I have been seriously worried about the use of exploitative zero-hours contracts for domiciliary care workers who care for elderly and vulnerable people for sometime.
These contracts require workers to be available even when they are not needed, and also prevents them working for anyone else. This can leave people trapped with no actual work and no pay.
This week I was disappointed that an amendment I had tabled to the Social Services and Well-being Bill was rejected by the Welsh Government. It would have stopped local councils hiring care providers that use zero hour contracts for their staff.
Zero hours contracts promise flexibility but in practice they cause job insecurity, low pay and enable unscrupulous employers to avoid granting their staff the rights they are entitled to like maternity and paternity leave, sick pay, pensions and redundancy payments.
The variation of working hours from week to week can make it hard to budget and to plan ahead; a real challenge for parents who need to organise childcare. Any attempt to change their hours or complain about working conditions can be punished by employers who respond by stopping giving them work.
It is a situation that leads to low job satisfaction and high staff turnover, not what we want for those that look after some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
However, there is also some good news this week. The ‘Time to Care’ amendment to the Bill I put forward had the unanimous support of the Assembly.
So, when the Bill becomes law, councils will have to make sure that care workers have enough time to carry out all set tasks during a home visit.
How long does it take you to get ready in the morning? Research by Leonard Cheshire Disability Cymru has found that it takes people about 37 minutes to get up, wash and dress and have a cup of tea and some breakfast.
But care workers are being commissioned to spend as little as fifteen minutes in the homes of people who need help with these simple tasks.
Care workers feel rushed. They struggle to do everything they need to do, let alone spare some time for a friendly chat.
I hope that this amendment will change that. As local councils face increasing funding cuts, we must work to provide high quality care for those who need it.