Shame councils if care providers ignore the minimum wage

THE PUBLIC sector union Unison has called on the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to publicly name and shame councils who commission social care employers that flout National Minimum Wage laws.

BIS has recently started naming companies who don’t pay the minimum wage, but it has not mentioned the role of councils that are also implicated.

In a letter to Secretary of State Vince Cable, the union has urged BIS to team up with the Department of Health to introduce tougher measures to combat non-compliance of minimum wage legislation in social care.

Unlawful deductions for uniforms, non-payment for travel time, training, accommodation and underpayment for sleep-ins can all contribute to care workers not receiving a lawful wage.

Many councils in England do not do enough to ensure that the care providers they commission pay their staff the National Minimum Wage. Some councils are commissioning homecare services at dangerously low rates, some as low as £9.08 an hour, which greatly increases the likelihood of non-compliance with minimum wage laws.

One of the aims of Unison’s long-running Ethical Care Campaign has been to ensure that councils only commission homecare providers that pay homecare workers for their travel time.

Unison head of local government, Heather Wakefield, said: “The lack of action to address the problem of 200,000 care workers being paid below the National Minimum Wage is staggering and we are urging the Government to do more.

“Whilst the onus must remain on the care employers to comply, councils must take far more responsibility to ensure that they commission in a responsible manner. An official government policy of naming and shaming would be a very effective way of reminding councils of their responsibility for the way in which public funds are used, and the impact of illegal underpayment on the quality of care.”

A recent survey by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) revealed that 19 per cent of councils in England do not know whether the homecare providers they commission pay their staff the National Minimum Wage.

It also found that a mere five per cent of councils were confident that their providers paid staff properly for their travel time, despite non-payment for travel time being a major cause of illegally low rates of pay.