The Northumberland Guarantee for home care workers

New reasons to consider a job as a home care worker, visiting people who need care and support in their own homes.

What you can expect if you work for a home care organisation that has signed up to the Council's Guarantee - rewarding work AND decent terms and conditions.

If a home care organisation has signed the Northumberland Guarantee for home care workers, that means that they have made the promises below to their home care workers.

The Guarantee is financially supported by the County Council and the local NHS. The Council and the NHS recognise that providing home care is important and responsible work, and is a vital part of the wider health and care system.

Promise 1: A secure basic income. You will be offered a contract which guarantees you will be paid for at least an agreed number of hours each week. This may be a variable visits-based contract, in which you commit to being available if required, and your pay is based on how much time you spend providing care or travelling. If so there will be a guaranteed number of hours which you will be paid for each week, even if you're not asked to work that many hours. Some employers may offer a fixed shifts contract, in which you are paid for specific blocks of time, for instance on a weekly or fortnightly pattern. Nobody will be offered only a zero hours contract (though you may be offered the choice of flexible hours with no commitment if you want that). Your contract will include sick pay.

Promise 2: Pay rates.  Your employer will pay you at least the hourly rates set by the Council. The current rates are shown in the "Pay rates" section of this page.

Promise 3: Variable visits-based contracts. If your contract says that visit times may vary, you won't be asked to be available to work for an unreasonable amount of time, and you will usually know what visits you will be asked to make at least by the end of the day before (though sometimes there may be urgent and unexpected extra needs).

Promise 4: Extra hours. You may be asked if you can work extra hours, but you won't be pressured into doing more work than you are comfortable with.

Promise 5: Time to provide care in a personal way. Your rota will allow enough time to provide each person's planned care in a way which respects their dignity and personality.

Promise 6: Training. You will get the training you need, and will be paid while you train. If you are new to home care, before you are asked to visit people on your own you will have enough joint visits with experienced workers to be confident about what is expected.

Promise 7: DBS (criminal record) checks.  Your employer will pay the cost of DBS checks, including checks that you can transfer to another employer.

Further information
There is more information about the Guarantee in our Questions and Answers document, available at This includes information about how the Council will check that the Guarantee is working, and how to tell us if you think one of these promises is not being met. We have asked your employer to give us contact details for their home care workers, so we can ask you in confidence about your experience of home care work. If your employer asks you to agree to this, we hope you will.

General questions

Who does the Guarantee apply to?

The promises in the Guarantee apply to anyone working in Northumberland whose employer has signed the Guarantee and who provides "visit-based home care" arranged through the Council's contract (which is also used by the NHS).

This means anyone whose job involves:

  • Providing care by visiting people in their own homes and
  • Providing care to a variety of different people, living in different places, with the possibility that the list of people needing care may quite often change 

The Guarantee does not apply to care workers with different working patterns, for instance people working in an "independent supported living" scheme where they always spend their full shift supporting the same person, or the same group of people who live together. This is because most of the promises in the Guarantee are concerned with issues specific to visit-based care.

Why has the Guarantee been introduced?
Visit-based home care is one of the most important jobs in the health and care system. It is what makes it possible for many ill, disabled, or older people to continue to live in their own homes.

It is a demanding and responsible job. Home care workers may be the only people in daily contact with vulnerable people with complex health conditions. They are expected to provide the personal care that people need and to respond sensitively to each person's preferences and anxieties. Home care is not just a job. It can be very rewarding work, but it isn't always easy.

In the past, home care work has had a reputation as offering poor pay and conditions. Its value hasn't been as often recognised as some other kinds of care work, such as working in hospitals.

The Northumberland Guarantee aims to change that.

How will the Council know whether the Guarantee is working?
The Council will be carrying out checks to find out how well this Guarantee is working. We would like to be able to contact as many as possible of the care workers covered by the Guarantee to ask about their experience.

We have asked each employer that has signed the Guarantee to give us contact details for their care workers. Your employer may ask you to confirm that you are happy for us to have your contact details. We hope you will agree to that.

We expect to use these contact details to send short surveys from time to time about the promises in the Guarantee or other aspects of home care work.  We may also send you news about home care issues. We won't give your contact details to anyone else without asking you.

Your answers to surveys will be anonymous, unless you choose to tell us who you are, though we may ask you which home care organisation you work for.
What if I think one of these promises is being broken?
It may be best first to raise this with your employer. There may have been a misunderstanding or a mistake which can be put right.

