HM Revenue and Customs is responsible for taking action against employers who do not pay at least the National Minimum Wage to their staff. For adults aged 25 and over, the minimum wage is currently set at £7.50 per hour.

Following a recent flurry of case law on the subject (see our latest article on the subject here), HMRC have started investigating employers in the social care sector for failing to pay the National Minimum Wage in respect of workers carrying out "sleep-in" shifts.

It is common practice in the care sector for workers to be paid a fixed allowance for "sleep-in" shifts, which will often fall short of National Minimum Wage requirements. Social care providers therefore face the threat of financial penalties, as well as repayment of arrears of wages owed to their workers who have been underpaid, in light of HMRC's investigations.

On 26 July 2017 the Government announced a set of new measures in recognition of the fact that the liability of these financial penalties and arrears of wages could cause significant disruption to the sector.

The measures are as follows:

  1. HMRC will waive the financial penalties for employers who are found to have underpaid their workers for these night shifts, where the shifts took place prior to 26 July 2017. Any employers underpaying their staff for "sleep-in" shifts after 26 July 2017 will face financial penalties in the usual way.
  2. Enforcement action in respect of underpayment of the "sleep-in" shifts has been suspended until 2 October 2017. The Government has said that, whilst the suspension is in place, it will work with the social care sector to see whether there are any steps that can be taken to minimise any negative impact that HMRC's investigations will have on the social care sector.

Despite these measures, the Government has re-affirmed the fact that all employers should be paying their workers in accordance with the law, which includes ensuring that they meet National Minimum Wage requirements.