In the past few months, the civil aviation sector has started to bounce back from the repercussions of Covid 19, making it an opportune time to revisit the industrial rules applicable to civil aviation workers.
National and European Union legislators recognize that the civil aviation sector has different exigencies to most other sectors. Accordingly, there is a specific body of rules applicable to civil aviation workers which aims at catering for such exigencies whilst safeguarding the physical and mental wellbeing of crew members. The applicable regime is established within Subsidiary Legislation 452.90 – the Organisation of Working Time (Civil Aviation) Regulations (the 'Regulations'). This implements Council Directive 2000/79/EC concerning the European Agreement on the organisation of working time of mobile staff in civil aviation. This Regulations set out minimum requirements applicable to the organisation of working time of crew members which replace any other applicable provisions which are less favourable to crew members. Nonetheless, this does not supersede collective agreements which offer a generally more favourable level of protection to crew members and better conditions of work.
In meeting their objectives, the Regulations establish specific working time thresholds applicable exclusively to crew members. For instance, whilst the ordinarily applicable rules on annual leave as established within the Organisation of Working Time Regulations apply, the Regulations require crew members to be given additional days free of all duty and standby which may include rest periods. The Regulations stipulate that there should at least be 96 days free of all duty and standby in each calendar year, with 7 such days being allocated in each calendar month. A separate annual working time threshold specifically applicable to crew members is also established, limiting working time to a maximum of 2000 hours annually inclusive of standby duty and 900 hours of block flying time.
The Regulations impose several duties on respective employers in furtherance of their responsibility for crew members' wellbeing. In doing so, it builds on the existing detailed obligations relating to health surveillance of crew members required under other legislation. In fact, in addition to these existing obligations, an employer is obliged to take the necessary measures to ensure that crew members undergo a suitable health assessment to determine the crew member's health status and ascertain the crew members' fitness for the proposed work prior to its assignment. This process should be repeated following a lapse of a reasonable length of time as well as if there is a change to the worker's health status or a change in the working environment. The Regulations also require that where health problems connected to nightwork are identified, if possible, daywork should be assigned to the crew member.
In ensuring compliance with these rules, a duty of sufficient record-keeping relating to working patterns of crew members is imposed on employers. Such information may be requested by the Director responsible for Employment and Industrial Relations. Moreover, contravention or non-compliance with the rules of these Regulations is tantamount to an offence punishable by a fine.
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