Last week the European Court of Justice ruled that companies must include time spent travelling to and from first and last appointments as working time, where previously this time had not been considered as work. This now means that many employers of care workers, sales representative and tradespeople – amongst others – could potentially be in breach of European regulation if they fail to take this change into account. Experts claim that workers in Britain could now potentially claim for travel time under the National Minimum Wage Act.

While Prestige Nursing + Care recognise that care workers deserve a wage that reflects the valuable work they do and should not be forced into driving excessive lengths for no extra income, a major point has yet to be addressed. Who will cover the additional cost that will result from this ruling?

It is surely inevitable that the cost of care will have to rise to accommodate this additional expense. While home care currently provides a cheaper alternative to residential care, this latest layer of regulation is bound to drive costs up, limiting the financial incentive and savings that can be made. Councils have seen their social care budgets slashed so are in no position to accommodate this cost, while care providers are increasingly under financial strain and would also be hard pushed to meet the cost. Failure to find the money to meet this additional expense will ultimately result in a drop in standards of care provided or cutting staff numbers.

The care sector have already been left reeling after the announcement of a rise to the minimum wage put their purse-strings and financial security under pressure and this latest news will only accentuate the problem. These factors, combined with a population ageing at a rapid rate, indicate this is not a problem that will go away – or be resolved – overnight.

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It is, of course, crucial that there is legislation and safeguards in place to avoid any exploitation of workers but critically there are few answers to solve this problem. The cost of care is already a substantial sum so charging patients more will be an unpopular move, and it is unlikely that the government will provide any new funding to cover the increase in price. It is a worrisome matter and before sweeping changes are made, consideration needs to be given as to how costs will be met to ensure quality care in maintained and workers’ rights upheld.