Care workers are amongst the lowest paid, often being paid at or near national minimum wage (NWM) levels despite the demanding requirements of the job. Regardless of the national minimum wage the terms and conditions often require long working hours, some of which are unpaid.

The nature of the work means that employees travel from one service user’s home to another.  Often the time spent travelling is unpaid. Being reimbursed for fuel is not the same as being paid at least the national minimum wage while travelling.

Some contracts require 15 minute visits to each service user, even though the visit inevitably takes longer because of the amount of work required of the carer. However, the carer is only paid for 15 minutes.

Sometimes the service user may need a carer at all times, including overnight. This means the carer is required to sleep at the service user’s home but may only be paid a ‘sleep-in’ rate for that work.

These issues have been considered in a recent (November 2013) case heard at the employment appeal tribunal who decided:
Time spent “sleeping in” is work for which the carer is entitled to be paid the minimum wage. In those circumstances the carer is not free to do as they wish but they are working according to their employer’s instructions and it is therefore ‘work’;
Time spent travelling from house to house between visits is also work for which the carer is entitled to be paid the minimum wage. Care workers on rotas are obliged to visit each service user in turn during the course of the day, and there inevitably has travelling time between them. Their hourly rate should ensure that time is paid at a minimum of minimum wage levels.

What does this mean for you?

All workers are entitled to be paid the minimum wage for the hours worked.  Since 1 October 2013 the minimum wage rates have been:

Standard adult rate (minimum hourly rate)          £6.31

Development rate (minimum hourly rate)            £5.03

Young workers rate (minimum hourly rate)         £3.72

Apprenticeship rate (minimum hourly rate)         £2.68

The rate is increased on 1 October each year.

As an example if you are a care worker visiting service users and are paid £6.50 per hour for 30 hours per week of visits but in fact work 40 hours per week including travel time you will be paid £195 per week at present. Including the travel time would mean that the national minimum wage requires you to be paid £252.40. This means that you are paid £57.40 per week less than the law requires.

Your employer is required to pay you the national minimum wage.  If you have worked on terms and conditions like these over the last 6 years you may be able to reclaim the monies due to you from your employer. If you have been underpaid for several years you could be due over £10,000.

Jordans Solicitors are advising care workers on their entitlement to the National
Minimum Wag. Please contact Debbie Mactaggart, Head of Employment Law, on 01924 387110 to discuss this further. A free initial interview may also be available.

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