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Lamb promises crackdown on care firms paying illegal wages

Unions have joined care minister Norman Lamb in demanding that illegally low wages in the homecare sector are “stamped out”.

During a Westminster Hall debate yesterday, Lamb said: “It appears that 220,000 people in the care sector are being paid below the minimum wage. That situation is completely unacceptable.”

He told MPs that he had asked HMRC to dedicate attention to the care sector to “root out” employers breaking minimum wage laws, and said: “Unison is right to campaign on pay; I support it in doing so, and I am very happy to work alongside it.”

He also said it was “completely unacceptable and a disgrace” that low-income care workers are not paid for travel time between the stops in their working day. He said: “It is a criminal offence, and this is not an optional matter. There is no doubt in the law. Employers have to pay for travel time between appointments at people’s homes.”

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “A crackdown on the scandal of homecare staff being paid illegal wages is long overdue.”

His union is giving evidence to the Low Pay Commission today and wants HMRC and the government to bring forward measures “to ensure that this abuse can be stamped out immediately”.

He said: “Councils and homecare providers must be held to account and should named and shamed if they are found to be paying illegal wages to homecare staff.”

During yesterday’s debate, Helen Jones, Labour MP for Warrington North, said: “HMRC found that nearly half of the firms it inspected in the care sector were not paying the minimum wage. Very few of those firms have even been named and shamed. How many of them have actually been prosecuted? As the minister said, they are criminals. In what other sector of life would we say to a criminal, ‘We know you are doing it, and we would like you to stop. We are not actually taking you to court, and we are not prosecuting you. We know you are a burglar, but will you just give it up?’

“We do that with the minimum wage, which is an absolute disgrace. The government must take responsibility. Yes, some local councils must take responsibility, too. It is true that local councils do not always monitor the contracts that they give out, do not ensure that people are paid properly and do not check workers’ wages, but that is not surprising given the situation in which they find themselves.”

(Photo: Steve Parsons / PA Wire)

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