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changing shift patterns guide

Changing to new Shift Patterns

If your Company is thinking about changing to new Shift patterns. We describe the processes involved to do this. If you have any questions, please call us.

click here to see the Changing Shift Patterns Guide

The EC Working Time Directive will have an effect on all Organisations.

The Elements of the EC Working Time Directive That Will Affect You

Night Shift limit of 8 hours

You can try out new working hours, new start & finish times, using Visual Rota in advance to achieve the best shift pattern. See Starting Anew for alecrmation on creating a new staff roster from scratch.

Health Checks

Please see our health page for a list of health problems associated with working night shifts.

48 Hours Maximum Working Week

Visual Rota tracks staff hours all the time, so you immediately see if you have exceeded the maximum. As you enter the normal shift pattern, the hours will change simultaneously to keep you up to date all the time. The roster printout details all the staff hours as well as the staff shifts, so your staff can immediately check their hours as well as their shifts.

An Example.
A shift worker working 12 hour shifts on a 24hrx365day operation. Average working week is 48 hours and this is within the EU WTD. Over a period of 17 weeks the exact number of hours that can be worked is 17x48=816hrs. However, if the employee works 1 extra hour during that time, then the law has been broken and prosecution can result. However unlikely, this is a distinct possibility especially if an injury has occurred and the Health & Safety Executive are involved. Eventually, along with the statutory injury form they require with each injury, you will need to send their working hours record.
Hence, you need to keep a running record of all the employees hours worked, for the last 2 years, and a record of each separate 17 week period. Each 17 week record will almost inevitably carry over into the adjacent 17 week period due to sickness, holidays and absence from work. In many instances, the period can overlap several 17 week periods. Just think of pregnancy, an employee leaving on maternity leave during one period and returning to work 40 weeks later can have overlapped into 5 separate 17 week periods, each of which requires their own separate calculations and record. If the return to work is then interrupted by periods of sickness and accrued holidays, then it can extend over even more 17 week periods. Theoretically, there is no limit, if a person is on permanent sick leave.
You need to be sure that the rolling record of all hours worked, and, due to be worked, including those in the time extended into the next 17 week period do not exceed the average. To do that, the staff roster needs to keep track of all hours worked, and those due to be worked, including ammendments to take account of any hours in excess of the statutory limit of 816hrs. On paper, this is a massive increase in the workload imposed upon admin. In practice, using Visual Rota, it's simple and easy.

4 Weeks Minimum Annual Holidays

Visual Rota can track staff holidays all the time, so you immediately see how much holiday your staff have taken. Holidays are colour coded blue automatically so you can easily check, or you can have a separate file just for staff holidays. You can allocate holidays for the year ahead, then you won't suddenly reach the end of the year and find that everyone HAS to have their last few days off together.

11 Hours Minimum Continuous Break

Visual Rota's unique visual presentation makes it immediately obvious if you allocate shifts without the obligatory break period. You can immediately see if their next shift is less than 11 hours away, (or in the case of a young worker, its 12 hours) and make the necessary changes immediately.

Obligatory 2 Years Work Records for Every Employee

Records, Record Keeping & Administration

Visual Rota files are kept on the computer and all the printouts are date and time stamped. This makes record keeping simple, easy and you can't not keep all the necessary records for 2 years. Simply file the printouts away for the obligatory time in your filing cabinet. They are a perfect record of your roster, including all amendments.

Other requirements include: Health Assessment, Monotonous Work, Weekly Rest Period, Rest Breaks, Young Workers

There are only two methods of checking your staffing now and under the new EC directive, on a computer using Visual Rota, or by hand.

Exemptions, Are There Any?

Have you heard that you are exempt as a hospital or some other category, that's not what the small print says.
Check the small print on staff that don't want to work more than 8 hours at night.
Check the small print on staff not directly looking after patients, or your exempt category.
Check the small print on how they expect awkward issues to resolved in court.
In the end, you might as well limit night staff to 8 hours max., then you have no headaches or sleepless night or journeys to court.
To do that, you will need a computer and the one program that can help you, Visual Rota. And, you don't have to buy it just for this one use, you can use the program for ever more for your normal hospital or industrial staff rostering, It's going to save you thousands of manhours each and every year.
Visual Rota will help you make sure you comply with this legislation.

Checking Your Shift Patterns Against the Directive

A Case History Using Visual Rota


A well known British company with many factories has a work schedule designed on 2 x 12hrs shifts/day x 365 days/yr. The machinery works continuously( but it is not a continuous process). The 12hr day shift during the day is OK according to the EC Working Time Directive, but the 12hr night shift isn't. The night shift has to be replaced to accord with the new regulations.

