• 22 June 2021
  • 6 min read

What Is The NHS Minimum Wage And Which Social Care Workers Are Paid It?

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder
    • Mat Martin
    • Aubrey Hollebon
    • Laura Bosworth
  • 0
  • 1380
"Care Workers who sleep some of their hours do not have to be paid minimum wage. 63% of Care Workers who do home visits aren’t paid for travel time."

Care Workers are paid less than some of their NHS equivalents and sometimes earn less than the National Minimum Wage. Find out what the UK minimum wage is, and what Care Workers in the UK get paid.

Topics Covered In This Article

What Is The National Minimum Wage?

What Is The Minimum Wage In The NHS?

Which Social Care Workers Are Paid The National Minimum Wage?

Care Workers Sometimes Earn Less Than Minimum Wage

What Is The ‘Real Living Wage’?

What Is The Average Salary For A UK Care Worker?

What Does The Future Hold For Pay In The Care Sector?

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Care Worker pay is a subject that’s frequently discussed, but perhaps not always fully understood. In the media, it’s often pointed out that many care workers earn the National Minimum Wage.

News stories over the last few years have also referred to the fact that in some cases, care workers have earned less than the National Minimum Wage.

And the entire debate has intensified because of COVID-19, and the vital role frontline Care Workers have played.

What Is The National Minimum Wage?

The current National Minimum Wage is £8.91 per hour for anyone aged 23 or over.

The government have named this the National Living Wage.

It’s £8.36 an hour for someone aged between 21 and 22, £6.56 between 18 and 20, £4.62 under 18 and £4.30 for apprentices.

What Is The Minimum Wage In The NHS?

The minimum wage in the NHS is £18,005 a year, which translates to £9.89 an hour.

This is an entry level Band 1 salary, which might be paid to a Domestic Support Worker operating through the NHS. (You can find NHS Pay Calculations here.)

So, by comparison:

● NHS Lowest Wage Band 1 = £9.89

● National Minimum Wage = £8.91

Most care workers now work within the private sector (78% of the 1.52 million social care workers are in the private sector).

This is largely because the majority of residential care homes and community care providers are run by private companies.

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Which Social Care Workers Are Paid The National Minimum Wage?

The National Minimum Wage applies for Carers or Care Workers working in care homes or elsewhere in the community, like in people’s homes.

These roles may also be referred to as Support Workers or Care Assistants in different contexts.

Elsewhere in the care sector, roles that require more formal qualifications like Social Workers start well above minimum wage, and senior positions like Care Managers also come with much higher pay.

Care Workers Sometimes Earn Less Than Minimum Wage

In some cases, Care Workers may actually earn less than the National Minimum Wage.

Sleep-In Pay

There are, for example, issues like sleep-in pay. Currently, Care Workers who work night shifts and sleep some of their hours while waiting to respond do not have to be paid at the minimum wage rate.

Travel Time Pay

Another issue is pay for travel time. Carers who do home visits often aren’t paid for the time they spend travelling between those visits. A survey by Unison found that 63% of care workers who do home visits aren’t paid for travel time.

As a result of factors like these, Care Workers can end up earning less than the minimum wage.

Many organisations are contesting these problems to ensure Care Workers have a stronger financial safety net in the future.

What Is The ‘Real Living Wage’?

The Real Living Wage is a different rate set by the Living Wage Foundation.

It is currently £9.50 an hour.

The Living Wage Foundation have deemed the government’s rates to be inadequate for many years, and have been vital in pushing the government to increase the National Minimum Wage.

The government’s decision to change the name of its minimum wage rate to over 23s to the ‘National Living Wage’ was inspired directly by the Living Wage Foundation.

It was revealed in 2020 that around 75% of UK Care Workers earn less than the Real Living Wage.

What Is The Average Salary For A UK Care Worker?

In 2020 it was revealed that the average salary earned by Care Workers was £8.50 an hour.

This was actually below the minimum wage rate then for over 25s, but above the £8.20 minimum rate for people aged 21-24.

Regardless, it’s well below the current National Minimum Wage of £8.91 per hour, and even further below the Real Living Wage of £9.50 per hour.

And this is precisely why so many Care Workers, trade unions and industry insiders are pushing for higher pay benchmarks in the care sector.

What Does The Future Hold For Pay In The Care Sector?

The National Minimum Wage will continue to creep up each year, and the Living Wage Foundation will continue to push for higher minimum rates.

But neither will fully solve the issue of stagnantly low care sector pay anytime soon. Ideally, the care sector needs its own rates and its own benchmarks.

Many MPs and lobbyists are campaigning for this, but it’s also acknowledged that industry rates are extremely difficult to apply across the board.

Unlike in the NHS, Care Workers are often employed by private sector companies who make their own decisions about rates of pay.

Setting an agreed-upon rate for these institutions to adhere to is incredibly difficult.

The care providers themselves are unanimous about where the problem lies: government funding.

In their eyes, government funding must increase if they have any hope of offering a better basic rate of pay.

This issue isn’t going away.

The efforts of Care Workers have captured the imagination of the public throughout the pandemic, and the public is heavily in favour of better pay in the care sector.

Furthermore, the care sector has an enormous problem around recruitment.

Better pay is widely recognised as the best hope of improving it.

Related Articles

You might also be interested in these articles:

What Do Support Workers Get Paid In The UK In 2021? 

How Much Care Assistants Get Paid In The UK In 2021 

The UK Nursing Salary and Pay Scale Guide - 2021

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Do you think there should be parity between NHS and Social Care Sector Pay?

Should Care Workers Be Paid For Sleep Hours and Travel?

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About the author

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder

I studied English before moving into publishing in the mid 90s. I co-founded Nurses.co.uk and our other three sites in 2008. I wanted to provide a platform that gives a voice to those working in health and social care. I'm fascinated, generally, by the career choices we all make. But I'm especially interested in the stories told by those who choose to spend their life supporting others. They are mostly positive and life-affirming stories, despite the considerable challenges and burdens faced.

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  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder

About the author

  • Matt Farrah
    Co-Founder

I studied English before moving into publishing in the mid 90s. I co-founded Nurses.co.uk and our other three sites in 2008. I wanted to provide a platform that gives a voice to those working in health and social care. I'm fascinated, generally, by the career choices we all make. But I'm especially interested in the stories told by those who choose to spend their life supporting others. They are mostly positive and life-affirming stories, despite the considerable challenges and burdens faced.

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