enforced hourly unpaid breaks for casual hours workers

(6 Posts)
everygoodboydeservesfudge Tue 10-Apr-18 21:33:09

Sorry, this is a bit long. First post in this forum though an MNer for years.

I've never worked a zero hours contract before, so not sure whether this is legal (it doesn't seem moral) or not. I've gone back to school for a post-grad degree and a career change and in doing so have taken on some hours in a casual contract sense whilst finishing my degree. The pay is more than minimum wage, if that's relevant. We have no guaranteed hours but put our names down for what we're available to work several weeks in advance.

Situation: clients are booked into the clinic for 1hr. The time they are actually spending on the specialist equipment is 55 min, the extra 5 min is for admin either side. I only need to supervise them on the equipment, I don't need to be doing anything else.

The start times for clients are booked 1hr15min apart. I am being paid for 1hr per client, with an enforced unpaid 15min break between each client. No more than 3 clients in a row any given day. The 15min is for me to use the toilet, grab a drink or whatnot.

Truth be told, 5 min is not enough time for the admin side of it, such that clients inevitably take longer than 1hr between arrival and departure. So the 15min unpaid break between clients is more like 10 min of paid work and a 5 min break. In other words, I could not feasibly leave the clinic at the end of 1hr and come back 15 min later for the next client. There are clients there the entire time, either arriving early or staying later than their allotted hour to gather their things etc. A 3-client day means 3hrs45min of time spent in the clinic, or maybe 3hrs30 if I rush the last client out at the end. But I only get paid for 3hrs.

Apparently the schedule was changed from 1hr time slots to 1h15min before I started working there, because previous staff felt it was too hectic having 1hr time slots, they had no time for a breather between clients and often they were busier, with 4-5 clients in a row.

I'm the only one there, there is no waiting room, no receptionist, it's just me doing everything. Clients must be supervised throughout their whole time at the clinic. It's a commercial business with a good reputation. We have been told that if a client arrives late or dawdles getting going, we have to cut down their equipment time to less than 55 min so that they still finish when they are supposed to. But given the professional nature of the task, it would make the company look bad to do that. Of course, if client goes over, we have a cushion of 15 min before the next one starts.

Is all this completely fine and I'm in the wrong to believe I should be paid for time between clients rather than an hour per client? I honestly don't know. If I were salaried it wouldn't even be a question, but my feeling is that they are taking advantage of their hourly-paid workers.

Informed opinions please!

OP’s posts: |
stressedoutpa Tue 10-Apr-18 22:43:38

Are you on a fantastic hourly rate which balances the 15 minute periods you're not being paid? If not, it sounds a bit crap. A bit like care workers not being paid for their travelling time between clients.

everygoodboydeservesfudge Wed 11-Apr-18 10:47:37

Fantastic.... hmmm. Well it's more than twice minimum wage. However the job requires a university degree and specific training (unpaid, which was fine) and is in line with what a salaried employee would earn for similar tasks and client-facing roles.

I think it's more the principle of paying people for the time they work. If the job is worth less, than pay less per hour but pay for time worked. Justifying hourly unpaid breaks with a better hourly wage seems daft. I'm not from the UK so this attitude is all new to me!

OP’s posts: |
flowery Wed 11-Apr-18 13:17:33

Seems like the issue isn't the enforced unpaid breaks, which are fine, but the fact that you aren't getting them and are working straight through.

Does your contract say anything on the subject? What about when you raise it with your line manager and said you are having to work through unpaid breaks?

daisychain01 Wed 11-Apr-18 13:51:31

The way it's being run sounds like people on a conveyor belt!

Is your concern that you're not getting any 'breather' in between these client treatments, or is it that there's a health and safety risk for the clients being rushed through on that conveyor belt?

Is there never a gap between the treatments, or is it literally back to back, client in client out for the entire week?

everygoodboydeservesfudge Thu 12-Apr-18 10:33:25

I've raised it with the line manager saying that the 15 min breaks aren't actually breaks but we worked through them. The answer was that we are supposed to be able to get clients in and out within 60 min.

Having not actually signed a contract beforehand, I only found out when putting in my time sheet that I wasn't going to be paid for those 15 min "breaks" -- lesson learned there! This is very part-time seasonal work so only comes up a few times a year when specific clients book into these sessions.

I think my issue is not the lack of a break, but the fact that clients take longer than 60min so my unpaid break isn't a break at all, and I should be paid for it. I can imagine when clients were booked into 60 min slots with no break previously it would have felt pretty conveyor-belt and stressful for the employees having overlapping clients nonstop. It's definitely more relaxed having the extra 15 min.

In my mind, the solution to that stress isn't to extend the client slots by an unpaid 15min "break", but to extend the paid time, or cut back on the client's therapy time so that the entire time could fit into 60 min slots.

Anyway thanks for the replies. I'm feeling a bit better now about my gut feeling that this kind of scheduling is not on, so can take this knowledge forward for future employment negotiations in this field.

OP’s posts: |

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