The Fair Work Convention has called on the Scottish government to create a new sector body that establishes minimum standards for social care work after it found that care workers in the country face “unfair” conditions.
Following an 18-month study, the convention has published a report that calls for urgent interventions by policy makers, commissioners and leaders in the social care sector to improve the quality of work and employment for the 200,000 strong workforce in Scotland.
The study found that some social care employees do not have secure employment and are expected to work “excessive hours” in order to take home a fair wage.
The burden of variations in demand for social care is falling heavily on front line staff, who can face zero hour, sessional contracts, working beyond contracted hours and working unpaid overtime to meet the needs of care service users, the report continued.
In addition, given the predominance of women workers in the sector, the report also highlights that failure to address issues such as voice deficit and low pay will significantly contribute to women’s poorer quality of work and Scotland’s gender pay gap.
The 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.
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.”
Dr Donald Macaskill, CEO of Scottish Care, a member of the Fair Work Convention, said: “The research on fair work undertaken by Strathclyde University and the Commission’s own work highlight that the major issue for fair work in social care is the way in which we as a country continue to purchase and commission care. The model we have currently is profoundly disempowering for the worker and profoundly negative for terms and conditions.
“We are not critical of the concept of supporting the worker’s voice but to do so within a system that still purchases care by the minute, that treats people in a very transactional way in relation to commissioning, that prioritises getting more for less and which continues to devalue social care work, means that this voice in reality is a voice in silence.
“We are not going to sufficiently advance fair work if we don’t change the system. To achieve fairness in the workplace, we need fairness in social care contracts.”