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By Debbie le Quesne

Appeal tribunal rules on homecare travel time pay

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A court has ruled that homecare workers should have been paid for time between visits – a clear benchmark that the tide is turning in favour of these workers.

An employment appeal tribunal made the ruling and it could set a new precedent for what homecare workers should be paid for.

The decision comes in the wake of a Unison newsbreak that nearly 200,000 domiciliary workers were being paid less than the minimum wage as they were not paid for the time taken between visits.

The employment appeal tribunal found BJP Home Support, a homecare provider in Guisborough in the north-east of England, should have paid its employee for the time spent travelling between homecare visits and for the “sleepover” shifts she did at the house of three people with Down’s syndrome.

Already solicitors are warning that this ruling could have implications for the whole homecare sector: “To comply with this ruling, many care providers will have to change their existing working arrangements. The consequences for non-compliance include civil penalties and criminal sanctions,” one has warned.

This emerging case law is no doubt going to pose considerable operating challenges.

Bottom line: Fees will have to rise if businesses are to survive if the definition of ‘working time’ is upheld.

Norman Lamb was reported in the Guardian as saying: “We want to build a fairer society, and that’s why we believe it is unacceptable for any employer to break the minimum wage law. We know there are too many examples of social care organisations paying people less than the minimum wage by not taking account of travel times and the government has already taken steps to crack down on this.”

Perhaps the government also needs to consider how, with ever-increasing restriction on budgets, these providers are going to pay.

And what about the issue of retrospective claims? I dread to think of the domino effect this ruling will have on those who actually need the caring. Perhaps the government priorities on spending needs to change as it stage manages the wages of people it does not employ.

And before I’m shot: No, I’m not defending poor, law-breaking pay, but my role with West Midlands Care Association demands me being a realist.

Answers please . . . where is the extra funding coming from to maintain these potential salary rises?

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