Sleep-in care workers entitled to minimum wage only when awake, court rules
Cartoon illustration sign of Night shift hanging with stars and moon sky

The government is under pressure to reform care laws after the supreme court ruled that support workers on “sleep-in” shifts are not required to be paid the national minimum wage for hours when they are not awake..

The decision ends a four-year legal battle involving two care workers and the learning disability charity Mencap that threatened to leave care providers with a potential £400m back-pay bill potentially jeopardising the care of vulnerable people.

The court said care workers should only be paid the national minimum wage hourly rate on sleep-in shifts when they were awake for the purposes of working.

While it ends the immediate possibility that huge back-pay bills would force care providers to close, the decision means thousands of care support workers – already on low incomes – potentially face substantial cuts in earnings.

Unison called the ruling “a huge blow” for thousands of care workers. The union’s general secretary, Christina McAnea, said: “No one is a winner from today’s judgment. Everyone loses until the government intervenes to mend a broken system that relies on paying skilled staff a pittance.”

Clare Tomlinson-Blake, one of the care workers who brought the case, said: “This case was never about the money. ​It was about the principle of treating staff fairly. Sleep-in shifts aren’t about just being on call – it’s work. Staff are constantly on guard to protect the most vulnerable in society.”

Read more in the Guardian.

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