We have decided that a number of employees need to be on call to respond to emergencies outside of normal hours. These employees are arguing that the on-call periods should be treated as work time under the Working Time Regulations and therefore health and safety legislative requirements would apply. Is this the case?

Q

We have decided that a number of employees need to be on call to respond to emergencies outside of normal hours. These employees are arguing that the on-call periods should be treated as work time under the Working Time Regulations and therefore health and safety legislative requirements would apply. Is this the case?

A

The definition of working time for the purposes of the Working Time Regulations is “any period during which the worker is working at his employer’s disposal and carrying out his activity or duties”.

Applying this to on-call workers can be problematic as, on the one hand, an on-call employee is usually free to pursue certain leisure activities but on the other, this freedom is usually limited to a greater or lesser degree by the fact that they must be available to take calls and return to their workplace if necessary.

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