Under the Working Time Regulations, workers are entitled to a rest period of 11 consecutive hours in each 24-hour period. In Truslove and Wood v Scottish Ambulance Service, the Employment Appeal Tribunal held that as the time spent by paramedics on call away from their base station was working time, they were entitled to a period of rest.
Mr Truslove and his colleague, Ms Wood, were both relief ambulance paramedics who sometimes had to work on-call night shift duties away from their home base station. When they did, they were required to find accommodation within a three-mile radius of the distant ambulance station, at which they were to park the ambulance. They also had to meet a target time of three minutes within which to respond to a call.
They claimed that, as the time they spent on call (which they were contractually required to spend away from home), counted as working time, they were entitled to a rest period of not less than 11 consecutive hours or an equivalent period of compensatory rest under the WTR.
When determining whether time away from base on call was working time, the tribunal considered the leading authorities and compared the paramedics’ situation with that of a worker who was on call but who was not required to remain at a specific location decided by the employer (Samuel Blakley v South Eastern Health and Social Services Trust); and a worker who was confined to a specific location (Landeshaupsadet Kiel v Jaeger; SIMAP v Valencia).
It did not think that the facts in this case were the same as SIMAP as the claimants were not confined to one specific location. Instead the tribunal considered the paramedics were in a position comparable with Blakley where the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal held that a worker can be on a rest period when they are contactable by the employer but are not based at a specific location. As the paramedics were able to rest on call, the time spent on call could not be regarded as working time.
The EAT allowed the appeal, holding that the tribunal was wrong to compare the paramedics’ situation with that of the worker in Blakley. In particular, the paramedics had to remain within a three mile radius of the ambulance station, a requirement determined by the employer. When considering whether a worker was at work or on a rest period, the relevant authorities all emphasised that the issue to decide was whether “the individual is obliged to be present and remain available at a place determined by the employer”. In Blakley the employee was not.
The issue was not whether the employees were free to move a few hundred yards or even a couple of miles from that base. The issue was that the paramedics could not be at home as they had to be available at a place determined by their employer. Furthermore, the requirement to meet a three-minute response time meant that they could not enjoy the quality of rest to which they were entitled under the WTR when they were on-call. As such they were working and therefore entitled to a rest period.
This decision confirms the circumstances when on call time may be regarded as working time to include those situations where the employee is not based at the workplace, but is required to be present and available at a place determined by the employer.