Following a nationwide consultation with those working in the sector, it was revealed that home care workers working for private agencies or employed directly by families are increasingly vulnerable to precarious working conditions including low pay, temporary contracts, and irregular hours.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI), the Carers Association, and Siptu have now come together to launch a set of proposed guidelines for the sector. The aim of the guidelines is to help “tackle exploitation and build a care sector that is sustainable and delivers quality care alongside decent jobs”.
The consultation process found a number of key trends within the sector including a lack of recognition and value for care work and that discrimination and racism within the workplace is not properly addressed.
It also found that there were no enforceable standards for non-HSE home care sector workers. This meant staff faced different pay rates, training, standards of care, duties, and terms and conditions of employment depending on the service provider.
The consultation found that the standard and quality of home care provided was impacted by insufficient time with clients, with an increased amount of paperwork, but no additional time allocated for client care.
Unfair clocking-in systems meant that time spent in transit is not recognised and workers can be left with low wages despite working long hours.
Tight schedules with multiple locations also meant that workers often have to cut short allocated time with clients to reach their next client on time.
Gráinne O’Toole of MRCI said that the consultation showed a burgeoning care sector with little regulation and few standards.
“The conditions for all workers range from exploitation to discrimination and racism,” she said. “The level of exploitation of migrant workers in the care sector is alarming — particularly for undocumented migrants, who are increasingly being used as cheap labour to meet the escalating cost of care within the home.”
“There is an urgent need for a work permit for the care sector to stamp out the exploitative use of migrants as a disposable labour force, and to allow people to be cared for in their own homes.
“The home care sector as a whole needs immediate attention by the government to ensure quality care and decent jobs go hand in hand.”
Dr Mary Murphy of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission said the consulation highlighted the many “serious” issues arising from the lack of regulation in the home care market over the last decade.