Thousands of low-paid workers who provide care for adults with learning difficulties have a worrying Christmas ahead after being told by their employers that they face big pay cuts.
So-called ‘top-up’ payments are made by care providers to staff who work sleep-in shifts to ensure that their average hourly pay reaches the national minimum wage rate. The payments are worth £30-£40 per sleep-in shift, and make up a significant portion of support workers’ incomes.
Now, two care employers who hold contracts across the North West have announced that they will stop paying top-ups. Alternative Futures Group intend to stop paying the top-ups in January, and Lifeways have announced that they will stop the payments with immediate effect. The two providers together employ some 2,500 staff. Some care workers do up to three sleep-in shifts a week and stand to lose over £100 a week.
Claire is a care worker in the North West. She said:
“I will be affected massively as I do two sleeps a week. I’m a mum with two kids and just one wage, and I’m set to lose £240 a month from the 1st of January. That will be a kick in the teeth straight after Christmas.
“We work hard at night. It’s called ‘carer’s ear’ - the slightest little noise wakes us up as we care about the service users. You might be getting up to provide personal care or to roll someone over six or seven times a night. You can’t go anywhere and you are working on your own. We work fifteen hours and then do a sleep-in - the next day we are exhausted. There’s a lot of responsibility involved and it’s underpaid as it is.”
Tracey works for Alternative Futures in Burnley. She said:
“This will have a very big impact on me financially. It’s life-changing. Just when we were getting back to having decent pay with minimum wage rises, this happens. Managing our finances is a rollercoaster, especially with Christmas coming up.”
Tim Ellis, Regional Organiser for UNISON North West said:
“This is a mean-spirited attack on the incomes of low-wage workers who are performing valuable work. Alternative Futures and Lifeways are acting hastily and opportunistically. They are still getting the same level of funding from councils so their raid on workers’ incomes is wholly unnecessary.
“Staff feel very strongly that this attack on them is unfair. Alternative Futures and Lifeways should listen to their staff and restore the sleep-in top-up payments immediately. Councils who commission services from these two providers should be insisting that they do not make these brutal cuts to the incomes of public service workers who are already on poverty pay.”
A petition entitled ‘Care at Night, Pay Us Right!’ has been set up calling on the Chief Executive of Alternative Futures to continue to pay top-up payments. Please sign and share.