Neill Thomas from Thomas Mansfield Solicitors was representing John Shannon, a Surrey care worker who was paid just £90 a week for sleeping over at his care home from eight at night until seven in the morning.
He had argued that he should have been paid minimum wage for the hours he was at work, regardless of whether he was needed to actually work or not.
A linked second case was also brought by Clare Tomlinson-Blake against the learning disability charity, Mencap.
She also argued on her behalf that care staff having to sleep at people’s homes should also get the minimum wage for nightshifts even if they are asleep.
Both cases sought to overturn a previous Court of Appeal ruling. If the cases had been successful, care workers across the UK could have been entitled to back pay of around £600million.
But at the Supreme Court today [March 19] Lady Arden ruled that carers who have to sleep at their workplace in case they are needed overnight are not entitled to the minimum wage for their whole shift.
In her written ruling she said sleep-in workers were ‘not doing time work for the purposes of the national minimum wage if they are not awake’.
Neill Thomas, who represented Mr Shannon, said they were ‘disappointed’ with the result.
“In Mr Shannon’s case, he was only paid in 20 years of service between £50-90 a week for working a shift from eight at night to seven in the morning several days a week,” he said, adding, “These people not very well paid at all. In fact, Mr Shannon is one of the poorest people I’ve ever met.”
Mr Thomas said other industries had previously been successful at claiming minimum wage for sleeping in at the Court of Appeal, including night watchmen as well as nurses.
But The Supreme Court ‘took a narrow view’ at the legislation and ‘swept away’ those previous cases as well as these two new cases.
He continued: “We are disappointed in the ruling but what is the most absurd thing is Mr Shannon now has to pay costs of £50,000.
“This sends the wrong message that if they try to challenge something basic like minimum wage you may end up worse off.”