Care Workers – Maximise your Income

Would it surprise you to learn there are 1.6 million carers in the UK? Care workers are a growing army as we all get older and require care in our own home or in residential facilities. The other thing which is true about the care sector is that it is often poorly paid. If you’re considering a job in care, here are some top tips to help you maximise your income.

Care Workers and Legislation

The booming care sector is strictly regulated. There are no laws about what sorts of qualifications people need, so it’s a good choice of career for people who lack formal education qualifications. Minimum wage applies as it does in other professions. At present, the minimum wage is £8.21 for people over 25 and £7.70 for people aged 21 to 24. All carers should be paid at least this amount.

There have been two recent court cases which can affect your earnings as care workers. Firstly, the rules say that you should be paid for travelling time between clients. For example, someone who is employed to care for people within their own homes should be paid at least minimum wage for both the time they are with clients, and their time driving to the next visit. Secondly, a new ruling affects “sleepover” care. This is more common in care homes or supported living, where the carer sleeps on site in an “on call” situation in case they are needed. Carers are also paid minimum wage for this type of care.

If your employer isn’t up to speed with the legislation and is refusing to pay you properly, get advice from a trades union or ACAS. They can help you get the right wages for your hours.

DBS Checks

All care workers need an enhanced DBS certificate. Some care agencies will ask workers to pay for their own DBS application. They can only do this if the cost doesn’t take you below minimum wage. If you have signed up for the DBS Update service, this is transferrable between settings. Having an online DBS Update account could help you find work much more quickly. If you can start work straight away, you are a more attractive candidate than someone who has to wait for a new certificate to be produced.

Bank Work and Care Workers

Bank work is more associated with nurses, but might be relevant for care workers too. The Bank is like a temp agency for carers. If you are registered, you could be called upon at short notice to fill in for sickness or absence in a nearby care home. Usually, you’ll get a better hourly rate as the work is unpredictable.

The downside to bank work is that it can be unreliable. You can never guarantee how much work you’ll be offered. There is also the disadvantage of going into lots of different places, not knowing the staff, the systems and the residents. On the other hand, bank work gives you lots of experience if you are considering a promotion in the future. It also gives the chance to network and get to know lots of other people doing the same job as you.

Training and Progression

Any training you can get as a care worker can help you secure another, more lucrative job. Some care workers or healthcare assistants choose to study towards BTEC or NVQ qualifications. Those are useful to have, but thinking more laterally can also be useful. For example, someone with specialist training in dementia will be increasingly in demand as the population ages. Food hygiene training, British Sign language courses, first aid or social work training can all be useful. There is lots of funding available for training for those on a low income. Look online for details of what is available in your local area. Online courses are an option for people who don’t have a college nearby.

Within the care sector, there are always opportunities to step up to a supervisory position or into an office role once you have experience. The care sector is getting bigger all the time. As new homes open, and more people require looking after for longer, new vacancies are emerging all the time. Gone are the days when being a care worker was a dead end job with no opportunities.