Thousands of care workers could get payouts after landmark minimum wage case

Caroline Barlow took legal action against her ex-employer MiHomeCare for time spent travelling to and from appointments

Victoria Richards
Thursday 17 March 2016 15:05 GMT
Over 500 experts are sent on CQC inspections across adult social care, primary care and hospitals every month
Over 500 experts are sent on CQC inspections across adult social care, primary care and hospitals every month (Getty)

One of Britain’s biggest care agencies has paid out a settlement to a former employee after she sued them for refusing to reimburse her for travel time between home visits - paving the way for thousands of workers in the sector to make similar claims.

Caroline Barlow, 56, claimed she was effectively paid below the minimum wage per hour by MiHomecare because she was not compensated for attending an average of eight appointments per day at various locations in the South West of England in her own car.

Ms Barlow, a mother-of-two, said she in fact often worked 12-hour days for just seven hours’ pay because travel and overtime were not paid.

MiHomecare, which markets itself under the slogan “We care about care”, settled out of court in the employment tribunal.

But the case has raised the possibility that thousands of other care workers working for different agencies could make similar claims against their current or former employers.

The landmark case could pave the way for as many as 500,000 care workers to take action.

Leigh Day, the law firm which represented Ms Barlow, is now asking for people who feel they may have similar complaints to contact them to discuss the possibility of class action.

In Ms Barlow's case, it argued that lack of payment for travel time constituted an unlawful deduction of wages.

Jasmine Patel, the lawyer representing Ms Barlow in this case, said in a statement: “We are very pleased to have settled this case. Ms Barlow’s travel to and from appointments was a necessary part of her job and as such, she should have been paid for it.

“We believe there are potentially thousands more care workers who are being paid less than the National Minimum Wage.”

In February 2016, MiHomeCare agreed to pay Ms Barlow £1,250 in compensation.

The home care organisation, which cares for people who need help and support due to old age, illness, disability or infirmity, told the BBC that following a review in June last year they had ‘’revised all pay rates that required adjustment and amended care rosters to ensure that they complied with relevant legislation.’’

A spokesman told The Independent: “When this came up a year ago we said that if our carers pay was wrong we would correct it and this is exactly what we have done. We have corrected all the errors that we have found and have paid or are in the process of paying any money due to our carers. Therefore any suggestion that MiHomecare could face a class action in respect of unpaid travel time is nonsense.

"In June 2015, after our payroll compliance review, we revised all pay rates that required adjustment immediately and amended care rosters to ensure that we are complying with relevant legislation. We conduct regular ongoing payroll checks for all our care workers to ensure compliance and continue to work closely with HMRC to ensure the interpretation of minimum wage legislation is correct."

It is estimated that around 883,000 people receive domiciliary care in the UK.

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