Scotland politics

Care workers should be pay priority, say MSPs

Care worker at sink Image copyright Getty Images

MSPs have said care workers should receive more than the living wage minimum.

They said the measure should be a priority for the Scottish government to consider in moves to ensure gender equality in pay.

It was a key recommendation in a report from Holyrood's economy, jobs and fair work committee.

Employability minister Jamie Hepburn said the government would consider the report carefully.

The MSPs said raising the pay for care workers - most of whom are women - would reduce the gender pay gap and encourage more men to work in the sector.

Other recommendations they believe could reduce pay inequality include:

  • Developing an overarching strategy covering all areas of policy where positive steps could be made towards narrowing the pay gap
  • Scottish government to learn from the successes of the Modern Apprenticeship programme and develop a new, appropriately resourced programme for people returning to work
  • Scottish government, its agencies and the Scottish Parliament to ensure they are following best practice principles and that all roles are advertised as flexible, agile or part-time, unless there is a business reason not to do so

Committee convener Gordon Lindhurst said: "The committee is clear there is a gender pay issue for Scotland's workforce.

"Women across Scotland's economy are still concentrated in low-paid jobs and part-time work.

"The pay gap primarily affects women and isn't just attributable to women choosing to start a family or to take time out of their careers."

Career status

Mr Lindhurst said his committee believed tackling pay rates in the care sector was a priority.

He added: "Each and every one of us is likely to rely on professional care at some time in our lives. Despite the radical change in skills over the years, this continues to be one of the lowest-paying, female-worker dominated sectors in Scotland.

"We want to see the government address this issue by prioritising the care sector; it is vital that we raise the status of care in Scotland."

Mr Hepburn said the government was committed to closing the gender pay gap.

He said: "We are already taking decisive action to address the issue, including transforming early learning and childcare to support more women back into work, as well as taking measures to challenge pregnancy and maternity discrimination.

"We are also funding returners' programmes that will help women returners get back into work after a career break - such as that delivered by Equate Scotland, which is helping women re-join the labour market by offering targeted support.

"While the gap in Scotland of 6.2% is well below the UK figure of 9.4%, we are not complacent and recognise we must remain focused on action to promote gender pay equality."