This article appeared in the latest edition of the Institute of Employment Rights and is a follow up on UNISON's campaign 'Pay up on Travel Time'. 

Tens of thousands of care workers across England and Wales are still being paid less than the minimum wage because councils are not insisting that homecare companies pay staff their travel time, a UNISON report warned this week


Care workers regularly subsidide their own pay and the profits of their employers, by not being able to claim for time travelled between calls.  This Branch knows of cases where Care workers are travelling as much as 30 minutes between clients.  This is unacceptable and it is time employers paid up for all the time spent at work, not just contact time.  Branch Secretary Rob Turner

More than three quarters (76 per cent) of councils in England don’t stipulate in their contracts with homecare providers that firms must pay employees when they are travelling between appointments. This finding is based on a recent UNISON Freedom of Information request.

According to the report – Calling Time on Illegal Wages in the Homecare Sector – the situation is even worse in Wales. Here less than one in ten (nine per cent) of councils explicitly instruct employers to remunerate staff for the time they spend on the road.

According to UNISON, councils are breaching statutory guidance that came into force alongside the Care Act last year. This clearly states that homecare staff must be paid for the time taken to get to appointments.

The findings represent an improvement on a year ago when UNISON last carried out an investigation. Then fewer than one in ten (seven per cent) of councils made payment of travel time a contractual obligation for homecare providers.

UNISON’s report was published ahead of a debate in Parliament when MPs urged the government to act. UNISON is backing a call for ministers to make employers prove to their workers that they pay the national minimum wage.

UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis said: It’s a scandal that more than 200,000 care workers are receiving illegal wages of less than £6.70. More councils might now be insisting that homecare contracts ensure payment for travel time, but there’s still too many that don’t.

This shows just how little local authorities value care staff who do such a vital job looking after the elderly and disabled. Councils shouldn’t be awarding contracts to firms without ensuring they’re prepared to pay travel time. And the government should be putting more resources into a social care system that is already at crisis point.

The law makes it absolutely clear that staff must be paid for any time spent travelling to and from the homes of the people theycare for. The government and councils must act now to put a stop to the shocking treatment of this dedicated and hardworking group of employees.

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