Chapter 1: Cheap Nurse

An animated brief excerpt of the Cheap Nurse character narrative

Chapter 1: Cheap Nurse (and equal pay law)

The character narrative of Cheap Nurse represents the voice of homecare workers concerned about being misrecognised, undervalued and assumed to lack distinct skills. Here, Lydia Hayes brings together stories which correspond with stereotypes about working-class women as secondary earners who lack commitment to the world of work and have little economic worth. The chapter addresses homecare as a low-waged occupation.

An important contribution to socio-legal research on care work and labour law. Hayes deploys sophisticated social theoretical lenses to show how existing labour law doctrines devalue this emblematic form of women’s work. Professor Judy Fudge, Kent University, UK

The chapters’ discussion sets the Cheap Nurse narrative in the historical context of the development of homecare services and the evolution of equal pay law in the UK. Hayes draws on theoretical insights about the invisibility of women’s work, and caring labour in particular. She examines the framework of the Equal Pay Act 1970, and measures in the Equality Act 2010, that purport to tackle sex-based discrimination in wage-setting. Her analysis reveals that the invisibility of women’s labour is echoed in the architecture of equal pay law.  Indeed, the inadequacy of legal provisions has influenced the organisation of homecare jobs as low-waged, discriminatory and precarious. Hayes powerfully argues that the structures of equal pay law are based on sexist ideas about women’s supplementary role in the labour market.  She concludes by asserting that equal pay law has both incentivised and justified the privatisation of homecare services.