3 Mar 2015

Home care workers win right to minimum wage

7:33 pm on 3 March 2015

The union representing home care workers says it is lifting the veil of exploitation which exists in the disability sector.

A landmark decision by the Employment Court today paves the way for tens of thousands of home care relief workers to receive the minimum wage, and holidays.

The case related to those employed as support carers: people who provide short breaks for those caring for a family member who is ill or disabled. That work is currently unpaid.

It has been estimated there were 35,000 such carers supporting more than 23,000 clients.

Kapiti woman Janet Lowe, who has worked as a support carer for more than five years, took the case to court arguing the $3 an hour subsidy she received was insufficient, and she was entitled to receive the minimum wage of $14.25.

But her employers, Capital and Coast District Health Board and the Ministry of Health, said Ms Lowe did not fall under the legal definition of homeworker and they had no legal obligations to her.

The court disagreed, saying Ms Lowe provided a service which the Ministry and DHBs were required to provide.

Janet Lowe said she was not concerned about the fact that she was unlikely to benefit financially from the decision.

Ms Lowe said the attitude of people in these organisations was very bad and that she no longer worked in the sector.

The Service and Food Workers Union's John Ryall said they took the case on behalf of Ms Lowe.

"She goes into people's homes to relieve their primary family care-giver, to give them a break from looking after a relative who was disabled or ill.

"Quite a difficult job, but an important one, to make sure people are looked after," Mr Ryall said.

The Employment Court agreed with the Service and Food Workers Union that carers should receive the minimum wage of $14.25 an hour.

The Council of Trade Unions lawyer, Jeff Sissons, says today's decision is in line with two others - the IHC sleepover ruling and the equal pay ruling.

Mr Ryall said it was due back in court in two months' time

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