Breaking News: Supreme Court’s Decision on National Minimum Wage and Sleep-Ins

In an important ruling which will be welcome news to many employers, the Supreme Court has today handed down it’s decision on national minimum wage and sleep-in shifts in the long running case of Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson Blake.

The Supreme Court has upheld the Court of Appeal’s ruling that care workers who have to sleep at their workplace in case they are needed are not entitled to the national minimum wage for the whole of their shift, only the time for which they are actually called on to respond to someone’s care needs (or do any other duties) during their shift.

The Facts of the Case

The cases concerned two care workers who worked for different employers – Mrs Tomlinson-Blake and Mr Shannon.

Mrs Tomlinson-Blake was a ‘sleep- in’ in a service user’s home as part of the 24 hour support provided to them. She was paid a flat rate of £29.05 for a sleep-in shift. She had her own room and could sleep during the shift but was required to keep ‘a listening ear’ during the night and provide support where needed. She complained to an employment tribunal that she should have been entitled to the national minimum wage for the entirety of her sleep in shift. The employment tribunal agreed with her and the case went all the way to the Court of Appeal. Here it was decided that care workers who were required to sleep at, or near, their workplace and be available to provide assistance if required, were available for work rather than actually working. Accordingly, they were not entitled to be paid the national minimum wage for the whole of the sleep-in shift, but only for the time when they were required to be awake for the purpose of working. Mrs Tomlinson-Blake appealed to the Supreme Court but they agreed with the Court of Appeal and have dismissed her case.

Mr Shannon was a care worker who lived in a studio in a service user’s home. He occasionally needed to respond during the night when assistance was required. He was paid a salary and received an allowance of £50 per week to ‘live in’. He complained to the employment tribunal that he should have been paid the national minimum wage for the time he spent working at night. Like Mrs Tomlinson Blake’s case, Mr Shannon’s case reached all the way to the Supreme Court where it was held that it was right that he had not succeeded in his claim as an exception in the National Minimum Wage rules applied in his case.

In coming to the  decision, the Supreme Court took into consideration the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission that had been made to the government when the National Minimum Wage Regulations were made.

Kingfisher’s Advice

Whilst this case is good news for many employers it is also a timely reminder for all organisations to ensure they are aware of their obligations under the National Minimum Wage Regulations. It’s important to bear in mind that increased costs are on their way for some employers as National Minimum Wage rates will be rising on 1st April and this year brings a change to the age bands. Workers who are 23 and over will be entitled to the National Living Wage rate from 1st April 2021. The new national minimum wage rates can be accessed HERE

Remember, if an employee in your organisation raises a complaint about their wages, it’s important that the matter is addressed promptly and appropriately.

If you have an employment law matter you would like assistance with, please do not hesitate to contact Kingfisher Professional Services Ltd as we are happy to help.