By Louise Walker, Trainee Solicitor

Royal Mencap Society v Thomlinson Blake [2021] UKSC 8

In the United Kingdom, the minimum wage for workers is regulated by the National Minimum Wage Regulations 2015. Regulation 30 of the 2015 Regulations establishes that, ‘[t]ime work is work, other than salaried hours, in respect of which a worker is entitled under the contract to be paid’ and lists the examples of where this is applied. Further, Regulation 32 of the 2015 Regulations stipulates that, ‘[t]ime work includes hours when a worker is available, and required to be available, at or near a place of work for the purposes of working unless the worker is at home.’

The scope of the definition of ‘time work’ has been examined in the recent Supreme Court case, Royal Mencap Society v Thomlinson Blake [2021] UKSC 8. Here, it was considered whether ‘time work’ extended to care workers who are required to sleep at or near their place of work to provide assistance if required. It was held that ‘time work’ does not extend to a sleep-in workers who are only present and that workers are only entitled to be paid the National Minimum Wage for the time that they are required to be awake for the purposes of working only.

Notably, the judgment acknowledged that caution ought to be had with regard to the social and economic impact that enforcing the National Minimum Wage whilst working a ‘sleep in’ shift would have on both the care system and employers in general. The balance between providing the necessary support for care workers and ensuring that employers are not exposed to detrimental wage claims underpins the decision in this case. Evidently, if the decision had been in favour of the care worker, this would have had ramifications for both care providers and those who rely on the care sector. Whilst the decision that workers do not require to be paid minimum wage for sleep-in time is undoubtedly a welcomed relief for employers, it remains important that employers continue to maintain accurate records of the hours that their employees work out with their normal working hours.