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COVID-19 & Workplace Safety: How to Set Up Staggered Shifts


Social distancing, or keeping a distance of 2 metres from other people, is a key safety measure to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. There are several ways in which you can implement social distancing in your workplace. For example, you could rejig the seating plan to position work stations at least 2 metres apart. Or you could create one-way staircases and hallways or fix an occupancy limit in elevators.

Staggering work shifts is another way you can make your workplace safe for your staff and customers.

What does it mean to stagger shifts?

When you stagger work shifts, employees can come into work and leave for the day at different times. For example, say your small business employs a staff of 10 people. You could call five employees to work from 8am to 4pm and the rest from 11am to 7pm. This way, you minimize contact between your employees and reduce congestion in your workplace.

What are the benefits of staggering shifts?

Staggered shifts reduce congestion in the workplace, especially if your staff works out of a small office. It becomes easier to implement social distancing and reduce crowding in common areas such as elevators, cafeteria, kitchen and washrooms. This limits contact between employees and minimizes the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Staggered shifts also help your employees avoid public transport (and the risk of infection) during rush hours.

The safety benefits of spacing out work shifts may also ease the anxiety some employees may be experiencing about returning to work during a pandemic.

Do I need employee consent before setting up staggered shifts?

Yes. Unless the employment contract gives you the right to do so, you need employee consent to alter major terms of employment. This includes work hours, location, salary and/or work duties. Doing so without consent or contractual rights may invite unnecessary legal disputes, such as a constructive dismissal claim.

It is best to have an informal chat with your employee and explain why you are implementing staggered shifts. Once your employee consents, you can put together an official agreement document and have your employee sign it.

In case you and your employee don’t arrive at an informal understanding, it is advised that you hold meetings with your staff and involve the health and safety representatives to find a solution.

Even if the employment contract allows it, you should discuss the shift change with your employees before going ahead with it. Not consulting your staff or not giving them time to prepare for the change may affect their morale and your company’s employee retention in the long run.

How do I plan staggered shifts?

Drawing up staggered schedules for your entire staff may seem like a lot of paperwork. It is. But it can become a lot simpler if you use an online HR software like BrightHR.

With BrightHR’s shift planning feature, you can create customized shifts for a single or several employees at once. You can instantly share the schedule with your staff through the BrightHR mobile app.

You can save the schedules in your unlimited cloud storage. You can always take a print out of the schedules if you prefer hard copies for your records.

BrightHR also makes it simple to edit employee schedules and informs them of the changes in real time.

Want to learn more? Try out BrightHR’s free demo today.

Do you need help creating a COVID-19 Safety Plan for your workplace?

For advice on health and safety policies during the pandemic, call an expert today: 1 (833) 247-3652.

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