Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Victory for disability support workers

Disability support workers have won a historic victory, with a ruling from the Employment Court that they are in fact working when doing "sleepover" shifts, and should thus be paid at least the minimum wage for the full duration:

The case involved disability support worker Phil Dickson. He works at an IHC community house that is home to five service users with intellectual disabilities.

As part of his job Mr Dickson does ‘sleepover’ shifts from 10pm to 7am for which he’s paid $34. This amounts to $3.77 an hour, less than a third of the minimum adult wage of $12.50 an hour.

Mr Dickson is allowed to sleep during the shift but is frequently disturbed and often has to get up to provide support for the service users living in the community house. The court described the responsibilities he has during sleepovers as ‘weighty’ and ‘critical to the business of the employer.’ The IHC argued that doing a ‘sleepover’ shift is not work and so Phil does not have to be paid the adult minimum wage while doing the shift.

“The Employment Court did not accept the IHC argument,” says SFWU national secretary John Ryall. “The court has ruled that doing a ‘sleepover’ shift is working and Mr Dickson should be paid the minimum adult wage for a ‘sleepover’ shift.”

“This is a significant and historic decision because there are thousands of workers being paid less than the minimum wage for ‘sleepover shifts,” says John Ryall.

The ruling will mean that these workers will be about $80 a shift better off - a pretty significant difference.