I wonder if you can help with this. It seems fishy to me.
My fiancee is a support worker (supporting disabled people who have their own tenancies) for an agency on a zero hours employment contract. All of her shifts involve supporting people in their own homes for the local city council (in Scotland, if that's relevant). On average, she works around 37 hours per week (sometimes a lot more), and does additional "sleeping" shifts (paid at a set rate) when they are available (on average one or two of these per week) My fiancee has been with the agency full time for around 18 months.
The agency routinely emails all employees every week to say "You have been booked for shifts this week, so please check the online system" or "All shifts have now been allocated" but recently the weekly email included the line "All shifts over 6 hours moving forward will include a 30 minute unpaid break in line with the Councils working time directive." No other information was provided, and we have emailed the agency twice for further information but no reply.
There are several problems with this:
Firstly, my fiancee supports people with various physical and learning disabilities who explicitly, as per their care plans, cannot be left alone in their homes (or indeed alone in the community) for safety reasons. She works one to one with the person she is supporting, and no other staff members are available to relieve her. Some of them may inadvertently hurt themselves, or are vulnerable to abuse, or suffer from potentially fatal epileptic seizures. It is impossible for my fiancee to take a "break" from her work in the legal sense, and if she left anyone on their own it would be a clear case of a breach of duty of care and serious negligence.
It should be noted that none of the Council's own support worker employees are also unable to take a break, as there is nobody available to cover their duties while they leave the site.
As for the issue of compliance with the Council's policy/Working Time Regulations, the majority of her shift patterns never complies with the legal guidelines. For example, she is often booked for a PM shift finishing at 22:00, then a sleep shift, rolling over onto an AM shift starting at 07:00 and sometimes working well into the early afternoon. This pattern can repeat several times in a 7 day period.
In addition, it seems like her pay conditions have been changed without her being asked to sign an updated contract.
Any advice or guidance would be greatly appreciated at this early stage. It sounds very wrong to me, given the circumstances of her work.
Thanks a lot!