The Government has waived financial penalties over the historical payment of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for sleep-in workers, but experts suggest that the bill could still cripple social care charities.
Disability charities face a wage bill of around £400 million in back payments after new guidance was issued stating that “sleep-in” carers should be paid the NMW for all hours.
Mencap, which was among those charities affected, said vulnerable people with learning difficulties face losing “vital” care.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said the Government would waive historical financial penalties against social care providers and temporarily suspend enforcement activity.
However, the wages of workers would still need to be topped up. Under previous guidance, the flat rate for overnight workers would be in the region of £35 to £45. But the new rules mean that workers should have been paid around £60, with back pay to stretch as far back as six to seven years.
The BEIS statement said: “The government will continue to look at this issue extremely carefully alongside industry representatives to see whether any further support is needed and ensure that action taken to protect workers is fair and proportionate, while seeing how it might be possible to minimise any impact on social care provision.”
Derek Lewis, chairman of the Royal Mencap Society, said: “Sleep-ins are widely used in the learning disability sector to provide care for some of our most vulnerable adults, in their own homes in the communities they live in,” he said.
“The carer is only there ‘just in case’ to provide safety and reassurance and is rarely disturbed. Recent research which looked at the last three years showed that 99.7 per cent of carers slept peacefully.
“The unintended consequences have been disastrous as HMRC have begun enforcement action demanding six years’ back pay. Estimates of the costs to the Learning Disability sector are in the region of £400m and Royal Mencap Society will be severely affected.”