Legal working hours in a day

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flubber | 18:26 Thu 09th Feb 2006 | Jobs & Education
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Friend of mine works as a care assistant in a residential home. Her shift is a 12 hour one with half an hour for lunch and she is on nightshift. Like many places she is expected to do housework during the night (comrising of cleaning, laundry ironing) but today she tells me that shortly before the end of her shift a check was made of the premises by the housekeeper - who found fault with the cleaning and insisted that my friend and another carer remained late to "re-do" the work.

Subsequently my friend worked 2 hours extra and was told that her pay was only calculated for her main 11 1/2 hour shift (lunch half hours are not paid for)

Is it correct that any person can be made to work 14 hours with only half an hour break and be paid for just the 11 1/2?

There is no loopehole in her contract regarding this and I am not sure so many hours are legal anyway.


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(2-part post):

Much of the legislation on working hours does not apply to certain occupations. In particular, jobs which require 'round the clock' staffing are exempt from the provisions relating to breaks and limits on night-time working.

For MOST employees, there is a right to a 20 minute break if the total shift exceeds 6 hours. (Your friend gets more than that anyway but she's not entitled, by law, to any breaks at all). For MOST employees there is a maximum average shift duration, for night work, of 8 hours ( but the nature of your friend's work places her outside of this rule).

For ALL employees, including your friend, there is a maximum average working week of 48 hours. This average can only be exceeded if the employee has voluntarily entered into a written agreement with the employer.

For ALL employees there is a minimum total rest period (i.e. gaps between shifts + breaks during shifts) of 90 hours, on average, per week.
For ALL NIGHT WORKERS employers must offer a health assessment prior to starting night work and at regular intervals (typically annually) thereafter.

Employers do not have to pay staff during rest periods, so your friend's employer is not acting unlawfully in this respect.

If an employer believes that an employee has not satisfactorily performed their duties, the employee may VOLUNTARILY work without pay to remedy the situation and to avoid possible disciplinary action (or to lessen the sanctions resulting from any such action). Employers do NOT in general, however, have the right to insist that their employees work overtime (whether paid or unpaid). If the situation arises again, your friend has the right to leave at the end of her shift. She can't be sacked for 'walking out' (or, if she was, then she'd win a claim for unfair dismissal) but, of course, the employer still retains the right to take disciplinary action in respect of the (alleged) inadequate cleaning standards.

Question Author
Chris, thank you so much for such a detailed and clear answer. I will pass all this information on to my friend.

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Legal working hours in a day

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