Social care workers who sleep-over in residential facilities to care for clients are to receive higher pay for overnight duties under a Labour Court recommendation issued today.

IMPACT had taken a case on behalf of 5,500 social care workers employed mainly in child care and intellectual disability units.

The union argued that while staff received appropriate pay rates for their normal 39 hours per week, they only got €5.38 per hour for their additional eight-hour overnight shifts.

IMPACT pointed out that this was below the legal minimum wage of €8.65 and claimed that the hours should be paid as overtime.

The union also argued that with some staff doing up to three sleepovers per week, their working hours exceeded the limits set out in the Organisation of Working Time Act.

The Health Service Executive had accepted that the overnight hours constituted working time, but pointed to operational difficulties in changing long-established working patterns.

It argued the liability to undertake sleepovers was the accepted custom and practice and an integral element of the staff contracts of employment.

It argued that IMPACT's claim was cost-increasing and would breach rules governing public service pay.

They also argued that conceding the union's claim would cost an extra €60 million per year.

Labour Court chairman Kevin Duffy said that the obligation to provide sleepover services should continue, and time spent doing so should constitute working time.

He said that from today, staff should be paid the national minimum wage rate of €8.65 for hours in excess of their standard 39 hours per week.

He said the maximum number of weekly working hours should not exceed 48, but that could only be achieved through a restructuring.

Mr Duffy recommended that the two sides should engage in talks over the next nine months.

He said that, like all other workers, the claimants were entitled to breaks and intervals at work.

However, he rejected the union claim for compensation from the HSE for breaches of the Working Time Directive, or for retrospective payments for the out of hours work.