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Unfair rostering and illegally long hours: Emergency Services workers on the verge of burnout

Kronos has today announced the results of new research revealing that 85% of Emergency Service workers are worried they will burnout on the job.

The research conducted on over 250, UK based, Paramedics, Firefighters, Police Force workers and A&E staff, also found that nearly three quarters (74 percent) have already suffered from workplace fatigue, due to being overworked.

In these high intensity environments, where staff are expected to be alert and able to react to sometimes life or death situations, it’s imperative they get adequate rest between shifts to be able to perform the job safely. However the study also found 72% of Emergency Service workers are regularly getting less than 6 hours sleep - 2 hours less than the National Institute of Health’s recommended amount.

Worryingly, over half (51%) of Emergency Service employees admitted to having worked over 11 consecutive hours without a break, which is not only illegal, but greatly increase their risk of burning out if repeated consistently.

Despite the long hours, it’s their love of helping people that drives them. Out of a list of motivators, surprisingly the most popular choice wasn’t pay (40%) it was ‘helping people’ (60%), while ‘enjoyment of the job’ and ‘colleagues/colleague support’ also ranked highly (37% and 29% respectively).

So what can be done to help? The research identified that only a quarter of Emergency workers (24%) felt rostering is done effectively, which can lead to employees working longer shifts, or more often than they should - sometimes in excess of what is legally allowed. In fact, 40% of Police Force employees have worked a shift of more than 12 hours without a break and 58% of Emergency Service workers have been called in to work with less than 4 hours notice because of staff shortages.

Using the latest rostering systems that automatically check which qualified and available Emergency Service workers are available to cover shifts, would ensure the same people are not being regularly asked to work overtime and ensure shifts are more fairly distributed  - reducing the risk of fatigue and preventing burnout.

Gavin England, ‎Industry & Customer Insights Manager at Kronos says, “Emergency service personnel are motivated by the need to help people – for them this is a vocation rather than simply a job. That sense of purpose and obligation drives them to focus more on delivering a great service, rather than making sure they are sticking to their hours and thinking about their own wellbeing.

“Our research reinforces the important role that duty managers operating in this space play. There is a real responsibility on managers to ensure their employees are getting adequate rest, especially if being asked to operate for extended periods of time. Not only is this their legal obligation, but failing to do so could lead to an increased risk of fatigue that can impair decision making and eventually lead to burnout.”

“The challenging nature of these jobs can put staff at greater risk of developing health problems – both mental and physical. That’s why it’s so important support is made available, to ensure these dedicated workers are at their best. Having proper breaks between shifts and a culture that encourages staff to take the time needed to rest and recuperate will help prevent burnout and allow them to be ready to carry out these incredibly difficult and life-saving roles, that we often take for granted.”