UKHCA outlines the rules on rest periods for homecare workers

Colin Angel, policy and campaigns director of the United Kingdom Homecare Association, outlines the association's position regarding the rest periods domiciliary care staff should take while working

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Colin Angel, policy and campaigns director of the United Kingdom Homecare Association (pictured), outlines the association’s position regarding the rest periods domiciliary care staff should take while working

A post on CareSpace asked about the rest periods available to domiciliary care staff while on duty.

Under working time rules workers must be allowed:

● 11 hours’ uninterrupted rest per day (“daily rest period”);

● 24 hours’ uninterrupted rest per week or 48 hours’ uninterrupted rest per fortnight (“weekly rest period”);

● A rest break of 20 minutes when working more than six hours per day.

The care worker concerned should therefore have a rest break of 20 minutes when working for seven-and-a-half hours.

Time spent travelling between visits counts as working time rather than a rest break.

There is an exemption from the rules where the worker’s activities involve the need for continuity of service. Here, an equivalent period of compensatory rest should be provided immediately after the end of the period of work.

The worker’s contract of employment does not need to refer to this exemption for it to apply.

The law doesn’t indicate if this exemption applies to homecare workers, but legal advice we have received suggests it should. The worker concerned can therefore take a 20-minute rest break at the end of their duty of more than six hours if they did not take a break before.

The rules on rest breaks do not apply to workers who can decide when and how long they work, such as senior managers.

This exemption is unlikely to apply to homecare workers carrying out a rota of visits, as their working time is fixed as being the length of their duty.

Workers are not obliged to take rest breaks. A care provider’s obligation is simply to ensure that care workers can take rest breaks if they wish.

So if care workers prefer to work through, the care provider should ask them to confirm on each occasion that they are happy not to take their daily rest breaks.

Employees have a duty to care for their own health and safety and that of people affected by what they do, so should guard against excessively long hours and fatigue.

We suggest the worker discusses the issue of rest breaks with their employer. Working time rules can be complex to apply to domiciliary care, with its irregular work patterns.

UKHCA is happy to help homecare agencies who are also UKHCA members with free telephone advice on managing working time.

Finally, there is the practical point that a rested care worker is almost certain to provide better quality care than one who is tired, so it is in everyone’s interest for care workers to take proper breaks.

What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace

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