If your employer doesn't give a satisfactory answer, or if you don’t feel you can raise the issue with them, you can contact the Council. The email address to use is
We will discuss with you how we can follow up the issue with your employer. We won't tell your employer who it was that contacted us, unless you agree we can.
If you belong to a trade union, you can ask them to take the issue up for you.

Pay rates (Promise 1 and Promise 2)

Do employers have to pay exactly the rates in the Guarantee?
The hourly rates set out at are the minimum rates which an employer signed up to the Guarantee must pay. Many home care organisations pay more than these rates for some kinds of work. 
The Guarantee aims to ensure that the basic rates paid to home care workers are higher than they often used to be, but it does not try to cover every detail of pay and conditions. Your employer will tell you separately about the detailed terms and conditions that they offer.
What does the promise of "a secure basic income" mean?
Traditionally, it has been quite common for home care organisations to employ some or all of their workers on "zero hours" contracts. With a zero hours contract, the employer does not have to promise to offer the worker any specific number of hours of work in each week (or any work at all), and the worker does not have to work any particular number of hours (or to accept any work). You will not have to agree to a zero hours contract (this is Promise 1).

Some people may prefer a contract which does not commit them to work any particular number of hours. If you want maximum flexibility, you can ask your employer if you can have a flexible contract with no minimum number of hours (though employers can say no, if they don't think this will work).

But if you want a secure income, you will be offered a contract which gives you that. Even if you choose at first to have a flexible contract with no commitments, you will have the right to change to a different contract if you later change your mind.
There are two different kinds of contract that offer a secure basic income. 
Employers signed up to the Guarantee can choose which of kind of contract to offer. They don't have to offer both kinds of contract, though some may do so, perhaps linked to different roles.

The two kinds of contract offering a secure basic income are as follows (your employer may use different names):
A variable visit-based contract with guaranteed minimum hours. If you have this kind of contract, you will agree with your employer when you will be available to work. The actual number of hours you are asked to work in each week may vary, but your employer will agree with you a guaranteed minimum number of hours which you will be paid for.You will be paid for this guaranteed minimum number of hours even if there is a week when there is no need for you to work all of those hours, as long as you are available to provide care if needed. Variable visit-based contracts are currently the commonest kind of contract for home care workers.
A fixed shifts contract. If you have this kind of contract, you will work at standard times each week (or perhaps on a rota over a longer period such as a fortnight). You will be paid for those times whether or not there are gaps between the visits that you are asked to make during your shift.
Because a variable visit-based contract makes more unpredictable demands on home care workers than a fixed shifts contract, the Guarantee sets a higher minimum hourly rate for that kind of contract. This rate applies to travel time between visits as well as to the time spent during the visits themselves.
Can organisations pay more than the rates in the Guarantee?
The pay rates in the Guarantee are the minimum rates that any employer who has signed the Guarantee must pay. Your employer may pay more than these minimum rates for some kinds of visit, or for some kinds of fixed shift work. If so, they will give you separate information about that.

Different home care organisations have different pay arrangements. For instance some may pay higher rates for visits in the evening or at weekends, while others may pay a standard rate which on average gives home care workers a similar weekly income.

We are discussing with home care organisations whether there is a way in which they can present information about their pay arrangements that makes it easy to compare what care workers typically get paid each week.
How are pay rates for travel time calculated?
There are a number of different ways in which organisations may carry out this calculation. However the calculation is done, you will be paid the relevant Guarantee hourly rate for the total amount of time you spend during visits or travelling between them.

Some organisations set an hourly rate for time providing care which is above the rate in the Guarantee, and an hourly rate for travel time which is below the rate in the Guarantee. If your employer does this, they should check each time they pay you that in total the pay you receive is at least the relevant Guarantee hourly rate.
What sick pay am I entitled to?
If you have signed up to a minimum-hours guarantee or a fixed shift contract you will be eligible for sick pay. Detailed policies on sick pay entitlements may vary; you can ask to see your employer's sickness policy to find out more.

Hours of work (Promise 3 to Promise 5)

How does a guaranteed minimum hours contract work?
If you have a variable visit-based contract with guaranteed minimum hours, the minimum number of hours you are paid for will be agreed between you and your employer. You should ask for a number of hours that will give you as much financial security as you think you need. In return your employer will expect you to commit to being available for enough time each week for them to be able to meet changing needs for care.

Your employer will not ask you to commit to being available to work for an unreasonable amount of time each week.  You will usually know what visits you will be asked to make at least by the end of the day before, though you may sometimes be asked to make extra visits at short notice if there is an urgent and unexpected need to arrange care for someone (this is Promise 3).

