Blog: The fight goes on for fairness in social care pay

UNISON will continue campaigning with renewed vigour for the major reform that the care sector so desperately needs

Christina McAnea

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling failed to establish that care workers should be paid the national minimum wage for every hour of their sleep-in shifts. The judgement was extremely hard for all of us at UNISON – but especially for the care workers affected.

It is now clearer than ever that major reform can be delayed no longer.

UNISON has fought a six-year legal battle to win full pay for sleep-ins. Our member Clare Tomlinson Blake had argued, with the support of our award-winning legal team, that every hour of her sleep-in shifts should be paid at the rate of the national minimum wage.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court decided that while workers must be paid national minimum wage rates when they are awake and working, they do not need to be paid this when they are asleep.

It goes without saying that the judgment was extremely disappointing for the union and a real blow for thousands of care workers who do sleep-in shifts. But our position remains unchanged: care workers must be paid in full for their sleep-in shifts. So our campaign for fair pay will continue.

We are increasing pressure on the government to change the law to make it clear that care workers should be paid at least the national minimum wage for each hour of their sleep-in shifts.

We are also writing to care employers and commissioners to make our position clear and to demand they do not cut existing pay rates for already low-paid staff.

And we will continue our wider fight for a real living wage – for all care workers.

The Supreme Court ruling is yet another insult for care workers after an incredibly tough year. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought devastation to the social care world and has demonstrated yet again that care workers are too often on the receiving end of exploitation and abuse.

This cannot go on. The work that care workers do is highly skilled – it needs to be recognised as such and rewarded accordingly.

The court ruling has provided further evidence that our current social care system is broken beyond repair. It needs a complete and urgent overhaul.

For the government, there is nowhere left to hide. They have repeatedly promised reform, only to duck the issue time after time.

I can assure you that our union will be campaigning with renewed vigour for the major reform that the care sector so desperately needs – and we know that reform must start with fair pay for the workforce.