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Working Time - on call

BY Gerry O'Hare
Employment Law & HR
BG Purple

One of the trickier aspects of the Working Time Regs is determining what constitutes 'working time' when an employee is on call.  Clearly, when the worker is on call and actually carrying out work, this will constitute working time.

More controversial is the question of a worker who is on call but not working. 

The EAT has had cause to look again at this question in the recent case of Truslove & anor v Scottish Ambulance Service.  In this case, the EAT had to decide if two paramedics, who were required to remain away from home and within a three mile radius of a distant ambulance station were at work or at rest. 

After reviewing a number of cases, the EAT found that the period spent away from home and on call did constitute working time, with the result that the workers in this case had not been given appropriate compensatory rest. The EAT took the view that the question of whether or not a worker on call could be said to be working, turned on the question of whether he or she was obliged to be present and available at a place determined by the employer.  In this case, the obligation to be away from home and to respond immediately when requested by the employer meant that this period could rightly be called working time.  

Employers should be mindful of what can constitute working time when planning work patterns and ensure that workers receive the breaks to which they are legally entitled.  If you are in any doubt as your current patterns of work, you should contact your legal manager to discuss the legal position.

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