What is different and more progressive about Scotland – albeit a place that, yes, is far from perfect! – may be denied by some (e.g. Scottish Labour?); has a tendency to be under-played, deliberately by some; or may be under-appreciated by too many. I suspect this situation is able to persist because of the selective nature of media coverage.
The media profile given to a UK Supreme Court judgment today triggered this contribution.
Supreme Court blow for care workers
There is news today of a UK Supreme Court judgement stating in terms, that residential care workers who ‘sleep in’ at their place of work are NOT entitled to the national minimum wage for time that is not spent actually performing some specific activity. Supreme Court justice Lady Arden dismissed carers’ claim for £8.91-an-hour when they are sleeping, but on call, during the night.
Care companies and Care England appear to be relieved at the ruling as they were fearful off the financial impact of a back-dated pay settlement if the judgement had been the opposite.
Mencap, the respondent in the Supreme Court case, had been paying a former employee, the appellant, £29.05 per night for sleeping between 10pm and 7am while keeping a “listening ear” for any problems. Mencap appears to accept these are “out of date and unfair” rules that need changing in the future, regardless of today’s judgment.
This is the end of a landmark five-year legal battle by carers who sleep during an overnight shift – and have to wake up if needed. However, the issue of pay for social care staff who ‘sleep in’ was first addressed by the Scottish Government years ago. (The care sector in Scotland and Local Authorities through COSLA also in recent years have been looking at how better to design the sleep-in process.)
Moreover, there has also been progress to address the issue of low pay in the care sector, with the introduction of the ‘real living wage’. Here is a brief history of being ‘progressively different’.
In Scotland – December 2016
From Unison: “The Scottish Government has identified £100 million to enable the increased rate of £8.45 per hour to be paid, from at least the 1st of May 2017, to care workers supporting adults in care homes and care at home / housing support settings ….
“Sleepovers: In addition the Government and COSLA statement says: “… as minimum sleepovers are compliant as per HMRC guidelines. As stated before, this is for a transitional period with the ambition being that all hours be paid at the rate of the Living Wage… We will continue to support partnerships and providers in reforming sleepovers and looking to sustainable models of care based on improving outcomes for individuals. As part of the resource for Living Wage £10m was identified for sleepovers.”
In Scotland – October 2017
“Social care staff working ‘sleepover’ hours are to receive a pay increase, Health Secretary Shona Robison has announced. Care workers will now be paid the real Living Wage of £8.45 for sleepover hours, meaning the Living Wage will now be received for all hours worked. Care workers have received the Living Wage for non-sleepover hours since 1st October 2016.
Ms. Robison said: “The Scottish Government has worked closely with health and social care partnerships, care providers, trade unions, individuals using services and other stakeholders and will continue this engagement as partners begin to redesign sleepover provision.”
In Scotland – September 2018
From Unison: “UNISON members working for Quarriers, Capability Scotland, and The Mungo Foundation will now receive £8.75 per hour when working sleepovers. Submitted as part of UNISON’s pay claim to each organisation, UNISON has successfully negotiated the Scottish Living Wage rate for each hour worked by our members, flying in the face of the recent Mencap judgement proclaiming that these hours shouldn’t count as normal working hours.”
In Scotland – April 2020
“UNISON Scotland welcomes today’s (Sunday) announcement by Jeane Freeman, Scottish Secretary for Health that the Scottish government has agreed a pay increase with local authorities for adult social care workers – with effect from the beginning of April – so they all receive the minimum living wage of £9.30 per hour and that it will cover all hours worked, including sleep-overs and personal assistance, with an agreement also in place on funding for sick pay in cases where workers are ill or self-isolating.”
So yes ‘progress’ in Scotland’s care sector but still some distance to travel.
Living wage in Scotland
Living Wage Scotland was established in 2014 with the aim of increasing the number of employers in Scotland who are recognised for paying their staff the real Living Wage. Hosted by The Poverty Alliance, Living Wage Scotland works in partnership with the Living Wage Foundation and is funded by the Scottish Government.
Living Wage Scotland notes on its website: “The real Living Wage has made a positive impact, as the most recent labour market data from the office of national statistics shows that Scotland has the highest proportion of workers earning at least the real Living Wage (>85%) compared to other UK nations.
“Scotland has the highest share of accredited Living Wage employers, with 27% of all accredited employers in the UK based in Scotland. “ Of course the Scottish Government is a Real Living Wage employer, one of c. 1,928 accredited Living Wage employers in Scotland.”
Fair Work in Scotland
In December 2020, the Scottish Government wrote to public bodies setting out “the clear expectation that public sector partners must lead the way by embedding Fair Work in our organisations and through supply chains, including through procurement, by applying the five Fair Work First criteria in public procurement processes from April 2021.”
It explained that: “Fair Work First asks businesses bidding for a public contract to commit to progressing towards adopting the five criteria which are:
- appropriate channels for effective voice, such as trade union recognition;
- investment in workforce development;
- no inappropriate use of zero hours contracts;
- action to tackle the gender pay gap and create a more diverse and inclusive workplace; and
- providing fair pay for workers (for example, payment of the real Living Wage).
There is a deficit of ‘positive’ and ‘progressively different’ news stories about Scotland in the corporate media and the BBC – even though these do exist in abundance! ’Talking up Scotland’ has been exposing and countering this deficit day after day, month after month. It’s hard to resist this conclusion: this is not a matter of chance, there are ‘reasons’ for sustaining this deficit!