A ‘sleep-in’ shift is when an employee — often in a care home or healthcare environment, where 24/7 staffing is required — sleeps at their workplace so that they can quickly respond if they’re needed during the night.
By contrast, a “waking shift” is when an employee works through the night hours, and is usually neither allowed nor able to sleep during that time.
Staff who work sleep-in shifts are usually given access to private staff lodgings or dorms on-site. They’re effectively on call throughout the night, but unlike many on-call schedules, staff are able to begin work at much shorter notice since they don’t have to travel to their workplace.
Minimum wage for sleep-in shifts
There has been some debate in recent years in the UK with regard to whether staff should be paid the National Minimum Wage during the hours that they’re sleeping on-site, due to the fact that they are neither at home nor able to use their time as they’d normally choose — for instance, spending time with family, studying, or socialising.
Although the Supreme Court ruled in 2021 that staff working sleep-in shifts in a social care setting are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage while asleep, it was decreed that they must be paid at this rate or higher for the hours when they’re awake and working.