Working time

21 March 2018

There are two recent cases to be aware of in relation to working time, both involving firefighters.

The first says that an award for injury to feelings can be made in an employment tribunal if an employee wins a claim of detriment for asserting working time rights. South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue transferred firefighters including Mr Mansell to another station, after he and others refused to work a new shift system which gave inadequate rest breaks. The tribunal decided that this transfer was a detriment on the basis that the firefighters had asserted their working time rights. The Employment Appeal Tribunal held that it was open for the firefighters to argue that they should get an injury to feelings award like other detriment claims, such as when making a complaint about sex discrimination. This could make compensation awards more expensive for employers on the losing side of these claims.

The second case was a decision by the Court of Justice of the European Union involving a volunteer firefighter who had to be on ‘stand-by’ in case he was called in to work. When on stand-by duty, Mr Matzak had to be contactable and stay within 8 minutes travel of his fire station. For this he was paid a stand-by allowance annually. He argued he was not paid properly for this stand-by time and that it should be classed as working time. The Court agreed.

When an employer decides where a worker must physically be (even if it’s their own home) and states that the worker must be available at short notice, then that should be classed as working time. The worker was entitled to be properly paid for that time. The intensity of the work during the stand-by period was irrelevant. It didn’t matter that the employee was resting at home.

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