Can I pay less than the National Minimum Wage for Sleeping Nights?

18 March 2019

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Can I pay less than the National Minimum Wage for Sleeping Night Care?

In a word…YES! (But not always…)

There has been huge confusion for the last few years around whether or not a carer working a sleeping night is entitled to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for each hour.

Initially the government stipulated sleeping carers should be paid NMW, and even declared that back pay going back 6 years, should be paid to those who had historically had been paid under the NMW. MENCAP took up the fight against back payments, arguing they and many other charities and companies simply didn’t have the funds and would fold if forced to pay; leaving their clients without essential support.

MENCAP won the fight against back payments and the ruling changed so that carers genuinely sleeping, did not have to be paid the NMW. Even after all this, Snap were still advised by ACAS in 2018 to state Sleeping Night Rates should be paid at NMW. Their reasoning was that the ruling was being challenged and could change again, and that because the campaign was featured so prominently in the news, carers would expect at least NMW.

However, when we looked into this again (March 2019), we found this stated on the government website:

‘Workers who are expected to sleep for most of a sleep-in shift will get the National Minimum Wage only when they are woken up to perform tasks. They must be given somewhere suitable to sleep’.

A call to ACAS confirmed that a Sleeping Allowance can be agreed when someone is able to go to bed, is provided with suitable facilities (a bed!) and should expect to sleep except if there is an emergency or unanticipated situation that requires their assistance. While any rate can be set for the Sleeping Allowance, should the carer be woken and attend to the client, all the hours in that shift must be paid at the National Minimum Rate.

An Example

Our fictitious client John has an Acquired Brain Injury. He sleeps soundly each night and can get himself to the bathroom if needed. If however, something unexpected happened, such as a burglar alarm going off, a fire, a water pipe burst or John unexpectedly became unwell, he would likely wake confused, disorientated and unable to cope with the situation and need support.


John agrees a Sleeping Allowance rate of £40.00 a night for an 8 hour shift with his carer, Simon. Months go by and he needs no assistance at night as expected. John goes to bed one night feeling fine, but during the night wakes with a temperature and starts vomiting. He calls to Simon who then assists John for the next 3 hours. In this situation, Simon must be paid at least the NMW for the total shift (8 hours), which from April 2019 will be £8.21, so £65.68, an additional £25.68.


Snap’s Thoughts

When we started Snap back in 2001, we recommended a rate that was typically higher than other companies. We wanted to attract candidates who provided more than the basic care needs; people who would support our client’s development, independence and rehabilitation, and that’s just what we did.

When someone is working with a client it is a rewarding but demanding job and people’s pay should reflect that. If however, someone is genuinely asleep and only called on in an emergency, it doesn’t seem appropriate to expect clients and families to pay what they would for direct care.

Paying the NMW for every hour is unaffordable for many clients and families. Most people sleep 8 hours each night, that’s 8 x 8.21, £65.68 a night or £459.76 a week. £23,907.52 per annum. Plus Employer’s National Insurance Contributions, plus potentially pension contributions...

We know many carers who will be happy to go to sleep and earn £40.00 a night. This type of job is ideal for students for example.


Clarifying Night Roles

At Snap, we believe the problem is the clarification and definition of night roles. Carers are being told a role is a Sleeping Night (or ‘Sleepover’ nights as some people call them), when actually the client is likely to need attending to 2 or 3 times each night or most nights. Our definition of this, is an On-Call Night. (Confusingly, often called a Sleep-In Night…).

If a carer has attended to the client 2 or 3 times during the night, that’s a pretty disturbed night.

We recruit for 3 types of night roles. We think it’s helpful to use (only!) these terms; they accurately describe the role:

1.      Waking Nights
2.      On-Call Nights
3.      Sleeping Nights

Waking – the carer is awake for all the hours worked, just as if it were daytime

On-Call – the carer is ready, on-call, to attend when needed maybe 2 or 3 times most nights.

Sleeping – as described above, asleep, there just in case…

If the role is clearly defined, everyone knows what is expected of them and what they can expect in return. Being able to negotiate a Sleeping Allowance will enable more people to have the reassurance of having someone there for them should they need it.

