Survey highlights lack of notice for shift work

Research from the Living Wage Foundation finds 37% of workers are given less than a week’s notice of shift patterns.



Thirty seven per cent of workers are given less than a week’s notice of their shifts or work patterns, according to new research.

The research – based on two surveys of over 2,000 UK adults in each case for the Living Wage Foundation – found that among the 59% of workers whose job involves variable hours or shift work, over three-fifths (62%) reported having less than a week’s notice of their work schedules. Twelve per cent of this group had less than 24 hours’ notice.

The Foundation says that short notice periods are particularly common in London, where it says almost half (48%) of all workers received less than a week’s notice of work schedules. This compares to Scotland (35%), the South of England excluding London (34%) and the North of England (33%).

A second survey focused on the experience of full-time, low-paid workers, finding that they were particularly hard hit by short notice of working hours. 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 work schedules, with 15% having less than 24 hours’ notice. Low-paid, full-time workers from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds (68% of whom had less than a week’s notice of work patterns) and those with children (64%) were also disproportionately affected, the survey found.

The Foundation has a Living Hours programme which requires employers to both pay a real Living Wage and commit to provide at least four weeks’ notice for every shift, with guaranteed payment if shifts are cancelled within this notice period. Living Hours employers also provide a guaranteed minimum of 16 working hours every week (unless the worker requests otherwise) and a contract that accurately reflects hours worked.  Living Hours signatories include Aviva and SSE.

The Foundation’s research shows that currently just 10% of workers who have variable working hours or conduct shift work received at least four weeks’ notice of shift patterns.

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.

Despite this, and the challenges many employers have faced, some have stepped up during this crisis and committed to provide workers with secure, guaranteed hours and notice of shift patterns. These are the businesses that will help us rebuild and recover, and we encourage more employers to follow their example.”

Meanwhile, almost 500 British Gas engineers have lost their jobs after they refused to sign new contracts. The company had given staff until noon on Wednesday to agree to new terms that call for longer hours together with shifts over weekends and bank holidays.  Centrica, which owns British Gas, said around 2% of its staff had chosen not to sign the new contracts and would therefore leave the firm. Andy Prendergast, GMB acting national secretary, said that, although many of its 8,000 engineers have agreed to the new terms “under duress”, the company’s “appalling” treatment of its staff had damaged morale across the workforce. A spokesperson for Centrica said: “While change is difficult, reversing our decline, – which has seen us lose over three million customers, cut over 15,000 jobs and seen profits halved over the last 10 years –is necessary.”

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