Unison and Mencap have both urged the Prime Minister to change rules linked to sleep-in shifts, after a Supreme Court ruling stated that workers who undertake sleep-in shifts are only entitled to the National Minimum Wage when they are awake. 

In a joint letter to the Prime Minister, Unison and Mencap have called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to reform the rules associated with sleep-in shifts.

According to the two bodies, who were on opposite sides of the debate, current rules need to be amended so that sleep-in shifts are defined as working time and paid correctly.

This comes after a Supreme Court ruling found that workers who carry out sleep-in shifts are only eligible for minimum wage during the hours that they are awake and carrying out work-related activities.

Jodie Sinclair, Partner of Bevan Brittan, a law firm, called this a “welcome decision for most employers” who were otherwise facing potential back pay totalling £400 million.

However, Ms. Sinclair also noted that this decision could “impact… the ability to attract and retain staff in the sector which would compound an existing significant skills gap.”

This same message was echoed by Unison and Mencap in their joint letter. Both parties stated they were “united in the same vision” of a “properly funded care sector”.

They stated 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”.

As such, the two sides have asked the Prime Minister to consult with the Law Pay Commission in order to investigate sleep-in pay and reassess the status of shifts to ensure these are treated as working time.

They further warned that, without adequate reform, some providers and council care commissioners could use this as an “opportunity to cut costs including wages”.

The research stated that, at present, over a fifth (22 per cent) of care staff are being paid at the rate of the National Minimum Wage. The joint letter stresses that these changes must occur to “prevent pay being eroded further”.

UNISON general secretary Christina McAnea said:

Proper wages for every hour staff work are a key part of much-needed reform.

The fact UNISON and Mencap are united on this issue shows the strength of feeling across the care sector that enough is enough. Ministers must take heed and act now.





Monica Sharma is an English Literature graduate from the University of Warwick. As Editor for HRreview, her particular interests in HR include issues concerning diversity, employment law and wellbeing in the workplace. Alongside this, she has written for student publications in both England and Canada. Monica has also presented her academic work concerning the relationship between legal systems, sexual harassment and racism at a university conference at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.