Reposted from the Guardian
Eleven female carers to the elderly are taking their employers to a tribunal claiming they were only paid by the minutes they spent with clients rather than their rostered working hours.
The staff, who were on zero-hours contracts, allege that, due to the arrangements, they were paid less than the minimum wage of £6.31 an hour. It is understood that some of the employees at Apex Care in Romsey, Hampshire, where the firm was commissioned to provide the home care service by the council, believe their real hourly wage was close to £3.50.
The carers were not paid for time spent travelling between the homes of elderly and disabled clients or if they had to wait on people’s doorsteps, it is claimed. Rostered appointments with clients were generally 15 minutes long. The employees further claim that on some days they were paid just £10 to be ready to work “on call”.
Malcolm Patrick, managing director of Apex Care, said his company “obviously disputes the allegations”, but could not comment further until the case comes to the employment tribunal later this year. The company claims to pay between £7 and £8.15 an hour.
Apex Care stated on its website: “Apex staff are paid for contact time with clients; all other time is allocated as planned rest breaks, which is kept to a minimum. Our co-ordinators ensure that all staff are rota’d to their maximum availability wherever possible. All of our care staff are on zero-hour contracts to assist with their availability and the flexible nature of their duties.”
In March, the National Audit Office reported that an estimated 160,000-220,000 workers in the adult care sector in England alone are paid below the national minimum wage . An investigation by Revenue and Customs of care providers between 2011 and 2013 found 48% were guilty of non-compliance, leading to one home-care provider alone paying £600,000 in penalties to its workers.
Wages in the care sector have been driven down in recent years, largely due to the trend for local authorities to outsource social care to private providers who don’t offer NHS terms and conditions to their staff. The average rate of pay for a worker in an adult residential care home in England is £6.45 an hour, and £7 an hour for a domiciliary care worker.
Last week the Observer highlighted the case of 50 workers for Care UK, who are staging one of the longest strikes in the health service’s history to secure a living wage for staff working in privatised services formerly run by the NHS. Last Monday they voted to extend the strike by another three weeks, taking the time they have sacrificed their wages to nearly 70 days.
Care UK, whose majority shareholder is the private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital, took over services for people with severe learning disabilities in Doncaster, south Yorkshire, this year, cutting the wages of staff who had been on NHS terms by up to 35% while bringing in 100 new workers on £7 an hour.
The strikers are seeking to reverse a national trend for deskilling and the imposition of low wages in social care by securing a living wage of £7.65 for their poorest-paid colleagues.