To ensure the hours of work set out in the work schedule are correct, on-call working patterns require employers to make a prospective estimate of average work carried out while on-call. They will then need to use the exception reporting and work schedule review processes to address variation from this estimate. Relevant available data should also be used, including feedback from staff rostered for on-call duties.
To begin, the number of hours for on-call work across an actual (and typical) week should be totalled. From this, an average amount of work for each weekday (Monday to Friday) and weekend (Saturday and Sunday) can be calculated. For example, a rota where each week of on-call generates on average 7.5 hours of work spread across the five weekday nights (in addition to the normal working day) and each weekend generates 7.5 hours of work across the two days of the weekend.
- To determine how many prospective hours of actual work done Monday to Friday, employers will need to divide 7.5 hours by 5 (no of nights). 7.5 hours / 5 nights = 1.5 hours (average) per night (plus 8 hours for the normal working day).
- To determine how many hours of actual work done on weekends, employers will need to divide 7.5 hours / 2 days = 3.75 hours (average) per duty period.
Employers will need to identify, from each of the five nights, what the busy (maximum hours) and quiet (minimum hours) times are for each of these periods in the working pattern. Assessing how frequent the rota is deviating from the maximum or minimum hours. For example, it might be that the quietest night required 15 minutes of work and the busiest required five hours.
Speaking to colleagues in the departments, obtaining feedback from doctors working on the rota and using historic (but recent) monitoring data will help to determine how many of the above average hours are likely to be worked between 2100 and 0700 and therefore to attract the 37% enhancement.
Prospective hours should be communicated to doctors in advance of starting work so they are aware when they may be risking a breach of rest requirements. For example, employers should provide clarity on the working pattern, eg Wednesdays on-call may typically include working until a certain time before midnight, etc
Important to note
For the sake of clarity, in calculating whether a working pattern meets the limit of 72 hours across 7 days, it is recommended that employers and doctors seek to work within both the spirit and the letter of this provision and consider the limit to be 72 hours in any consecutive 168 (7 x 24) hour period.
The 72 hours should be the maximum limit of hours and not a benchmark. Employers should try wherever possible to roster below this limit to provide a safety margin for doctors working close to these limits.