Court ruling could lead to claims rush for councils

Local authorities could be open to a flood of claims from care workers after
an employment tribunal ruling last week.

The ruling centred on nine women wardens working in sheltered homes for the
elderly in the London Borough of Harrow.

The wardens worked a basic 37-hour week, but were on call, on-site, for
another 76 hours.

While on standby, the women could not leave the sheltered housing and, they
said, this led to social isolation.

The tribunal found the council had breached working time regulations. It
awarded the women £1,500 each in compensation.

As the tribunal ruled that the 76 hours on call counted as work, the women
are also likely to get back pay worth thousands.

Fraser Younson, vice-president at the Employment Lawyers Association, said
the ruling follows a similar case, the SIMAP case, where the European Court of
Justice ruled that hours spent by doctors on call who are still at the hospital
or other place of work count as work time.

"[Employers need to] be clear where their staff are situated while on
call. If it is on their premises, then working time regulations will
apply," he said.

A spokesman from Harrow Council said the decision has implications for all

He said the council has until mid-September to appeal, and that it was
likely to do so.

Joan Seaton, head of employment relations at the Employers’ Organisation for
Local Government, said local authorities should conduct risk assessments.

"Until we get some direction from the courts, it is going to be difficult
for the Employers’ Organisation to issue any advice," she said.

By Quentin Reade

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