Care workers have spoken out against “routine and habitual incorrect payment” by care provider Lifeways Group.
Lifeways Group- which is commissioned by North West councils including Lancashire County Council, Bolton Council, Manchester City Council, Wirral Council and Liverpool City Council to deliver care- is the UK’s largest supported living care provider.
But Lifeways have come under fire from UNISON- who say that Lifeways’ care workers regularly report being underpaid to the union. As a result, UNISON conducted a payday survey of care workers employed by Lifeways in the North West of England.
Shockingly, a massive 72% of respondents reported that they had been paid incorrectly by Lifeways Group in last 6 months, with 26% paid incorrectly every month.
The survey also revealed the significant impacts that underpayment has on care workers in the North West. Unsurprisingly, 71% of those paid incorrectly said it had a negative impact on their health, whilst 41% said it had impacted upon their relationship with their partner/children.
Most obviously, the financial impact of Lifeways Group’s inexplicable underpayment is significant. 44% of those paid incorrectly have fallen behind on household bills whilst 57% have been forced to ask family and/or friends for financial help.
One care worker employed by Lifeways Group said: “I have worked for Lifeways for more than five years. I absolutely love my job and the people I am working with, but I'm absolutely fed up having to chase Lifeways nearly every month for my correct wages. Pay day is so stressful and I dread having to look at my payslip.
“I have caring responsibilities and every month the underpayment has an impact on me. I barely afford to pay the bills because I am owed outstanding wages and for the past few months, I have had to borrow money from my family.
“I really don't think Lifeways understand what impact incorrect wages has on its staff. I want to be paid the wages I am owed on time every month- it’s not too much to ask. I don't want to be constantly filling in wage query forms and putting pressure on my manager to chase my wages. It's totally unacceptable.”
Another Lifeways Group care worker said: “I have worked for Lifeways for over ten years. I now dread each pay day as I fear that I will have been underpaid because this happens most months.
“The anxiety this causes me is horrendous. It has sometimes taken six or seven months to finally get what is owed to me. I only work twenty hours which is paid at the national minimum wage- my wage should be easy for Lifeways to pay correctly.
“I only expect to be paid for the hours I have worked, no more and no less. The company often ignore wage query forms and it takes numerous calls to managers to get what I am rightfully owed. At one point I was almost £500 out of pocket.
“I feel that Lifeways have no respect for their employees and do not care about the impact that wage underpayment has on people’s lives. It feels as though they are hanging on to local authority money instead of passing it on to their workforce by paying correct wages.
“I have sadly decided to leave the care industry for this reason, as I can no longer manage the anxiety and upset it causes me. I have worked in care for 34 years and I am dedicated to providing excellent care to the people I support. This is a very sad state of affairs and it is unbelievable that a huge company such as Lifeways can continue to treat its workforce this way.”
UNISON North West regional organiser Dan Smith said: “Care workers have put themselves at risk during the pandemic to care for our loved ones. The very least they deserve is to be paid accurately and on time.
“It's an insult that staff are being underpaid every month - some by hundreds of pounds - and are forced to borrow from friends and family or to visit food banks to make ends meet.
“Lifeways need to take action now to ensure staff are paid properly and on time. Local councils that commission Lifeways should also intervene to ensure that our social care workers are treated with the respect they deserve.
“Care workers employed directly by local councils or the NHS do not suffer the indignity of having to plead with their employers to be paid correctly every month. This is yet more evidence of the failings of the private social care sector and the desperate need for social care services to be delivered by the public sector.”