Relief shifts illustration

What is a Relief Shift?

A relief shift is a shift used to cover for absent employees or handle workload increases.

A relief worker is generally seen as a more casual role than a regular employee. Relief workers are called in to cover and support regular staff.

These roles are typically offered on a casual or zero-hour contract basis, meaning that the hours of work are not guaranteed and depend on the needs of the employer. This provides workers with the flexibility to work as much or as little as they prefer or as their schedule permits.

What does relief mean on a rota?

On a work rota or schedule, "relief" indicates a shift designed to substitute or support regular staff shifts.

These are often marked as "relief" to differentiate them from planned, routine shifts. It's a flexible approach to manage unpredictability in staffing. Relief shifts are common in industries where 24/7 operations are essential.

What is a Relief Worker?

Relief Worker is someone who fills in or provides extra support on an as-needed basis, often in care, support services, or nurseries.

They can often choose their shifts and work in various settings, offering them flexibility around their personal schedule.

NHS Hospital illustration

How the NHS uses Relief Shifts

The way the NHS in the UK implement relief shifts is more planned in advance than usual relief shifts.

Their relief shifts are planned in advance and are part of the roster to fill in for employees who are on leave (such as annual leave, sickness, or maternity leave), undergoing training, or when there is an unexpected increase in service demand.

The South Central Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SCAS) policy states that employees will receive a minimum of 28 calendar days' notice of their future relief shifts to be worked.

Relief shifts allow the Trust to continue providing patient care services without interruption, by having staff available to step in and cover those gaps in the schedule.

Benefits of Relief Shifts

Relief shifts offer several benefits, such as:

Challenges with Relief Shifts

While beneficial, managing relief shifts can also present challenges:

Best Practices for Managing Relief Shifts

To effectively incorporate relief shifts while minimizing potential downsides, consider the following strategies:

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