UNISON calls for an end to excessive hours in social work

In the second week of a ten-week long campaign, UNISON is calling on them to make sure social workers can get time off in lieu (TOIL) or be paid for working additional hours.

A recent survey* showed that 64% of social workers worked extra hours, and in another survey** social workers reported that they did an average of 1.9 hours per week in overtime without pay or TOIL. 39% said they had to work additional hours at short notice either most days or every week.

Many social workers can’t claim it back or have TOIL because they’re too busy, or their managers won’t let them. This does nothing to help morale, and contributes to already high rates of social worker burn out, making it near on impossible for social workers to practice safely and effectively.

Helga Pile, UNISON national officer for social work, said:

“Heavy caseloads and high vacancy rates mean many social workers have little choice but to work late. And the stats back it up – 64% work extra hours. It’s not as if they can say ‘sorry, I’ve got to go’, when it hits five o’clock if a vulnerable child is depending on them.

“But social workers can’t keep picking up the slack. This constant overloading is not sustainable. Lots of people in the profession are facing burnout. They are hit with the impossible dilemma of trying to balance their heavy workload, with the needs of their own families. Many simply give up on the idea of having a life of their own.

“If they have to work extra hours, social workers should be paid or given time off in lieu. This will force employers to stop exploiting their goodwill, and start managing workloads properly.

“This week we have written to key stakeholders in social work calling on them to make it a priority. It’s only right that social workers get the opportunity to rest and recuperate, so they can carry on doing one of the toughest jobs going.”

UNISON is campaigning for minimum conditions to give social workers what they need to practice safely and effectively. The union has developed the Social Work Contract, which outlines ten key points, one of which is giving social workers TOIL (time off in lieu) or pay for working additional hours.

Each week, the union is writing to Tim Loughton, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Children and Families, Paul Burstow MP, Minister of State for Care Services, Sharon Hodgson MP, Labour Shadow Minister for Children and Families, and Emily Thornberry MP, Labour Shadow Care Services Minster, highlighting one part of the social work contract.

The union has also launched an online petition on the contract, and is calling on members of the public, parents and social workers to add their voice to the call for action. Hundreds of social workers have already signed.

Add your support here: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/714/061/796/