Community organising group, Citizens UK, has today organised a series of demonstrations to call on five major care providers to adopt the real living wage.
Gatherings, including care workers and care recipients, are taking place outside the headquarters of Bupa and Barchester Healthcare in London, HC-One in Darlington, Four Seasons Health Care in Cheshire and Care UK in Colchester.
Annalibera, a care worker from London and Citizens UK leader, said: “I feel fulfilment and a sense of community from caring for those who need it, but low pay makes it really hard to get by.
“I’ve seen colleagues leave the industry because they simply cannot live off the low wages we receive, even though they love their jobs.
“This results in high staff turnover, which is a big problem for many care homes and means that those who receive care are constantly having to adapt to new people. It doesn’t offer them the stability they deserve.
“Things cannot continue like this. Major care providers must step up and lead the way in accrediting as real Living Wage Employers.”
Over 250 care providers have become accredited Living Wage Employers in the last two years. While welcoming this as a “step in the right direction”, Citizens UK said the rising cost of living has resulted in many care workers struggling with necessities such as heating and eating.
A spokesperson for HC-One said: “Our new £17m colleague pay and reward commitment is designed to help us to attract and retain the very best people to provide high quality, kind care, and means that the majority of our care colleagues earn above the real living wage.
“This significant investment is only the first step on our journey to be a pay leader, and an organisation where colleagues can grow and develop their careers in care, and therefore carer pay remains under review.
“However, as a provider serving the publicly funded part of the sector, carer pay will always be linked to the fees we receive from local authorities. We are continuing to work closely with our local authority partners to agree fee rates which support real living wage payment levels for more of our colleagues. This is despite the inflationary cost pressures we face on all parts of the business, not just carer pay.
“We want to work with our local and national government partners to develop the pay, skills, and career frameworks that carers deserve, and that will mean care services have the skilled workforce needed to deliver great care now, and in the future.
“As an immediate measure, we are continuing to engage with our local commissioners so that our frontline care services can benefit from the additional funding provided by the Health and Social Care Levy.”
A Barchester spokesperson said: “We take the wellbeing of our employees very seriously and offer the best remuneration package in the care sector.
“We already pay the UK Living Wage (UK LW) of £9.90 to the majority of staff and to all staff over 23.
“We have sector-leading staff benefits and rewards. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we paid three additional bonuses to our front-line staff in order to thank them for their tireless work in maintaining extremely high standards of care. As voted by our own employees, last year we were awarded a Two Star Outstanding ‘Best Companies to Work For’ accreditation (being the only large healthcare provider to have received such accreditation), in recognition of our standing as an employer of choice in the sector.
“As part of our ongoing commitment to continually invest in the quality of care for residents and patients by recruiting and retaining the very best staff, we are adding to our sector-leading staff benefits and rewards with an additional £8.1m being invested in our pay and bonus structure in 2022 meaning that all of our staff based in homes and hospitals will be paid at least 40p above the national living wage and will receive a special bonus in July 2022.”
A Bupa spokesperson added: “At Bupa we really value our hardworking care home teams, who give our residents high-quality care with kindness, dedication and dignity every day
“The social care sector as a whole has been under-funded for many years. We welcomed the government’s plans for social care reform last year, where the promise of increased investment for the sector is essential to achieve a fair cost of care. This will make aged care affordable for residents, sustainable for operators and ensure a fair wage for those working in homes
“Ahead of this, in February 2022, we implemented a pay increase above national living wage, to ensure that our care home teams are paid fairly and competitively for the important work that they do
“In addition, we have created a wide range of benefits to support our people, including flexible shift patterns, access to financial support funds and wellbeing services, and development and training opportunities for colleagues to progress their careers with Bupa.”
A Four Seasons spokesperson: “Four Seasons Health Care fully understands the financial pressures caused by the rising cost of living. We constantly keep our pay levels under review and are currently implementing a large number of site specific, off-cycle pay increases for frontline colleagues in addition to our annual pay award.
“We also have a recognition agreement with three national trade unions and regularly consult with them on a range of matters, including pay. We’ve previously announced that the business has entered a sale process. Until that process is complete, regretfully we are unable to make further commitments relating to salary.”
A Care UK spokesperson said: “We are very supportive of health and social care workers getting the recognition they deserve for their continued commitment and their professionalism in the face of the pandemic and we have put in place a number of initiatives to better support, reward, develop and recognise our teams. We will continue to invest heavily in our teams to ensure we remain an employer of choice for those who wish to work in the care sector.”