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Consultant ‘should continue to work on-call hours required’

By Paul Mulholland - 27th Aug 2023

on-call hours

The Labour Court has decided in favour of hospital management in a recent case over a consultant’s on-call hours.

The IMO had appealed an adjudication officer’s recommendation in relation to the allocation of on-call hours for the consultant and a Labour Court hearing was held on 29 July.

The consultant is employed on the previous consultant contract on a half-time basis since 2008 and was absent for a period of leave from December 2014 until June 2017. On his return to the hospital, he engaged with his employer on agreeing a work practice plan and sought to be excluded from the on-call rota.

There was engagement to try to find a solution acceptable to both sides that was commensurate with a half-time contract. In December 2018, an option that excluded an on-call commitment was put forward by the hospital. This was acceptable to the consultant. Some months later, the consultant was placed on the on-call roster by his colleagues within the area where he worked. The hospital said that circumstances had changed which required further engagement and it could not continue to implement the arrangement previously agreed.

A revised work practice plan was subsequently proposed to the consultant in June 2019. This was rejected and the consultant raised a formal grievance in October 2019. The hospital’s position is that the revised plan is “reasonable and consistent” with the consultant’s contractual working hours. The consultant’s position is that the proposal was negatively disproportionate to his contractual hours. The outcome of the grievance process upheld the hospital’s position.

The matter was referred to the Workplace Relations Commission in April 2021 and subsequently appealed to the Labour Court in March 2023.

The Labour Court’s view was that the consultant has a contractual obligation to participate in the on-call rota, albeit on a pro-rata basis to his half-time hours.

The Court noted that the on-call hours currently worked by the consultant meets the hospitals requirements. The Court further noted that both parties expressed a willingness to engage on the operation of the current roster.

“Having regard to all of the circumstances, Court recommends that the worker should continue to work the current level of on-call hours required,” according to the decision.

“If there are matters arising in relation to the operation of the on-call roster, these matters should be addressed in line with normal procedures.”

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