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Trade unionists and charity campaigners demand immediate reforms to minimum wage laws for care workers

Unison and learning disability charity Mencap say “action is needed urgently” in open letter to the PM

BORIS JOHNSON must introduce immediate reforms to minimum wage laws affecting thousands of care workers, trade unionists and charity campaigners have demanded. 

In today’s open letter to the PM, Unison and learning disability charity Mencap say “action is needed urgently” to amend current rules so that sleep-in shifts, where staff have to stay overnight away from home, are defined as working time and paid properly. 

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the hours employees are asleep do not have to be paid at minimum wage rates, with only the time they are awake and looking after people to be included. 

Unison and Mencap were on opposing sides during the long-running case, with the former arguing care staff should be paid for all the hours they are at work and the latter warning about the huge back pay bill the sector would face if judges ruled in favour of the change.

But in the letter, both groups state that they are “united in the same vision” of a properly funded care sector, with decent pay for all workers being a “major part” of any settlement.

They warn that the Supreme Court judgement could be seen by some providers as an “opportunity to cut costs including wages,” hitting care workers who are “already among the lowest paid in the country.”

Fair pay means care providers can “retain the skilled workforce that’s essential for excellent care,” they argue.    

Both organisations are asking the PM to urge the Low Pay Commission to investigate the issue, adding: “This is your chance, Prime Minister, to show you value [care workers’] remarkable work with fair pay.”

Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said that the crisis in social care was “a betrayal of the most vulnerable in society.” 

“The whole sector has been broken for years and the government has ignored this,” she added. 

“The fact Unison and Mencap are united on this issue shows the strength of feeling across the sector. Enough is enough.”

Mencap chief executive Edel Harris said: “Care workers are among the lowest paid in society, yet they do vital, highly skilled work supporting our loved ones.

“Boris Johnson promised to fix social care: paying fairly for overnight support is the first step. 

“Ultimately, the government’s reforms must include properly funding social care and improving pay to create a world-class social care system.”

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