The Court of Appeal has ruled that disability workers doing sleepover shifts must be paid at least the minimum wage for every hour they sleep over. This brings the pay of caregivers into line with that of fire-fighters and ambulance officers, who receive their normal pay rate for every hour they sleep over and are on call.

The case involved a disability worker who was required to do sleepover shifts several times a month. During these shifts the worker was responsible for five men with intellectual disabilities and behavioural issues. For doing a sleepover shift he was paid an allowance of $34.00, and his hourly rate of $17.66 each time he had to get up to help the occupants of the house. This meant his average hourly rate for the shift was $3.77 an hour.

The Court of Appeal upheld an earlier Employment Court ruling in the workers favour, saying the sleepover shift placed both significant restraints and responsibilities on the worker, and counted as ‘work’ under the Minimum Wage Act.

This decision is likely to have significant implications, as disability and care workers who have not received the minimum wage for all hours worked in the past may be able to claim up to six years of back pay. The total cost of this back pay may be between $400 – 500 million across the country.

If you are a care worker, or employ care workers, and would like to discuss what this decision means for you, please feel free to phoneAlan Knowleyfor a relaxed and confidential initial chat.