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Shift schedules in the commercial sector

Updated: 19.05.2022

When the schedule of work shifts (also called roster) is drawn up, workers must be given an opportunity to state their views on the length and placement of shifts, on days off, and annual leave.

Drawing up the shift schedule

Workers need to have a chance to state their opinion about shifts and days off.

Inappropriately short shifts should be avoided. Shifts must be at least 4 hours. Shorter shifts can be agreed on a one-off basis with the worker or for a justified reason. If there is a justified reason for a shorter shift, the employer has to explain the reason to the worker before drawing up the roster.

The distribution of working time and days off should alternate among workers. If shifts are placed at different times of the day, its recommended to use ergonomic shift schedule planning. This means the direction of shift rotation should be morning shift—day shift—evening shift—night shift.

If there are two or more days off, it’s recommended that leave starts after the morning shift and the return to work is to an evening shift, so that the free time is longer.

Announcing the shift schedule

The employer must give the shift schedule to the workers no later than two weeks before the beginning of the working week.

If the working time averaging period is 19 weeks or longer, the shift schedule must be given no later than 3 weeks before the working week begins.

It’s possible to agree at the workplace that the schedule can be given one week in advance. If there is a shop steward (union representative) at the workplace, the issue is agreed with them. In other cases, its agreed with the personnel group it concerns.

Changing the shift schedule

Once the workers have been informed of a shift schedule, changes can only be made with the consent of worker or for a compelling reason relating to work arrangements that was not known to the employer when the schedule was being drawn up.

The employer’s unilateral right to change the schedule is limited to situations where it is necessary to safeguard production, service, or other operational arrangements at the workplace due to unforeseeable circumstances.

The employer must immediately inform the worker of any changes in the shift schedule.

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