Like some­thing from a Dick­ens novel ... in 21st cen­tury Scot­land

It’s is of­ten said that em­ploy­ment is boom­ing, that there are plenty jobs for ev­ery­one. But what kind of jobs are ac­tu­ally out there? Fol­low­ing a ma­jor in­ves­ti­ga­tion, we can re­vealed what it’s like to be in work in Scot­land to­day ... and the re­sults are s

The Herald on Sunday - - NEWS FOCUS - Spe­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion By Neil Mackay

THOU­SANDS of Scot­tish work­ers are be­ing paid by the minute in pen­nies, The Herald on Sun­day can re­veal.

The de­tails have emerged as part of a wider in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the gig econ­omy, and pre­car­i­ous and in­se­cure em­ploy­ment in Scot­land.

Other find­ings in­clude:

At least 10 per cent of the to­tal Scot­tish work­force – some 259,000 – are deemed to be in in­se­cure em­ploy­ment.

Con­cerns that some so­cial en­ter­prises – firms meant to pro­vide so­cial good and of­ten in re­ceipt of sup­port from the tax­payer – are en­gaged in ques­tion­able em­ploy­ment prac­tices.

The rise of “bogus self-em­ploy­ment” where firms bring staff on­board, in­clud­ing wait­resses and baris­tas, un­der self-em­ployed terms – thereby not pay­ing tax, na­tional in­surance, hol­i­day pay, sick pay, or pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions – but treat them on the same terms as if they were staff

Ev­i­dence of cash-in-hand pay­ments used rou­tinely in the gig econ­omy, rais­ing ques­tions about losses to the Ex­che­quer.

Trade union ac­tivists have de­scribed some of the worst ex­am­ples of pre­car­i­ous em­ploy­ment as “Dick­en­sian”, “Vic­to­rian” and a throw­back to the re­la­tion­ship be­tween f ac­tory own­ers and work­ers in the 19th cen­tury. They also called on the Scot­tish Govern­ment to tackle the prob­lem with ac­tion, not words.

The “paid by the minute” scan­dal cen­tres on the care in­dus­try where coun­cils out­source care at home to pri­vate or char­i­ta­ble com­pa­nies. Care staff are elec­tron­i­cally mon­i­tored – clock­ing in and out of a client’s home – us­ing tech­nol­ogy such as mo­bile phones or iPads.

As an ex­am­ple, if a carer has five jobs in an hour each last­ing six min­utes then they will be paid by the minute for a to­tal of 30 min­utes. If the worker is on the Scot­tish liv­ing wage – £8.75 an hour – this would see them earn ap­prox­i­mately £4.38 for an hour’s work, or just un­der 15 pence per minute. Many are not paid for the time in be­tween jobs, or for travel to and from jobs.

Scot­tish Care, which rep­re­sents pri­vate care providers, es­ti­mates that the prac­tice of “pay­ing by the minute” oc­curs in half of Scot­land’s 32 coun­cil ar­eas. An es­ti­mated 15 per cent – or 8550 peo­ple – of the pri­vate care work­force, which stands at 57,000, are on zero-hours con­tracts, where most of the “paid by the minute” work is found. How­ever, the num­bers on ZHCs rises to 20-25 per cent in the sec­tor of “older peo­ple’s care”.

Care providers and car­ers are also pe­nalised if work­ers stay over the al­lot­ted time per visit, in the event of a client be­ing ill or dis­tressed.

Scot­tish Care said: “Over the last few years, Scot­tish Care has con­tin­u­ally ar­gued for im­prove­ments to con­di­tions which make em­ploy­ment in the care sec­tor pre­car­i­ous for too many in­di­vid­u­als. One of th­ese is the call to of­fer prop­erly-funded con­tracts to providers to en­able them to re­duce de­pen­dency on zero-hour con­tracts ... While ad­mit­tedly some staff de­sire the flex­i­bil­ity that such con­tracts pro­vide them with, from our re­search the vast ma­jor­ity of providers wish to move to a sit­u­a­tion where ad­e­quate fund­ing makes full- time con­tracts for the care work­force a pos­si­bil­ity.

“The main rea­son for the ex­is­tence of zero-hours con­tracts is the dis­crim­i­na­tory prac­tice around the way in which care is bought from char­i­ta­ble and pri­vate providers by the pub­lic au­thor­i­ties. A lo­cal author­ity only pays for the work which is done rather than what may be in­tended. This makes it im­pos­si­ble to guar­an­tee hours for many, es­pe­cially smaller care providers.

“Scot­tish Care be­lieves that we need to rad­i­cally change the way we com­mis­sion and buy care ser­vices ... At the mo­ment many, es­pe­cially smaller or­gan­i­sa­tions, are ef­fec­tively paid by the minute and

How can we ex­pect hu­man rights-based care in Scot­land when we have cre­ated a sys­tem which de­nies the ba­sic rights to the care worker and their em­ployer?

there­fore by ex­ten­sion un­less the provider has its own re­serves and as­sets the worker is paid by the minute. This is no way to de­liver care in the 21st cen­tury.