Problem Areas.

Manually changing to new shift patterns is very expensive in man-hours and very error-prone.
Agreement of workforce, agreement of unions, conflict with other legislation already in force.

Major alecrmation Blank Spot

. How much will it cost. How much time will it take to sort out. How many man-hours do we have to devote to it.

Whatever you do will result in problem areas. There will be a set of new shifts which will suit most people (including your shifts), the company and the unions.


How do you come up with a new set of shifts that is agreeable to most people. The only solution is to try it out, and the easiest way is visually on a computer using Visual Rota.

Step 1.

Using Visual Rota.

Input your existing shifts into Visual Rota to get a standard of your existing rota. Visual Rota provides all the details you need.

Think of a new set of shifts (you might have to repeat this step several times to arrive at the optimum solution).

For example, day shift 7am-3pm, late shift 3pm-11pm, night shift 11pm-7am.

New Rules to Obey

There are certain new rules to obey.
1. No double shifts, there is a 13hr max/day.
2. Minimum rest periods means that certain shifts cannot follow other shifts.
The actual method is part of our business practice and available to purchasers of the program.
At some point, you might run out of staff choices or options and there is no more capacity left to assign shifts without breaking the rules, BUT, you still need some more manpower.
Visual Rota provides the solution and again, this is part of our business practice and available on purchasing the program.
The existing staff will have lost days off, or wages, or both. If they are salaried, you have lost work hours and therefore cash. Additional employees will cost more than the existing workforce as well as the cost of training, uniforms, etc. The Visual Rota budgetary control page enables you to quantify this cost for both your employees individually and collectively for the company. You can then see how much the changes will cost everyone, employees & company alike. so you will need to budget for the change. Visual Rota gives you numbers to use instead of guesses. Numbers such as cash totals, and new staff at what grade, to recruit.

Visual Rota helps in using the legislation for the advantage of the company.

Create the new shifts throughout the company. This is an opportunity to harmonise shifts. Employees can then be moved any where in the company and still have the same schedules.

Revamp production methods and schedules at the same time, have down time when it's convenient, etc.

Visual Rota provides you with the tools to check your existing schedules, create new schedules in almost no time at all, provide realistic alecrmation, facts, figures and calculations to the staff and unions backing your needs for change. Visual Rota will specify your requirements for new staff and cost it out in detail.

Also, you can use Visual Rota for ever more for your staff rosters.

More alecrmation about Visual Rota

Human Resource Management:Training in Staff Rostering

user guides,help & video

record keeping using VR

calculating holiday entitlements

shifts overlapping pay rates

creating new schedules with VR

shift pattern generator

changing over to VR

hotels and staffing

See your staffing costs as you prepare the schedule

On Oct.1st 1998 the new regulations came into force

Frequently asked questions

Using Visual Rota Statistics to make decisions

Managing Change. How to introduce changes

How to use annual hours in planning schedules

What is Whatif analysis?

How having too many staff can affect quality as well as too few staff

Continually short staffed-fact or myth

How to reduce staff painlessly

please email us

Theory and creating the staffing schedule

Tel: (+44) 01636 816466 Tel: 00 44 1 636 816466 Fax: 00 44 1 636

Alec Jezewski CDT (C-Desk Technology)

AEEU, Amalgamated Engineering and Electrical Union

ASLEF Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen

ATL, Association of Teachers and Lecturers

AUT Association of University Teachers

BALPA British Air Line Pilots Association

BECTU Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union

CWU Communication Workers Union

EIS, The Educational Institute of Scotland.

EMA, Engineers and Managers Association

EQUITY British Actors Equity Association

NUJ National Union of Journalists

GPMU Graphical, Paper and Media Union

HCSA Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association

IPMS Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists

KFAT, National Union of Knitwear, Footwear and Apparel Trades

MSF Manufacturing Science Finance

MSF London Housing Branch, organises employees of housing associations in London.

MU Musicians Union

NATFHE The University and College Lecturers' Union

PCS Public and Commercial Services Union

NASUWT National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers

USDAW Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers

STE Society of Telecom Executives

NUT, National Union of Teachers

TGWU Transport and General Workers Union

PFA The Professional Footballers Association

TSSA, Transport Salaried Staffs' Association

UNiFI, the new Finance Sector union consisting of an amalgamation of BIFU (Banking Insurance and Finance Union) NWSA (Natwest Staff Assc) and OLD Unifi (Barclays Staff Union).

WGGB Writers' Guild of Great Britain

  • The government's guidance can be found here.
  • The full text of the regulations can be found here.