Returning to work: How to set up staggered shifts

Ruaidhri Murray

August 14 2020

With a return to normality now a strong possibility, safety is the primary focus for many employers. Ensuring staff can maintain social distancing is a key element of that.

Repositioning workstations, installing protective screens, and arranging one-way routes are just some of your many options.

Below, we look at how staggering your workers’ shifts can help you to meet Government rules and keep your staff and customers safe.

So, let’s get into it.

So, what are staggered shifts?

Staggering shifts means adjusting the working hours of employees to limit their contact with each other.

Let us say you have a workforce of eight people in the office. You could alternate their work patterns and ask four of them to work from 8am to 4pm, and the rest from 12pm to 8pm. The fewer the staff, the easier it is to ensure everyone stays two metres apart.

‘Weekend working only’ is also a viable option instead of working during the week. With that in mind, you may also ask employees to spread their weekly work over fewer days for a reduced working week.

They could work longer hours per shift but get an extra day off to compensate. This can open-up to rotation of their absences to keep workplace numbers low.

Staggering your workers’ shifts helps you stick to the Government’s rules on working during the pandemic. But it also brings other benefits to your business:

  • An emptier workplace makes it easier for everyone to follow safety procedures.
  • It eases pressure on employees who feel nervous about returning to a busy space.
  • Fewer workers risk catching the virus on rush-hour public transport.
  • It helps to keep communal areas clearer and safer, as people take their breaks at different times.

Sounds good so far, right? However, the decision to stagger shifts isn’t just up to you…

Do staff have any say on changes?

Employees need to give you their agreement to changes in their contractual terms. Having a process in place with a policy and procedure will help along with the wording in your contract which may make this process a little easier, such as a flexibility clause or mobility clause.

You can reach this agreement with your staff informally. All it takes is a chat about why you want to introduce staggered shifts, and any preferred hours they’d like to work. At times, communication which is transparent and inclusive does make a difference to staff and their judgement.

If you’re both happy with the new hours, type up an official letter (Contractual Change Agreement) that details the changes. Ask your worker to sign it to make the agreement official.

But if you can’t reach an informal agreement, you’ll need to follow proper procedures such as inviting staff to meetings and consulting with representatives to find a compromise.

Failure to follow proper procedures risks a costly breach of contract claim. So be sure to call Peninsula’s HR experts for advice before you go any further.

Even if your contracts do let you alter people’s hours, always discuss any changes with your staff first. If you surprise someone with a new shift that affects their personal plans (such as childcare duties), you risk ruining their morale, losing them as an employee, or facing an employment tribunal claim as it may open a door to a breach in the Work and Families Act (NI) 2015 and a possible risk of a Disability Discrimination claim under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Ready to set up staggered working? Let’s get you started.

What’s the easiest way to plan staggered shifts?

You could go down the old-fashioned routes of messy spreadsheets or endless paperwork. You’ll need to work out each person’s new shift pattern, make sure there are no clashes, and find a way to tell all your employees so they remember to turn up.

However, online HR software like BrightHR makes your life much easier.

Use BrightHR’s rota planner to build tailored shifts for several employees at once. Then, save the rota in your unlimited cloud storage space.

Once your new shifts are ready, BrightHR sends your staff an instant smartphone alert, so they always know where they need to be and when.

BrightHR users can start planning staggered shifts today—simply log into your account to begin.

Not a BrightHR user? Learn more about how BrightHR can help you get safely back to business. Book your personal demo today.

Need our help?

For further complimentary advice on staggering shifts from an expert, call us any time day or night on 0800 917 0771 or request a callback here.

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