'Impossible choices' | Nearly 40% of UK staff allocated shifts at short notice

    Nearly 40% of UK staff allocated shifts at short notice

    Around two-fifths (37%) of UK workers in full or part-time employment are given less than a week’s notice of their shifts or work patterns.

    That’s according to new research conducted by the Living Wage Foundation based on two surveys of over 2,000 UK adults in each case.

    The research revealed that among the 59% of whose job involves variable hours of shift work, 62% reported having less than a week’s notice when it came to their work schedules. 12% of this group – which equated to seven per cent of all working adults – claimed that they were given less than 24 hours’ notice.

    Short notice periods were also more common in London, as found by the data, where 48% of workers were given less than a week’s advance notice of their schedules.

    Commenting on the findings, Laura Gardiner, Director, Living Wage Foundation, said: “Without clear notice of shift patterns provided in good time, millions of workers have had to make impossible choices on childcare, transport and other important aspects of family life.

    “Low-paid workers have been particularly hard hit during the pandemic, with millions struggling to plan their lives due to the double whammy of changing restrictions on economic activity and insufficient notice of work schedules from employers.”

    As part of the research, the Living Wage Foundation found that full-time, low-paid workers were also hit hard by short notice of working hours.

    In fact, of those working full-time and paid below the real Living Wage of £10.85 in London and £9.50 in the rest of the UK, more than half (55%) had less than a week’s notice of working hours, with 15% receiving less than 24 hours’ notice.

    Strain on employees

    As Gardiner pointed out, without clear notice of shift patterns employees have been hit hard by the short notice and the need to rearrange things such as childcare and transport as a result of the changes.

    Catherine Munro, HR Advisor at MHR, agreed with this, as she told HR Grapevine: “Without clear notice of their work schedules, employees are less able to manage their personal lives and fulfil their commitments. This could mean having to organise or rearrange cover for caring responsibilities such as, collecting children from school or checking in on an elderly relative.

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    “This constant juggling and rescheduling can be stressful for the person involved, and for others who are and for others who are impacted, potentially putting a strain on relationships.”

    What can employers do?

    Quick changes to working patterns can ultimately lead to staff burnout, as Munro shared that working in this manner “often results in absences”. She shared that there are some steps employers can make to avoid this.

    “To help employees manage juggling work and home demands, employers should encourage a ‘listening ear’ culture by ensuring clear lines of communication between employees and their managers. The key is to empower employees to take ownership of their work, allowing and trusting them to work flexibly to successfully meet the demands of their role,” she concluded.

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