A new report from the Resolution Foundation calls for care workers to be paid £2 an hour more than the minimum wage to address staff shortages and safety issues.
All care workers should be offered a minimum wage which is £2 higher per hour than the national minimum in order to reduce the risk of unlawful minimum wage underpayment among domiciliary care workers and address chronic staffing issues, according to a Resolution Foundation report.
The report says doing so would require state spending on social care to increase by 8 per cent with part of this increase returning to the government via higher tax receipts and lower benefit spending.
It finds that currently median hourly pay among frontline care workers is falling in relation to other low-paid jobs. It stood at £10.90 in April 2022, well below the economy-wide average of £14.47 and less than rates offered in low-paid jobs in offices, call centres, transport and nursing assistants in the public sector. Moreover, the pay ‘premium’ that social care workers have historically commanded relative to other low-paid jobs has almost vanished, says the report. Meanwhile, domiciliary workers face a high risk of being paid less than the minimum wage once their travel time is taken into account.
The report says the feminised nature of the job, the lack of other options for those with caring responsibilities, plus the commitment to the care vocation, are what keep many still in their jobs despite low pay, staff shortages and stressful conditions – 19 per cent of frontline care workers being mums and a third living within two kilometres of their work, significantly higher than for many other jobs.
Although the report finds that working in social care has many benefits compared to other low-paid jobs, such as the human element and the fact that the work is high-skilled and high-responsibility with a significant amount of autonomy, low pay and staffing shortages have made it less attractive in recent years. More than one in 10 posts was vacant in 2021/22 and this has knock on effects on workload and safety. In 1992, 59 per cent of social care workers said they worked under a high degree of tension; by 2017, that had risen to 68 per cent, 14 percentage points higher than those in other low-paid jobs. This is likely to have got a lot worse since the pandemic.
In addition to higher pay, the report calls for employers to be required to keep records of travel time for domiciliary carers so they can flag issues, and to enforcement agencies on request to ensure minimum wage underpayment is properly identified and sanctioned. And it says that, where personal assistants are fully or part-funded by the state through direct payments, the state’s support with care costs should come with the quid pro quo that such workers are offered a contract and a minimum set of employment standards.