Thousands of Care Workers ‘Miss Out on Minimum Wage’

Thousands of Care Workers ‘Miss Out on Minimum Wage’
More than a tenth of UK care workers are being paid less than the national minimum wage of £6.50 an hour, a study suggests. The Resolution Foundation think tank says its research indicates that about 160,000 people are losing out on an average of £815 each a year. It said some firms wrongly did not pay staff when they travelled between clients, on training or when “on call”.

Ministers said they were taking action against employers who broke the law.

The national minimum wage is paid to adults aged 21 and over and there are lower rates for younger workers and apprentices. The minimum wage regulations say working time includes travelling in connection with work, and training or travelling to training during normal working hours.

The Resolution Foundation, a not-for-profit research organisation, said the problem it had uncovered was “primarily down to the failure of employers to pay staff at a level that adequately covers all of their working time”.

The care industry sector, which employs about 1.4 million people in the UK, has long been associated with low pay, while funding cuts and an ageing population is creating an additional strain on wages, it added.

The Resolution Foundation said the total amount that care staff were missing out on was estimated to be about £130m a year, but it could be higher. This is because the study did not take account of illegal deductions to pay which it said was “the most common reason for non-compliance” with the minimum wage regulations. It is calling on national and local government as well as social care providers to address its concerns.

Current UK National Minimum Wage rates
Adult rate (21 and over) – £6.50 per hour
18 to 20-year-olds – £5.13 per hour
16 to 17-year-olds – £3.79 per hour
Apprentice rate – £2.73 per hour

Laura Gardiner, a policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: “Diminishing public funding and ever tighter commissioning practices are placing great pressure on care providers, but there is simply no excuse for breaking the law. As well as helping to attract and retain staff and boosting the incomes of low-paid workers, better pay would ultimately lead to improvements in care quality.”

TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said it was “criminal” that care workers were not being paid their full entitlement.

“Our social care system is in crisis because of huge cuts to local authority budgets, with many councils outsourcing services to the cheapest bidder,” she said. “Without extra funding the care sector will continue to be a haven for zero-hours contracts and Victorian-style employment practices.”

Colin Angel, of the UK Homecare Association, which represents providers, said they operate in a market where purchasers, largely local councils, “face unprecedented spending constraints. HMRC have a responsibility to investigate and, where appropriate, take action against employers which do not pay the national minimum wage,” he said. “However, we repeat our calls for commissioners to take the actual costs of care services into account when letting contracts to the independent and voluntary sector, and for government to ensure independent oversight of the practices of social care commissioners.”

A spokesman for the government said: “It is not only unacceptable to pay less than the minimum wage, it is against the law. “We are taking action to make it easier to name, shame and fine offenders, as well as helping social care workers to recover the hundreds of thousands of pounds in pay owed to them. We are also looking at what more we can do to make sure social care workers are paid fairly in the first place.”

Labour to Double Paid Paternity Leave to Four Weeks

Labour to Double Paid Paternity Leave to Four Weeks
A future Labour government would double the amount of paid paternity leave available to new fathers from two to four weeks, Ed Miliband has announced. The Labour leader has also pledged to increase statutory paternity pay by more than £120 a week to £260 a week, paid for by savings in tax credits.

Some business leaders have said the £150m move amounts to a business “tax”.

A new system of shared parental leave championed by the Liberal Democrats comes into force in April.

The Lib Dems are also proposing, in future, a month’s worth of paternity leave after a child’s birth on a “use it or lose it” basis.

The Conservatives have supported greater flexibility in parental leave, arguing that all future spending policies need to pass a “families test”.

Since 2003, new fathers have been entitled to two weeks’ paid leave if they meet certain criteria, such as having worked for their employer for a defined length of time.

But Labour says only about 55% of new fathers take the full two weeks off because of financial pressures forcing them to return to work. Ed Miliband said current entitlements are “outdated” and giving fathers an “independent right” to a month off to care for their children would help 400,000 families give their children the “best start in life they can”. The Labour leader has pledged to substantially increase rates of statutory pay, currently set at £138.18 per week or 90% of average weekly earnings, whichever is less.

