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Domiciliary Care Workers’ Rights: Everything You Need To Know

George Griffiths

15 May 2021

Domiciliary Care Workers’ Rights: Everything You Need To Know

George Griffiths

15 May 2021

Domiciliary care workers’ rights have been at the forefront of the social care media recently - with lots of controversy over sleep-in pay.

We thought it would be a great time to recap the fundamental domiciliary care worker rights every home care professional is entitled to, so you know what to expect from your employer or care agency.

Let's work through the most frequently asked questions about pay rates, travel expenses and rest breaks, so you're well equipped with all the knowledge you need!

Can home care staff take rest breaks?

Absolutely, there are laws throughout the UK regarding working hours and rest breaks, and domiciliary care workers’ rights are identical.

In short, there are three typical types of rest break:

  • Work rest breaks - entitlement to 20 minutes of rest for every shift over six hours. That might be a quick tea break or taken as your lunch and can be unpaid
  • Daily rest breaks - all workers have the right to 11 hours off between working days. If you're working long domiciliary care shifts, you need to have that time between the end of the day before and your start time the following day
  • Weekly rest breaks - everybody should get at least 24 hours a week with no work requirements and 48 hours of time off per fortnight

It can be tricky to take rest breaks when looking after a client one-to-one. However, it remains essential to ensure your average working hours still uphold your domiciliary care worker rights.

What are domiciliary care workers’ rights to fair wages?

Home care work can be emotionally and physically challenging, and it’s vital to help millions of people worldwide live the best possible quality of life!

There is no doubt that work deserves an excellent pay rate and must comply with the National Minimum Wage.

Here are the minimum hourly rates from April 2021:

Age GroupHourly Minimum
23 and above£8.91

Never think that because you work for a small care agency, you're entitled to less than those rates; it's unlawful to pay anything beneath those minimums.

Am I entitled to travel expenses?

Travel is an inevitable part of being a professional domiciliary carer - zipping between appointments, to and from client residences, helping people with days out, and then, of course, your journey to and from work each day!

Domiciliary care workers’ rights dictate that you ARE entitled to travel expenses, even if you're on a zero-hours contract.

Journeys to and from work aren't paid, but travel that you must undertake to fulfil your job should be. Therefore, the minimum hourly rate applies to:

  • The time you spend caring for your clients
  • Travelling to and from appointments
  • Waiting for your appointment time

It's common to be on the move, so make sure you log those travel hours!

Can home care staff work on a zero-hours contract?

Yes, a zero-hours contract, in effect, means that you get all the protections afforded to you through domiciliary care worker rights but aren't guaranteed a minimum or fixed number of hours per week.

However, you are still entitled to all of the other employment benefits:

  • Minimum hourly pay
  • Statutory annual leave
  • Pay for being on-call or work-related travel

Given the enormous demand for social care staff, it's unlikely you won't still find yourself busy on a zero-hours contract, but make sure you know your rights.

domiciliary care workers' rights

Are domiciliary workers allowed to join a care union?

No matter your line of work - all staff in the UK have the legal right to join a trade union.

It's a personal choice, but some domiciliary workers are happy to pay the membership fee to access benefits and services such as support with their contracts or any workplace problems.

Do all home care agencies offer staff contracts?

You should always be given a contract, even if you are new to domiciliary work or on a probation period.

Employment contracts might be long-winded, but they're also there to protect your rights and ensure you have clarity about what's expected, what isn't, and what responsibilities are involved in your work.

Some care agencies don't issue a contract immediately. However, they need to provide this within two months of your start date.

Contracts include details such as the terms and conditions of your employment, pay rates, holiday allowances, and expected working hours.

Should my domiciliary care agency provide my uniform?

Not necessarily - some care agencies provide full uniforms, and others will ask you to supply your own, which is perfectly fine.

If the latter, they'll often let you know:

  • The colours and style of their uniform
  • Details of local suppliers
  • Variations allowed on uniforms - such as extra layers during the winter

Even if you're supplying your own uniform, you will need a photographic ID card.

That's essential so your clients know you are from the agency, have been through the appropriate employment checks, and are meant to be there.

One tip is that you can claim tax relief for the costs of cleaning your uniform!

If you pay for laundry costs and need to cover those yourself (i.e. your agency doesn't provide free cleaning), you can claim some of the costs back through a tax return.

Why are domiciliary care workers’ rights important?

Knowing your rights is sensible.

It means you can double-check you're being paid fairly, getting time off when you need it, and working for a respected care agency that provides proper employee support.

Working in people's homes often means that the structure is devolved. This means you might not see your colleagues or managers every day, depending on how your shifts work and whether you have a central hub to report to.

Therefore, it's always vital to know what you are entitled to, so if you have any problems, you can raise them with confidence that you're on the ball when it comes to your domiciliary care worker rights.

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