Majority of homecare staff are unpaid for travel between visits

Three quarters (75%) of care staff who look after people at home are not being paid for the time it takes them to travel between appointments, says UNISON today (Thursday).

The union says the finding, from a survey of more than 300 domiciliary care workers across England, reveals employers are effectively breaking minimum wage laws.

As a result, staff are hundreds of pounds short each month. This is money they can little afford to lose from their already rock-bottom wages and is rightfully theirs, says UNISON.

Homecare workers spend almost a fifth (19%) of their working day travelling between people’s homes*. UNISON says most are paid at or just above the minimum wage, but this hourly amount is dramatically reduced if their employer does not pay travel time.

UNISON is calling for travel time payment to become a contractual requirement. The union also wants employers to provide proper evidence for their employees, such as putting details of the reimbursement on pay slips.

One care worker said they had done a 12-hour day including time travelling between appointments, but their employer only paid them for 9 hours. Another in a rural area said they had to drive for at least 20 minutes between each care visit.

The impact on care staff denied this money is considerable, says UNISON. Some say they cannot afford to cover bills, are taking anti-depressants for stress and feel totally demoralised.

The union says vacancy levels across care – currently 165,000 – will simply increase unless ministers act now to eradicate the widespread practice of not paying travel time. Many who took part in the survey said they are looking for work in other sectors where they’d be paid for all the hours they spend at work.

Recommendations from the Low Pay Commission and the Director of Labour Market Enforcement to improve the situation have been ignored by ministers, says the union.

Instead, the government expects individual care workers – often on zero-hours contracts – to tell HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) if they believe theyre not being paid properly.

However, just 18% of workers in the survey were provided with pay slips accurately detailing their time spent travelling and what, if anything, they had been paid for this.

In the past 10 years, no care employer has been referred to the Crown Prosecution Service for failing to keep sufficient minimum wage records, according to HMRC data given to UNISON.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said: “Both care staff and those they look after are the victims of this pay scandal. Vulnerable people suffer when their already rationed care visits are cut short or delayed.

“UNISON has been highlighting this exploitation for over a decade. Yet the government has responded with inaction and indifference.

“These appalling working practices must be tackled urgently if more people are to be encouraged to work in a sector desperately short of staff. Disabled and elderly people receiving care support will want an end to the exploitation of those looking after them. When it does, everyone will benefit.”

Notes to editors:
–*Based on data from the UK Homecare Association, which represents care providers.
– A total of 310 homecare workers took part in the survey, conducted online in February.
– A worker on the national living wage rate of £10.42, who works a shift lasting eight hours but loses a fifth of that in unpaid travel, would lose roughly £83 during a five-day week, and more than £330 in a month.
– Case studies (names have been changed):
Louise who works in the East of England says: “No travel time pay puts immense pressure on me. I work in a rural area and often there’s a 20-minute or more drive between house calls, which isn’t taken into account. There’s constant pressure from the office and the people I support because I’m running late.”
Sam, who works in the South West, says: “I’m sometimes out from 6.20am until 9.45pm without enough of a break to go home. It’s a long day, very tiring and sometimes stressful. I have no quality time with my partner – it’s draining.”
Sandra who works in Yorkshire says: “I’m only paid for the time spent in someone’s home. I’m out working eight hours minimum but get paid for six This dramatically reduces my hourly wage. I’ve thought long and hard about going into a different sector to get a fairer wage.”
– Today is the third day of UNISON’s annual conference, which this year is in Liverpool. The event runs until Friday. Further details about the four-day event can be found 
 UNISON is the UK’s largest union and the largest union in the NHS and in the ambulance sector, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services – in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors.

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The article Majority of homecare staff are unpaid for travel between visits first appeared on the UNISON National site.