"It's dehumanising": Minimum wage carers on front lines of Covid-19 pandemic thanked with a pair of socks
Carers at a Lytham organisation who risked their lives throughout the pandemic to provide at-home care to disabled people were rewarded for their hard work with a single pair of socks.
The 'insulting' gift was given to a number of front-line employees at One Fylde, along with a card that said 'Thank you for working your socks off', just a few weeks after new minimum wage contracts were finalized by bosses.
One upset employee said: "The staff feel so insulted and demoralised. As support workers, we support people with learning difficulties in their own homes, helping them with all their basic tasks. Work has been tough during the pandemic, especially at the beginning when everybody was panicking. It's been hard on all of us, having to go out to work every day when our managers are sitting at home, sending the orders down the line.
"We do really feel unappreciated. A pair of socks? It's just crazy.
"This has been a tough year for everyone, but we are the ones risking our own health and our families. We've been out on a daily basis for a year.
"Our pay is very low. Everybody is struggling, especially since we're on new contracts keeping us all on minimum wage. We're tired. We're fed up. Our area managers have been working from home and obviously they are on higher wages than us, while we've all been going out.
"It's dehumanising. We don't feel appreciated, and this 'gift' is confirmation of that. We've been out every day looking after the most vulnerable people, and all it's worth is a pair of socks."
Some One Fylde employees opted to return the socks as a matter of principle.
Another carer said: "I'm disgusted, to be honest. I feel we have been treated like dirt this past year. We work with vulnerable adults who have had their lives turned upside down by the pandemic, and we're physically, mentally and emotionally drained. I know we have a job to do, but to get just a pair of socks at the end of the day and a general card without even our names on it is so impersonal.
"I feel totally deflated by the whole situation. Our managers have been sitting safe at home while we've been going out every day, and we've had no thanks but a pair of socks. When I was given them, I felt like giving the job up."
Tracey Bush, CEO at One Fylde said: “It has been a very hard year for everyone at One Fylde. Everyone has really worked hard – you could say worked their socks off. So, as a small thank you as part of on-going reward and recognition and our charitable support in the area we decided to mark the second birthday of One Fylde by making a matching donation of socks to The Bridge Project in Blackpool. All staff will receive a pair of socks, and a huge thank you from me for all their efforts. With over 400 staff we will then donate another 400 pair of socks to The Bridge Project – socks are one of the most requested items for organisations working to support homeless people. It’s a small gesture and for our staff I want everyone to know how proud I am of all the work they do."
New living wage contracts were recently introduced at One Fylde, however, a spokesman said the pay was in-line with what carers are paid nationally.
They said: “We are offering our staff an opportunity to take up a new employment contract by establishing a common platform across the organisation and have been discussing these changes with all our staff. For current staff this change is entirely voluntary, and no one will be disadvantaged if they decide they do not want to take up the opportunity. In simple terms we want to be an employer of choice, it is important that we recognise and retain our hardworking and loyal staff and that we are able to attract new people to work with us.
"The objective of the change is to bring together our staff across the organisation through an offer of common terms and conditions. We aim to pay hourly rates at a premium above the National Living Wage in addition to a range of holiday and health benefits. So far, the majority of our staff are supportive of this new offer and this is important to us all as we work hard to ensure we maintain our high standards of service for the people we support. We are always willing to listen and continue to engage with all our staff, especially if there are any concerns or worries about what change could mean for them."