An Employment Tribunal has ruled that on-call hours for members of the Humberside Forces Covert Authorities Bureau (CAB) should be recognised as working time due to the significant restrictions and personal impact experienced by the workers while fulfilling their duties. 

At a hearing which took place earlier this year an employment judge heard that in the course of their roles staff were required to participate in a highly restrictive on-call rota, meaning that they had to be available from 18:00 hrs to 06:00hrs on weekdays, and 24 hours a day over the weekend.  

When on standby duty, the officers were paid a minimal on-call allowance, but they were only remunerated by hourly rates when called out to work. 

Lawyers from Thompsons Solicitors acting for the UNISON members, argued that this was in breach of the members’ right to a daily rest break contrary to the Working Time Regulations 1998, and that the employees should be compensated for the entire time they were on call. 

This was because of the strict requirements imposed during standby which significantly impacted the members' personal, family, and social lives. 

The Tribunal was tasked with determining whether the whole period on standby, including times when the members were not called to work, amounted to working time or whether working time only included the periods when the members were actively called to work.  

A judgment handed down earlier this year found in favour of the workers, noting the significant restrictions imposed on the members while on standby, including the expectation that they remain at home or within a few minutes away.  

In its judgment, the Tribunal noted that ‘the type of work by its very nature was likely to create a level of alertness during the standby periods which inhibited the opportunity to switch off and relax or fully engage in other activities’. 

Thompsons Solicitors, acting on behalf of the UNISON members, welcomed the decision, saying that it recognises the impact of on-call work on employees' lives and will help enforce workers' rights regarding on-call duties.  

Abi Agbaje-Williams, an employment lawyer at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “This judgment affirms the rightful recognition of on-call hours as working time, underlining the significant restrictions which being on-call imposed on these UNISON members and rewarding the readiness they maintained during these periods.  

“It validates the substantial impact on their personal time and justifies their decision to bring this claim. This ruling will help enforce workers’ employment rights regarding on-call duties.”