Unison and Mencap have called on Boris Johnson to reform the minimum wage laws affecting thousands of care workers.
A joint letter from the two organisations to the prime minister says ‘action is needed urgently’ to amend current rules so sleep-in shifts – where staff have to stay overnight away from home – are defined as working time and paid properly.
Last month, the Supreme Court ruled the hours employees are asleep do not have to be paid at minimum wage rates, only the time they are awake and looking after people.
Mencap contested the case due to the huge back pay bill facing the care sector, and Unison supported Clare Tomlinson-Blake because it believes care staff should be paid for all the hours they’re at work.
But in the letter to the prime minister, both state they are ‘united in the same vision’ of a ‘properly funded care sector’.
They say ‘paying staff decent wages is a major part of this’ and ‘fair pay means care providers can retain the skilled workforce that’s essential for excellent care’.
They have also asked Mr Johnson to ask the Low Pay Commission to investigate the issue of sleep-in pay and reassess the status of shifts so ‘the entirety of these’ are treated as working time.
‘The demands on sleep-in workers are considerable. They’re expected to respond to the people they support at any time and at a moment’s notice during the night,’ the letter adds.
‘Acute underfunding lies at the heart of why social care is not fit for purpose. Central government must make more resources available to local authorities to allow much-needed reform. Improving the pay of care workers is the most sensible starting point.
‘Each of us will have a friend or relative who relies on the exceptional support provided by social care staff. Or may well need help ourselves one day. This is your chance, prime minister, to show you value their remarkable work with fair pay.’
Unison’s general secretary, Christina McAnea added ‘The crisis in social care is a betrayal of the most vulnerable in society.
‘The whole sector has been broken for years and the government has ignored this. Proper wages for every hour staff work are a key part of much-needed reform.
‘The fact Unison and Mencap are united on this issue shows the strength of feeling across the care sector that enough is enough. Ministers must take heed and act now.’
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