The home-care provider sector could be hit with a big pay
claim after legal advice stating carers should be paid for
travel time between jobs.
The Human Rights Commission sought guidance from law firm
Russell McVeagh on paying carers for travel after the release
of its Caring Counts report into pay-equity issues.
The opinion, issued to the commission on September 21, said a
case would have a reasonable prospect of success.
The legal argument is the same as that used in the battle to
obtain the minimum wage for carers doing sleepover shifts, a
case cited in the advice.
Travelling between jobs was an essential part of the
ser-vice, and was time employees could not spend doing
anything else, the advice stated.
The Service and Food Workers Union has filed a test case with
the Employment Relations Authority, and has asked for the
authority to send the case to the Employment Court.
"We believe it is illegal for organisations employing home
support workers not to pay them at least the minimum wage for
the time they spend travelling between clients," union
national secretary John Ryall said.
The test case has been filed in the name of Wellington worker
"Tamara, and thousands of other home support workers, get
paid for the time they spend at a client's house, but not all
the time they spend driving from client to client," Mr Ryall
The workers were paid an allowance for mileage, but were not
paid for the time spent travelling.
This was a serious injustice for an already lowly paid job,
Human Rights Commission Equal Opportunity Commissioner Judy
McGregor has backed the union's claim.
Health Minister Tony Ryall yesterday said it was "a matter
between home-care employers and home-care employees. We are
aware different employers have different approaches, and we
will be watching how the case progresses".
John Ryall was also frustrated by slow progress in obtaining
back pay for workers for six years of sleepover payments,
more than a year since reaching agreement with the Government
to settle the long-running case.
Bureaucratic delays meant staff of only nine of more than 100
affected providers had been paid, he said.
Ministry of Health national services purchasing director Jill
Lane said the process was complex because it involved
reaching agreements between employees and employers.
By the end of the year, 40% of settlements would be complete.
Another 65 cases were either under consideration or would be
presented soon, she said.