Labour pushes for bill ensuring care workers are paid at least minimum wage

Morgan Jones

Angela Rayner and Thangam Debbonaire have called on Jacob Rees-Mogg to ensure that time in the parliamentary schedule is allocated for a private members’ bill that would ensure home care workers are paid at least the minimum wage.

In a letter to the leader of the House of Commons today, the pair urged the minister to make time for the legislation that would close a loophole whereby many workers in the sector are not paid for their travel between individual care visits.

“It is a national disgrace that that care workers are being paid less than the legal minimum wage, never mind a fair wage that they can live on. Labour will end this scandal and treat our social care heroes with the dignity and respect they deserve,” deputy Labour leader and former care worker Rayner said.

“Government ministers clapped for our carers for a photo opportunity but then they sold them out. The very least the government can do for our carers is to pass a very simple piece of legislation to close this loophole and ensure carers are paid the legal minimum wage to which they are entitled to.”

Debbonaire and Rayner highlight the case of care workers in Haringey who were successful in a legal action last year, which ruled that companies commissioned by the council not paying staff for time spent travelling between care visits had broken the law.

Staff in this instance were found to have been working up to 14 hours each day for pay under half the legal minimum hourly rate. Each received around £10,000 in backdated pay that they had been denied by their employer.

Domiciliary, or home, care jobs now account for more than residential care with nearly half a million home care staff in England. Most are employed by private companies and 42% of home care workers are employed on zero-hours contracts.

The Low Pay Commission estimated in 2019 that 420,000 of two million workers paid the minimum wage were not being awarded the proper legal rate. Labour’s Paula Barker had been due to introduce legislation on the issue.

Her bill was initially allocated time in January but was blocked by Rees-Mogg before a debate or vote could take place. Labour is now seeking time for this private members’ bill in the new parliamentary session, which will begin in September.

Rayner and Debbonaire wrote that Barker’s bill “offers a good model to solve this problem by giving local authorities the power to end contracts if private companies are not compliant with minimum wage law, and its passage would drive up pay, standards and pay transparency across the sector”.

Earlier this year, Liz Kendall signalled that Labour would look to Joe Biden’s plans for social care in the US, which takes a home-first’ approach to care and includes investment in home care as part of the post-pandemic infrastructure plan.

The shadow care minister told the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services that Labour would pursue reform of the social care system, tackling its “deep rooted and long-standing problems” with a ten-year plan of investment and reform.

Below is the full text of the letter sent to Rees-Mogg.

Dear Jacob,

We are writing to you regarding the lack of Parliamentary time given to Paula Barker’s private members’ bill. This bill would end the scandal of home care workers earning less than the legal minimum wage because they are not paid for the time they are working when travelling between individual care visits.

In September 2020, a group of homecare workers working for contractors commissioned by Haringey Council were successful in a significant legal action which found that companies not paying staff for time spent travelling between care visits broke the law. Each care worker received a settlement of around £10,000 in backdated pay that they had been denied.

This injustice is denying many workers the pay to which they are entitled and for which they have worked. Throughout the pandemic, our care workers looked after all of us and it is now well past time that we look after them. Over the last 18 months we have all expressed our gratitude to the care workers who have put their lives on the line to keep us safe. This bill would close this loophole and ensure that all care workers are paid at least the minimum wage. After all they have done for us, this is surely the very least they deserve.

The bill was scheduled for a debate and a vote in January of this year, before you cancelled time for private members’ bill. It is deeply disappointing that it was the only backbench private members’ bill to be effectively blocked from passage given six of the top eight bills reached the statute book and another was withdrawn.

Paula’s bill offers a good model to solve this problem by giving local authorities the power to end contracts if private companies are not compliant with minimum wage law, and its passage would drive up pay, standards and pay transparency across the sector, and in view of the fact it fell because that sitting day was cancelled. We are calling on you to guarantee the time to debate and vote on this important bill when the House returns.

A copy of the bill and accompanying explanatory notes is attached for your reference.

Yours sincerely,

Angela Rayner MP
Thangam Debbonaire MP

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