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29 August 2014 0 Comments
Posted in Employment, Opinion

Union welcomes rest time ruling victory

Author headshot image Posted by , Partner

Unite the union has hailed an employment appeal tribunal (EAT) judgement on the working time arrangements for on-call paramedics and techniciansin the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) as a victory for workers’ rights.

Relief ambulance paramedics Paul Truslove and Ellouise Wood sought compensation from the SAS over a breach of their rest entitlements under the 1998 Working Time Regulations, after they accumulated 97 and 48 consecutive working hours respectively.

Mr Truslove and Ms Wood worked normally from a base station in Elgin, which is manned by a 24-hour shift rota, but were also required to provide nightly on-call cover for the Dufftown and Tomintoul areas, where only day shift cover is provided.

In April, an employment tribunal ruled that that despite requirements for on-call technicians and paramedics to relocate to accommodation within three miles of the local station, and to respond to emergencies within a target time of three minutes, this would still be defined as a rest period.

At the EAT, the Honourable Mr Justice Langstaff overturned the tribunal decision, ruling the previous judgement as an error of law and defining on-call duties as working time.

Unite regional industrial officer Tommy Campbell said: “This is a significant victory for Unite’s long-term campaigning on behalf of our members in the SAS and the defence of their working time rights.

“The original employment tribunal judgement that time spent by technicians and paramedics’ on-call and away from home in order to fulfil geographical and time-bound requirements for the provision of patient care as a rest period was, frankly, ludicrous.

“The ruling to overturn the original judgement and clearly define on-call duty as working time not only protects the right of our ambulance technicians and paramedics to a proper compensatory rest period but also ensures we have the best standards for patient safety too.

“Ultimately this ruling not only defends the working time rights of our members in the SAS but sets out precedence to protect all workers in general by upholding the principles of the Working Time Directive.”

This decision endorses two recent cases concerning care home workers paid on an hourly rate basis, who undertook “sleep-ins”, whereby they were paid a flat rate for the entire night. This sleep-in time was held to be working time and therefore they were entitled to be paid the national minimum wage in respect of each hour, regardless of whether they were actually working or asleep. These decisions have the potential to place considerable pressures on third sector organisations that provide staff for care homes and care in the community.

Employment law is complex and employees can find it difficult to get to grips with whether their employer is behaving compliant with relevant legislation.

At Royds, we can provide expert advice on all aspects of employment law, including workers’ rights under the Working Time Directive and contractual issues.

For more information on our Employment Law services, please contact our specialist Employment & HR team.

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