Social care employment unfair for workers, study finds

Social care workers in Scotland face unfair conditions, “excessive” shifts and insecure work, an inquiry has found.

An independent study into social care highlights the lack of fairness for workers in the sector and calls on the Scottish Government to create a new watchdog to establish minimum standards.

Frontline staff are bearing the brunt of demand for social care but are often on zero-hour contacts or “working beyond contracted hours and working unpaid overtime,” the report says.

The 18-month study was led by the chief executive of Alzheimer Scotland Henry Simmons and Lilian Macer from Unison, who have urged the Scottish Government to intervene.

It recommends the creation of a body to develop a ‘fair work’ contract for social care employees and underpin commissioning of social care services, as well as future bargaining in the sector.

Co-chair of the Fair Work Convention, Professor Patricia Findlay of Strathclyde University, said: “Enhancing fair work for social care workers is crucial to ensuring that some of our most vulnerable citizens receive a high quality of care.

“It is concerning to see that this is not currently being realised, mainly due to issues caused by existing funding and commissioning systems, and the lack of effective voice for workers.

“The findings highlight the urgent need for policy makers, commissioners and leaders in the social care sector to work together to set minimum fair work standards for the social care workforce, and provide the opportunity for ongoing dialogue and agreement on workforce matters.”

Commenting on the report, Scottish Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Monica Lennon said: “This is an important report that goes to the heart of how we deliver a better health and social care system, one that values our care workforce and has enough of the right staff to deliver the care people need.

First Minister’s Questions
Scottish Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary Monica Lennon (right) at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Scottish Labour would establish a national care workers’ guarantee to ensure staff are paid for travel costs and travel time and that proper training is given to everyone before they enter the workplace, as well as a commitment to the living wage and secure contracts.

“The SNP has underfunded its commitment to ensuring care workers are paid a living wage, so ministers urgently need to move beyond policy by headline and actually deliver what our social care system needs.”

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