A recent court hearing ruled that leading UK charity Mencap must pay their staff the national minimum wage at all times – including during sleep-in shifts.
Standard practice across providers of healthcare is for sleep-in shift workers to be paid a flat sum; in Mencap’s case, the rate was £29.05 for nine hours. With 5,000 members of staff sleeping in the homes of people they support, Mencap stated they’d be facing a financial crisis if forced to pay these workers the minimum wage throughout the night.
The case comes after a series of questions have been raised about minimum wage rights for sleep-in care workers: staff who sleep at the home of the individuals they support, intervening in the night if required. Mencap representatives said that while they were working to ensure their workers were paid ‘properly’ in the long run, they were not currently receiving enough funding to support this raise.
Does this ruling apply to all commissioners of night-time care?
The 2014 Care Act states local authorities should ensure that “service providers deliver services through staff remunerated so as to retain an effective workforce” and that “remuneration must be at least sufficient to comply with the national minimum wage legislation for hourly pay or equivalent salary”. National minimum wage regulations state that all workers should be paid the minimum wage as an average for all hours worked.
In Mencap’s case, the court ruled that since the care worker was constantly responsible for using their professional judgement to decide when intervention was necessary, they should be paid for the entire shift. However, the judge also commented that there was no single deciding factor in the case and there were many issues to consider when establishing the pay for sleep-in shift workers. These include:
- Whether the worker is there to comply with a legal or contractual requirement
- If the worker’s activities are restricted and whether they would be disciplined if they left the premises
- If they were responsible for taking action during the shift.
This leaves unanswered questions around minimum wage requirements for sleep-in shifts. Accommodating a raise to minimum wage for sleep-in shifts could cost local authorities £800 million over three years, eating up 40% of the recently announced £2bn emergency social care fund.
In addition, a query has been raised about whether employers should have to back pay for up to six years in these instances. This would place a serious strain on the 65,000 disabled people who use council-allocated budgets to pay their support workers; as well as local authorities and care commissioners.
How assistive technology can help
Assistive technology can contribute to solutions that deal with budget pressures without compromising on the quality of care. Activity monitoring systems, such as Just Checking, help create an objective overview of an individual’s care requirements, enabling practitioners to work efficiently while ensuring people get the support they need.
Just Checking uses discrete movement and door sensors to monitor activity and can be used in both single and multi-occupancy homes. It provides additional options to sleep-in shift workers by helping to form an assessment of an individual’s night-time activity and the level of interaction with staff.
With this ability to identify risks and understand when interventions are required, in some instances a single roaming support worker can cover multiple residences in the same area and provide care at the required intervals, taking away the need for a sleep-in worker at each residence.
Just Checking provides care professionals with a new way of supporting individuals during the night-time and helps professionals to:
- Identify the appropriate level of care for multiple individuals during the night
- Deliver efficient services across multiple properties
- Support recommendations for other assistive devices that can minimise night-time risks
- Provide visibility of care to family members
- Promote independence for individuals
- Provide unobtrusive support around the clock
- Immediate notifications of any changes in behaviour
- Avoid unnecessary disturbance caused by opening doors to carry out visual checks
To find out more about Just Checking and how it can help commissioners cope with rising budget pressures, please call 01564 785 100 or contact customer support online and we will get back to you shortly.