How do on call rota laws work in the UK?

I currently work part time at a property provider. The company require a member of staff to be on call outside of office hours to deal with emergency calls, lock-outs etc… This role up until now been covered by our maintenance team, but the company is now telling members of office staff that they need to go on the rota. It is predominantly telephone-based, but there are site visits required in some circumstances. My questions are can they force you to join the on-call rota (I do not think it is mentioned in my contract as I am a long-standing member of staff and this was never part of the job role)? If I am contracted to work a 60% week can they force me to be on call for seven days or just 60% of the week? Finally, I do not drive so I would be unable to attend to any site issues and there is an issue of personal safety due to late travel. I am also concerned as I work at the same company as my husband who is already on the call-out rota so my children are already affected by the call-outs and missed weekends as you cannot really be far away from a computer and I do not want them affected further as they are only two and five.

A contract of employment is a legal agreement between the employer and the employee. Its terms cannot lawfully be changed or varied by the employer without agreement from the employee (either individually or through a recognised trade union).Where a trade union is recognised, negotiations to change contract terms should be through collective bargaining.

Your employer owes an implied contractual duty to explain clearly the effect of any change, for example, a change to wages or working hours. Your employer should meet with you, or the union where one is recognised, and explain their case for making the proposed change. You must be given time to consider the proposal as well as to suggest alternative ways of achieving the same result (for example, if cost-saving is the aim, different cost-saving ideas).

You can decide to accept a change, and many terms of the contract are, of course, varied from time to time by mutual consent. For example, it is quite usual for pay to be varied (usually increased) on an annual basis. Where changes are made to your contract, employers must give you written notification of the change within four weeks.

Your employer has a number of options to amend your contract terms. It could:

  • Get express agreement to the new terms (either from you or through a binding collective agreement if you are in a union).
  • Unilaterally impose the change and use your conduct to establish implied agreement to the new terms (so if you undertake your hours on the rota you will have confirmed by your actions that you agree to the change).
  • Terminate the existing contract and offer continued employment on the new terms.

With regards to the timing of being “on call”, under the Working Time Regulations (WTR), employees have the right to a rest period of 11 uninterrupted hours per day and a weekly rest period of 24 uninterrupted hours. You should also calculate your working hours over a 17-week period and include these extra on-call hours. If the average is more than 48 hours a week this would be an offence under the WTR unless you have agreed in writing to opt out of the 48-hour maximum. In any even the percentage ought to reflect the time you are contractually employed ie: 60%.

The first thing you need to do is sit down with your employer and raise your concerns with them, explaining that you do not drive and therefore would be unable to attend site visits, say, late at night as public transport would be an issue, for cost, safety and the fact that it might not even be running. Further, that both you and your husband would not be able to be on the rota at the same time due to your parenting responsibilities.

*The information and opinions within this article are for information purposes only. They are not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice, and should not be relied on or treated as a substitute for specific advice relevant to particular circumstances.




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