Care firm urged to scrap charge for workers who call in sick

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The Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan has highlighted the unacceptable practice of a care company in its fining of staff when they phone in sick.

The care company Newcross Healthcare was exposed by The Guardian newspaper for fining staff £50 when they phone in sick. Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said Newcross Healthcare must stop the “absolutely disgusting” charges immediately.

The company, which supplies thousands of agency nurses and care workers for homes and hospitals across the country, said the charge would be “phased out” by April 2019 but Jonathan Ashworth called for it to be ditched without hesitation.

He later said: “Every decent-minded person will be absolutely disgusted at the way this firm treats its staff. Care workers look after our elderly relatives, going way beyond the call of duty. These £50 fines should be ended now.”

Newcross, which also failed to give sick pay to carers or nurses, made £21 million in pre-tax profit and paid directors £17 million in dividends in 2017. The company denied it imposed the charge when workers were “genuinely ill”.

But former and current Newcross Healthcare staff contacted The Guardian newspaper to speak out about. One member of staff who had worked in the care sector for 10 years and who was a healthcare assistant for Newcross for more than two years said staff were “disgruntled”. He said he had to pay £25 for his uniform and regularly had to pay up to £30 a time for training. Newcross declined to comment.

An ex-employee who worked for the company for four years accused Newcross of “ripping workers off”, saying he left because Newcross allegedly charged him £50 by mistake for cancelling a shift when he gave more than 24 hours’ notice. He had to chase the company for two months before his money was refunded. He said the company would not listen to any explanations, or reasoning, and that it was unfair that the company charged workers for cancelling shifts when it routinely did the same to workers’ shifts at short notice.

Now a whistleblower who worked as a business centre manager for the firm has described an intense sales environment at the company, which employs 7000 staff providing temporary nurses and care workers for hospitals and residential care homes.

Another whistleblower, who left Newcross in 2018, alleged that regional managers pressured branches to impose the fines on sick employees, even if they knew absences were genuine. He said care homes were forced to send home sick agency staff who had turned up because they were afraid of being denied wages. Managers were put up in a five-star hotel in Gibraltar each year for a “lavish sales bash” where awards would be given out.

Managers were even ordered to repeatedly cold-call care and nursing homes to book in shifts for agency workers. They had a target of achieving 3000 hours of shifts a week.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it has contacted Newcross and is considering taking action. It said: “It is essential that providers take all necessary steps to ensure that people receiving care are not put at risk.”

Meanwhile, it emerged that Newcross Founder and Chief Executive Stephen Pattrick may be a Conservative party donor. According to Electoral Commission records, he has given a total of £15,000 to the Conservatives. Newcross declined to comment. A Conservative spokeswoman would not confirm the donor was the same Stephen Pattrick, but said the party “maintains a system of due diligence for all our donors”.

Stephen Pattrick is based in the tax haven of Gibraltar and is also chief executive of the motorsports team Bullitt Racing, whose website said his success in business had enabled him to “indulge in his motor racing hobby”. This was removed following The Guardian investigation.

Last reviewed 9 January 2019

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