TWO UNIONS HAVE lodged a complaint with the European Commission over what they say are illegal hours being worked by residential staff who care for children, homeless people and people with disabilities.
SIPTU and IMPACT say that Irish health employers are not treating hours worked by employees overnight as working time, something they say is against a judgement by the European Court of Justice.
The issue relates to ‘sleepover’ shifts where staff are present at the residential facilities but may sleep if they are not required.
The unions say that it is “usual for staff to be actively working” during these shifts and they want staff to work a maximum of one ‘sleepover’ a week on average.
The unions say that many staff receive a ‘sleepover’ allowance of just €5.40 an hour, below the €8.65 minimum wage. They also allege that the hours worked in these shifts are frequently not used when calculating the number of hours worked by an employee.
“It is neither fair on the staff nor sustainable for the service,” said IMPACT national secretary Louise O’Donnell.
It’s not unusual for staff to work a full shift, then work an interrupted overnight ‘sleepover,’ before immediately coming on shift again in the morning. This is not safe for staff or the vulnerable clients they serve.
O’Donnell also claims that residential care staff are routinely expected to work 63-hour weeks, above the legal maximum of 48 hours.
SIPTU’s Paul Bell said that employers who do not recognise the ‘sleepover’ shifts are in breach of the 2002 European Court of Justice ‘SIMAP’ judgment, which ruled that all time spent on-call at the place of employment is working time.