Raising the bar? The impact of the UNISON ethical care campaign in UK domiciliary care

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This article critically analyses a major trade union initiative in the United Kingdom to raise standards in public contracts for domiciliary care, and in turn to improve wages and working conditions for outsourced care workers. The campaign successfully built alliances with national employer representatives, and around 25 per cent of commissioning bodies in England, Scotland and Wales have signed a voluntary charter that guarantees workers an hourly living wage, payment for travel time and regular working hours. The campaign overall, however, has had only limited effects on standards across the sector, in which low wages, zero-hours contracts and weak career paths predominate. Furthermore, the campaign has not yet yielded significant gains in terms of union recruitment, although there are signs of sporadic mobilisations of care workers in response to localised disputes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-382
Number of pages16
JournalTransfer : European Review of Labour and Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2021


  • Domiciliary care
  • living wages
  • precarious work
  • public procurement
  • trade unions
  • worker mobilisation


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