Home carers' travel 'goes unpaid', Unison says

Carer holds the hand of an elderly patient

Most councils in England and Wales are failing to ensure home care workers are paid the national minimum wage, figures obtained by the Unison union suggest.

It says freedom of information figures show just 6% of local authorities make it a contractual condition for care providers to pay workers' travel time.

Non-payment of travel time means many are not paid the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour, Unison says.

Councils say stipulating that providers pay for travel time is unnecessary.

It is common practice for carers to be paid for the time they spend in an elderly person's home, but not for the time they spend in their car travelling between clients.

The time taken travelling can take up to 30% of a carer's shift, according to Unison.

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Media captionAnonymous carer: "I couldn't afford to work"

So, if the rate they are paid is not much more than the minimum wage of £6.50 an hour, then across the shift they are taking home less than that.

Councils say that there is no need to stipulate that care providers pay for travel time because, under the terms of their contracts, they are legally required to pay the minimum wage.

The UK Home Care Association insists it accounts for travel time in its hourly rates but also says it will become ''increasingly difficult'' for providers to comply with the minimum wage unless councils start to pay them more.

Pay concerns

One carer, who wished to remain anonymous, said she was being paid less than the minimum wage because her £7 an hour rate was not enough to cover the two hours she spent each day driving between clients.

''I'm really upset about it," she said. "It's scandalous what's going on.

"I stayed in the job for so long because I felt committed to the people I was looking after. But I had to leave because I couldn't afford to stay.''

She is one of 18 home carer workers in Wigan to have taken her case of under-payment to Unison. The union says she is owed thousands of pounds by her former employer.

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Media captionThe UK Homecare Association's Colin Angel and David Pearson from the ADASS

Unison also asked councils whether they ever asked to see pay records or other documentary evidence about the pay of care workers. Only 21% of councils said they did.

The care sector is coming under increasing scrutiny over concerns about low pay. Earlier this year, the National Audit Office reported that as many as 220,000 carers were not getting the minimum wage.

In April, Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs said almost half of the care companies it investigated were not complying with minimum wage regulations.

One provider was ordered to pay £600,000 of arrears to 3,000 care workers.

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