Three care companies with workers who were contracted by a North London council breached minimum wage rules by failing to pay staff for the time they spent travelling between service users’ homes, an employment tribunal has found.
The case against the organisations – Kaamil Education, Diligent Care Services, and Premier Carewaiting – should serve as a warning for employers in the sector and prompt the government to end the practice of denying wages for travel time, a union has said.
An organisation called Sevacare was commissioned by Haringey Council in North London to provide care services for the sick and elderly. The three organisations inherited the case when they took over the contract from Sevacare.
In some cases the 10 staff who brought the claim – the majority of whom are women – were paid less than half the minimum wage.
One care worker was travelling between up to 15 clients in a day that could start at 7am and finish at 9pm. Another had to walk or take the bus between appointments.
After a four-year legal battle, the care workers have received awards averaging at around £10,000 each – the equivalent of nine months’ full-time work at the national minimum wage rate and holiday pay – after the tribunal found their travelling and waiting time of up to 60 minutes between appointments should be treated as working time.
More than £100,000 in compensation was awarded by the tribunal.
The Unison union said the judgment should encourage other care workers who have been denied pay for travel time to bring cases against their employers.
General secretary Dave Prentis said: “It’s time the skills and experience of care staff were respected instead of them being underpaid and undervalued. The pandemic has proven just how vital they are in looking after the most vulnerable in society and keeping the care system running.
“These are the very same care staff who were applauded during the lockdown. They shouldn’t have to work in a system that breeds such awful treatment.
“This ruling sends a message to other care bosses that it’s completely unacceptable to pay staff illegal poverty wages. The government too must get tougher with employers so there’s an end to these law-breaking practices.”