A recent court ruling decided that care workers were not eligible for the minimum wage during “sleep-in” shifts in which they stay overnight at a service user’s residence, with the rationale that workers are able to go to sleep during their shift.
But the union’s poll of over 3,000 people in the profession revealed that 72% of care workers get no more than a couple of hours of sleep during these shifts because they are busy attending to the needs of service users and leave feeling exhausted.
Further, the union was told of instances in which workers were expected to sleep on dirty mattresses, in offices, and sometimes without washing facilities, while 31% reported receiving physical and verbal abuse, including being punched and threatened with knives.
Overall, more than one in ten (13%) workers were not offered suitable sleeping facilities, 81% spent overnight hours calming service users with learning disabilities and mental health problems; 43% got up to help service users go to the toilet; 59% had to be awake to provide medication;
General Secretary of Unision, Dave Prentis, said: “This report demonstrates how much sleep-in staff are relied upon. They’re effectively keeping the care system on its feet. Yet workers are hugely undervalued by employers and paid poverty wages. It’s totally unacceptable to leave staff to sleep in offices, and not protect them from abuse.”