The nature of homecare work is often making employees feel ‘isolated, demoralised, forgotten and undervalued’.
Oral and written submissions supplied by 98 care workers to independent MP Frank Field and researcher Andrew Forsey found at the extreme end of the scale pay was below the level of the National Minimum Wage or National Living Wage.
Average wages tended to range from the legal minimum to around £10 per hour. The report said: ‘The evidence we have received suggests that a failure to pay care workers for the time they spend travelling between the homes of each person they care for during a shift is the biggest single force that pushes their pay below the legal minimum.’
Some carers estimated that they lost between £60 and £100 each week in lost earnings from unpaid travel time costs. Others said they had to fund their own uniforms and attend training sessions without pay.
Around a third of England’s 815,000 care workers are on zero-hours contracts, with half of the respondents saying they were given no option but to work under such deals.
The report said: ‘Partly as a result of these conditions, there is a high turnover of care workers which all too often results in people receiving sub-optimal levels of care.’
One carer told the research team as many as six colleagues would quit their jobs each month.
Such working conditions were having a detrimental effect on patient care. Government guidance recommends a care visit should last a minimum of 30 minutes, however, it was not always possible to meet this, employees said.
Field and Forsey recommend local authorities be given resources and responsibility to implement a fair price commissioning policy, which would ensure contracts are awarded against set criteria, such as care workers being paid no less than the statutory minimum wage per hour for the whole shift, including travel time.
They also recommend reform of the National Insurance system.