“Sorry I Can’t Stop, I Am Paid By The Minute”

With the UK government considering payment of care home workers by the minute, MPs were told it was demoralising for staff who are on the ultimate frontline of the pandemic.

The proposal that could affect one million workers would involve the use of electronic tags, a system that already applies to some of the UK’s 685,000 domicile workers who go from house to house and so ultimately are not paid for travel.

As reported in the Guardian, Dr Jane Townson, the chief executive of the United Kingdom Homecare Association said “Can you imagine a clinical commissioning group saying to an NHS trust we are only going to pay nurses every minute they are by a patient’s bedside and we are going to electronically tag them to find out when they are there, but we are not going to pay them when they are moving from one patient’s bed to the next”

Raina Summerson, the chief executive of Agincare, a company specialising in home care, also criticised the practice, which she said was a result of restricted public funds for home care services. “Who would have thought that this critical role of compassion and care could be broken down to paying people by the minute and having people … not be paid for when they are walking up someone’s garden path.”

A further consideration is that burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder as a result from the strain placed on care home workers during the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to lead many care workers looking for alternative employment, especially with new opportunities opening up across all sectors as a result of forced redundancies and then rehiring strategies. Currently there are 122,000 vacancies in the UK care homes, with further 100,000 forecast to be needed by 2024 to meet the rising demand of an ageing population. 

BUPA recently addressed some of the employment challenges by moving over 10,000 staff away from a monthly pay cycle with a new financial wellbeing strategy. Ian Hogg, CEO of fastP.A.Y.E said “Low rates of pay clearly have to be addressed, but instead of paying by the minute and treating care workers like robots, an understanding and flexible pay approach to their well-earned salary can address some of these recruitment issues. It proves that their employer is not only socially responsible but is focused on their employees wellbeing”.

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