Implementing a real Living Wage in Social Care  

Sara Johnson, Senior Programme Manager, Living Wage Foundation

Sara Johnson, Senior Programme Manager, Living Wage Foundation 

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role that key workers play in keeping our economy and society going. But it has also shone a light on the incredibly low pay many, including care workers, often receive.  In adult social care, almost three-quarters of care workers in England earn below the real Living Wage. We all need a wage that provides a decent standard of living and allows us to thrive, but thousands of care workers and their families are trapped in poverty. The same people who care for our loved ones are struggling to look after themselves.

The Living Wage provides a solution to this problem. It is the only wage rate independently calculated based on what it costs to live in the UK and London, currently £9.50 per hour in the UK, and £10.85 per hour in London. The Living Wage Foundation supports employers to accredit as Living Wage Employers. To date, the commitment of social care providers and local authorities commissioning care to the Living Wage accreditation has resulted in over 7,000 pay rises during the pandemic.

Paying a real Living Wage in social care isn’t just the right thing to do, there is a strong business case too. With the average staff turnover in social care in England as high as 38%, a shortage of care staff in the sector (over 112,000 vacancies) and the growing demand for care, as well as a lack of funding for publicly funded care, there are many workforces challenges the sector is currently facing.

However, increasing staff pay meets a number of these challenges, with high pay having a clear positive impact on improving retention rates for care providers in particular – three quarters of accredited businesses say the real Living Wage has increased motivation rates and retention rates in their organisation. There are also links between staff being paid a higher wage and better-quality care being provided. Providing good quality care could prevent people needing hospital care and save the NHS money as well. It’s also good for the wider economy: So far, the real Living Wage in adult social care has put over £36 million back into the pockets of care workers.

To become a Living Wage Employer care providers must ensure all directly employed staff over the age of 18 are paid the real Living Wage, and that they have a plan in place to pay all third-party contracted staff such as cleaning and security staff the real Living Wage at the first legal opportunity to.

Travel at work time as well as Sleep-in shifts should be paid at least the real Living Wage and there is guidance for local authorities commissioning care including implementing the real Living Wage in direct payments and spot and block contracts.

Employers wishing to implement the real Living Wage in social care, can think about how this works alongside their business model and how it can be delivered as part of a wider package for staff including pay differentials, training and other benefits.

Care workers have put themselves in harm’s way during the pandemic to keep some of the most vulnerable in society safe. It’s high time we all now worked to provide them with a real Living Wage that meets their everyday needs.

For care providers and local authorities commissioning care, and unsure of the process or benefits, the Living Wage Foundation has recently published a Living Wage in Social Care Toolkit to support them through the process of implementing the real Living Wage in Social Care.

If you’d like to know more about the work the Living Wage Foundation does visit www.livingwage.org.uk or do get in touch directly about the Living Wage Employer accreditation at accreditation@livingwage.org.uk  



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