Empathic Urbanite

social business for urban development

Zero-hours contracts are inappropriate in the field of social care work

This Guardian article not only hits the issues right on the head, and for once it’s not criticising the agencies. Zero hour contracts and being paid for travel time are very complex issues and this is an intelligent article.


Council Homecare StaffIt astounds me when government complains about how social care agencies aren’t treating workers well, such as not paying them enough or not paying for travel time. 90% of social care work is contracted by the government and so they determine what the agencies can pay. Councils do not pay for travel time or travel cost, so who do they expect to take this cost on? You don’t buy a pair of shoes and then ask the shoe shop to pay travel expenses for their staff as a condition of that sale. All expenses of the shoe shop should be met by that purchase. To clarify, you don’t pay £10 for the manufacturing, then £10 for the staff and then £10 for shop overheads. You just pay £30 for the shoes. If you are only paying £10 for the manufacturing, you can’t complain that the staff aren’t being paid.

Also, from the social care customer’s point of view, the absolute minimum you can pay a care worker is £6.31 an hour, but it usually costs the worker at least £2.80 (one return bus fare) to get to the location, so they are only earning £3.51 for that hour’s work. (Don’t worry we pay more than minimum wage!) But if you need 14 hours of care a week, adding that £2.80 per hour adds up for the customer (especially if you want your care worker to be paid more than minimum wage), so costs are low not, because of exploitative companies, but because of what customers can afford.

I’d love to pay my workers above London Living Wage plus their travel costs – but then add 20-30% to cover agency running costs and everyone’s salaries in the office, and that makes it very expensive for 89 year old Mrs Edith who is paying for her care from her Attendance Allowance.

If the government is genuinely concerned about this, it would add travel time and cost to what it pays agencies and/or increase the Attendance Allowances to account for that.

We are applying for a council contract at the moment and it doesn’t pay care worker’s travel costs and as a spot purchase contract, it doesn’t even guarantee us the hours. I can’t guarantee my worker Shopna 20 hours a week of work, if no customer is paying 20 hours a week. So what should I do? Should I supplement the customer? Should I pay the workers out of my own pocket and go into debt? Or should the customer pay the actual cost of the product they are demanding? Coming back into the public sector after 10 years away, it just astonishes me that they think they can pay £5 for a product that they themselves insist should cost £10 and then complain that the product is faulty. What?!

Here’s an extract from the article:

“If care staff don’t know from one week to the next how many hours they will work, it has an impact on the service user as well as the carer. If a typical staff day consists of slots of rushed work around meal or bed times with unpaid travel and time between jobs, it is hardly conducive to the loving care many carers should and would give to their vulnerable service users with disabilities or dementia.”

Link again below! That’s all for now. I need to get back to that tender application!


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This entry was posted on September 5, 2013 by in Uncategorized.
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