Employers to sleep easy: Supreme Court rules on wages for overnight carers

The Supreme Court has today handed down its judgment in the long-awaited case of Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake, in relation to whether or not the National Minimum Wage (NMW) is payable for the duration of a sleep-in shift when a worker is permitted to sleep, or only in relation to any hours during that shift when the worker is awake for the purpose of working.

In upholding the 2018 decision of the Court of Appeal (see our previous article here), the Supreme Court has confirmed that only those hours when the worker is awake for the purpose of working are to be taken into account when calculating whether or not the appropriate NMW rate has been paid.  It is not necessary to take the entire shift into account for this purpose.

The judgement will undoubtedly be met with a sigh of relief by employers in the care sector, given that the back pay liabilities in the sector were estimated to be in the region of £400 million.  It is easy to see that a different ruling would have had a severe impact on the sector.  But, finally, there is now certainty as to the appropriate rate of pay for these shifts.