Social care providers will have up to a year to identify how much they owe staff who were historically paid below the minimum wage for sleep-in shifts, under a new voluntary government scheme announced yesterday.
Councils had warned that a requirement to settle claims for underpayment of hourly rates would push many providers out of business.
The new Social Care Compliance Scheme gives providers a year to calculate how much they owe staff in arrears. They will then be given a three-month review period to settle cases.
The government earlier this year waived further penalties for the underpayment of sleep-in shifts before 26 July in response to concerns over the financial stability of the social care market. Enforcement action was also temporarily suspended between 26 July and November 1.
Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs will now write to employers with outstanding sleep-in shift complaints against them and encourage them to sign up to the scheme.
Today’s announcement said: “The government is exploring options to minimise any impact on the sector. The government has opened discussions with the European Commission to determine whether any support, if deemed necessary, would be subject to EU state aid rules.”
Chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board Izzi Seccombe (Con) said the new scheme would buy “much-needed time” to understand the impact of historic liabilities.
She added: “But this announcement does not end the uncertainty for providers, care workers, the people they care for and their families, and those who pay for their own care or employ a personal assistant through a personal budget.
“It was misleading government guidance in the past which caused the confusion over whether [national living wage] should apply for sleep-in shifts. Now the government has clarified the position, it needs to provide genuinely new funding to deal with back-payment.”
Cllr Seccombe also warned that the government cannot ignore the additional costs of sleep-in shifts “in the here and now and into the future” and called for extra funding in the Budget.