The rising issue of keeping track of care worker hours and the pitfalls of underpaying
It was reported last year by the HMRC, that a number of cases of wage underpayment were investigated, resulting in some organisations being ordered to repay wage arrears. One that caught my eye was of the social care provider found to have not paid its staff for travelling time between appointments. The company in question was ordered by HMRC to repay over £600,000 in arrears of wages to almost 3,000 workers. From reading around the edges of the case, this seemed like less of an organisation set out with a malicious intent to underpay, and more a case of poor management and reporting. Could these issues have been avoided with the implementation of a simple Time and Attendance system?
Whilst the specifics of the case are not addressed in detail, we can work out a few factors that contribute to underpayment. It looks like the care provider had two major false assumptions:
As the BBC reports, some firms “did not pay staff when they travelled between clients”. Some care providers pay a fixed amount based on the average time to travel to an appointment — with others choosing not to even factor this into a worker’s pay packet at all. And if a care provider underestimates the average time spent with a client, workers can be underpaid for the hours they actually worked.
One of the problems organisations face is of a lack of information regarding their field based staff. Giving the business the visibility of exactly what was happening when — for example, what the average actual travel and visit times were — would have perhaps warned the care provider in question that there was a problem. A basic vehicle tracking system would give organisations some modicum of visibility. But there are time and attendance systems in the marketplace that go a step further. Users can use a smartphone app to simply tap a button and indicate they’ve started work (here at Insiris, we call this a Check In), stopped work or started travelling to an appointment. Back office software is then able to automatically generate timesheets that show working times, travelling times and so on. This sort of a system — which is fairly basic, and not that costly — could help social care providers know what the actual working times are of staff in the field, and most importantly, ensure workers are actually paid for the work they do.
Time and Attendance software is just part of the solution to ensuring that a care worker’s precious time is maximised — working with the people that need it most. This is where bringing in other mobile workforce software and technology can really make a difference. No care provider wants their workforce unnecessarily travelling long distances to see clients. Integrated mobile technology can help plan and optimise care worker appointments. Route optimisation software can pre-plan appointment routes for workers, making sure that travelling time is minimised. Dynamic scheduling software can take this to the next level, providing a highly efficient planning system that can react in real-time to information received from the field — including smartphones and vehicle tracking. If a worker is looking like they’re going to miss an appointment because they’re stuck in traffic, the system can re-plan and send a different worker, ensuring the client is still seen and no one gets overstretched or overworked.
As pressure is placed on care providers and budgets for social care are cut back, there is growing evidence that this is a more widespread issue than the single provider HMRC targeted last year. The Guardian Newspaper reported that an estimated 160,000 care workers are underpaid; equivalent to a ‘wage theft’ of around £130m per year. It’s clear that the HMRC’s National Minimum Wage Enforcement teams are stepping up their game; Business Minister Jenny Willott warns that “under the government’s new rules you will be named and shamed and face a stiff financial penalty”. We believe that mobile software can play a part in helping organisations stay compliant and make sure that mobile teams and workers are paid correctly.
Part 3 of our Data Driven Work Management series
Part 2 from our series of posts extracted from our “Data Driven Work Management” Whitepaper.