Now if everyone could please use our night titles…

Useful Links:

Gov.UK Night Working Hours
More Snap info on defining night roles
National Minimum Wage


Afternoon, my employer has now stopped paying staff for sleep ins and now pays an allowance instead. Our leave has now gone from days to hours, can my employer now take 16 hours leave from me for a sleep shift that is 16 hours long 8 awake 8 asleep in stead of what used to be a day ie 8 hours, as we now get a lot less days annual leave. Thanks for your help. Regards Glen
Posted on Friday, April 09, 2021 15:45 by Glen Birchall
Hi I get £20 for eight hours sleep in shift ,is this the usual rate for a care home , I am the only person looking after three people so have to keep an ear out all night ?????
Posted on Wednesday, November 11, 2020 22:17 by Jacqueline
Hi, i do sleeping nights but the bed where we sleep is in a room below a flat of a client who is nocturnal. He makes lots of noise, moves furniture ect. That means we cannit get a good night sleep. Any advices? Are we oknto claim a waking night fir the time we are woken up by the noise, even though we are not attending to the client? Thank you.
Posted on Monday, November 02, 2020 19:13 by Ashka
Hi, We have a few people post comments about what they should be paid for specific shifts. I'm sorry, but we are unable to reply to individuals about what is their correct wage would be (unless we have placed you in that job). Sleep-in shifts The number of hours a worker gets paid the National Minimum Wage for a ‘sleep-in’ shift depends on whether they’re expected to sleep or work for most of it. Workers who are expected to work for most of a sleep-in shift (for example, a care worker) will usually get the National Minimum Wage for the whole shift. They will get it for the whole shift even if they’re allowed to sleep between tasks. This is information from .gov: 'Workers who are expected to sleep for most of a sleep-in shift will get the National Minimum Wage only when they are woken up to perform tasks. They must be given somewhere suitable to sleep'. The best people to contact and ask specific questions is ACAS: Hope that helps! Sally, Snap Care
Posted on Monday, July 13, 2020 16:16 by Sally
I am doing 4 days a week sleeping cover or pager not paid at all because by law the employer do not have to. After very demaind work no drink because you are on duty but not paid.
Posted on Saturday, July 11, 2020 22:50 by Thomas
I do 5nights a week at £50 per night I have been doing this for the last 7 1/2 years I get woken up at least 1-2 times a night Can you tell me what my rate of pay should be thank you
Posted on Friday, July 10, 2020 12:47 by Karen Shipley
I work 4 waking nights from 19:30-10:30 the night rate is paid 9 pounds per hour which is the hours of 20:30-07:00 hours . The surplus is paid at 10 pounds per hour. The night went from sleeping to waking and you are awake however tv the night hours are only paid at 9 pounds per hour =81 pounds per waking night . This carecall is with 2 clients not 1 is this correct?
Posted on Tuesday, May 19, 2020 10:41 by Miss Jones
We have a carer .living on site in independent accommodation. We have been granted funding for residential care at home. How do we apportion the pay? Most importantly. How much should the live in carer for overnight support. (Off site ) Cared for person has Lewey body dementia. But sleeps all night .We just have assistance getting him into bed . There is a care team working on site most of the day . Thanks
Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2020 11:39 by Lesley
Hi Keira Without knowing all the details, as we didn't place you, it's hard to say specifically. People should be paid at the NMW if they are woken up to perform tasks. The government website states 'Workers who are expected to sleep for most of a sleep-in shift will get the National Minimum Wage only when they are woken up to perform tasks'. I will add a link at the end of my reply. I think it also depend on what your contract of employment states regarding your wage and if this can be reduced. I would recommend contacting ACAS for employment advice, it's a free service and they are excellent. Hope that helps, Sally
Posted on Tuesday, April 21, 2020 15:56 by Sally Britton
Hi, i do wake and watch 4 nights a week in a care home and i used to get thr NMW for a 10 hour shift (10pm - 8am) but since june last year, the home director has put a set rate at 50 a night. Is this legal?
Posted on Thursday, April 16, 2020 19:27 by Keira
I work in care work and do sleepins i have been getting paid nmw from last year but now they have changed it and said they will now be paying a set rate is this correct and can they do this? It is back tracking and unsure if by law rhis is legal.
Posted on Wednesday, March 04, 2020 13:13 by Michell
Can i ask all the carers/workers if they are still paid their sleep in allowance when on annual leave or just their contracted hours??
Posted on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 12:36 by Trish Broughton
