Veterinary update: Supreme Court rules that sleep ins do not constitute working time for National Minimum Wage purposes

Published: Wednesday 31 March 2021

The Supreme Court has recently ruled that sleep-in shifts do not constitute working time for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage (NMW) unless staff are awake for the purposes of working. This related to the health and social care sector but we believe that it will have relevance for veterinary practices as well..

In summary the judgment has concluded the following:

  • They gave weight to the Low Pay Commission (LPC) which recommended that sleep-in workers should receive an allowance and not the NMW unless they are awake for the purposes of working (which was repeated in later reports from the LPC).
  • If the worker is permitted to sleep during the shift and is only required to respond to emergencies, the hours in question are not included in the NMW calculation for time worked or salaried hours worked unless the worker is awake for the purpose of working.

The ruling reconfirms the decision reached by the Court of Appeal in July 2018. Some practices may have already adapted their approach to sleep-in payments on the assumption that sleep-ins could potentially constitute working time and hence have adopted averaging arrangements (or in some cases more fundamental changes to pay structures for such shifts). On this basis, the impact on profitability for practices is unlikely to fundamentally change (as we do not anticipate major reactionary changes to staff pay) as a result of the judgment.

It does however mean that any potential threat of substantial claims in relation to back pay for sleep in shifts has fallen away.

If you have any questions relating to anything discussed, please get in touch with one of the team.

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Phil Swan
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