P&O Ferries (Bermuda) Ltd v Spencer, Employment Appeal Tribunal

Time on call does not always qualify as ‘hours of work’
P&O Ferries (Bermuda) Ltd v Spencer, Employment Appeal Tribunal

Spencer was employed as a ship’s master. Although he was rostered to be in command for 14 hours in a 24-hour period, he was paid on the basis of a 12-hour working day. Five hours of the 14 had to be spent on the bridge, but the remainder of time, although he was on call, was his own to allot.

A tribunal upheld Spencer’s claim that P&O, in failing to pay him for the full 14 hours, had made unlawful deductions from his wages. P&O appealed, but the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) held that Spencer was entitled, under the terms of his service agreement, to be paid for the full period of his rostered command, including any time that might have been spent on short breaks during that period.

The EAT’s comments on Council Directive 1999/63/EC (Seafarers’ Working Time) were of interest. It effectively said that, in contrast to the position under the more generally applicable Working Time Directive, time spent on call does not necessarily qualify as “hours of work” under the directive (even if, in the case of the ship’s master, he or she remains in command during that period), but that time spent on short breaks, does.

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