This ruling will have substantial impact for the Care industry. Traditionally, Carers with ‘sleep-in’ clauses in their contracts used to receive a flat rate for evening work, but this recent ruling could prove costly to many care homes, especially those smaller ones who may be unable to provide the same level of cover with the now higher wage bills (especially taking into consideration the scheduled rise in National Minimum Wage in 2020 from £7.50 per hour to £9 per hour).
The ruling stated that if the Carer is required to be on the premises throughout the night they are now entitled to National Minimum wage, regardless of if they partake in any work or not. As their employment agreement states that they must be present on the premise, awake or asleep they are still fulfilling their employment obligations and should be paid accordingly.
The Government has pledged to pay workers more fairly, yet this ruling could have an adverse impact if Care homes are unable to pay higher wages. There may be a decline in Care workers wanting to work night shifts if employers cannot pay the higher wages which will have a direct impact on the level and possibly the quality of care for those vulnerable individuals who need it the most.
With demographic changes of a continuing elderly UK population and a growing dependency ratio, this is one issue that will continue to be discussed for months to come, especially as recent studies by Mencap claim that the total bill for back pay as a result of this ruling could cost the sector up to £400m. The Government recently announced that it is to temporarily suspend all activity regarding back pay until October at the earliest, in what it described as an “exceptional measure to minimise disruption” after successful pressure from various care providers. Unison have condemned the Government’s decision as a huge blow to low paid workers.
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