There is some relief for care home providers with the government announcing it will temporarily waive financial penalties on employers found to have underpaid their workers for ’sleep-in shifts’.
The government will also suspend HMRC enforcement activity until 2 October concerning payment of ‘sleep-in’ shifts and will work with representatives of the social care sector, during the period of that suspension, to see how it might be possible to minimize any impact on provision of social care.
Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, welcomed the move but said ‘sleep-in’ payments were only part of the problem.
“Providers may be required to pay years of back pay to staff who have worked sleep-ins and it is therefore imperative that the government works with the sector to fathom a long term solution. There needs to be absolute clarity that public sector commissioners will have to fund the cost of sleep ins at the National Minimum Wage going forward.
“This issue affects a range of independent providers including charities. Commissioners and providers need to sit down together to discuss the sufficiency of an individual’s care package, rather than this being set as part of an arbitrary standard price. In order to provide the best quality care it is essential that providers can budget and plan for the short, medium and long term and this has to be done alongside commissioners”.
Michael Hodges, head of consultancy care at Christie & Co, said: “The social care sector is currently facing a myriad of challenges, most of which were highlighted in our key note research report launched last week. What was made explicitly clear is that care providers cannot face further overheads, or indeed a £400 million back payment bill.
The Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG) also welcomed the move with chief executive, Dr Rhidian Hughes, saying: “VODG welcomes the National Living Wage and fully supports implementation. The social care sector has been fast approaching a crunch point in terms of HMRC enforcement action.
“The announcement by Government is very welcome, timely and a significant step forward. We will continue to work with central and local Government and employers to reach agreement on the future funding of essential services for disabled and older people who require on-call support during the night.
“But there is much more detail to work though. We need to agree a solution that works for the sector and avoids significant litigation. This includes removing the risk of back pay claims against employers.”