Unison voices fears over zero hour contracts in social care
Unions have voiced fears over the number of people working in social care being forced on to zero hour contracts in the county.
They have urged Kent County Council to safeguard staff working for private companies after the authority revealed it places no conditions on contractors who do so and currently carries out no checks.
The council also revealed 885 of its own employees were on such contracts but most were relief staff who had the same employment terms and conditions as permanent staff.
Social care workers are often on zero hour contracts
The 885 County Hall staff include 151 care workers; 112 support workers and 73 team leaders in social services, as well as a further 35 residential support workers.
And 18 school crossing patrollers also work under zero hours contracts.
Unison says as the council prepares to privatise even more of its services to save money, contracts should incorporate clauses about zero hour contracts to prevent companies cutting corners.
Unison branch secretary for Kent David Lloyd said standards could be compromised as contractors sought to minimise costs."
Kent County Council does need to come up with a policy.
KCC employs some crossing patrollers on zero hour contracts
When companies take over the provision of services, particularly in the care sector,
they are increasingly moving more staff over to zero hour contracts.
But we are hearing of people who sign up to work for more than one company, leaving companies often short of people to cover shifts and not meeting statutory requirements."
He added care providers were supposed to ensure they had enough permanent round-the-clock staff and the council should ensure contracts made that clear.
"If you have staff who may not have worked for some weeks, you have no idea if their risk assessment profile has changed.
And how do you effectively train staff, who might need instruction on how to lift or
Opposition Labour group leader Cllr Gordon Cowan echoed: "I am aghast the council has 800-plus staff on zero contracts.
"I am aghast the council has 800-plus staff on zero contracts. We should be making sure that when we outsource work, companies cannot just run services how they want" - Cllr Gordon Cowan
"We should be making sure that when we outsource work, companies cannot just run services how they want.
"We have to make sure the terms and conditions are the same as if they were working directly for the county council."
In a statement, Kent County Council said: "When we commission care providers, we have a mutual duty of care towards their clients.
"We do not have a specific policy on zero-hours contracts but we are currently looking into how we can improve quality monitoring, including how we may be able to influence the employment terms and conditions of providers."
In response to a Freedom of Information request, Kent County Council said: "The council does not keep records regarding whether any of our contractors use zero hour contracts and this is not part of our current standard contract terms."
The government has been reviewing the issue of zero hour contracts and is due to make recommendations in September to curb exploitation.
What are zero hour contracts?
Contracts that allow employers to take on staff with no guarantee of work. Employees work only when they are needed and paid only for those hours. Sick pay is often not included.
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