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The Big Sleep-In Shift Pay Debate

The Big Sleep-In Shift Pay Debate

Sleep-in Shift Pay Survey

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As a new force in the social care staffing sector, the team here at Outt.com is always happy to question the status quo when something doesn’t feel right, especially with our people-first ethos.

One such debate has arisen around fixed-rate pay for sleep-in shifts and the question of whether this outdated practice is the right one for social care, which is already one of the lowest-paid sectors in the UK.

Here we take a look at the current law and why strong objections exist – backed by the statistics that contradict the calls for the conventional fixed-rate pay structures to stay the norm.

SOCIAL CARE PAY DEBATE: THE BASICS

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of this issue, it’s essential to work through the facts behind the debate to ensure everybody gets a clear picture.

There is little doubt that social care workers are underpaid when compared to national averages, the sad truth!

Here are a few pieces of data from Skills For Care’s Workforce Intelligence report, looking at the adult social care industry:

  • 73% of care work professionals are paid less than the Real Working Wage.
  • Median hourly rates in 2019/20 were £8.50 – lower than cleaners, hairdressers, kitchen assistants, launderers and retail staff.
  • 35% of care workers are paid on the ‘wage floor’ – meaning the legal minimum.
  • Before the change in National Living Wage, 58% of salaries in care work would have fallen below the minimum hourly rate.

Those statistics are tough to hear – but perhaps not shocking, given that there have been desperate staff shortages in the social care sector for many consecutive years.

Resolution Foundation backs up these figures, having reported back in 2015 that pay for care workers had been illegally cut short to the tune of £130 million.

In 2013-14, around 11% of social care jobs had been paid unlawfully low wages and were not compliant with national legislation.

Given our passion for the welfare of our outstanding social care workers, every Outt.com candidate is directly employed by us, with full employee rights.

We feel that it is our responsibility to stand against the widespread practice of underpaying and undervaluing essential care workers, who so often support the most vulnerable.

Our minimum hourly rates, across the board, £10 an hour – without compromise. #fairpayforsocialcare

 

Pay Structures for Social Care Sleep-In Shift

Let’s explore the reality of working a sleep-in care shift and what this everyday occurrence for social care professionals involves:

  • Sleep-in shifts rarely involve sleeping – care workers are required to keep out a ‘listening ear’ for problems and be prepared to respond to emergencies and needs for care every second of the night.
  • Being on shift means being on call, and so a worker on a fixed rate could be woken multiple times in the night, potentially with zero additional pay.
  • In many cases, care needs overnight can be critical, and so a sleep-in shift might involve dealing with serious medical issues or service user distress. In this instance care workers then have to fight for the correct pay.

In our view, a sleep-in shift is not a period of work that should be paid anything less than a generous increase against standard hourly rates.

Our reasoning considers working unsociable hours, disruption to normal sleeping patterns, the stress and pressure involved with covering critical instances, and the impact on staff overall health when they lose out on invaluable rest and recovery.

It’s hard to imagine that any other work sector would entertain the idea of asking staff to work overnight, sometimes in life or death situations, and pay them less than the already low average rates.

Outt.com recognises that sleep-in shift placements carry the potential for unfair pay, and therefore avoid offering these shifts where possible to protect the wellbeing of our candidates. They are essential in some circumstances, but we try and educate the client as much as possible.

Yet, the courts have upheld what many consider a systematic abuse of worker rights.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that care workers required to work sleep-in shifts – whether voluntary or mandatory – were not entitled even to receive minimum wage for hours on duty.

Sleep-in Shift Pay Survey

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Why Sleep-in Shift Pay Demands Further Examination

There are so many parts to this issue.

Still, industry leaders must recognise the disparity here. This practice has great potential to cause long-term damage, not just to workforce recruitment figures and staff retention but also to standards of care.

The case recently debated in the courts was around a care worker being paid £30 for a nine-hour shift, between 10 pm and 7 am the following morning.

It’s hard to justify why that isn’t criminal – and how it is legal to offer a pay rate of under £3.33 per hour, and yet here we are.

These are the facts, as we see them:

  • Fact: social care workers are among the lowest paid in the country, across any industry.
  • Fact: National Minimum Wages should be the lowest any worker can be paid for any employment. Therefore, this ruling seems to breach fundamental employment rights and contradict employment law.
  • Fact: the fixed-rate paid for a sleep-in shift is up to the employer, even though there could be limitless call outs and disturbances every night on duty.
  • Fact: sleep-in carers are rarely paid anything in addition to this flat rate, regardless of how challenging a shift they have needed to cover.

As Clare Tomlinson-Blake quoted the BBC following the outcome of the Supreme Court decision:

“Staff are constantly on guard to protect the most vulnerable in society. The sound of a cough in the night could mean someone’s in danger.”

The problem here is that employers are assigning this role to low-paid workers, who are already in critically short supply.

Social care workers are being asked to fill a position that could genuinely be the difference in whether a patient, loved one, or care home resident lives or dies – and paid astonishingly low rates for that responsibility.

The Courts conclude that care workers are ‘not actually working during their sleeping hours.’

They say that the staff sleeping quarters are those they are ‘permitted to use for sleeping’ and that staff will only be paid for work ‘when they are awake for working’.

However, we don’t think we’re stating the obvious when we suggest that most of us would not be prepared to spend nights away from home, in workplace sleeping facilities, for any reason other than to be ‘working’.

 

The big question is – where do we go next?

To effect real change, we need to raise industry expectations.

  • We need to improve the average pay rates of social care placements.
  • We need to demand that the skills, care and professionalism of social care workers are NOT the only employment area nationwide where less than minimum wage is legally allowed.
  • We need to take the time to understand the reality of sleep-in shifts and the long-term impacts on staff mental health and wellbeing.

Over to you!

Outt.com would love to hear what you think. We have launched an anonymous survey, open to both employers and workers, to help us understand honest market opinion and the competing factors at play.

It matters because leading from the front is always empowered by the need from the workforce – and learning from the experiences of real people in real-life scenarios is the only way to paint a bigger picture of what’s going on here.

Please take a few minutes to participate in this project; even if you disagree strongly with the Outt.com team, we’re always open to making space for alternative opinions!

For the time being, if you are struggling with any aspect of social care employment and want to find a better way, we’re here for you.

Outt.com is the fastest-growing Care Jobs Marketplace for a reason – because we care deeply about driving forward the social care industry and making life better for everybody.

And we believe it’s time for a change.