May 4, 2015 11:11 pm Published by

Shadow social care minister Liz Kendall writes in the Guardian that care workers are subject to ‘one of Britain’s largest illegal wage scandals’

More than half the care providers investigated by HMRC are not paying staff the minimum wage, it has been revealed. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent

More than half the care companies investigated by customs officials are paying their workers less than the minimum wage, according to figures unearthed by the shadow social care minister, Liz Kendall.

In a joint Guardian article with Unison union’s general secretary, Dave Prentis, Kendall writes that care workers are the victims of one of Britain’s largest illegal wage scandals.

Kendall and Prentis are speaking out after a freedom of information request to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) found that 115 of the 224 care companies it investigated failed to pay nearly 7,000 workers the minimum wage. The care workers are owed an average of £200 each, or £1.3m in total.

They write: “Care workers do some of the most important and valuable work in society. Yet care workers are subject to one of Britain’s largest illegal wage scandals.”

Kendall and Prentis, who point out that only £153,000 has been paid in fines by the companies at fault, speak out as Labour will confirm on Friday that it plans to end time-limited, 15-minute care visits as part of a package of rights for elderly people. A Labour government would introduce year of care budgets for frail, elderly people that will cover their costs over the 12 months.

The new budgets will introduce incentives to invest in preventing the problem. The accountable provider would have to pay more if the condition of elderly people deteriorate and they need more costly hospital care.

Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, said: “David Cameron has created a care crisis and the collapse of social care is dragging down the NHS. His cuts to social care are a root cause of the A&E crisis.

“Labour today pledges to end this scandal. We have a better plan for the care of older people. Labour will bring health and social care services together to ensure older people finally get the care and support they deserve, we will end time-limited, 15-minute visits and we will create a service that cares for those who care.”

In their article, Kendall and Prentis say that up to 220,000 care workers, or one in six, are paid less than the minimum wage. This is often caused by the refusal of employers to pay for the travel time between home care visits, costing care workers an average of £815 a year.

Kendall and Prentis write: “The scandal doesn’t stop at pay. Many care workers get little, if any, training and are forced to try and provide care in slots that last barely 15 minutes. A staggering 300,000 are employed on zero-hours contracts.

“This leaves care workers stressed and frustrated, unable to plan their lives, pay their bills or do their job properly. And it means elderly people get rushed, impersonal visits, without even having the dignity of knowing who will turn up in the morning to get them out of their beds and take them to the toilet.”



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