Adult social care is among the lowest paying sectors in the UK. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of care workers in England - over 600,000 people - are paid below the current real Living Wage of £10.85 an London and £9.50 across the rest of the country. Average pay of those working in the independent adult care sector in England was just £8.50 an hour in March 2020.
Associate Professor of Business Ethics Dr Andrea Werner interviewed care providers, social workers and local authority representatives about the opportunities and challenges of implementing the Living Wage in adult social care. Through her conversations she found that paying the Living Wage can be a viable strategy in the sector, particularly where the care organisation positions itself as a quality provider and employer, linking the Living Wage with staff and subsequent quality of care.
“Because we pay better, we attract better candidates, who in turn become better employees who stay with us for longer,” one care provider told Andrea. “We’ve got something like twice the length of service compared to our competitors… That means that we can have lower overheads, and focus on really investing in our existing team”.
“I think it does say something that we pay at least the Living Wage to all employees and so it’s something that we would lean on when we’re promoting our services," said another.
The calculation of the real Living Wage, which is guaranteed by more than UK 8000 employers including Middlesex University, is undertaken each November by the Living Wage Commission, an independent body drawn from leading Living Wage Employers, trade unions, civil society and academics. The methodology is based on the ‘Minimum Income Standard’, determined by what members of the public think is needed for an acceptable standard of living in the UK.
Andrea’s report recommends providers to contemplate gradual implementation of the Living Wage where they cannot adopt it immediately, and to re-invest cost savings from improved retention rates in the workforce; for local authorities to consider LW implementation in adult social care as part of a wider local economic development strategy, making funds available that enable meaningful implementation of the LW; and for policymakers to ensure equivalence of pay and conditions for NHS healthcare assistants and social care workers.
The Living Wage Foundation’s toolkit draws evidence from the research, outlines the Living Wage accreditation process and arguments for the Living Wage and shares best practice from care providers and local authorities.
“The pandemic shone a light on the essential work done by those who care for us and our loved ones” said Interim Director of the Living Wage Foundation Graham Griffiths. “Care workers need a real Living Wage. These are people who have put their own lives at risk to look after our parents, grandparents, siblings, and friends through Covid-19. It cannot be right that care workers are rewarded with pay that all too often fails to meet their everyday needs.
“This Social Care Toolkit will give adult social care providers and local authorities commissioning care the tools they need to do what’s right for care workers and provide a real Living Wage. We look forward to working with them on their journey to join the Living Wage movement.”
Andrea said: "It’s been a real privilege and delight to work on this report, and I am hugely impressed by those employers and local authorities who lead by implementing the Living Wage, especially as adult social care is such a challenging context.
"I hope that both my report and the toolkit will make a meaningful contribution to our ongoing conversation on how to ‘fix’ social care in our country and will encourage employers and local authorities to sign up to the Living Wage".