Ninety-six year old Joe Rodrigues has been receiving home support service of one hour per week for many years.

He describes the service he receives from Geneva as “excellent”.

However since the introduction of pay equity he has noticed a change in carers’ work patterns.

“Since the substantial increase in pay rates I learn support persons are now working longer hours – 8 am to 8 pm with one hour break between 3 and 4pm.

“There is a requirement to check in and check out on each arrival and departure.

“If late getting to the next assignment pay is docked accordingly.

“I am wondering how long this regime can continue without causing ill effects,” he questions.

His concerns echo those of home support worker Tamara Baddeley, who earlier voiced to INsite her concerns about the impact pay equity will have on working hours.

“I’ve been told by one of my employers that just because you’re on this new pay rate, don’t expect that you’ll have the same number of hours.”

She says there is talk of clients’ care plans being reassessed and care times being cut. Baddeley says it has already happened to a workmate of hers and she fears for the quality of care.

Baddeley is very concerned that home and community support services (HCSS) in New Zealand will start to copy practices that have started happening in some parts of England, in which full care packages are delivered in just 15 minutes.

However, Home and Community Health Association chief executive Julie Haggie says she thinks it more likely that the impacts on work and client interaction stem from guaranteed hours and training time, rather than pay equity.

“Changes have been made around travel time and guaranteed hours which do require more monitoring of the length of time a support worker is at any place and how long it takes them to get from one place to the next.”

Haggie says since these changes there is more pressure on providers to show funders that they are monitoring employees’ hours.

“There have been previous cases across the sector where employees have not provided the allocated service time or have used service time to travel. Funders are also wanting to see more accurate monitoring to be sure that service is occurring and is being provided for the time that is allocated.”

A case brought to the Health & Disability Commissioner in 2014 involving Geneva is an example of why providers are being more vigilant. In the case, the Deputy Commissioner found that there was a period of one month where no support worker provided services to a client, due to the worker’s concerns over hygiene risks. The report found that “Geneva did not have an effective system for monitoring the attendance of its employees, and therefore failed to detect that [the client] had not been receiving contracted services for that period”. The outcome of this case could be a contributing factor to why Geneva’s employee monitoring systems are now more robust.

The Sapere independent review of the implementation of guaranteed hours is expected to be released shortly. It may shine some light on whether this is a contributing factor to caregivers’ working patterns and how these effect their care and interaction with their clients.

Haggie says if employees want to query their employment conditions, then they can take it up with their employer, see their union or seek independent legal advice.

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