IDR | 07 May 2020

Leading pay expert calls for better pay for care workers

The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the critical role of care workers and made plain that this overwhelmingly female workforce deserves far better pay and conditions, with over 100,000 current job vacancies illustrating a chronic lack of recognition. But how does an already struggling sector, with 400 bankruptcies in the last five years, now facing a massive increase in demand and costs, fund and deliver a significant pay uplift?

Pay expert Dr Duncan Brown proposes two potential solutions:

1.     Move care workers onto the NHS Agenda for Change pay system.

2.     Or build the type of reward infrastructure that has been established for social workers to raise the status of care staff and improve their pay and conditions.

Dr Brown writes: ‘the average hourly pay for care workers is below the basic rate paid in most UK supermarkets. Staff are also lost to similar, better remunerated roles in the NHS. In order to meet the [rising] statutory requirement for starting pay, hard-pressed social care providers have held down their overall paybills in other ways.’

The key problem, he argues, alongside rising demand and the structure of the sector, is funding: ‘the pandemic has been preceded by a vicious pincer movement in social care of growing demand from an ageing population and chronic underfunding…The Government says that councils’ access to additional dedicated funding for adult social care increased to £3.6bn in 2018 and £3.9bn in 2019/20. But it was over £5bn in 2010.’

He proposes two alternatives. ‘First, we could move the social care workforce onto the NHS Agenda for Change (AfC) pay structure…The NHS job evaluation system, which determines which pay band jobs are placed in, should be perfectly able to accommodate social care jobs without any modification necessary. It already, for example, covers all health, social care and government service staff in the States of Jersey, where pay is fully integrated across the public sector…Once on the pay structure, then the integration and funding of improved benefits for care workers up to NHS levels could also be considered and possibly phased in over future years, so as to ease the funding costs.’

His second proposal is to learn from the approach adopted for social workers, in both local government and the NHS, aimed at developing social work as a valuable and recognised single profession. Dr Brown proposes a national training, career and pay framework for care staff, overseen by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). He writes: ‘The professionalisation of care roles could be tied to the regular CQC inspections, with the identification of stronger inspection ratings and weightings allocated to training and good workforce practice, as a lead indicator of better care provision.’  

For the full article, go to:

Notes for Editors: Dr Duncan Brown is an independent reward adviser and researcher and a Visiting Professor at the University of Greenwich. He was until recently Head of Consulting at the Institute for Employment Studies, and before that, in a long career, worked for the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development and a number of leading private consultancies. He is available for interview on 0750 804 7636. His email address is Examples of his recent work can be found here:

And here: