Am I entitled to be paid for the time I am required to spend on standby, waiting to see if I am to be called on to work?

The law says that as a minimum, your average basic hourly rate must be at least the National Minimum Wage. This includes time spent:   

  • working;
  • training; and 
  • required by your employer to wait at or near your workplace, so as to be available for work. 

In particular, it is against the law for your employer to ask you to clock off without pay during quiet times but remain on the premises waiting to see if you will be needed.   

In some situations, you can still be working and entitled to the National Minimum Wage even if you are waiting at home. For example, if you work as a home-based call operator waiting for phone calls to answer, you will be working for your whole shift, which will include time spent waiting for those calls. You must be paid for that time. 

Your average basic hourly rate must be at least the National Minimum Wage spread across the whole of your ‘pay reference period’. This will be a day if you are paid daily, a week if you are paid weekly, a month if you are paid monthly and so on. 

Check your employment contract, because it may contain better than minimum rights to pay when on standby.

In a workplace where a union is recognised, there is likely to be a collective agreement in place with arrangements for contractual standby payments, better than the statutory minimum.

If your employer provides sleeping accommodation for you at or near your work, you must be paid for any time you spend working while using these facilities. You can still be working even if you are asleep. You are likely to be working if, for example, your employer requires you to stay in the sleeping accommodation throughout your shift, and could discipline you if you were to leave without permission. (This might be, say, because your employer has a legal duty to ensure that someone stays in the building at all times, or because you are expected to respond immediately if there is an emergency.) Your average basic hourly rate during your ‘pay reference period’, including pay for time spent sleeping, must be at least the National Minimum Wage.

Unions have built up a lot of expertise campaigning for workers to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage for all the hours they spend working, in particular in sectors especially prone to abuse, such as domiciliary and residential care.

Unions also enforce these rights in the employment tribunal to achieve change for groups of workers. If you are interested in taking collective action to improve working conditions and practices where you work, use our Union Finder tool to find the union best suited to you.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.