Many businesses operate during normal working hours. Most companies will work in this way. However, some businesses such as convenience stores and off-licences will be open 24 hours a day. The people who own this type of business will know this will mean hiring staff for shift work. It’s quite simple, if a business is open all hours, you’ll need employees working shifts in order to keep things going. After all, you don’t want workers falling asleep when there are customers to serve.
The nature of shift work will mean some employees working unsociable hours. You could have people working late at night or early in the morning. Human beings aren’t programmed to function well in these hours. So if you are a 24 hour business, there are things you need to be aware of.
Clearly define the times
There is no ‘one size fits all approach’ when it comes to 24 hour businesses. There is very little in terms of clear legislation relating to these types of ventures. However that does not mean that you as an employer aren’t responsible for creating a schedule for shift workers which is fair. Employees must stick to the times given to them and not go over them. Make the rota clear and visible to all employees, so they know when their shift starts and when it ends. This might sound obvious, but it is very important to make this as clear as possible. For instance, if someone has done a night shift into the early morning, make sure they don’t do another one immediately after. Think about the needs and well being of workers and allocate shifts that are appropriate.
Consider all health and safety risks
We are going to be totally frank, the nature of 24 hour shift work opens up many possibilities in terms of health and safety risks that you simply won’t have in conventional businesses. Insomnia, poor diet and mood disorders are just a few that shift workers face when working either late night shifts or other irregular hours. But as a business owner, you can mitigate this by providing clear guidelines for shift workers. For example, you should set out exactly when employees should take breaks and how long they need to be. Emphasise that breaks are especially important during unsociable hours.
Have in place clear instructions about how workers should deal with fatigue. Let’s say someone on a shift is feeling very tired, or even nauseous, they must be encouraged to stop or come back when they feel better. A worker’s decision-making will be impaired if they aren’t feeling well. Don’t take this risk - think about employee welfare.
As well as health and safety, you also have to consider the needs and circumstances of your shift workers. For instance, someone might be caring for an elderly relative and won’t be available to take on certain shifts. As a business owner, you should be sympathetic to this and plan accordingly. Maybe one of your employees is showing signs of depression or other mental health issues (something we have covered in detail). With personal issues, it is important that you acknowledge that shift work should be accommodating towards these needs. Consider the type of workers who might be at risk. This includes:
- Older workers
- Expectant mothers
- Young workers
- People with pre-existing conditions that might make shift work a challenge.
So really think if it’s appropriate to put anyone who falls into these categories on risky shift work.
Speak to the shift workers
And finally, make sure that you are constantly engaging with shift workers. After all, they are the ones doing this work. Ask them how they are feeling; if the conditions are good and if there is anything that can be improved. They will only appreciate the interest that you are showing. Plus it’s a good opportunity to really get to the bottom of any issues that you might be missing.
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