Care workers owed up to six years’ back pay after being paid less than the minimum wage will have to wait until at least October for the money they are owed after a government announcement today.
Solidarity general secretary Pat Harrington said:
"I'm disappointed that low-paid workers are being forced to wait for what is owed to them."
The issue comes after two employment tribunal cases over how much care workers providing overnight care to vulnerable people and ‘sleeping in’ should be paid.
An employment appeal tribunal in May ruled that Mencap must pay a worker the national minimum wage (NMW), as opposed to a fixed rate of £29.05, for sleep-in hours as part of care for two vulnerable adults.
This followed a 2014 case heard by the same tribunal, relating to a care worker supporting three disabled adults in their home, which deemed her to be eligible for the NMW while asleep. Guidance issued in 2015 by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (DBEIS) similarly says: “A worker who is found to be working, even though they are asleep, is entitled to the national minimum or NLW [National Living Wage] for the entire time they are at work.”
Following the rulings, some 200 organisations employing carers – some of which are charities – were liable to pay up to six years back pay to their workers who were underpaid.
The total bill has been estimated at between £160m and £400m and the government has given the employers extra time to pay up, after many said they faced bankruptcy.
It also wrote off historic fines and penalties for underpayment before today.
Dave Prentis, the Unison general secretary, says: “Charities and companies employing sleep-in care workers have been knowingly breaking the law for years. Workers who care for elderly and disabled people who need round-the-clock care should be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour they’re at work."