A recent decision by the Employment
Appeal Tribunal (EAT) has caused concern within certain industries. In
the case of Wright v Scottbridge Construction the EAT ruled that
Wright, who was a night watchman, should be paid for the period he was
allowed to sleep whilst on the premises.
Wright was employed as a night
watchman seven nights a week between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. for a weekly
wage of £210. His main function was to be available if an intruder
set off an alarm. When not performing any specific tasks he was
entitled to watch TV, read, or sleep.
Mr Wright made an application to an
Employment Tribunal claiming that he was entitled to the National
Minimum Wage (NMW) for the whole of the time he was on the employer's
premises even though he was not actually working for the whole 14 hour
period. The tribunal rejected his claim stating that the NMW
Regulations provide that time during which a worker is allowed to
sleep 'shall only be treated as being time worked when the worker is
awake for the purpose of working'.
On appeal, the EAT held that this
provision only applied to a situation where an employer specifically
allows a worker to take a number of hours off for sleep during a
working period. It does not apply where staff are required to be on
the premises for the purpose of their duties and can choose to sleep
for some of the time. As such, Mr Wright was entitled to the NMW for
the whole of the 14-hour period he was required to be on the
employer's premises each night.
If allowed to stand, this decision
could have serious consequences on those industries that employ people
in such circumstances whereby staff are available for occasional