We can’t sleep on pay equality in the care sector

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Enable's Teresa Shearer says the sector must work in collaboration to address the issue of pay rates for care staff 

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4th August 2017 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

Over the last few weeks, the media coverage around the long-running issue of remuneration for care staff providing overnight support has indicated a degree of contrast in the position between Scotland and elsewhere the UK.

But the situation, and need for action, is equally serious nationwide.

The Royal Mencap Society v Mrs C Tomlinson-Blake Employment Appeal Tribunal in April – concerning the historic practice of paying around £30 a night for care workers providing overnight support – was commendably clear.

The tribunal ruled that a staff member who is out of their own home and at work during the night - who is on call, required to keep a “listening ear” in case their support is required, and who cannot leave the premises - is “at work”, and should be appropriately remunerated for this.

The issue now facing the government, care commissioners and providers across the UK is how to make this a reality.

As a result of this ruling, which for some care providers means back paying overnight support at the level of the statutory minimum wage for six years, a number of learning disability charities operating south of the border say they face insolvency.

That cannot be allowed to happen.

In October, the Scottish Government continued its extremely welcome commitment to move towards paying social care professionals at the rate of the Scottish Living Wage, and the good news was a clear expectation that this rate would be realised for overnight support hours too.

Despite some excellent work from colleagues across the sector on this agenda, the latter has not yet happened and pay negotiations are still ongoing.

Therefore, so far, the benefits of the extremely positive introduction of the Scottish Living Wage have only really been felt by social care practitioners who work daytime hours, and not those staff who deliver vital overnight support in the homes of people who have complex learning disabilities.

Today, in line with current HMRC guidelines and the Scottish Government’s transitional position on the payment of overnight support, Enable Scotland continues to provide top up payments which ensure that our overnight support staff are paid at least the National Minimum Wage across all hours worked. This has been our position since 2015.

It’s not all about money - reform, collaboration and innovation also have important parts to play

We believe that we must go much further than this and have made it our ambition to pay all frontline staff the higher Scottish Living Wage for every hour of work.

It’s not all about money.  Reform, collaboration and innovation also have important parts to play and I believe that by working together, sector providers can find ways to help drive down costs.

As providers, we must also continue to work with individuals to provide the support they need, and remove any unnecessary overnight support arrangements.

We must also actively support the use of digital technology as an effective alternative to overnight support wherever appropriate.

We are currently in a transitionary period to extending the Scottish Living Wage to overnight support in Scotland.

The Scottish Government has made the commitment and, in collaboration with members of the Living Wage in Social Care Partners Group, is now conducting an analysis of the full cost of doing so and discussions are ongoing.

This must be the destination, and we must reach that destination soon.

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