For years there has been debate as to whether all time spent on “sleep-in" shifts could qualify for the national minimum wage (“NMW”), even during the time when the worker would be asleep. The position on this, however, has now been clarified.
Today(19/03/2021) it was decided by the Supreme Court that, generally speaking, when a worker is required to sleep at or near their workplace, only the hours that the worker actually spends awake specifically for the purposes of working are hours for which they are entitled to be paid. For the rest of the time spent asleep, the worker is not entitled to be paid. So, for example, where a carer has to be at or near his place of work during the night, and is actually woken to attend to someone’s care needs, it is that time spent awake and carrying out the care duties that will attract NMW payment. All other time spent asleep will not attract any payment.
Whilst the obvious application of this ruling is for those involved in care work, this decision will also have ramifications for other industries which commonly engage staff for “sleep-in” shifts – including the security sector, veterinary sector, and hospitality sector – and will be a welcome relief to many businesses across the UK, potentially saving them hundreds or thousands of pounds in wages.
If your business is one that engages workers for "sleep-in" shifts, the first step you should take is to review how you pay those workers for those shifts, and the contractual documentation that sits behind that. It may well now be the case that you can look to alter the basis on which you pay those staff, which could potentially offer a lifeline to businesses in sectors which have struggled during the pandemic. Any alterations to pay would usually need to be implemented following a period of consultation, but if you would like to discuss your options with any one of the Team here then please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01603 610911.
Note: the content of this article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought where necessary.