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National consultation results highlights exploitation of home care workers

A new set of proposed employment guidelines for the home care sector was launched today (Monday 30th November) following a nationwide consultation with home care workers. The consultation process revealed that exploitation, poor working conditions and discrimination are widespread in the sector. Home care workers working for private agencies or employed directly by families are increasingly vulnerable to precarious working conditions including low pay, temporary contracts and irregular hours. 

The guidelines comprise a comprehensive package of proposed measures to tackle exploitation and build a care sector that is sustainable and delivers quality care alongside decent jobs.

Read full Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), The Carers Association and SIPTU launch Employment Guidelines for Home Care Workers – The Workers’ Perspective report here

 Key consultation findings:

·         A lack of recognition and value for care work.

·       Standard and quality of home care provided impacted by insufficient time with clients.

·       No enforceable standards for non-HSE home care sector workers – different pay rates, training, standards of care, duties, and terms and conditions of employment depending on the service provider.

·         Insufficient training provided to perform all aspects of the work.

·         Tight schedules with multiple locations: often workers have to cut short allocated time with clients to reach their next client on time.

·         Unfair clocking-in systems:  time spent in transit not recognised, workers can be left with low wages despite working long hours.

·         Increased amount of paperwork, but no additional time allocated for client care.

·         Discrimination/racism in the workplace is not appropriately addressed.

·         Workers advocating for clients reported a fear of losing paid hours and/or clients losing hours of care if they make a complaint.

·         No clear job description or delineation of roles for many private/not-for-profit workers.

·         Occupational health and safety issues

·         Workers feeling excluded from on patient care plan and reviews. 

Paul Bell SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser said, ‘SIPTU represents 10,000 Home Care workers providing essential services to vulnerable citizens and the wider community. We welcome Employment Guidelines for the Home Care Sector: The Workers’ Perspective call for stronger regulation, investment in training and genuine recognition of the contribution Home Care workers make. We support the recommendation to establish a Joint Labour Committee (JLC) for the Home Care sector and see the national public service provider as a good benchmark to build upon our members terms and conditions and begin the drive to provide parity across the sector. We look forward to campaigning with the Migrants Rights Centre of Ireland and the Carers Association to protect Home Care workers from any attempted race to the bottom and creating a solid floor of terms and conditions enabling all Home Care workers to earn a living wage and live a decent life.” 

Grainne O’Toole of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) said, The consultation process showed a burgeoning care sector with little regulation and few standards. The conditions for all workers range from exploitation to discrimination and racism. The level of exploitation of migrant workers in the care sector is alarming – particularly for undocumented migrants, who are increasingly being used as cheap labour to meet the escalating cost of care within the home. There is an urgent need for a work permit for the care sector to stamp out the exploitative use of migrants as a disposable labour force, and to allow people to be cared for in their own homes. The home care sector as a whole needs immediate attention by the government to ensure quality care and decent jobs go hand in hand. ‘

Dr Mary Murphy of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission said, I commend the participative approach used in the consultation across multiple groups including family carers, migrant workers, the trade union movement and employer bodies.  The consultations held with home care workers highlighted the many serious issues arising from the lack of regulation in the home care market over the last decade.  Overall the research highlights the need for approaches that speaks to human rights and equality of treatment. The recent introduction of a Public Sector Duty for all public sector bodies to have regard to equality and human rights in the way they work and operate will impact on future work of public bodies in this area.

David Lowbridge of The Carers Association, said ‘we are committed to improving the rights of family carers. This research clearly sets out the issues facing Home Care Workers and presents future solutions. The quality and standards of home care is very important to families as it is to home care workers.

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