Care assistant: ‘I worry my job will disappear at any moment’

Elizabeth Cloherty and others in a like situation have no contract and little sense of security

Elizabeth Cloherty, a care assistant, has no complaints about pay or the hours she gets. She is concerned, however, about what the future holds. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

Elizabeth Cloherty, a care assistant, has no complaints about pay or the hours she gets. She is concerned, however, about what the future holds. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

Elizabeth Cloherty, a care assistant, loves her work and has little complaint about her pay. But life still feels precarious.

“I know there’s a lot of controversy about zero hours contracts. In my case I don’t even have a contract.”

She’s been employed by a company for nearly three years which provides care-staff for people with intellectual disabilities who live in a residential centre.

It’s demanding work: it requires building up trust with residents, learning their likes and dislikes, and having the patience to help them fulfil their potential. But it’s also insecure. The last employee to get a contract at her place of work was a few years ago.

“It means that I can’t apply for a mortgage. At least I’m just 25 years of age so it’s not a major concern right now. But there are older people with kids that don’t have the security of a contract.”

No pay complaints

She has no complaints about the pay – which starts at €11.80 an hour – or the hours she gets. She is concerned, however, about what the future holds.

“The worrying thing is not knowing if your job could disappear at any moment. If there’s a takeover, there’s every chance a new firm could bring its own people with them. That makes you nervous about the future.”

She sees little prospect of the situation changing – especially for new recruits who come armed with college degrees.

“With zero hour contracts a lot of people feel under pressure to work whatever hours are offered – even if it means driving miles for just a few hours of work. They worry if they turn it down they might not get work again.”

She feels it’s only right there should be greater protection for longer-term staff. “Employers shouldn’t be able to use staff as they please. A person’s length of service should trigger rights, such as minimum hours.”