By Sarah Bates
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Care workers lose wages after court ruling as bosses blame them for crisis

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Issue 2613
Birmingham care workers on strike in February
Birmingham care workers on strike in February (Pic: Socialist Worker)

A legal decision is set to rob thousands of pounds from care workers’ wages.

The Court of Appeal has overturned a ruling that care workers are entitled to the national minimum wage for every hour of a sleep-in shift.

It means that workers will continue to be paid a flat rate for the duration of their shift—with more paid if they’re active during the night.

Such a pay structure is not unique to charities or private companies—only 49 percent of councils and NHS commissioners pay full hourly wages.

It centres on a case brought by care worker Clare Tomlinson-Blake against her employer Mencap—a ­charity for people with learning difficulties.

But it has repercussions for all care workers who do sleep-ins.

Tomlinson-Blake was paid £29 for her sleep-in shifts. Her pay would have almost doubled if she was paid a full hourly rate.

And the most recent decision means that bosses are also not liable for back-pay.

The ruling last year meant that companies could face up to six years of pay claims—costing an estimated £400 million.

Unions are likely to appeal against the judgement at the Supreme Court.


Chair of Mencap Derek Lewis said “large unfunded back payments had threatened to bankrupt many providers, jeopardising the care of vulnerable people and the employment of their carers”.

But it’s not care workers who are responsible for jeopardising care.

The blame lies with the Tories who are chronically underfunding the sector, and the private companies who cream off profits from the care of vulnerable people.

Funding for services has dramatically dropped—local authorities are spending £6 billion less than they were in 2010.

This is leading to an acute crisis, with many care homes shutting, and bosses citing cuts to local authority funding as a reason for closure. In the last financial year, 148 care home providers entered insolvency—an 83 percent rise on the year before.

Owners of the Penisarwaen care home in Wales announced it was shutting its doors—but only gave residents and staff a week’s notice.

Jean, who works at the home alongside her husband, said, “We’re losing two wages. I’ve still got a mortgage to pay and when this place closes who’s going to help me out?”

It’s ridiculous for care providers to claim they are unable to pay workers full wages for time spent at work.

But the Tories are responsible for cutting the social care sector to the bone, with no regard for service users or the workers who support them.

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