The standard practice across the domiciliary care sector is to pay carers on the basis of “Zero-Hours” contracts. There has been a lot of publicity about these types of employment contracts in recent years, most of it negative. However when fairly applied, they can be very suitable for some people.
So what is it all about?
Under a Zero-Hours contract the employer has no obligation to give the employee any work at all. Sounds horrible doesn’t it. But a fair zero-hours contract would be reciprocal, so that the employee would also not be obliged to be available to work for a minimum number of hours either. This would then be very suitable to some types of employees such as students who want more work in holidays and parents of school aged children who want to work less in school holidays. Unfortunately some zero-hours contracts (the ones that have attracted the bad publicity) make the employee be available for work at all times, but don’t give any security of the guarantee of work – completely unfair.
The other typical practice in domiciliary care is to pay staff based on ‘client contact time’. This has come about largely because local authorities generally only pay the care companies that they use on the basis of client contact time. Companies that do this have to be careful that they do not breach the minimum wage laws which states that travel time between client visits counts as working time for the purposes of calculating whether or not the employee has been paid more or less than the minimum wage. Even if your company does pay you separately for travel time between clients, you should also consider how much time you spend in gaps between visits as this time does not count as working time.
Some companies are getting over all these problems by moving away from Zero-Hours contracts and offering carers guaranteed salaries for ‘shifts’ i.e. a block of hours. When you look at this type of employment contract and compare it to a zero-hours contract you should compare the total amount of time that you spend away from home and the total earnings from each contract, the ‘hourly rates’ won’t give you the full picture!