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Annual Leave


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Hi all,

Could anyone inform me of how annual leave works in SFRS, with regard to how it’s requested etc? Are vacation days predetermined or can you apply to have certain days off? 

I’ve found a couple of answers online, but they seem to be mainly for Fire Services in England and I’m guessing policy various between locations across the UK? 

Any help at all would be great! 


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Wholetime Firefighters mostly work the five watch duty system in Scotland, there are a few day-crewed stations but not many.

Each wholetime station is crewed with five watches, each watch has the correct number of personnel on it to provide minimum crewing. (That is to crew all the appliances to a safe level.)

Some stations, like mine will sit plus one, so each watch has 14 personnel, but only 13 are required on duty to crew the appliances.

We work a 10 week cycle; so I work two days shifts (8am to 6pm), followed by two nightshifts (6pm to 8am) and this is followed by four days off.

So for example, my tour one would look like this;

Monday - Dayshift, Tuesday - Dayshift, Wednesday - Nightshift, Thursday - Nightshift and then Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday are my days off.

Tour two starts on a Tuesday dayshift and it carries on. We basically do the 2 days, 2 nights, 4 days off cycle 7 times and then we have 18 days off.

So each watch will follow their same pattern, with the whole watch going on annual leave at the same time. This is unlike the four watch duty system, where the watch stays in the 2 days, 2 nights, 4 off pattern all the time. With individuals being on annual leave at allocated times within that.

As you can see, in my opinion, we get a good amount of time off. However, we don't really get to choose when we get it and there in lies the rub! Some years it lands well for me and I get some of the kids summer holidays off with them. Other years I'm going back to work after my 18 off just as they break up from school.

There are options to get time off when you need it; TOIL, Flexi Days and swapping shifts with colleagues (known as head for heads). These all have policies and procedures that go along with them and are too much to explain here.

I think most Firefighters in Scotland are able to get the time off they need, be it a couple of tours off for a family holiday or a single shift, through a combination of the above methods. 

If you need anything else just let me know.

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Thanks Ben! 
The work / life balance is certainly very good! 
It was more a general enquiry, but good to know that time off can be had if needs be! 
I’m at the very early stages of the assessments, so running back and forward 20m in the local park right now! 
I will no doubt have more questions as things progress! 

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No problem Richy, that is a very basic overview of the system. There are a few other factors involved in it, but they need a bit more explaining.

The bottom line is if you need a shift off and are struggling, someone from another watch will usually always step up and work it for you. Then you owe them one back when they are needing.

People that are antipating needing a few shifts off, for like a family holiday, will usually start helping other people out and working for them well in advance. Then when it starts getting closer to them needing time off they call in the favours.

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