I need help explaining to work why it’s so important to stick to my set shift pattern.

So I work 30 hours a week as a staff nurse on a cardiac surgical ward. I absolutely love my job but it can be very mentally and physically draining. Occupational health advised my ward manager that I should work a set shift pattern. Now due to staff shortages and such a busy work load work do not always stick to this shift pattern. When I’m working my set shift pattern I feel I’m able cope with work life as well as being  a mother to 4 kids, two of which also have autism. When work do not follow my set shift pattern I can cope at work all be it im very tired and can get overwhelmed however  everything at home becomes to much to bear. 

I have tired explaining to work the importance of following my shift pattern but I can never seem to find the words face to face . I just get told well patients needs come first or that the staffing won’t allow my shifts, or to book annual leave to allow for my shifts and I back down. However I’m one week into the next 6 weeks of work not following my set shift and I can’t cope. I’ve already had a break down. I find my daughters autism to much to deal with as I’m too exhausted  from work. 

The reasons I asked for set shifts is because nursing is such a demanding  job. My shift pattern allows me to have sufficient down time between shift. As I also have sensory processing issues. I also like knowing my shifts in advance as this settles my anxiety.  What I struggle to explain is why my autism effects me so much emotionally maybe it’s because I don’t understand myself. Having a set pattern also helps ease my daughter anxiety about when I’m not home. 

So my question are do work have to follow my shift pattern regardless off patient need and staffing? 

How can I explain why I need these set shifts. As I’m sure they doubt I have autism as I cope(mask) so well at work. 

What can I do if work insist on not sticking to my set shifts. 

All help would be very much appreciated I don’t want to leave my job but I just can’t cope with them not sticking to my soft pattern. 

  • Hey :) 

    I believe that most good employers will do their best to accommodate your working needs, where possible. I'm not too familiar with nursing, but from what I've heard, the nature of the work is fluid (as it's dealing directly with patients), and so there can be a need to be somewhat flexible with the work - it's not like an IT job where you can close your laptop at 6pm on the dot and leave the office. So, it may be that the nature of the role itself means having set shift patterns simply doesn't work well, in which case you may need to go private, or find a different role within the sector that caters to your needs. Not every job can cater to set shifts, so if your employer isn't willing to accommodate to help you work at your best, it may be better to look elsewherex

    Much love <3

  • Hi, I work as an Agency Nurse (RNMH) due to having young children and I do ‘get’ how having shifts all over the place and sometimes even last minute shifts can make it difficult to keep a routine and last minute ones are really stressful. I don’t work too much at the moment so it’s manageable but when I work a lot with mixes of nights and days and no set pattern I do start getting quite chaotic in other areas of my life!

    Have you thought about switching to community Nursing? I think their hours are a lot more predictable. Or working in a Nursing home as they have more of a set shift pattern?

    If you really want to stick with your current job then maybe involve access to work or your union to see if they can help?

  • I don’t have a problem with staying late or swapping shifts as that can be the nature of the job. My problem is one month they will accommodate my needs and the next month they can’t. 

    Before I stared this role it was agreed I would be on set shifts. Other nurses on my ward are on set shifts due to childcare needs,  yet they always seem to get there set shifts. So that’s why I’m asking if it’s an reasonable adjustment which mine is are work allowed to not follow they shift pattern they agreed I could work. 

  • I have thought about going to community but the pay is better at the hospital. I really love my job and don’t want to leave. I don’t have a problem swapping shifts or staying late because my patients are ill. I just wish work would understand I struggle when they don’t adhere to my set shifts which they agreed to. 

  • Fair enough. I think then that your best option may be to contact your local union representative and ask them to help you. You have a disability and your work do need to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate your disability. Hopefully your union can get them to resolve the issue. 

    Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

  • how about writing down your concerns in a letter.  get someone to proof read it. keep a copy. then give it to your line manager. mention that this is your request for reasonable adjustment to your condition / work life balance. Talk to your local citizens advice bureau.

  • Hi 5033

    You asked what you can do if work insists on your set shifts.

    You could put in a grievance.  Your work may try saying you do not have a disability, so you should be prepared to show you do using examples as to how your everyday life is affected under the terms of the equality act.  The Equality and human rights commission produce a downloadable document Proving Disability and Reasonable Adjustments which has information as to how to go about this (Just Google Proving Disability and Reasonable Adjustments and you will find it, sorry my tablet does not allow me to copy a link to it).  

    It is not necessary to have a diagnosis, but if you have one the report may indicate the ways in which you are affected which will provide much evidence. Your occupational health report is also good evidence, and I believe your employer would find it hard to justify treating you in a different way to others who have been offered set shifts, due to the fact disability under the equality act cannot be ignored, the only justifications would be on cost grounds or operational reasons, 

    My thought as to why they would not give you entirely late shifts is that they may argue it is depriving someone else of extra pay for unsocial hours, but this should not in my opinion be a justification. 

    It may also be of use contact in Access to Work as they can suggest Reasonable Adjustments which may help you to your employer.

  • If you are diagnosed with ASD then it's definitely a 'reasonable adjustment' to ask for, right?

    I think even if you are undiagnosed you are still covered...?

    Other nurses on my ward are on set shifts due to childcare needs,  yet they always seem to get there set shifts.

    If this is the case then it could be grounds for a claim of discrimination based on (sorry to put it this way) your 'disability' (autism) which means you have difficulty explaining why it is important for you to have set shifts.

    If your non-disabled (I assume) colleagues are able to secure set shifts because they are better able to 'make their case' then I would say you are being discriminated against due to your inability to do the same, which arises as a direct result of your ASD...

  • It is also worth bearing in mind that once reasonable adjustments are agreed, or flexible working for that matter,  this becomes contractual and should not be changed without your agreement and consent.  

    I do know how difficult it can be standing up for your rights.  The NHS trust you work for should have an Equality Officer it might be worth contacting.  And if you are in the RCN or other union your branch should have an Equality officer.  

    Unfortunately one often has to fight to enforce ones rights and employers and managers know the reluctance their employees have to do this.

  • this is good advice