Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday that the State and the departments would release 160 million euros to pay an exceptional Covid bonus to home helpers. If this is the first recognition of their mobilization, a long way to go to make the profession more attractive.
They have often been described as “Great forgotten people of the health crisis”. The President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, traveling to Toulon (Var) on Tuesday, finally said he wanted “To pay homage” home help, announcing the payment of an exceptional bonus, for a total amount of 160 million euros. Until then deprived of the Covid premium granted to caregivers on the front lines during the epidemic peak, these personal care professionals – 97% of women – were waiting for official recognition of their mobilization in recent months with the elderly and disabled.
The envelope promised by the Head of State, which will be co-financed by the State and the departments, will concern nearly 320,000 home help professionals. A decision eagerly awaited by those concerned: “It was time !” Judge Isabelle Roudil, social worker and Force Ouvrière union representative interviewed by Release. It is with satisfaction, but without euphoria, that the professional welcomes the announcements of Emmanuel Macron: “When they needed us during the health crisis, we were there. It’s a fair return for our work. ” The premium, which must be paid “before Christmas”, should according to official figures reach 1000 euros for (rare) full-time employees – 89% of home help being part-time.
“We were cannon fodder”
As a first bulwark against disease, carers have helped relieve congestion in hospitals by keeping certain fragile and dependent people at home, in particular by bringing them their meals. The government’s decision not to grant them an exceptional bonus at first was seen as a «injustice» by the federations of the sector. Especially since the profession, in contact with people at risk, has been particularly exposed: “We were cannon fodder at the start of the epidemic”, fulminates Séverine Martinet, home carer and CGT Jura union representative. She denounces the lack of protection in the heart of the epidemic, in particular in this department very affected by the Covid-19: “We had no protection: no masks, no gel, no visor! We would go to work with a lump in our stomach, the fear of infecting our patients but also of bringing the virus home. ” Despite the lack of consideration and financial means, the one who has been practicing for twenty years continues to go to work by vocation and by “Duty to go to the elders”.
For professionals in the home support sector interviewed by Release, if a first step has been taken towards better recognition of their work, additional resources are essential to improve the very precarious working conditions : the profession has lost 15% of its purchasing power in seventeen years, with initial wage levels below the minimum wage. IIt takes eighteen years for an employee for his remuneration to exceed the minimum wage, according to the association employers of the Union Syndicale de branch of home help (USB).
“The amount of the premium is anecdotal”, estimates Stéphane Fustec, CGT delegate in charge of personal services in Paris, who claims “Real financing of dependency”. Among the proposals: payment for transport time, often considerable for these professionals who are required to have a personal vehicle. “Home helpers can work up to a working hour of thirteen hours”, explains the trade unionist, who suggests the establishment of “Pairs to relieve the employees” For Séverine Martinet, a life support worker in the Jura whose salary (1350 euros net) has not changed for twenty years, the priority is “A revaluation of the value of the point”. Other solutions are mentioned, such as the establishment of a solidarity mechanism to pay the professionals in the sector with dignity, or funding only via the State, in order to avoid disparate situations from one employer to another ( departments, associations or private companies) that currently exist.
So many constraints that weigh on the profession and prevent new recruits. Emmanuel Macron recognized it on Tuesday: “There are unfilled positions, because these are difficult jobs” and “The salaries are not there”. The issue will be addressed in the Autonomy law, to be adopted this summer by the National Assembly: it will be about “Better recognize professions, better promote careers, better pay” and so “Build the attractiveness of these sectors”, assured the President.