The question of whether or not care workers’ time spent on sleepovers or travelling between clients’ homes is “working time” that should be paid has long vexed employers in the care sector.
A recent EAT case has confirmed that sleepovers and travel time do count as working time and that employees are entitled to be paid at least the national minimum wage for those hours.
The case concerned a care worker, Mrs Whittlestone, who worked for BJP Home Support Ltd. She was employed to provide care for service users in their own homes, and she was also required to undertake “sleepovers” between 11pm and 7am at service users’ homes. During the sleepovers, Mrs Whittlestone was required to respond to the service user’s needs but could otherwise sleep if her services were not required.
Mrs Whittlestone was paid £6.35 for her normal hours spent at service users’ homes, and a further £40 for undertaking sleepovers. She was not paid on an hourly basis for the sleepovers nor was she paid for the time spent travelling between service users’ homes. Mrs Whittlestone disputed her employer’s approach, and raised a claim alleging that they were in breach of the Working Time Regulations and the National Minimum Wage Regulations.
In the Employment Tribunal it was decided that the employer was correct in its approach and that Mrs Whittlestone was not entitled to payment. She appealed the decision and the EAT found in her favour, clarifying that both time spent on sleepovers and travelling between service users’ homes is working time for which an employee is entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage.