Mencap and Unison join forces to demand minimum wage changes

20 Apr 2021 News

Mencap and Unison have written a joint letter to the prime minister demanding “urgent” action on pay for care workers.

The charity and trade union were on opposing sides of a supreme court case regarding social care pay last month, but are now working together to call for reform of the way the sector is funded.

The letter said that rules should be changed so that staff working sleep-in shifts at care homes are guaranteed the minimum wage for the full shift.

For these shifts, employers like Mencap historically paid flat-rate fees at rates below the minimum wage.

The letter added that the government “must make more resources available to local authorities to allow much-needed reform”, in order to ensure that fair pay is provided through commissioning contracts for social care.


In March, the Supreme Court rejected a long-standing case brought by a former Mencap employee who argued that the charity should cover back pay for social care staff paid beneath the minimum wage for past night shifts.

Mencap has paid its night-shift staff at minimum wage rates since 2017 but did not before that time. It said that any bill for back pay could cost the care sector as much as £400m.

Shared vision

In the letter to Boris Johnson, published today, Mencap and Unison said they were “united in the same vision – a properly funded care sector”.

It added that “action is needed urgently over sleep-in shifts. Unison and Mencap are urging you to amend current rules so sleep-in shifts are defined as working time for the purposes of minimum wage law.

“This would ensure pay reflects the reality of what the job actually involves and guarantee care providers ensure staff are paid for every hour of their overnight shifts”.

'Minimum wage laws must be amended'

The letter also said: “Mencap has no plans to reduce payments to staff.

“But other providers and council care commissioners could see the judgment as an opportunity to cut costs including wages.

“The result could be even fewer recruits joining a sector already suffering from thousands of vacancies.

“Minimum wage laws must be amended.”

Mencap and Unison asked the prime minister to amend those laws, or “at the very least” to ask the Low Pay Commission to investigate.

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