Social worker forced to borrow money from family after ‘unacceptable’ pay error

A social worker in Merseyside says he had to borrow money from his family after being poorly paid by his employer, while another said the problem of underpayment had forced him to leave the sector .

Caregivers working for Lifeways Group, which operates care homes in Liverpool and Wirral, have raised concerns about underpayment, with Unison suggesting it’s a problem for many workers.

In a Unison survey of social workers in the Northwest, 72% of those polled said they had received the wrong amount in the past six months.

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26% said they were paid poorly every month, according to the union.

But Lifeways said it does not recognize those numbers and takes its obligations to staff when it comes to their pay very seriously.

A social worker employed by Lifeways Group, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “I have worked for Lifeways for over five years. I love my job and the people I work with, but I’m really sick of having to run after Lifeways almost every month for my decent salary.

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“Payday is so stressful and I dread having to look at my payslip.

“I have family responsibilities and every month, the less paid has an impact on me. I can barely afford the bills because I owe unpaid wages and for the past few months I have had to borrow money from my family.

They also talked about the hassle created by sorting out the problem.

The caregiver added: “I really don’t think Lifeways understands what the impact [paying] incorrect wages has on its staff.

“I want to be paid the salary I owe on time each month, it’s not too much to ask.

“I don’t want to constantly fill out salary claim forms and pressure my manager to claim my salary. It is totally unacceptable.

The mental health impact of pay issues was highlighted by a healthcare colleague, who also wished to remain anonymous.

They said: “I have worked for Lifeways for over 10 years. I dread every payday now because I fear I was underpaid because it happens most months.

“The anxiety this causes me is horrible. Sometimes it took six or seven months to finally get what I was owed. I only work 20 hours which is paid at the national minimum wage, my wages should be easy to pay for Lifeways.

“I only expect to be paid for the hours I have worked, no more and no less. The company often ignores salary application forms and it takes many calls to managers to get what is rightfully mine. At one point, I had almost £ 500 in my pocket.

Pay problems led the caregiver to make the decision to quit her job.

They added, “I think Lifeways has no respect for its employees and doesn’t care about the impact that underpayment of wages has on people’s lives.

“Unfortunately, I have decided to leave the healthcare industry for this reason, as I can no longer handle the anxiety and the upheaval it causes me.

“I have been in the care industry for 34 years and I am dedicated to providing excellent care to the people I support.

“It is a very sad situation and it is incredible that a large company like Lifeways can continue to treat its workforce in this way.”

Unison’s investigation suggested that these concerns were not isolated.

44% of poorly paid people fell behind on household bills, while 57% were forced to seek financial help from family and / or friends.

Looking at the stress this causes, the survey also found that 71% of those wrongly paid said it had a negative impact on their health and 41% said it had an impact on their relationship with their partner. or their children.

Dan Smith, regional organizer for Unison North West, said: “Social workers have put themselves at risk during the pandemic to care for our loved ones. The least they deserve is to be paid accurately and on time.

“It’s an insult that staff are underpaid every month – some by hundreds of pounds – and have to borrow from friends and family or visit food banks to make ends meet.

“Lifeways needs to take action now to ensure staff are paid correctly and on time. Local councils that commission Lifeways should also step in to ensure our social workers are treated with the respect they deserve.

“Social workers employed directly by local councils or the NHS do not suffer the indignity of having to advocate with their employers to be properly paid each month.

“This is yet further evidence of the failings of the private welfare sector and the desperate need for welfare services provided by the public sector. “

A spokesperson for Lifeways said: “The numbers Unison cites do not relate to the information we have from our payroll help desk regarding payroll issues, and we are disappointed that Unison did not. did not share his concerns with us before approaching the media.

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“We take our obligations to our colleagues with regard to their compensation very seriously.

“We work very hard to make sure that all of our colleagues are paid correctly and on time, and we actively encourage our employees to contact us if they have any issues.

“All of our colleagues have direct access to the payroll helpdesk and a manager who has the power to resolve any issues without delay.

“We are always looking to improve the way we work and will continue to do so. “

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