Council contractor, Sevacare, is being sued in the employment tribunal over the failure to pay its care workers minimum wage.
Employees working for Sevacare, in Haringey, are claiming that they should also be paid for the hours that the company deem as off duty, bringing their hourly rate down to £3.27 per hour, less than half the legal minimum wage of £6.70.*
Sevacare has contracts with several local authorities throughout the UK, however their contract with Haringey has been terminated relatively recently.
The claimants, six women and one man, provided care in the community over a six year period up until this year. They provided “live in” care, seven days a week, in the homes the elderly who suffered from severe dementia.
The carers would have to stay at the homes of the women and have to be on duty 24hrs a day. They would sleep in the same room as the person in their care and have to be on call throughout the night to cater for their clients needs.
The BBC reports that Sevacare disagrees that the care workers were working 24hrs a day. They argue that “live in” carers were paid by way of a “daily average agreement”. Meaning they were paid for a 10 hour shift which amounted to £550 per week. This, in turn, would take them over the legal minimum wage to £7.85 per hour.
All the employees, that worked for Sevacare, were on zero hours contracts and felt that if they refused to work such long periods for less that half the minimum wage, they would not be offered any other work. According to the BBC, one worker claimed that “if you tried to take a day off, they threatened to take all the hours off you.”
The tribunal have also included ex Severcare employees, who claim that they should have been paid for travel time between visits, which meant that their pay also fell below the legal minimum of £6.70 per hour.*
Following “serious concerns” raised by the Care Quality Commission in April 2016, Haringey Council terminated their contract with Sevacare. However, they are also being sued in the Central London Employment Tribunal for not ensuring that the workers were being paid properly for the care that they provided.
Despite this, the BBC, claim that they have seen evidence which points to care workers still not being paid the legal minimum wage even now.
Some of the care workers working for Haringey Council would spent longer travelling to their calls than they would actually caring for their clients. None of these hours were they paid for.
Last year, the Resolution Foundations estimated that as many as 160,000 care workers throughout England and Wales were being paid below the legal minimum.
Following this, HMRC announced that they would be starting an investigations of the six largest care providers to examine whether or not they had been paying their workers the minimum wage.
According to the BBC, Sevacare, have stressed that they are following the rules and paying their workers the legal minimum, but have made an acknowledgment that it highlights a problem across the care industry which comes down to “inadequate funding of social care for the elderly by the government”.