Historically, the home help sector has employed part-time workers, mainly women with few or no qualifications, who are often looking for an additional income for the second half of their career. While we have seen many retirements since 2017, a new generation of employees, better educated and more qualified, is aspiring to full time work and adequate remuneration.
However, remuneration and professionalisation, increased working hours and work-life balance, diversification of missions and autonomy, recognition and working conditions are not up to par with the challenge and do not allow for a sufficient professional identity for these professions.
It is true that there is a collective agreement for the home help sector in France for the voluntary sector. It is a source of labour law, defining the rules on employment conditions, vocational training and working conditions for employees, as well as their social guarantees. However, the liberalisation of this sector, the reduction in overall funding to French local authorities and the lack of financial resources devoted to these professions are undermining all efforts to improve professionalism and the quality of working life.
“This lack of recognition can be traced back to the confusion between services and servitude, home and domesticity, and may be rooted in gender inequalities“, according to Geoffroy Verdier, Director General of the ADT 44 association.
Loire-Atlantique home help for everyone (Aide à domicile pour tous Loire Atlantique) (ADT 44) is a French association created in 1976 which provides assistance, support and services in the home for all categories of people (families, elderly people, people with disabilities, carers). Of the 502 employees of the association in 2020, including 458 home care workers, 21 were men and 481 were women. Despite the sectoral difficulties mentioned above, it should be noted that 98% of the employees are on permanent contracts (with an average contract of 25 hours/week) and 70% of the employees have been with ADT 44 for more than 2 years. The association even obtained a score of 86/100 on the Gender Equality Index, which has been mandatory for companies with more than 50 employees since 2021.
The association owes its results to a proactive policy to reduce occupational risks and make the home help profession more attractive. Its organisational and managerial transformation project, “Libérons nos énergies” (Let’s free up our energies), combines its associative and strategic project with respect for the best practices of the social and solidarity economy: mutual aid and solidarity, gender equality, respect for individuals, whatever their origin and social situation, equity and access to the home for all. This approach is based on the reconciliation of professional and personal life, the recognition and attractiveness of the home help profession, and the appreciation and commitment of employees.
The positive developments in the reduction of gender inequalities in our societies also have consequences in the home help sector, where women hold almost 98% of the jobs. The aim of the “Let’s free up our energies” programme is to support and even anticipate this change in model by establishing a shared organisation that values its employees and encourages them to take initiatives. This intuition of ADT 44 seems to be confirmed today with “amendment 43” of the collective agreement of the Home Support branch. This is a complete overhaul of the conventional grid that will result in a historic salary increase of 13% to 15% for 209,000 staff in home help and support services and home nursing services, applicable from 1st October 2021.
The home help service consists of an employee working in different homes with regular car journeys. This daily organisation is reflected in a schedule that reconciles all needs of the people being helped, takes into account the constraints of the employees involved, respects labour law, weekly rest periods, holidays, training, tries to optimise the rounds – which include 5 to 8 interventions per day – and limit the number of interruptions, and all this, with the hazards of unforeseen absences of both employees and users themselves. Improving the schedules of our employees is the first step in this transformation project to better reconcile their professional and personal lives.
Thanks to the interactive tool with which all the workers are equipped (smartphone and business application), the 502 employees of ADT 44 are invited to help improving the schedules by taking into account the needs of the people being helped, optimising the itineraries for surveying the territory and, finally, improving their own schedule to better reconcile it with their personal life. Today, technological tools are gradually becoming part of everyday practices. The teams are taking advantage of them.
All those involved in training have combined their efforts to adapt initial training to the needs of the sector (family life assistant qualification, state diploma for educational and social support, social and family worker, etc.). These trained employees (initial training, ongoing training or skills validation), possessing experience in the field, have acquired a real expertise that mobilises numerous technical skills, know-how and interpersonal skills.
In this continuity, ADT 44 offers a 3-day internal training course, relating to the job of life assistant, which is possible in the first 6 months following recruitment. The aim of the skills plan is to enable employees to adapt their skills to the needs of the job and to changes in the job. Employees have the opportunity to develop through specific leave and certification schemes.
By enhancing their skills, supplementing or increasing their working hours, up to full time, ADT 44 develops its employer brand and the career path of its employees. While the recognition and attractiveness of the profession is the second brick of this transformation project, the association’s economic performance also makes it possible to increase remuneration (remuneration for hours of work, travel time and all the working time, bonuses, mileage allowances, etc.). Only 43% of home helpers have access to a contractual salary higher than the SMIC after 17 years of seniority, demonstrating the obsolescence of the 2010 collective agreement, but which the “amendment 43″ should correct on 1st October 2021.
Regarding the coordination of the “Let’s free up our energies” project, each sector manager leads his or her teams and manages the project at the level of his or her unit. The managers and the management coordinate and lead the project as a whole.
Recently, the management launched the “ADTeam”. Each team elects an “ADTeam” colleague to represent them and be their “spokesperson”. The ADTeams take part in workshops (remuneration, equipment, etc.) and are ambassadors for their division and vis-à-vis management.