Your employer will review with you regularly when you can reasonably be available.
Can I be required to work more hours than the guaranteed minimum?
You may be asked if you can work extra hours in addition to your guaranteed minimum, but you won't be told you have to do them. People's care needs can change rapidly, and organisations may need someone to provide cover – for instance if another worker is sick – so it is good if you can be flexible. But your employer will respect your right to choose how much extra work you do (this is Promise 4).

If you have been doing a lot of extra hours, and you feel you need to work less, your employer won't put unreasonable pressure on you to keep accepting more work.
Do rotas need to include full allowance for travel time?
Your employer has promised that the rota for your visits will enable you to provide the care in each person's plan in a way which respects the person's dignity and personality.

Rotas for home care are based on the length of time which a social care professional working for the Council or the NHS thinks will usually be at least long enough. Sometimes it won't be necessary to stay for the whole of that time.

Home care organisations usually design rotas on the assumption that, on average, visits will be a bit shorter than the time allowed in the plan, so that some of that time will be available for travel between visits.

There is nothing wrong with that – but your employer has promised to look again at the rota if you find that too little time has been allowed for you to provide a dignified and personal service (this is Promise 5).

Sometimes there may be a need for your employer to allow more time between visits; sometimes they may need to contact the Council team to ask them to review a person's plan because the time allowed is not long enough.
What about overnight shifts?
If you work overnight shifts where you have to stay awake during the night because of the complexity of the needs of the person you are caring for, the Guarantee says you will be entitled to the same rate as is rate paid for fixed-hours shifts.

You may be paid a lower rate if you are asked to stay overnight in someone's home because they may sometimes need urgent assistance, but will mostly be able to sleep.

If I’ve just started the job, when can I expect my guaranteed minimum hours to start?
If you are new to home care work, there will be a period when you are just attending training and shadowing other home care workers.  There may also be a period when you can’t start working on your own because your DBS (criminal records) check hasn’t come through.  During this initial period, the hours when you have to be available will be agreed with you in advance, and your employer doesn’t have to operate a guaranteed minimum hours arrangement.
Once you are ready to start normal home care work, you are entitled to guaranteed minimum hours, if you are on a variable visit-based contract.

Other issues (Promises 6 and Promise 7)

 What training will I get? Will I be paid for all of it?
You will receive training for your work which is relevant, helpful, and covers everything you are expected to need to know (Promise 6).

Because people can have many different kinds of care need, there will always be the possibility of unexpected new situations. Your employer will support you in managing these.

You will be paid for your time whenever you do training required for your work. This includes any e-learning or online training as well as face-to-face training.
What support will I get if I'm new to home care work?
If you are new to home care work, you will not be asked to visit people on your own until you have made enough joint visits with more experienced workers to be confident about what is expected (Promise 6).
What DBS (criminal record) checks will be paid for?

Your employer will pay the cost of the DBS checks you need to be allowed to work in home care. Your employer will reimburse the cost if you subscribe to the DBS Update Service, which gives you a more flexible certificate which could be transferred to another similar employer without the need for new checks, if for any reason you needed that. (Promise 7)

The Northumberland Guarantee for home care workers includes minimum hourly rates that home care organisations signed up to the Guarantee have committed to paying.  (Home care organisations may pay higher rates than these for some kinds of work.)

These rates will be updated each year - usually this will happen in April, but sometimes the date may be earlier than that.  For further explanations of when these rates are payable, see the Guarantee section of this page, and the Questions and answers.

As in some previous years, home care organisations are being offered funding to introduce this year's new minimum rates early this year, from January 2024 rather than April.  But we can't yet confirm that all of them will be able to do so, since changing the dates of pay increases can cause problems for organisations which also provide services to people not funded through the Council.  So we have given two minimum pay rates below, one showing what the figure would be between January and March if the provider can't introduce the new rates early, and the other showing what the rates may be from January 2024 and will be from April 2024 at the latest.  The minimum rates are as follows:
  • If you are on a variable visits-based contract, you will be paid at least £12 per hour, increasing to £12.54 in April or earlier.  This includes the time spent on visits, and the time travelling between visits.  If you have agreed guaranteed minimum hours, this rate will also be payable for any hours up to the guranteed minimum that you have not been asked to work in that week, so long as you have been available to work.
  • If you are on a fixed shifts contract during daytime, you will be paid at least £10.90 per hour, increasing to £12.00 in April or earlier.
  • If you are working an overnight shift, and you are required to be awake through the night because of the needs of the person (or people) who you are supporting, you will be paid at least at least £10.90 per hour, increasing to £12.00 in April or earlier.
  • The Guarantee does not currently include a minimum rate for sleep-in shifts, where you are not required to stay awake, but may sometimes need to get up to help the person.