Rights and entitlements

have been a number of changes to employment legislation which have
given workers added rights. Jude Brimble outlines what workers
should expect from their employers and what they are entitled

I know
there has been lots of new employment legislation recently but how
do the working time provisions affect me? I am a residential care

Many of
the new employment rights involve complex law, so obtain detailed
advice from your trade union if you feel that you are not receiving
your entitlements. However, here is a brief guide to the question

– Many
care staff work long hours because of staff shortages, but you have
the right not to work more than 48 hours a week on average. This
can be averaged over 17 weeks, but in a residential care home where
services have to be provided around the clock, the averaging period
can be extended to 26 weeks.

working time regulations are designed to protect health, safety and
well-being – long hours at work are not good for anybody. However,
they do contain a provision for individual workers to sign a
voluntary opt-out of the maximum 48-hour week. An employer may ask
a worker to sign an opt-out, but there is no obligation that they
must sign – seek advice from a union before signing anything.

– The
question of whether on-call working counts towards the 48-hour
limit is unclear at the moment. But it looks as though a European
case could establish that on-call working counts towards the total
if a worker is not free to pursue normal leisure activities, for
example having to remain on the premises.

– You
are entitled to daily rest of 11 hours every day – that means that
the longest shift you are allowed to work is 13 hours. You must
also have a rest of at least 24 hours in each week. This does not
have to be on the same day each week. An employer could offer the
first day of one week and the last day of the next. This means that
the maximum period to work in a row without a day off is 12 days –
as long as you have the next two days off.

addition, you should have a break of 20 minutes away from where you
normally work, after you have worked six hours, although your
employer unfortunately is not obliged to pay you for break

In a
residential care setting the employer can vary any of the above
rest breaks as long as they provide “equivalent compensatory rest”,
such as having the rest break you missed as soon as possible.

– There
are special regulations to protect night workers such as
residential home workers because such work can seriously disrupt
your health and personal life.

By law,
the definition of a night worker is anyone who works at least three
hours of their daily working time during night hours, either for
the majority of their working days or as a normal course of their
work, such as rotating shifts, which include regular nights. Night
is defined as 11pm to 6am.

There is
a limit of eight hours per day for night workers, but unfortunately
this does not apply if you work in residential settings where there
is a need for round the clock care. However your employer must give
you regular health assessments to make sure that you are fit to be
doing night work – if you are not you should be offered suitable
day work.

– You
are entitled to four weeks’ paid holiday a year, pro rata for
part-time staff. However, there is no additional entitlement to
paid bank holidays, so your employer may include bank holidays
within your four weeks’ holiday.

qualify for paid holiday you must have worked continuously for your
employer for 13 weeks. This also applies if you work for an agency,
even if you have done several different placements within that

this is only the minimum provision an employer has to make. Of
course many employers will have policies over and above this – but
it is important you know the minimum entitlements.

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