Customer expectations and the need for work-life balance are some factors that have led to what the Health and Safety Executive says is more than 3.5 million shift workers in the UK.
Shift work is no longer just for emergency and essential service workers. There’s been a growth in small businesses, like fast food shops and convenience stores providing round-the-clock service.
“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.”
- Tony Robbins
With rota planning software, businesses can get to grips with shift planning to help them look after the health and safety of their staff.
What is shift work?
There’s no official legal definition of shift work. The Working Time Regulations (WTR) oversees working hours for most workers. The WTR state that shift work is:
“Where work is organised in shifts and workers hand-over to each other at the same workstation and follow specific patterns. Shift work is also when staff work at different times over certain periods of days or weeks.”
Shift working hours
Shift work is work done outside of standard daytime hours. Work carried out for an average of eight hours, between 7am and 7pm, is considered within standard daytime hours.
Your business operates a shift work model if you have:
- Rotating work hours
- On-call or standby
- A compressed working week with shifts of 12 hours or more
- Split shifts
Night shift working
Night shift working is done between 11pm and 6am, for at least three hours. The exception is when there’s a written agreement between the employer and their staff to work for a different time period. In that case, the shift has to last seven hours and include work between midnight and 5am.
You’re required to offer a free health assessment before anyone starts to work at night and also while they’re working nights.
When rota planning, to comply with WTR recommendations, you should ensure that night workers aren’t scheduled to work for more than eight hours within a 24-hour period.
You must be able to prove that your night workers haven’t gone over the eight-hour limit by keeping records of working hours. You’ll need to keep these records for a minimum of two years.
If you’re responsible for shift planning for night workers, you can find out more about compliance issues from ACAS or your local authority’s environmental health department.
The risks of shift working
There’s evidence that shift work, especially night work, can be harmful to workers’ health.
Some of the side effects of shift work include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Problems with appetite and digestion
- Difficulties managing social relationships
Your workers are more likely to make mistakes if they’re fatigued. The consequences of exhaustion can range from a dip in productivity to serious accidents.
As a result, managing work shift calendars for staff who work outside of daytime hours has to be done very carefully.
When you’re managing erratic employee shifts, an effective shift schedule helps to safeguard your staff and your business.
Good practice for scheduling shift work
Absence shift planning is an important part of employee scheduling.
Here are some tips to help you better manage shift workers’ time off:
- Try not to have workers on permanent night shifts.
- Limit repeated working days to a maximum of five to seven.
- Include free weekends on a regular basis.
- Talk to your workers about changes you plan to make to their shifts.
You can use shift scheduling software to keep track of your staff and their shifts. That way, managing the work rota calendar will be as flexible as your staff’s working patterns.