“We are faced with a sce­nario where work­ers are pres­surised to get tasks done in as quick a time as pos­si­ble and are pe­nalised if they are late for their next client. For the per­son re­ceiv­ing the care this makes the whole ex­pe­ri­ence less than dig­ni­fied de­spite the best ef­forts of in­di­vid­ual care work­ers ... This is es­pe­cially un­ac­cept­able when we are talk­ing about sup­port­ing peo­ple with pal­lia­tive and end-of-life care.”

Dr Don­ald Ma­caskill, chief ex­ec­u­tive

of Scot­tish Care, said: “There is some­thing very wrong about a lo­cal author­ity treat­ing its own staff fairly and well and yet treat­ing the staff of ser­vices they buy in, whether they are em­ployed by a charity or pri­vate care provider, in a man­ner which is lit­tle less than ex­ploita­tive. Work­ers are made to clock in and clock out and their or­gan­i­sa­tions are only be­ing paid by the minute, and even then if a worker is late or stays longer be­cause some­one needs more help or is ill they are be­ing pe­nalised.

“Th­ese elec­tronic call- mon­i­tor­ing sys­tems are treat­ing care staff as if they can­not be trusted. They do not give dig­nity or value to a crit­i­cal work­force. If we ever want to cre­ate a fair sys­tem of work we need a fair sys­tem for com­mis­sion­ing care.

“We have a mas­sive chal­lenge to at­tract peo­ple to do the fun­da­men­tally im­por­tant job of care. Peo­ple are be­ing put off be­cause of un­fair con­di­tions im­posed by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties upon care or­gan­i­sa­tions. How can we ex­pect hu­man rights-based care in Scot­land when we have cre­ated a sys­tem which de­nies the ba­sic rights to the care worker and their em­ployer?”

Jim McCourt, one of Scot­land’s most prom­i­nent trade union­ists who runs the In­ver­clyde Ad­vice and Em­ploy­ment Rights Cen­tre in Greenock, brought the is­sue of care work­ers be­ing paid by the minute to the at­ten­tion of The Herald on Sun­day.

“It’s the ul­ti­mate in the gig econ­omy,” says McCourt. He blamed the is­sue on care providers bid­ding against each other for coun­cil con­tracts and cre­at­ing “a race to the bot­tom” in the mar­ket. “They bid with prices they can’t meet and it is their work­ers who suf­fer,” he said.

“Th­ese pri­vate care com­pa­nies are funded by the pub­lic purse as they are con­tracted by coun­cils – so our tax pounds are prop­ping up this sys­tem,” said McCourt, adding: “This is about look­ing af­ter the most vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple in so­ci­ety. We are look­ing at a value set here – if peo­ple think there is money to be made in this way out of car­ing for the sick and el­derly then there is some­thing very wrong, es­pe­cially if the pub­lic purse is be­ing used.”

One of Scot­land’s most se­nior care of­fi­cials, who wished to speak anony­mously, de­scribed the prac­tice as “hyp­o­crit­i­cal and ob­scene”.

“To im­pose penal­ties be­cause a care worker has stayed longer than was thought nec­es­sary with a client who is dis­tressed or un­well is the very an­tithe­sis of what the care pro­fes­sion is about. We don’t treat nurses like. This is the worst type of pre­car­i­ous em­ploy­ment. The cur­rent sys­tem needs to end.”

A spokesper­son for Cosla, the Scot­tish coun­cil um­brella or­gan­i­sa­tion, said: “Coun­cils work closely with the providers in their area to de­liver and com­mis­sion so­cial care ser­vices. In­di­vid­ual em­ploy­ers are re­spon­si­ble for their own prac­tices but Cosla is try­ing to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment in which so­cial care can be seen as an in­creas­ingly at­trac­tive ca­reer.

“This re­quires so­cial care work­ers to be re­warded fairly and val­ued by their em­ploy­ers as well as by the rest of so­ci­ety.”

A spokesper­son for the Care In­spec­torate, which reg­u­lates care in Scot­land, said: “The Care In­spec­torate works closely with care providers to en­sure that care in Scot­land is as good as it can be. We ex­pect ev­ery­one who re­lies on care at home to ex­pe­ri­ence good-qual­ity care which meets their needs and re­spects their rights and choices. Where care needs to im­prove we can, and do, use a wide range of pow­ers to en­sure this hap­pens.

“We also ex­pect all care providers to ad­here to all rel­e­vant pro­fes­sional guid­ance and stan­dards. Any­one with a con­cern about a care ser­vice can con­tact us, anony­mously if nec­es­sary, on 0345 600 9527.”

Con­cern: Dr Don­ald Ma­caskill, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Scot­tish Care

The prac­tice of pay­ing care work­ers by the minute is at­tract­ing grow­ing con­cern among cam­paign­ers in the sec­tor

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