman, Gavin Kelly and Joe Coward put a human dimension to the figures:

“How is it that the law of the land is being so widely flouted? My friend's pay slip sheds some light, exposing the chaotic system of pay that is the norm for many care workers, especially those working for agencies or private firms: constantly shifting hourly rates of pay - varying dramatically by client, length of each care visit, time of day, and day of the week. The opacity of pay rates makes it hard for those affected to fathom if they are getting their legal minimum; indeed the LPC has suggested that some employers don't themselves understand their own pay systems.

“And the real story is worse than the pay slip suggests. She had to pay for her CRB check. There are no travel expenses even though travel is essential ('I couldn't afford to work if I didn't cycle'). Regular mobile phone use is essential to stay in close touch with the office - again, no expenses are paid. It just doesn't pay to care.

“There are lots of injustices in Britain that are so entrenched and complex that they would take a generation to turn around. This isn't one of them. The minimum wage is supposed to be a right, not a nice to have. So here's a resolution that we should stick to: let's make 2012 the year when every care worker gets what they are legally entitled to."