Defining Night Roles

Defining Night Roles

Defining night roles accurately can be difficult; different titles are used, and titles may not always mean the same to everyone. It is important to accurately define the role of a night carer at the onset; to ensure the correct wage is paid, (to both attract and retain great staff), and be sure the night carer is working safely. For example, if a role is described as On-Call but it is really a Waking Night, the carer may have other commitments during the day for which they need to have adequate sleep. 

At Snap Care, we use 3 job titles which we believe clearly describe each role:

  1. Waking Night Carer
  2. On-Call Night Carer
  3. Sleeping Night Carer

We recruit support for children and adults of all ages, 0 – 65, for ease of reading, we refer to the ‘client’.

Waking Nights 

Carers provide constant support. This may be monitoring and/or to carry out required tasks throughout the night such as turning/repositioning, managing seizures, observations, or medication administration. Carers work either in the same room as the client or in a nearby room with video/auditory monitors. 

It is vital the carer has enough to keep them occupied throughout the shift to stay alert – and awake. Where client engagement is minimal, carers should be given tasks related to the client to carry out or be allowed to occupy themselves for example, to study. 

On-Call Nights

Sometimes this is referred to as ‘Sleep-in’ Nights. Carers can expect to have some sleep but will be on-call to attend to the client as and when needed. They should anticipate being woken once or twice a night for periods of less than 30 minutes. Carers work close by and/or use visual/audio monitors to know when they are required.

Sleeping Nights

Sometimes referred to as ‘Sleepover’ Nights. Carers should anticipate being able to sleep through the whole night and are present as a responsible adult who may be called on for very occasional, unpredictable needs or emergencies, for example, if a client has infrequent seizures. They may also work in tandem with a Waking Night or On-Call Night carer, who may need a second person in an emergency, for example to safely evacuate the client should there be a fire. A nightly Sleeping Allowance can be agreed, but if the carer is required at any time during the shift, those hours must be meet National Minimum Wage requirements. 

Why sleeping roles may change – even within a shift.

From Waking Night to On-Call Night

The client may initially require Waking Night support, but as their condition stabilises or improves, On-Call night support may be adequate. For example, a client has severe nocturnal seizures and requires a Waking Night Carer. He is prescribed new medication and after 6 months his seizures reduce so significantly, he only has occasional night seizures. Or a young client constantly wakes during the night. It is thought this is due to her physical disability causing discomfort, but with a good night time routine, it is evident her needs are behavioural, and she now sleeps through the night, only needing to be repositioned once or twice. 

If changes are likely/anticipated, it is advisable to recruit for a temporary or fixed term role, the same person is unlikely to want to change the job they initially applied for. Sometimes, a completion bonus is paid at the end of the temporary period if the desired outcome has been achieved. 

From On-Call Night to Waking Night

If a client’s condition or health deteriorates this may require the role to be changed from an On-Call to a Waking Night role. This may be a temporary change for example, the client is recovering from surgery or is unwell. The carer’s hourly rate should reflect the work they are required to do. If they are required to attend to the client 3 or more times, for periods of 30 minutes or more, or if they are awake for an extended period, it is accepted they will get little or no sleep and so rates should revert to Waking Night rates for the full shift. 

If the changes are permanent, it needs to be re-assessed if the carer can work a Waking Night: What are their commitments during the day? Can they work Waking Nights? This is a role that requires stamina and a change in sleep patterns.

Facilities Required for the Night Carer

The minimum facilities to be provided for a carer are: 

  • A comfortable chair
  • For On-Call and Sleeping Night roles, a suitable bed. You may ask carers to bring/take their own bedding if the bed is shared with other carers.
  • Access to tea and coffee making facilities, a fridge, sink and toilet. 

If you have any questions around night support, please contact one of the Snap Care team on 020 7729 2200 or email

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