Supreme Court judgement means Welsh government must act to protect care workers


A public services trade union has described today’s Supreme Court ruling that social care staff are not entitled to the national minimum wage for every hour they work, including sleep-in shifts,​ as a major blow and it has called for the Welsh government to step in and protect care workers.

UNISON Cymru Wales says thousands of mainly female, low-paid care workers here will be bitterly disappointed at the judgement and there is an onus on Welsh ministers to urgently guarantee all care workers will be paid the national minimum wage for sleep-in shifts.

UNISON says Welsh government should follow the example of the Scottish government, which has guaranteed the national minimum wage for sleep-in shifts since 2018.

The trade union is campaigning for a National Care Service for Wales to lift care workers out of in-work poverty and boost the quality of care for patients and their families.

Mark Turner, UNISON lead officer for social care said,

“Care workers are poorly paid and the Supreme Court’s sleep-in judgement will be very difficult for them to take.

“People clapped for them during the pandemic, appreciating the value of their work but this ruling illustrates once again carers are paid as little as possible.

“Thousands of low-paid female carers in Wales could be helped if the Welsh government stepped in to ensure the national minimum wage will be paid for sleep-in shifts.

“There is a desperate need a National Care Service for Wales which would set fair wages and employment conditions for care workers across the country. Care workers need respect and just reward for their work.”

Note to editors

  • Today’s ruling marks the end of a long-running UNISON-backed case taken on behalf of care worker Clare Tomlinson-Blake against her now former employer Mencap.
  • Ms Tomlinson-Blake – who provided 24-hour support to two men in their own home – argued that every hour of her night shifts should count as working time. She was required to keep ‘a listening ear out’, provide support where needed and respond to emergencies.
  • An employment tribunal initially found in her favour, but the Court of Appeal overturned the decision in July 2018. Then in February 2019, the Supreme Court granted Ms Tomlinson-Blake permission to appeal and UNISON continued to support this case.
  • In their ruling, the Supreme Court acknowledged that no-one would doubt the importance of care workers who look after those who cannot look after themselves, and that sleep-in staff are among the low paid.
  • However, the justices said that workers must be paid national minimum wage when they are awake and working, but they do not need to be paid this when they’re asleep.


Alastair Gittins, UNISON Cymru Wales press officer on 07816 53 83 97.