Hi Sandra, Thanks for your comments. I don't believe we placed you in the position, so I'm afraid we can't really comment on your current arrangement. As I described in my reply to Nigel, we classify a sleeping night as just that, you should expect to be able to sleep unless there is an emergency, but other agencies may describe nights differently and it's about what you originally agreed with them. What we recommend and how we work may be different to your agency. I would suggest you email your agency and explain your situation, it isn't good for either you or the client if you are that tired. Sally, Snap Care
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 15:48 by Sally Britton
I do a 'sleeping night' once a week. (Im a mobile carer) Sometimes the client will call me a few times in the night. Twice is still classed as sleeping night. What happens if the one time we are awake for a hour? Last time I was there the client got me up 4 times in the night, i called office next morning to tell them and that i would work the morning calls but to cover my calls for the afternoon as I was shattered but not happy about it. Should i have worked at all? Can you please confirm this for me. Regards Sandra
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 09:23 by Sandra
Dear Nigel, Thank you for your comment. We totally agree, where someone needs to be alert in case they are called on, they should be paid an hourly rate for each hour they are there. We call this type of night an On-Call Night, because you are just that, on call for when you are needed, which is typically 2 or 3 times a night. We also place people in Sleeping Night positions; where they can genuinely expect to get a good night’s sleep, and in this situation we believe it is appropriate to agree a flat nightly rate. Here’s an example when we recruited both On-Call and Sleeping Night care. The client has a physical disability and epilepsy. His seizures are very infrequent, just 3 or 4 times a year, but when he experiences them, they are severe, potentially life-threatening and there is no pattern, or known triggers. Two people are required to safely manage his seizures safely. Typically, the client requires the On-Call carer to assist twice a night. So for 360 or so nights, the Sleeping Night carer, gets a good night’s sleep, only called on when the client has a seizure, but their role is crucial to the client’s safety. When the client has a seizure, both the On-Call carer and Sleeping Night carer’s rate will move to a waking night, for all the hours of that shift. Another example is a physically disabled client we have supported. She has an undisturbed night pretty much every night, but someone needs to sleep there overnight, in case of an emergency. For example if there was a fire, she would need the carer to be able to evacuate the building. She has never called on the sleeping night carer, but is reassured to know there is someone if needed. The legislation changes frequently, see our updated blog above. We keep an eye on At Snap we believe the most important thing is to accurately define the role, if you need to be alert each night, as you say, you are working and that should be reflected in your pay! Sally at S
Posted on Wednesday, February 12, 2020 07:38 by Sally Briitton
All Care Workers doing Nights or doing a sleep over should get full normal pay. this is no different to a service man/woman on duty when i was in Northern Ireland back int he 1980 I got the same pay on nights as on days and if in active service or not but you had to be alert at all times, same for care workers, you may be sleeping over but your mind is always on the job. so pay them what they deserve.
Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2020 22:26 by Nigel H Crosby
I’m looking for some advice for myself and colleagues, our employer is trying to force us to work sleep ins shortly where we have no separate bathing facilities from the service users. In theory they want us to use the same bath or shower and toilet as the service users. I work with teenagers where it is not uncommon for them to have sexual diseases, foot and mouth, ring worm, and god know whatever else? Needless to say we’ve sought our unions advice and it’s going to become pretty heated come Monday when our union acts on our behalf! Can anyone give guidance in terms of what bathing facilities are deemed reasonable for us to argue our stance? Cheers Simon
Posted on Saturday, August 17, 2019 09:46 by Simon Wilson
I work as a private companion for a friend generally between the hours of 9 am to 5 pm for £12 an hour. I’m self employed. I have been asked to cover a sleeping night occasionally while the husband is away. You describe it as an eight hour non waking shift for £80 ( that’s £5 an hour). I am happy with that. My question is what should I charge/be getting for the remaining hours in the day. Ie from 5 pm to 11 pm and from 7am to 9 am the next day? Any thoughts? I work in Berkshire
Posted on Tuesday, June 18, 2019 13:29 by Barbara

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