Under Labour, the amount fathers would receive would rise to at least £260 a week, the equivalent of a forty-hour week on the minimum wage.

“At the same time as women are under pressure in their careers, more fathers want to play a hands-on role in childcare, particularly in those first crucial weeks of a child’s life,” Mr Miliband will say in a speech on Monday. “Thanks to the last Labour government, fathers have two weeks’ paid paternity leave. Millions of families have benefited with parents saying this has helped them support each other, share caring responsibilities and bond with their children. But the money isn’t great and too many Dads don’t take up their rights because they feel they have to go back so they can provide for their family.”

The opposition says the move will be funded by a reduction in the amount of tax credits paid out to working families of three and four year olds as they take advantage of a planned increase in state-funded childcare from 15 to 25 hours a week.

Research from the IPPR think tank, cited by Labour, suggests offering four weeks paid paternity leave will cost £150m a year, assuming take-up rises from 55% to 70%.

The policy announcement has encountered criticism from some business leaders, with the British Chambers of Commerce saying it amounts to a “a tax on business”. Director General John Longworth is quoted in the Daily Telegraph as saying that although “well-meaning” the move would impose “very real costs for businesses”.

However, shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves contended that “this is exactly what used to be said about maternity leave”. She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the expansion of paternity leave would be paid for by government, not business, and that “good business” would welcome the changes.

Labour says research by the House of Commons library indicates a fall in existing government spending on tax credits, to pay for childcare, will raise “significantly more than £150m”, more than covering the cost of the initiative. Mr Miliband said the government’s proposed system of shared parental leave, which will allow a couple to divide up 50 weeks of leave between them and 37 weeks of shared statutory pay – at existing levels – from this April will have limited appeal.

But in a speech on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will urge new parents to “embrace” the flexibility offered by the new arrangements, in which parents will be free to split their leave in three separate blocks instead of taking it all in one go. He will say this is part of a package of measures which could help to get a million more women into the workforce by 2020.

“My challenge to you is to embrace change. Embrace shared parental leave. Embrace flexible working. Close the gender pay gap,” he will say. “We need to think big. We need to do things differently. But, as any successful entrepreneur knows, that is exactly what it takes to succeed.”

Forum of Private Business: Big Firms Face Crisis of Trust

Forum of Private Business: Big Firms Face Crisis of Trust
Big UK firms face a “crisis of trust” and the next government must prioritise better ethics, a lobby group has said. In a survey, the Forum of Private Business (FPB) found that over three-quarters of respondents think big firms put profits before ethical standards.

Tax avoidance, treatment of suppliers, and late payment were all areas of concern, the ComRes poll of 2,000 people found.

Politicians must stand up for people who play by the rules, the FPB said.

The survey also found that 74% of respondents agreed that the majority of big businesses have no concern for small business owners in the UK. Plus 76% agreed that the next government should penalise big businesses that act unfairly towards small businesses.

The survey commissioned as part of the FPB’s Business Ethics Pledge, calls on big companies to commit to a five-point plan to protect and promote small firms in the UK.

FPB chief executive Phil Orford said: “The view of the British public is clear: we are facing a crisis of trust in big business and the UK wants the next government to respond accordingly, safeguarding the UK’s small business community. “From tax avoidance and high street domination to late payment and supply chain abuse – every week our members tell us that some of the biggest names in British business are threatening their livelihoods.”

Criticism of the activities of big companies has risen sharply in the last couple of years. Allegations of tax avoidance, deliberately forcing firms out of business, and squeezing suppliers with demands for money, have formed headline news.

Mr Orford said: “There must be a balance between the need to attract the world’s biggest companies to Britain, ensuring we have the best environment for business, and protecting the interests of the UK’s hardworking independent small business people. “It is time for Britain’s honest workers who play by the rules to have their say and it’s time for their interests to be heard.”

Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, joined the debate over business ethics, arguing that big companies should consider how they could better use their powerful positions to support society.

Why Plantation Shutters?

Why Plantation Shutters?
With the economy finally beginning to recover, homeowners across the UK are increasingly taking on home improvement projects that were largely put on hold during the recession, and one of the more popular choices among homeowners wishing to “start out small” is an upgrade to plantation shutters.

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