Supreme Court Judgement on 'Working Time'

Over the past five years a case has been working its way through the English court system regarding the Minimum Wage entitlement for ‘sleep in’ shifts in care settings.

The Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson Blake case was attempting to make clear that if you are caring for an individual over a 24 hour period or more, that you would be paid at least National Minimum Wage for the time you are asleep. The argument centred on the principle that a worker could be ‘working’ even if they are not required to be awake. With most sleep in shifts this would be personal care for a vulnerable person. You can read the full judgement HERE.

The Supreme Court has ruled that Minimum Wage does NOT need to be paid for sleep in shifts. Individuals would only be entitled to be paid minimum wage for the time they are awake and undertaking their duties. This ruling clarifies the situation for employers in the care sector and other similar settings where sleep in shifts may be required. It also means the care sector is spared a potentially large back pay claim.

Further detail of the ruling also explains the following:

1. It does not matter that a worker is at their employer’s discretion or required to follow instructions when deciding whether a person is ‘working’ under the Miniumum Wage provisions.

2. The Court declared that ‘time work’ means ‘awake for the purposes working’ and cannot be broken up into ‘awake’ and ‘for the purposes of working’. Therefore simply being present is not enough for Minimum Wage purposes.

Like the recent Uber case, this ruling will have wide ranging implications throughout the care sector, and and other similar settings where sleep in shifts may be required

For advice and guidance on any of the above, please speak to your Tamar HR Advisor.

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