Welsh Government Proposes Stop to Zero-Hour Contracts
The Welsh government has unveiled plans that will help curb zero-hour contracts for care workers.
The proposed plan will primarily affect those working in home care and respite care, and will allow workers on zero-hour contracts to move onto a minimum-hours contract, if they so wish, after a period of three months.
Prominence of zero-hour contracts
The decision to cut down on zero-hour contracts comes after figures revealed that over half of carers in Wales are signed onto them over other types of contracts.
While no exact percent has been given, researchers put the number at between 56% and 80%
“While some staff prefer zero-hours contracts, valuing the flexibility they can offer, for many the uncertainty and insecurity they pose can have a hugely detrimental impact on their lives,” said Social Services Minister Rebecca Evans.
“Crucially the plans we are putting out to consultation today will ensure employees have a choice. After three months of employment, they will be able to choose whether to move onto another zero-hours contract, or take up alternative contractual arrangements.”
The government’s proposal also aims to eliminate ‘call clipping’, which is a term used to refer to when care time is cut short due to travelling between visits.
Changes to the system would force care providers to distinguish between travel time and care time when arranging home care services and attending to various other needs.
It comes at a time when research has found that 39% of home care visits are less than 30 minutes.
Mrs Evans said that these changes are necessary to ensure that “…peoples care and support time is not eroded by travel time between visits.”
Criticism of plans
While many believe the proposed plan will have a positive impact on the care sector, others believe it will not address the issue at heart.
Chairman of Care Forum Wales, Mario Kreft, said the changes would “do nothing” to address the “serious issues” that the sector faces.
He said that the majority of care workers work for private companies rather than local councils, meaning it would be more difficult to enforce a change in contracts due to the companies not being associated with the government.
Mr Kreft also claimed that there were larger problems facing the sector than zero-hour contracts:
“The chronic problems afflicting the domiciliary care sector run far deeper than the issue of zero hours contracts,” he said.
“Domiciliary care in Wales is mired in crisis and these proposals will do nothing to address the serious issues which are resulting in companies either closing down or relinquishing contracts because they are just not viable.”
Closer look at care in Wales
Wales is home to 336 care providers that employ a total of 18,000 workers across the country.
43,000 people currently use some of care service, of which 75% is to the elderly.
Figures from the Manchester Metropolitan University also found that last year care workers in Wales worked a combined total of 13.1 million hours.
The government’s plan for these workers will continue to be debated until the 7th August, by which then a decision to implement the proposal or not will be made.