Sleep-in staff (minimum wage enforcement)

Sleep-in shifts have recently hit the news following a leaked report which revealed many council employees were being paid below the minimum wage.

A sleep-in shift is where a worker sleeps in situ whilst giving care in an individual’s own home. These are known as ‘shifts’ as the carer can be woken to deal with anything that may arise during the night.

Previously, employers argued that as sleep-in shifts are not usually salaried hours with carers being paid an average sum, they did not fall under the national minimum wage regulations (NMW).

However, following a campaign by UNISON, from April this year Mencap staff are being paid an average of £7.50 per hour, in line with the National Living Wage. This is a significant increase of a worker’s previous basic right of £25 over a 9-hour sleep-in shift which averages as £2.80 per hour.

The government plans to enforce the NMW for sleep-in shifts, plus ensure sleep-in staff receive any back pay they are due. However, the government is having to balance the need to pay workers what they are due without any risk of bankrupting the social care sector, and so enforcement plans are currently suspended so the government can put together a “new enforcement scheme” that pays staff what they are due, whilst safeguarding the long-term interests of the healthcare sector. The enforcement deadline was extended until the end of October and as of yet an update has not been provided.

The government needs to issue clarification on its enforcement proposals as soon as possible so employers can make accurate future cash projections and associated changes to their systems.