Time to care
The increasing demand for care services has seen a corresponding rise in care workers getting paid less than the minimum wage and not getting the rest breaks established under the Working Time Regulations. A report by the Resolution Foundation last summer titled “Does it pay to care” drew attention to the shocking working conditions of care workers that “has an impact on the quality and dignity of care provided to older and disabled people”. The report estimates that up to 220,000 care workers are being paid less than the minimum wage
What’s more, thousands of care workers are not getting paid travelling time between visiting clients, they are only getting paid for the actual time spent in the home of those they are caring for. This has the effect of reducing their pay to beneath minimum wage levels and is illegal. The law on travel time states that a worker travelling for the purpose of duties carried out in the course his or her work will be required to be paid at least the minimum wage.
The social Care sector is notorious for being one of the lowest paid sectors in the economy, with an overwhelmingly female workforce and a growing proportion of migrant workers. It’s hard and stressful work. Being able to take proper breaks is therefore important. The Working Time Regulations are very clear on breaks. Employees are entitled to a rest break of not less than 11 hours in each 24 hour period, as well as a rest break of not less than 20 minutes when they work more than 6 hours.
Alan Hood, a care worker employed by Accept Care Ltd in Consett for seven years, won his GMB-backed legal case after being denied daily rest and rest breaks at work. His complaint that the firm was in breach of the Working Time Regulations was upheld at a Newcastle employment tribunal in January 2014. GMB Regional Organiser Gail Johnson who supported Alan Hood with his claims said, the GMB “sees this as a victory for all care workers in care homes across the country in the fight to improve working conditions”.
The ‘London Report’ by the National Minimum Data Set for Social Care (October 2013) estimates that there are 166,000 care workers providing direct care across London. The London Hazards Centre suspects it is safe to assume that a significant proportion of them are affected by the issues raised by the Resolution Foundation.
TUC alerts ILO over health & safety changes
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has asked the UK government to explain why it has stopped health and safety inspections in the majority of workplaces. This comes after a TUC complaint that the new system of inspection does not meet ILO standards. Changes introduced during 2012-2013 to reduce “the burden of unnecessary health and safety rules on businesses” substantially reduce the number of health & safety inspections.
The TUC has also raised the Health Safety Executive’s (HSE) “fee for intervention” scheme under which employers now have to pay for HSE time spent rectifying any potential breaches in safety legislation. This is expected to stop businesses drawing the HSE’s attention to safety concerns for fear of being charged.
The government’s claim that “the system of labour inspection continues to apply to all workplaces” is clearly untrue. The TUC has reported this to the ILO and now the government has been asked to provide detailed information on how workplaces will be selected for inspection, along with how the social partners are involved in the process.
Importantly, the ILO wants to know how safety is affected by businesses not being subject to inspection. The government has also been asked to report the number of infringements detected along with the number of workplace injuries and occupational diseases.
The London Hazards Centre welcomes the TUC’s initiative and awaits the outcome with interest. The effect of less regulation will in our view regrettably be more workplace injuries and deaths. We will keep you posted on this. (Source: TUC Risks e-bulletin)
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