Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Ending zero-hours contracts in the care sector

Column in the Llanelli Herald on 14th June 2017

Care services are a vital source of relief and respite to many, and support thousands of people to continue living independently in their own home. But the services are under immense strain - not least because the workers employed within them are pressured into trying to do too much for too little, and aren’t being given the respect and stability they deserve.  

Anyone who has an elderly relative, or knows someone who relies on these services, knows that these terrible working conditions can often impact on the quality of care given. Rushed visits as care workers are pressured to fit too many visits in one day, with not enough time allowed for travel between the visits; and high turnovers of staff, which can be disorienting (particularly for older people), and which can impact on continuity of care that complex conditions so require.

This week, the Welsh Labour Government has committed to act. Ministers have launched a public consultation on a raft of policies that will help address many of these issues. These measures include requiring care providers to put in place realistic rotas that make allowances for the travel time required to journey between visits and that take things like heavy rush hour traffic into account.

The Welsh Government also want to address the abuse of zero-hours contracts. Under the measures proposed, care workers who have been continuously employed for three months will be offered the choice of moving to a minimum hours contract. Crucially, this will be a choice - protecting the right to a zero-hours contracts for those staff that prefer the flexibility such agreements can offer, whilst also offering greater security and certainty to those that want it.

Hopefully, these ideas will alleviate some of the stress faced by care workers, and will help protect the time they can spend with the people who need their help and attention. More than this, it’ll offer care workers greater respect for the vital support they provide.

The consultation on these measures is open until August 7th, and I’d encourage anyone who has views on how we can improve these services to get in touch. More details are available on the Welsh Government website.

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