Guaranteed hours great news for support workers

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Imagine having a job where you are not guaranteed any hours of work but are expected to sit by the phone and be available to work if your employer needs you, without any form of compensation. This is exactly what workers in the home support sector – those supporting the elderly, people with disabilities and mental health issues – have been dealing with until now.

According to Kerry Davies, PSA assistant secretary, “About 20,000 workers are affected. Until now, employers and funders argued that there was no guarantee of hours for workers, enabling the employer to cancel the hours with little to no notice. It meant that many home support workers have had very uncertain incomes and certainly no career path.”

In November last year, the Ministry of Health, home support providers and unions reached an agreement requiring support workers to be guaranteed hours according to what they usually work. If a client cancels, the support worker will be found work elsewhere, or be given a proper consultation period if this can’t be done.

Union representatives have been working intensively to agree the details of how these guaranteed hours will be applied. This work has not been plain sailing, but finally home support workers will be offered guaranteed hours if they want them by the 1st of April.
This agreement is the second part of the In-Between Travel Settlement, which came into force in 2015/6 and requires workers to be paid for travel time as well as travel costs for transit between client visits.

Waiting for equal pay

While it’s good news on guaranteed hours, negotiations on equal pay for support workers are ongoing. A broader equal pay case recently cleared the courts following years of union campaigning about the low pay care and support worker remuneration.

The courts upheld the right for women in female dominant industries like these to argue that their work was historically undervalued and they should be paid the rate a male worker would get for similar skills, experience and degree of effort. This was an important win that established several key guiding principles for equal pay cases.
This prompted the Government to approach the unions and

providers to enter into negotiations to reach a proposed settlement for all caregivers and support workers outside of court – just like the process to win travel payments. However, despite the establishment of the principles for equal pay cases, the unions are still in negotiations but are hopeful of a proposed settlement.

Getting to this point had only been possible due to members sticking together and speaking up about equal pay. We still have many challenges in the sector, but we have achieved this much already, and our membership is growing.