Speaking on today’s Supreme Court judgment for sleep-in shifts, Matthew Wort, partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, said:

“The Supreme Court’s decision means UK care providers no longer face a potentially catastrophic financial outcome that could have jeopardised the care of thousands of people.

“This case was not about what care workers should be paid. Instead, it focused on the interpretation of National Minimum Wage Regulations, with the law and previous government guidance making clear that carers are not working while asleep.

“Today’s judgment puts an end to many years of uncertainty. It should be seen as a line in the sand, with the focus now on ensuring changes are made in how workers are remunerated to ensure appropriate pay for time asleep.

“At the least, a regulated minimum rate for time spent sleeping must be set. The rate could be decided by the Low Pay Commission to make it fair for care providers and employees. A more effective alternative would be establishing a national pay framework for the social care sector – providing clarity on what a care worker should be paid in all settings. 

“The disparity in pay between social care and healthcare also needs to end, with social care no longer being the poor relation. It is clear that the Government is failing the sector - once again missing an opportunity in its March Budget to properly address the issue of social care funding. This is despite care providers continuing to operate high-quality services during one of the most challenging periods ever experienced by the sector.

“While this judgment removes a serious risk for providers, the long-term stability of the UK social care sector hangs in the balance. The coronavirus pandemic has added significant pressure on providers already on their knees due to funding cuts, many of which are now assessing the viability of their services – to the potential detriment of people who rely on care for their day-to-day needs.

“Now is the time for central government to increase its investment in the social care sector, providing the funding local authorities need to maintain healthy care markets. This is critical to enabling providers to remunerate their staff appropriately for the work they do, maintaining financially feasible services of a high standard.

“Care providers and workers play an invaluable role in delivering statutory care services and supporting vulnerable people in the UK. The Government must realise this and supply the resources required to secure the future of the social care sector.”