Sleep-in Workers and the Minimum Wage

In Royal Mencap Society v Tomlinson-Blake and another case, the Supreme Court has held that care workers who were required to sleep at, or near, their workplace, and be available to be called on during the night, were not entitled to the national minimum wage (“NMW”) for the entirety of their sleep-in shifts. During this time, the workers were not working but merely ‘available for work’, meaning that they were entitled to the NMW only for time during which they were awake for the purpose of working.

This case puts to an end a long-held belief that sleep-in shifts could qualify for the NMW following British Nursing Association v Inland Revenue, where the Court of Appeal upheld an employment tribunal’s finding that employees were working throughout their night shifts even during the periods when they were expected to be sleeping.

This case will come as a relief to employers in the care sector, but will be a disappointment to unions who have been campaigning for improved pay and conditions in this already low-paid sector.