Today I’ve written to the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, to demand tougher action to stop abuses of National Minimum Wage rules in our care sector.
My call follows a debate in Parliament on social care where Ministers failed to acknowledge that non-payment of the National Minimum Wage in the care sector is widespread and not limited to a few isolated cases.
The National Audit Office made clear in a report back in 2014 that between 160,000-220,000 homecare workers alone are being paid below the National Minimum Wage.
I’ve copied my letter to Business and Treasury Ministers, as well as the Junior Minister David Mowat MP who spoke in the debate in Parliament. We need joined up action from Ministers across Government to put a stop to this practice, which is rife. Our care workers deserve better.
I’ve copied the text of the letter below.
I write following our exchange during the Opposition Day debate on Wednesday 16 November on Social Care.
I was concerned to hear your response to my question about Government action in response to the widespread non-payment of the National Minimum Wage within the care sector. You suggested the problem was one of reporting, stressing the Government is “absolutely determined to clamp down on employers who do not pay the national living wage” and urging me and other Hon. Members to “let HMRC know” if we have evidence of non-compliance.
The evidence that non-payment of the minimum wage is rife in the care sector is well documented. In its 2014 Adult social care in England: overview the National Audit Office revealed that between 160,000 and 220,000 homecare workers were paid below the National Minimum Wage (NMW). The May 2016 NAO report Ensuring employers comply with National Minimum Wage regulations found that non-compliance with the NMW in the social care sector remains a concern. The Low Pay Commission continues to assess this sector as high risk and has previously reported that up to 10.6% of care workers may not be paid the NMW. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) re-classified the social care sector as a high priority sector for 2015-16.
In order to gain a better picture still of the problem, HMRC launched investigations over two years ago into the six biggest care providers. I asked for an update on these investigations during the debate last week, and have repeatedly asked Ministers in the Treasury and BEIS for the same, but to no avail. I also asked for your view on the suggestion that HMRC should carry out a full investigation into an employer where non-payment of the NMW has been identified in respect of one employee, to check for further non-compliance, given how widespread the practice is.
I have put these suggestions and others, in particular on improving transparency on payslips to drive compliance, to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Corporate Responsibility Margot James MP, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jane Ellison MP. I am writing, copying in these colleagues as well as the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health David Mowat MP who closed the debate last week, in the hope that you will consider establishing a cross-departmental taskforce on this important issue. The work of the taskforce should of course include addressing the question of social care funding, without which we will only ever make limited progress.
Those working in our care sector do such valuable work caring for some of the most vulnerable in our society. I do hope you agree addressing this injustice around their remuneration should be a priority for Ministers across the Department for Health, Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and HM Treasury.
I look forward to working with you on this important issue.
Paul Blomfield MP