Staggered working hours due to coronavirus

09 June 2020

As businesses start to reopen after the UK government’s lockdown measures, you may now be thinking about the best approach for returning your employees.

We can help you with your return to work. Call us on 0800 028 2420 for guidance through the post-lockdown measures. Or you can read our advice on how to reopen your business after the lockdown.  

You can also read our below guide, which explains staggered hours and how they can manage the risk of infection spreading at your premises.  

What are staggered shifts?

Essentially, a staggered shift pattern is where your staff work a set number of hours during the day, but at different times.

The idea is employees are able to have different start, finish, and break times from their colleagues.

Through this system, staff can have more freedom with setting when they work. Although that’s through an agreement with you.

It’s important to remember that you, as an employer, don’t need to agree to this.

However, you should remember that staggered hours can be a major assistance for your company in maintaining social distancing.   

They’re a way of pacing out your employees’ return to work—you can offer flexible times to ease overcrowding on your premises.

This is so you can keep social distancing measures in place.

Staggered days shift pattern—an example

There are a number of options you may consider exploring to stagger shifts. Here are a few of them:

  • Changing breaks and lunch times to stop staff congregating.
  • Split staff into teams with alternative days working from home and from the workplace.
  • Introducing four in five weeks, where staff work the hours they would in a five day week but spread over four days.
  • If staff are in teams, making arrangements for team members to all be in the workplace at any one time.

Ultimately, one of the benefits to the approach is the flexibility available. You can work them around your business’ requirements—while considering your employees’ needs.

So, although there are common examples, there’s nothing stopping you from implementing a unique shift pattern.

Benefits of staggered working hours

Generally, a staggered shift schedule, if implemented correctly, can provide opportunity for staff to continue to work the number of hours that they were originally contracted to work despite receiving increased flexibility during their working.

From your perspective, it can mean having to provide less desk space and facilities for staff to use as they could, potentially, not all need to be in the working environment at the same time.

And this approach is becoming an increasingly popular option for staff.

Many employees now look for the flexibility that a role provides when considering if they should apply for it.

So, it may help with your recruitment drive in the future as an initiative.

How staggered hours support a safe return to work

There’s a similarity between staggered working hours and reduced transmission rate.

That’s because staggered shifts can help ease congestions as staff arrive and leave the workplace daily—or gather in communal areas on their breaks.

Allowing employees to commute to work during non-peak times, or reducing the number of occasions in which they need to do this, can also help decrease the risk of them dealing with large numbers of commuters.

Ultimately, the flexibility is what can help to support your return to work after the pandemic.

The shift pattern approach ensures your staff have the opportunities to select more convenient hours—while limiting the chance for overcrowding.

Employee legal rights in relation to shift work

In the absence of specific clauses in their contract of employment, which allow you to change their working hours, all staff should agree to any changes before you implement them.

Failure to follow proper procedure in this area could result in costly breach of contract claims.

There are also anti-discrimination laws to consider. For example, making this change could negatively impact upon mothers with child caring commitments if the new shifts will make this more difficult for them.

To this end, it’s important to proceed carefully when introducing staggered shift arrangements.

How to manage a staggered working hours shift pattern

Before implementing this approach to your daily shifts, you should clearly outline to your staff why they’re necessary.

For example, if you're introducing them to maintain social distancing, you should make this clear.  

It’s important to introduce a policy for managing this situation. You should also provide a clear staggered working policy overview to your staff, outlining how the changes will work in practice.

For example, will start and finish times receive an amend? Or you ask staff to split their working week over four days?

You should take into account the personal circumstances of your staff when making changes to their working hours, and invite them to make suggestions.

Once you confirm this, make agreements, whether temporary or permanent, in writing. 

Remember—if the changes are to impact upon more than 19 members of staff, rules surrounding collective consultation come into play.

How to maintain a staggered working hours shift pattern

A staggered days shift pattern should be carefully monitored and clearly maintained through the use of accessible rotas.

Staff should be aware of when they are expected to work and encouraged to ask if they’re not sure.

If it’s in agreement these changes are permanent, employees will need to agree to them changing again—or reverting back to how they were.

If the changes were specified as only temporary depending on how the coronavirus situation develops, you should regularly review their effectiveness.

You should also invite employees to come forward if they feel the new arrangement is not working.

You can then discuss the situation and look for ways to improve their daily shift.

We’re here to help

There isn’t a one fit all fix for the coronavirus pandemic. But you can get expert guidance from a B2B employment law consultant. Call us for quick answers to your questions: 0800 028 2420.

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