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Less than minimum wage for some care workers

Posted on 05/10/2011

The number of social care workers being paid less than the minimum wage is five times higher than previously believed, according to research from King’s College London.

A study by Dr Shereen Hussein, Senior Research Fellow at the Social Care Workforce Research Unit (SCWRU), found that nine per cent of the care workforce in England is earning less than the statutory minimum wage, which is now £6.08 per hour for adults over the age of 21.

The research, to be published in the Social Care Workforce Periodical, states that the UK-wide number of those being paid under the minimum wage is between 150,000 and 200,000. These estimates reinforce findings by the Low Pay Commission which revealed similar statistics earlier this year, but suggest that the number of workers affected is greater.

Dr Hussein’s assessment is five times higher than figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), which estimates that only 27,000 workers in the social care sector over the age of 16 earn less than the minimum wage.

Dr Hussein analysed the National Minimum Dataset for Social Care (NMDS-SC) and her study accounted for both the ONS and Low Pay Commission’s previous estimates. The NMDS-SC covers around half a million employees of 30,000 employers across England.

The final study will also investigate which staff across the sector are more likely to be paid under the minimum wage.

Dr Hussein said: ‘If we assume what is happening in England is indicative of the situation across the UK as a whole, the numbers rise to around 150,000 to 200,000 care workers being paid less than the legal minimum.’

Dr Hussein adds that even those who are paid above the minimum wage receive very little above it, a trend especially prevalent within the private sector that provides nearly three quarters of services.

With local authority budget cuts and staff increasingly being asked to work longer hours, Dr Hussein says the situation has reached a critical point.

‘There are huge risks involved if this issue is not tackled. Staff are likely to burn out as they become ever more worried about their jobs and low pay – and this may directly affect the quality of care they provide.

‘Given the continued growth of the care sector, the numbers of people affected by low pay is alarming.’

Dr Hussein’s analysis, which was featured on BBC Panorama this week, builds on previous studies of levels and differences in pay rates in the care sector, reported in Issues 5 and 6 of the Social Care Workforce Periodical.

Notes to editors:

For media enquiries please contact Anna Mitchell, Press Officer at King’s College London on 0207 848 3092 or at

The study is published in the Social Care Workforce Periodical (Issue 16).

For more information about King's see our 'King's in Brief' page.

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