Split shifts – a health and safety issue for women

Jean Kilpatrick
Jean Kilpatrick

Split shifts came under the spotlight at STUC Women’s conference as delegates backed a need for proper research into the health consequences of such work patterns for the workforce.

The motion from Glasgow Trades Union Council highlighted split shifts as a health and safety issue and referred to UNISON’s research in Glasgow which highlighted this as a women’s issue, with problems exacerbated by caring responsibilities and menopause symptoms.

UNISON’s Jean Kilpatrick spoke of the situation in Glasgow where Cordia, the arms-length organisation, brought in split shifts in 2015, apparently to provide greater continuity of care for clients.

“Yet from the start routes were changed and carers were taken out of their usual areas – where’s the continuity?” asked Jean.

“In reality carers are shattered are shattered after working 70 hours in a week and absence rates have increased,” she said, adding that the working conditions of a mainly female workforce are riddled with inequalities, and the rotas demonstrate a failure in their duty of care by management.

Jean highlighted the UNISON survey where a majority of union members said they have been left exhausted, been unable to function or had their mental health affected by the rotas, with others describing themselves as “zombies” by the end of the 7 day shifts.

“Even without caring responsibilities 70 hours a week has a massive impact of health and wellbeing, and HSE guidelines confirm that there is not enough recovery time between shifts,” warned Jean.

“This is a predominantly female workforce and a high number have caring responsibilities, whether children, parents or partners, and this is before we think of the impact of the menopause,” said Jean, calling for support for the motion.

STUC Women’s Conference 2019 Home

Reports by UNISON Scotland Communications and Campaigns Committee from Kate Ramsden in Perth.