Vulnerable people with learning difficulties could lose overnight supervision, disability charity Mencap warns.

The HMRC has ruled carers sleeping overnight to provide safety and reassurance should be be paid the national minimum wage for all hours.

Mencap says the total bill for back pay – due by September, and in some cases dating back six years – could be £400m.

The government says carers should be paid fairly.

The national minimum wage for those aged 25 and over is £7.50 an hour, which will increase to £9 by 2020.

While on night shifts, most employees providing care in people’s own homes are allowed to sleep, providing they can be woken to deal with any incidents.

According to minimum wage legislation, employers must take into account shifts where staff are allowed to sleep as long as they are “at work and under certain work-related responsibilities”.

Until recently, many overnight carers were paid a flat rate allowance for the ‘sleep-in’, with additional wages paid for work carried out.

‘Brink of disaster’

Smaller care charities were on the brink of disaster as a result of the changes, said Derek Lewis, Chairman of Mencap.

The charity lost an appeal in April this year, against a ruling that it was wrong to have paid a support worker £29.05 for a nine-hour sleep-in shift.

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