Staggered Hours

  • Working Time
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Peninsula Group, HR and Health & Safety Experts

(Last updated )

In this guide, we'll look at what staggered hours are, who's entitled to them, and how to adopt them into your working arrangements.

Flexible working hours have fast become increasingly popular across many industry sectors. One distinct form of this is known as staggered hours.

There are so many rules and requirements when it comes to allowing staggered hours within your business. And these apply to both the employer and their employees. Ignore them and you could face business disruption, tribunal claims, or even compensation penalties.

In this guide, we'll look at what staggered hours are, who's entitled to them, and how to adopt them into your working arrangements.

What are staggered hours?

Staggered hours are one form of flexible working. Here, an employee's start and finish times are different to colleagues in the same workplace. They'll usually have the same work or number of hours as other workers.

But, employees on staggered hours have separate rest breaks during their work hours. Their role may involve job sharing or working through ‘compressed hours’ (working full-time but over fewer days).

Staggered working patterns are commonly found in retail and hospitality industries. That's because these rotas work well for businesses with long opening hours; or when 'round-the-clock' customer service is needed.

What is the law on working staggered hours?

Under UK law, only certain people can raise a statutory request to work staggered hours. Only employees with at least 26 weeks of continuous service have this legal right.

There are all sorts of reasons for requesting staggered hours. For example, an employee could suffer from a mental health disability related to anxiety. Staggered work hours can help them avoid the stress of using public transport during peak hours.

Every staggered hours system must comply with the laws that affect flexible working arrangements. These include:

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR)

Under the Working Time Regulations 1998 (WTR), employees cannot work more than 48 hours per week (unless they opt-out). This is often breached when they compress workdays or neglect break times during staggered hours.

Employers also cannot force this flexible working arrangement onto their staff. You can only implement this with an employee's consent. After this, you'll be able to amend their annualised hours terms in their employment contract.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA)

Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA), employers have a legal duty to provide a safe and healthy workplace.

This means ensuring employees on staggered hours are still entitled to their employment rights. For example, having safe systems in place, access to suitable work equipment, and being protected from work-related risks.

Can you refuse requests to work staggered hours?

Yes, employers are legally allowed to refuse requests to work staggered hours.

However, it's not advisable to decline them flat out. Be considerate and treat each request fairly before you decide. You should only refuse any such request if it's:

  • Ruined customer demand and business revenue.
  • Difficult to rearrange work rotas and shifts.
  • Hard to assign or hire someone to cover hours.
  • Affected employee's ability to work or perform well.

If you refuse their requests unreasonably, you could face a complaint before an employment tribunal (ET). Successful claims could result in paying compensation of up to eight weeks’ pay (depending on individual wages).

How to adopt staggered hours into your workplace

Before the rise in flexible working patterns, staggered working hours were generally used in customer-facing jobs. It was a practical method used to cover long opening hours for local shops, bars, and hotels.

But now, staggered working hours benefit both you and your employees. Let's look at how to adopt staggered hours into your workplace:

Add it to your flexible working policy

The first step involves adding your staggered hours terms to your flexible working policy.

The policy should cover how requests are managed; who’s allowed to use them; and what new working patterns will look like.

Employers should also record and review the number of hours done through staggered working hours. This will help eradicate any security or safety concerns relating to the individual.

Stick to core hours

The next step involves making sure you stick to an employee's core hours.

Staggered working hours require more attention than annualised hours. That's because it usually involves managing a more complex matrix of work rotas.

Employers must ensure their staff don't exceed the legal maximum work hours and whatever their employment contract states. You must also consider staggering employees' lunch breaks. This can help ensure they don't delay or avoid rest breaks entitlements.

Be fair when considering requests

As mentioned, employers have a right to refuse a staggered hours request. However, your decision-making process must be fair and reasonable.

Whether you accept or decline such requests, talk about it first with your employees. Explain the reasons behind your decision. Maybe your business could face a substantial financial impact if you let all employees have staggered working hours.

It's also advisable to think about the consequences of refusing requests. It could put your work relationships at risk - resulting in some employees looking for work elsewhere.

Outline whether staggered working hours is temporary or not

Sometimes, staggered hours may be needed on a temporary basis. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses needed to minimise social contact as part of government guidance.

Even if it's a temporary proposed arrangement, you still need to adhere to your legal duties for staggered hours. This includes ensuring employees work within safe and secure conditions.

Be aware, some work changes may need to be added to employment contracts. You might even need to inform an employee's trade union about these temporary changes managed moving forward.

What should be included in a staggered hours checklist?

It's always best to use a checklist when it comes to staggered working hours.

This will help identify both you and your employee's individual needs during this flexible working request process. Your checklist can cover:

Employee-demand

  • Does the employee have a right to request staggered hours? (For example, either they have a medical right or another impending reason).
  • What is the employee's proposed staggered hours schedule?
  • Does the employee demonstrate the necessary skills for this working arrangement?
  • Is the requested duration temporary or permanent?

Business-demand

  • What is the business's existing criteria for permitting staggered hours?
  • Would the proposed schedule present operational issues?
  • Can the employee fulfil their usual work duties during staggered hours?
  • Do you have review processes in place to measure performance and output?

Administrative-demand

  • Can you track employees working staggered hours?
  • Are there security concerns related to using equipment or documents outside of core working hours?
  • Are there safety concerns related to accessing the workplace premises outside of core working hours?
  • Has a cost-benefit analysis been done and what is the outcome?

Get expert advice on staggered hours with Peninsula

Whatever the reasons may be, it's always best to deal with employees working flexibly. This allows you to support those going through difficult personal issues - without ruining your work output and relations.

If you ignore the rules governing working hours, you could face serious consequences. Like tribunal claims, compensation penalties, and business disruption.

Peninsula offers expert advice on staggered hours. Our teams offer 24/7 HR advice which is available 365 days a year. We take care of everything when you work with our HR experts.

Want to find out more? Contact us on 0800 028 2420 and book a free consultation with an HR consultant today.

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