Sign-up and pay, or perhaps pay more

Posted on November 6th, by geoff in Caring Times, CT blog. 5 comments

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

There are powerful arguments why carers working at night in small specialist care facilities should be paid their full hourly rate, even if they spend much of the shift asleep. But there is a strong economic argument why ‘sleep-in’ shifts should be paid at a flat rate of £35-£45, with only that time spent delivering care being paid for at an hourly rate.

Until recently the latter argument has prevailed, but now the employment tribunals and the unions have insisted that the workers must be paid the hourly rate and this should be back-dated.

Care providers howled that they couldn’t afford it at the current rates of funding and that back-dated payments could cost the sector as much as £400m.

Government has responded in some measure to providers’ concerns, suspending enforcement action against them and waiving at least some part of any historic liability. It has also set up a new Social Care Compliance Scheme for social care providers who may have incorrectly paid workers below legal minimum wage hourly rates for sleep-in shifts.

Social care employers can opt into the scheme, giving them up to a year to identify what they owe to workers, supported by advice from HM Revenue and Customs. Employers who identify arrears at the end of the self-review period will have up to three months to pay workers.

On the face of it, this looks like little more than a stay of execution, and participating providers are more or less committing themselves to an unknown financial liability.

They’re not happy and I don’t blame them.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

5 responses to “Sign-up and pay, or perhaps pay more”

  1. The employee/employer mutually beneficial sleep-in shift has been made extinct. Always a shame seeing unions’ jobs destruction mentality at work!

  2. Bob Ferguson says:

    Although EU rules on government support could prove a sticking point with a bailout, there’s no doubt the Whitehall bods have been dragging their heels. Don’t be too surprised, however, if the Chancellor has some good news when he stands up to deliver his budget – they do like to hold back (rare) positive news items to capture the headlines on these set piece occasions.

    Talking of headlines, disappointingly few have been generated by the predicament of the care workers concerned, a forgotten army that is significantly out of pocket as a result of this almighty muddle.

  3. John Burton says:

    As one of the dwindling band of residential workers who has been truly resident in a care home – and, while sleeping-in on-call every night, had to pay for our bed and board – and then, later, in the 70s and 80s fought to be paid for sleeping-in, of course I now support full payment for this duty. Why do we wait to be told by some external authority that we have to do the right thing, instead of taking the initiative and paying staff for a duty that is as much part of therapeutic care as eating and sharing life with residents? But then staff and residents eating together is still a rarity, and charging staff for meals is still common. We need to get the fundamental principles of care clear and sorted rather than waiting for others (who know precious little about how a good care home works) to tell us what to do?

  4. My fear is that the government response so far will lead to an exodus of providers and significant numbers of service users around the country being left without effective support.

  5. John Burton says:

    We shouldn’t be surprised when payback time comes for a long exploited workforce and they demand some semblance of justice. In the 60s and early 70s there was no limit to the working week. I used to work a standard 70 hour week (7 – 11 five days a week) and there were no overtime or sleeping-in payments. The working week for local authority residential workers was eventually limited to 48 hours in the 1970s and any excess hours that couldn’t be taken back as time off in lieu were paid at overtime rates. Sleeping-in duties were not paid for until later and the working week was reduced to 37.5 hours. Those of us who were managers (“superintendents” and “officers in charge”) were not allowed to claim overtime on the mistaken basis that we could manipulate our time to suit ourselves. This meant that my deputies and assistants earned more than I did. Working conditions in the (then) small private sector were generally much worse.
    All this had to be fought for, and residential workers still have to fight exploitative employers and still have very little power or respect. Improvements in working conditions and in standards of care don’t just happen: they are very hard won.

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