Although often associated with emergency services, many businesses use on-call staff. They’re essentially a standby employee. And it’s when, outside of normal working hours, they’re ready to carry out work when you tell them. Such an approach is in use when a business has an unexpected or emergency demand outside of traditional working hours. There’ll often be on-call shifts where the worker is never required to do work, or somewhere they are actually working for the whole time.
On-call working time lawsUnder the working time directive for on-call hours, ‘working time’ is where someone works at your disposal and carries out their activity or duties. But does this apply to on-call time? There are generally two different types of on-call working.
- The first is where the worker has to be at their normal workplace for the length of the on-call shift, waiting to carry out their duties. In this situation, the whole time spent on-call is working time.
- The second is where the worker is free to do whatever they want during the on-call shift but, when told to work, they must follow the order.
- Must be able to attend the workplace within a certain period of time, e.g. 15 minutes from the notification time.
- Must live in a location within a set distance of the workplace at all times, e.g. 5 miles away.
- Cannot consume alcohol.
- Must be able to drive at all times.
- Must be awake within set times e.g. from 10 pm – 12 pm.
- Must be contactable by phone at all times.
Why does it matter if on-call time is working time?Having time spent on-call classed as working time will impact on:
- The maximum 48-hour working week, unless the worker has opted-out.
- Minimum rest breaks.
- Minimum rest periods.
- National minimum wage compliance where the staff members receives close to statutory rates.
What business rules should be in place?It’s important those carrying out on-call work understand the company rules and procedures. After all, they’re often required to carry out their duties in an emergency, or within a short time period. Also, as they work outside of normal working hours, it’s likely they’ll be working without direct supervision or management control. You can use an on-call policy to set out:
- The responsibilities of employees who are on-call.
- Any restrictions placed on workers whilst they are on-call.
- The duties their role involves.
- How you’ll contact the employee to carry out the for (for example, if you’ll send them a text message or call them).
- What to do once the employee receives contact i.e. do they have to attend work first or can they go straight to the job?
- Whether additional benefits are in place for on-call work e.g. higher pay rates.
- Health and safety rules for on-call workers.