Returning to work: How to set up staggered shifts

  • Leave and Absence
Peninsula Logo

Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

Jump to section:

To get back to work as safely as possible, you need to figure out how to keep your staff socially distant in the workplace.

There are lots of ways to do this. Repositioning workstations, installing protective screens and arranging one-way routes are just some of your options, and we discuss these in detail in your free Peninsula ‘getting back to work’ guide.

But in this article, we’re going to look at how staggering your workers’ shifts helps you to meet government rules and keep your staff and customers safe.

So, let’s get into it.

Firstly, what are staggered shifts?

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

Say you employ eight people in a small office. You could ask four of them to work from 8am to 4pm, and the rest from 12pm to 8pm. With fewer people in your workplace, it becomes easier for everyone to stay two metres apart. 

You could also ask some staff to come in at the weekend instead of during the week. Or you could even ask them to spread their weekly work over fewer days.

They’ll work longer hours per shift, but get an extra day off to compensate. Then, you can rotate 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. But the decision to stagger shifts isn’t just up to you…

Do my staff have any say on the changes?

Employees need to give you their agreement to changes in their contractual terms. Wording in your contract may make this process a little easier.

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.

If you’re both happy with the new hours, type up an official letter that details the changes, and 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.

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.


Got a question? Check whether we’ve already answered it for you…

Related articles

  • a jar of coins labelled holiday


    Rolled up holiday pay set to return: what exactly is it?

    Rolled up holiday pay has been unlawful since 2006 but is set to make a comeback. Those who begun their careers in HR or payroll before then will need to dust off the old guidance and re-familiarise.

    Peninsula GroupHR and Health & Safety Experts
    • Leave and Absence
  • Three office workers sat around a table.


    Should you hire someone who’s unfriendly in the interview?

    We often expect candidates to be smiley, friendly, and confident in their interview. But here’s why that’s not always the right way to think about it…

    Alan PriceChief Operations Officer
    • Recruitment
  • Two people at a desk reviewing financial documents


    The bank holiday rush: how to manage last minute leave requests

    If your staff are trying to maximise their time off around bank holidays, it could put you in a tricky spot. Read more to learn how to navigate clashing holiday requests.

    James PottsLegal Services Director
    • Leave and Absence
Back to resource hub

Try Peninsula for free today

See for yourself why Peninsula is the UK’s favourite HR and health & safety provider. Tap below to unlock free advice, policies, e-learning, and more.

Sign up to our newsletter

Get the latest news & tips that matter most to your business in our monthly newsletter.

International sites

© 2023 Peninsula Business Services Limited. Registered Office: The Peninsula, Victoria Place, Manchester, M4 4FB. Registered in England and Wales No: 1702759. Peninsula Business Services Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority for the sale of non-investment insurance contracts.

ISO 27001 and 9001 accredited company.
The Sunday Times - Top Track 250.
Glassdoor 2018 Best Places To Work.