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New Bill, blocked by Rees-Mogg, would ‘ensure’ home care workers are paid for travel time, says Labour

Angela Rayner

The Labour Party has called on the government to consider a Bill that it says would end the “scandal” of home care workers being paid less than the minimum wage because they are not paid for travel time between visits.

A Bill to tackle the loophole had been scheduled for debate and vote in January this year, but the Labour Party claims Tory Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg cancelled time for private members’ Bills shortly beforehand.

In a letter sent to Rees-Mogg last week, Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State for the Future of Work Angela Rayner, said: “We are writing to you regarding the lack of Parliamentary time given to Paula Barker’s Private Members’ Bill. This Bill would end the scandal of home care workers earning less than the legal minimum wage because they are not paid for the time they are working when travelling between individual care visits.  

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“The Bill was scheduled for a debate and a vote in January of this year, before you cancelled time for Private Members’ Bills. It is deeply disappointing that it was the only backbench Private Members’ Bill to be effectively blocked from passage given six of the top eight Bills reached the statute book and another was withdrawn.”

Labour said the Bill, introduced by Paula Barker MP, would give local authorities the power to end contracts if private companies are not compliant with minimum wage law.

In September 2020, a group of home care workers working for contractors commissioned by Haringey Council were successful in a legal action which found that companies not paying staff for time spent travelling between care visits broke the law.

Each care worker received a settlement of around £10,000 in backdated pay that they had been denied.

Rayner continued: “Paula’s Bill offers a good model to solve this problem by giving local authorities the power to end contracts if private companies are not compliant with minimum wage law, and its passage would drive up pay, standards and pay transparency across the sector, and in view of the fact it fell because that sitting day was cancelled. We are calling on you to guarantee the time to debate and vote on this important Bill when the House returns.”

Commenting on the Labour Party’s call to make Parliamentary time available to consider the Bill, Unison general secretary Christina McAnea said: “It’s a national scandal that care workers continue to receive less than the minimum wage. Frontline workers are being exploited and ministers must make time to deal with this immediately.

“Ending the unscrupulous practices that blight the care sector cannot come soon enough. This includes not only action on low pay, but the use of zero-hours contracts and inadequate sick pay.

“Labour is right to highlight last year’s important legal victory for homecare workers, backed by UNISON, which found they should be paid for travel time between care visits.

“The government also needs to be ambitious about desperately needed reform of the sector. Not just remedying the shocking pay and conditions but creating a world-class national care service of which we can all be proud.”

Rayner has pledged that a Labour government would end this “national disgrace”, and demanded that Ministers now restore time for backbench Labour MP Paula Barker’s Bill when Parliament returns in September.

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Sarah Clarke

The author Sarah Clarke