Today I led a debate in Parliament calling on the Government to end the scandal of illegal pay in the care sector.
I spoke about the experiences of two of my constituents – Melanie and Sharon - who are not paid for travel time between appointments. By law, time taken for travel that is required as part of a job should be paid for at the level of the National Minimum Wage or above.
Sharon, care worker of 5 years in Sheffield said:
I can be out of the house from 6.15 in the morning until 11pm at night and only get paid for 7 hours’ work. I get a break but I’m not paid for travelling to and from appointments. You get into a bit of a trap because I actually do love the work. When I started, you did get paid for what you worked. Is that too much to ask now?
Melanie, homecare worker in Sheffield said:
My employer refused to pay me for staying with an elderly woman whilst an ambulance came to her house. I did stay because I couldn’t leave her and her 67 year old son who was panicking. But what kind of message does that send? We have mortgages and bills to pay. This is not voluntary work. We should be paid an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work.
The Government must improve the way HMRC enforces the National Minimum Wage. I urged the Department to conduct pro-active investigations in the care sector, rather than relying on vulnerable workers to report underpayment. I also called on the Government to require companies to show on workers’ pay slips how they are complying with the National Minimum Wage.
In the debate, I said:
We should be ashamed that tens of thousands of people like Melanie and Sharon, looking after our most vulnerable, are treated in this way simply because they care… The real scandal is that it doesn’t have to be like this. The Government has the power to act. It simply needs the will.