This saga keeps raising its ugly head like an agitated serpent almost as often as the tides rises and falls... and if I have offended any serpents or tidal experts I apologise...
There are two (2) specific and important areas here.
Firstly, any employee who undertakes any form of work for the employer must receive payment.
Secondly, employees are entitled to 11 hours off between duty periods if on a fixed line position or, if they are on a relief / county support contract, they are entitled to (a) reasonable travel time to and from the place at which they worked or will be working next and (b) 10 1/2 hours at home.
Let us consider point 1 first: If you and I are crewed together on a 0700 to 1900 shift but finish at 2200 hours, we have worked 3 hours past our contracted time so we are entitled
to 3 hours overtime at time and a half which is 4 1/2 hours pay.
If you are NOT in for duty the next morning, no problem because you can cancel your alarm clock, have a lay in and do whatever takes your imagination. But you can claim the 3 hours overtime at time and a half and therefore can expect to receive the 4 1/2 hours extra pay.
I on the other hand, am on four day shifts each starting at 0700 hours, so I am rostered to be in at 0700 hours for day two. But I want my 11 hours rest period before reporting for duty. I believe I am entitled to the 3 hours overtime that I have worked with you, and see no reason why you should be paid it but I should be penalised.
If I take my 11 hours in between shift, I will not be expected to report for duty until 0900 hours, but If I do not report for duty until 0900 and only work as far as 1900 hours, I will be two hours short of my contractual 12 hour shift. I am prepared to work day two from 0900 until 2100 hours (completing a 12 hour shift) and if I finish on time, report for duty at 0800 hours on day three (after 11 hours rest) and work until 2000 hours. If I manage to finish working on day three at 2000 hours, I could then, after my 11 hours rest period, report for duty at 0700 hours for my fourth day shift, and each shift will have been 12 hours duration and I will have met my contractual obligations.
The big problem with doing this hypothetical situation is that although I am prepared to be flexible and compromise my start time each day, there is no guarantee that each subsequent day will finish on time so my start time each day could actually get later and later into the daytime. If on the other hand I was to report for duty at 0700 hours on day two, I would only have benefited from a maximum of 9 hours rest in between shift and that could have serious consequences on my ability with regard to driving and making clinical decisions.
So where does that leave me? I have worked the 3 additional hours and steadfastly believe that I am legally entitled to be paid for these “enforced” additional hours. But I have been informed that if I claim payment for those additional hours which I was forced to work, that I cannot have the agreed 11 hours rest period before my next planned shift.
As I said at the very beginning, there are two specific topics here; the first being payment for overtime that we all know has been worked, so there is no justifiable reason why the employee should not receive the payment. Where it all goes Pete Tong is that historically (as far as I can recall) we were allowed to claim the payment AND also have the correct period of rest before the next shift. That apparently is now being challenged.
If we were to relate this scenario to train drivers (very topical at present) or airline pilots, I am convinced that I would not be drafting this article because it would be agreed and cast in stone that the rest period is sacrosanct and nothing or nobody would expect the driver or pilot to report for duty unless fully rested.
The Trust is prepared, nay, the Trust is WILLING to pay employees for the hours that they work and this is reflected in the fact that every month we receive our pay statement, but the left hand is working independently to the right hand and despite the birth of our service in 2006, we are still not fully harmonised, which is evident in this “never ending saga”. Unison is working towards harmonisation on your behalf.
It has to be said that ultimately, I believe it is finance driven. But employees are entitles to their agreed 11 hours between shift (or 10 ½ hours at home) and ultimately the responsibility for ensuring that employees have the ability to be fully rested in between shifts rests with the employer. The individual employee does not make any declaration that they are willing to work excessive hours with minimal down time in-between; but they do agree to carry out their duties to the best of their abilities. So if the reason why employees are continuously incurring late finishes is down to the employer not having enough resources to meet their demand, then it is down to the employer to take stock of how they are managing their business and that includes reviewing all the outside influences that are placing their employees at risk on a regular basis.
When I first joined the service we had teams at base stations and we invariably took over / handed over to the same crews day in day out. We would turn up early for duty, get kit ready, put the kettle on and if the off going crew got back early, we would swap kit over and put our kit straight onto the motor. If a call came in before the end of their shift, we would take the call, but we didn’t claim early start overtime because it was always tit for tat with the same crews and late finishes were a rare breed.
That day are long gone, but sadly so has the “team” concept. It is alright claiming that we are all in the one big team, but team players should be treated equally and not penalised without genuine justification. We should all be paid for the hours we work and we should all know and expect that regardless of what time we ultimately finish our shift, we will get the agreed down time and rest period before reporting for our next shift.
It is not the fault of the employee that they finish late, nor that their agreed rest period overlaps the start of the next duty period; they are entitles to be paid for the hours worked and their rest period should not be compromised.
East of England Ambulance Unison 20106
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