Boarding schools eyeing sleepover decision

Boarding schools throughout New Zealand are watching developments closely in the case of sleepover shifts for overnight workers, Tolcarne Boarding Residence manager Helen Crossan says.

This week the Court of Appeal upheld an Employment Court decision against IHC, stating the care provider had to pay workers by the hour for overnight shifts, rather than a set allowance.

"Schools throughout New Zealand have been waiting and wondering," Ms Crossan said.

Columba College boarding director Richelle Manson had also followed the case. If workers had to be paid by the hour the hostel would probably make the shift active, as it had been in the past. Plenty of chores could be done at night, such as the laundry.

Otago Boys' High School rector Clive Rennie said in light of the court's decision he had asked the school's lawyers to go through housemasters' contracts, even though they were not required for sleep-overs.

Housemasters, mostly university students, were not responsible for the boys after 11pm, when they were the onsite manager's duty. The manager was on a fixed salary.

Southern District Health Board funding and finance general manager Robert Mackway Jones confirmed the decision had potential impact on the DHB through services contracted to agencies that could face higher costs.

"We are participating in the data gathering, but don't have any specifics . . . other than the DHB does not employ people directly. Our contracted providers will [employ staff] however, so there is likely to be some impact upon the sector."

Hawksbury Trust chairman Richard Thomson said staff members on overnight shifts at Dunedin's Hawksbury facilities were paid hourly and worked an active shift.

One staff member was rostered to care for five to 15 adults overnight, on rare occasions two staff members were on duty. If the shift was quiet, staff could carry out baking or chores, helping lighten the load for day staff.

Mr Thomson, who is also a Southern DHB member, had mixed feelings about the Court of Appeal decision, saying it could prove to a "pyrrhic victory" for workers.

For many people, sleepover shifts allowed them to do other things during the day, such as studying at university or working another job. Many people had benefited from the set-up, and it did not seem right they may be in for back-pay. However, he could also see an element of unfairness in not paying an hourly rate.

"There will be winners and losers [among the workers]."



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