11 Nov 2016

Caregivers' hours guaranteed under new deal

1:51 pm on 11 November 2016

Nearly 24,000 home support workers will have guaranteed hours and pay following an agreement between unions and the government.

an elderly woman's hands

Support workers say their working hours could disappear overnight if clients decided to go on holiday, had a fall or passed away. Photo: 123 RF

The Home and Community Support Settlement Act, which came into force last year, requires workers to be paid for travel between care.

The Ministry of Health, providers and unions have reached an additional agreement protecting people's jobs and providing them additional training.

Each caregiver will be guaranteed hours according to what they usually work. If a client cancels, the caregiver will be found work elsewhere.

E tū national co-ordinator for home support Sam Jones said under the current law, support workers could lose their working hours, and consequently their income, within 24 hours.

Christchurch community support worker Jenny Goodman.

Jenny Goodman Photo: PSA

"It's a huge step for them because they love the work, there's so many who are struggling to stay just because there's no job security," he said.

Jenny Goodman, the support worker and Public Service Association member who led the original court case, said she was overjoyed.

"This commitment to secure hours, a permanent workforce and better training recognises the importance of the job we do - and makes sure clients will get the support they deserve."

Another home support worker and E tū delegate, Rosalind Snowdon, said she and her colleagues could see their working hours disappear overnight if clients decided to go on holiday, had a fall or passed away.

"I say to people, we're actually as vulnerable as our clients. They're at risk of all sorts of things even though they're supported in their homes and they have back up. But we don't. We are very vulnerable," she said.

The agreement comes into effect in April and covers mostly women, whose average age is 56.