Call for action on sleep-in care workers

Mencap and UNISON have joined forces to ask the Government to take action to ensure care workers who sleep in are paid for all the hours they are on duty.

Close up of a carer holding the hand of an elderly lady


UNISON and Mencap have written jointly to the Prime Minister calling for immediate reform of minimum wage laws in the light of a Supreme Court ruling on sleep-in shifts.

The letter to Boris Johnson says “action is needed urgently” to amend current rules so sleep-in shifts – where staff have to stay overnight away from home – are defined as working time and paid properly.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that the hours employees are asleep don’t have to be paid at minimum wage rates, only the time they are awake and looking after people.

Mencap contested the case due to the huge back pay bill facing the care sector and UNISON supported the care workers because it believes care staff should be paid for all the hours they’re at work.

But in the letter to the Prime Minister, both state they are “united in the same vision” of a “properly funded care sector”. They say that “paying staff decent wages is a major part of this” and “fair pay means care providers can retain the skilled workforce that’s essential for excellent care”.

They call on Boris Johnson to ask the Low Pay Commission to investigate the issue of sleep-in pay and reassess the status of shifts so “the entirety of these” are treated as working time.

Both say the Supreme Court judgment was a “huge blow to care workers” and warn it could be seen by some providers and council care commissioners as “an opportunity to cut costs including wages”. They predict the result could be “even fewer recruits joining a sector already suffering from thousands of vacancies”.

They state: “Acute underfunding lies at the heart of why social care is not fit for purpose. Central government must make more resources available to local authorities to allow much-needed reform. Improving the pay of care workers is the most sensible starting point.”

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