Standby and On-Call (Call-Out Allowances)
Standby or on-call allowances are payments made to workers or employees who are asked to be available for work outside their normal hours. The employer pays the allowance irrespective of whether or not the employee is called in to work. Such arrangements may be necessary because of the nature of the work or in order to provide a degree of flexibility.
Where applicable, standby rates should be specified in the employee's employment contract. Rates for actual call-out (as opposed to standby) may be paid for separately at a higher rate to include travelling time and, again, should be specified in the employee's employment contract.
Employers should be aware that, if an employee is called out frequently, there could be a breach of the working hours provisions in the Working Time Regulations 1998 unless the employee has signed an agreement consenting to opt-out of the right to restrict his or her working hours to no more than an average of 48 hours a week.
During their time on call, workers or employees are usually at the disposal of the employer but not actually working. In respect of the Working Time Regulations, time on call is not counted as working time unless and until the employee actually starts working. There are some jobs, e.g. work in a nursing home, when employees or workers who are on call will have to sleep at the employer's premises. Time when employees or workers are required to sleep at the employer's premises is not counted as working time unless the employee is actually required to perform some duties.
Aside from potential issues with the Working Time Regulations, employers must ensure that they do not seek to impose excessive contractual requirements for standby/call-out on their employees. Unacceptable demands on employees outside their normal working hours could lead to claims for constructive dismissal.