A BOLTON care worker, who was awarded more than £3,000 for withheld travel time payments, has been used to highlight an ‘endemic failure’ in the care sector.

Public sector union Unison has said that there is a widespread failure to honour the minimum wage for many homecare workers who are not being paid for the time they travel between home visits — which can be up to a fifth of their working day.

This issue has been highlighted by the case of Judith Montgomery, from Bury, who was working for care firm Sevacare from their Bolton base in Fletcher Street.

Unison backed Mrs Montgomery’s case for withheld travel time payments, which resulted in an award of £3,250 — equivalent to nearly 500 hours at the then national minimum wage of £6.70 per hour.

The union said that Mrs Montgomery, 53, regularly worked split shifts spanning 15 hours in a day, yet Sevacare did not pay her travel time between client visits.

As a result she could start work at 7am and finish as late as 10.30pm — having done breakfast, tea and bed runs — but still be underpaid by up to £60 a week.

Mrs Montgomery, who now works in a residential care home, said: “My service users became like a family to me and I didn’t want to let them down. I worked on a zero-hours contract and would be paid only for time spent in my clients’ homes, never for the time spent travelling between them — so I could be paid for 30 hours a week but actually worked many more.

She added: “I started work at 7am doing breakfasts, and would get home after the bed run at 10.30pm, yet I would only get paid for six or seven hours. I’d be on the go all day, I was shattered and it took a toll on my health.”

The union is urging the Government to end the ‘systematic underpayment’ that it believes is widespread in the sector, by tweaking minimum wage regulations so employers are forced to make pay calculations easier to understand.

Unison believes that confusing wage slips mean workers struggle to see how they are being paid — making it difficult to challenge their employers.

The union said firms which are caught out for failing to pay for travel time rarely make amends and correct payments across the whole of the workforce.

Unison believes it should not be for individual low-paid workers to stand up to each employer and says the Government — particularly HMRC — should be making sure that employers are paying a legal wage.

Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: “Judith’s case shows just how companies can profit by denying staff payment for their travel time. The Government should be doing far more to ensure these firms meet their legal obligations across the board.”