Homecare companies are failing to give their workers minimum wage in what UNISON has described as a “systematic underpayment” widespread in the sector.
The union is urging the Government to ensure the companies are paying homecare workers for the time it takes them to travel between home visits, which can amount to a fifth of their working day.
Confusing wage slips mean workers struggle to see how they are being paid, so it’s difficult for them to challenge their employers, said UNISON.
The union is recommending the Government change minimum wage regulations so employers are forced to make pay calculations easier to understand.
Although homecare companies claim to be paying the minimum wage, their failure to pay travel time means that staff are often being paid well below the legal minimum.
UNISON also wants the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to publish a report that was commissioned by the government over a year ago, looking into six major care companies and potential breaches of minimum wage laws.
Most homecare employees work in isolation and rarely see colleagues so it’s difficult for them to compare their experiences.
And even when companies are successfully challenged by individuals over their failure to pay for travel time, these tend to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
If caught out for failing to pay for travel time, firms seldom make amends and correct the payments across the whole of the workforce, said UNISON.
UNISON added that it should not be for individual low-paid workers to stand up to each employer when the government – and HMRC in particular – should be making sure that employers are paying a legal wage.
UNISON has started a recruitment drive amongst homecare workers in the North West, Yorkshire & the Humber and the East Midlands to offer them the support of the union and bring individual workers together.
Dave Prentis, UNISON general secretary, said: “Homecare workers support the elderly and vulnerable across the UK, yet they continue to be paid below the minimum wage. The government promised to act, but so far ministers have abjectly failed to help these low-paid workers.
“Homecare firms who only pay their staff for the face-to-face time they spend with their clients are guilty of law-breaking on a grand scale. The increasing use of 15-minute visits places untold pressure on homecare workers, yet their pay doesn’t reflect the importance of the work they do.