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On-Call Contracted Hours?


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Hi everyone - I'm keen to join the On-Call in my town soon, and I'm trying to research the contracted hours so that I know what to expect when it comes to the application and the service's expectations.

I've done some research on the topic, but I was hoping for some advice / guidance from anyone who does the job who might be able to help?

My employer is ok with me providing day cover (assuming I were to get an offer with the Service), as long as I make up the missed time under flexible working arrangement.
So that's a good start. I'm happy to provide on-call cover at any time however though.

One concern I have is the sheer number of hours that are expected.  I am preaching to the choir here I know, but 120hrs a week is a lot on top of a full time job (assuming that's what they realistically want people to do).

I'm a little concerned that if I commit to too much I'm going to spend the rest of my life either working, making up my missed hours at work, or on-call and unable to leave home!

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Really what I'd like to know is...

  1. If I offered 80hrs per week for example (including Mon-Fri daytimes), in your opinion would that be an acceptable thing to offer?
  2. How does 'booking off' work?  If for instance I needed to pick up my lad from football for 20 mins during an on-call shift, can I do that?
  3. If I needed a day or evening off, how does that work?

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I hope this doesn't come across as arrogant - I realise I haven't even applied, let alone got an offer, and I'm here talking about time off!
I just want to know exactly what I'm getting in to here so I know I can handle the hours without it driving me mad!

Thanks in advance everyone :)

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Hi mate, each service is slightly different depending on the on-call process they use. We are aligned to the Grey Book (UK standard) but still have a couple of differences (that's a whole different subject).

80hours a week for weekday daytime hours might be something the station commander goes for, then again it might not (helpful! But honestly it is station to station). Speak to them and find out. We still run the 120hrs for full cover and 90 for 3/4 but offer contracts anywhere between 80-120hrs. With regards to a lot of hours, it is yes but don't forget night cover is from your bed and if you can respond from work then it all goes to help boosting hours. Whatever you offer make sure you can work it. Do not agree to a contract you cannot work or becomes too much. I know people who regularly give over 140hrs a week keeping their boss and family happy, others struggle to give 80 due to work and family commitments.

Once again booking on and off  can be different. Some services use the contract as your exact hours if you want to book on, tough we don't want or need you as others are giving cover, you want time off, tough you are contracted to work you will need to make sure. Thankfully we can book on and off as needed/wanted. Ideally don't drop below your hours and try and keep your contract roughly the same. If you are contracted to work your day job on say a Tuesday but this week it needs to Wednesday swap it like for like. We can book on/off in 3 ways: via app, via the website or via text. All in 15minute blocks. Don't forget you also have your leave entitlement for whole days off. 

Hopefully the service you are hoping to apply for is as flexible as mine and they understand that from flexibility is the good will. Remember it is a second job and they will expect some level of cover and commitment, I have seen loads promise the world to get in and then within the first couple of months give nothing and then they wonder why management are on at them. 


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Thank you @Mitch - really appreciate your help.


6 minutes ago, Mitch said:

With regards to a lot of hours, it is yes but don't forget night cover is from your bed and if you can respond from work then it all goes to help boosting hours.

That's a really good point, you're right I guess a lot of the hours I'd be 'otherwise occupied' anyway 🤷‍♂️  I don't think I've thought of it that way.


7 minutes ago, Mitch said:

We can book on/off in 3 ways: via app, via the website or via text. All in 15minute blocks.

That's really interesting that your service lets you book on and off somewhat freely, and that gives me confidence.  I hadn't realised it could potentially be that flexible.


I think I'll go and have a chat with them - this has been really helpful, and I can't see that 120hrs would be an issue if it's somewhat flexible like yours.  Thanks again!

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Yeah we have a massive amount of flexibility, at the moment. My service seem to think that to reduce costs and improve on-call availability is to lockdown hours and remove flexibility. We are just grateful our senior managers don't think this and are ex on-call.

We have had a number of different trials in the on-call availability management and currently we have a massive call to go back to the standard rules which give the best flexibility.

I would contact your services HR department and chat to the station you are applying for.  I know my station commander has a massive input on contracts if its what he needs then he will push it through. 

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This service policy from Humberside might help, although specific to Humberside you might get an idea.

You don't state where you are but what cover are the station looking for, I know most are looking for day cover say 8-6 as there isn't always people around during the day so there maybe a contract offered for that.  Go and have a chat for the station, they are the ones that can answer many of the questions.

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It may help if you say which service it is, as each service is different in how the manage things. 

You're questions are all valid and the sort of questions we would expect from someone that has given serious consideration to the job. I would think your best bet is to find out what night your station has training on and then head up to see them for a chat. if they have a facebook page this is also useful for making contact. 

I would say that if you are able to provide day cover, then they would likely bite your hand off. this is typically the most difficult to cover. We at ScottishFRS mostly have either 90 or 120 hrs on call. but i believe the 90 is being standardised down to 80. In terms of flexibility, it very much depends the station. we are a 2 pump station, so have more people and can keep at least 1 pump on the run 100%. the "unofficial" rules we follow by is if you need to book off at short notice, then putting one pump off is ok, just dont be doing it all the time, but it needs to be an emergency to put the both pumps off. 

However, the golden rule you have to remember  when doing this is that your family and main employment come first. a lot of people(managers) can forget that. But this will never pay the mortgage, or replace your family. 

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I love working On-call, but then my service is relatively flexible too.

My advice is as follows :

Do not offer more than you can handle and expect to be able to book off all the time. When you are contracted to 80 you are expected to hit 80 or more each week, and this can be hard to do if you want to go away for a night and have to make it back up. In my station the take an average every couple of months and if you're not hitting what you should be you get called up about it. Offer less and add more . I started off doing around 100-120 each week and after a year it became too much and too restricting. When everyone is out on a hot summers day and you have to stay in or within x distance from the station it can be very disheartening.

What my station suggest is that we aim for the lower amount and offer more to fill gaps or put our second pump on the run if were struggling or to crew specials etc. This benefits everyone as sometimes our contracted hours fall at the same time and we have 12+ people on during one night and then 4 people on during another. We all try to balance it out a bit and ensure everything stays on the run and our station functions properly. 

The lowest we can offer is 40 hours and most people are contracted to that in my station but end up doing significantly more. The service are happy as we keep everything running, we are happy as if we want to go out it's no issue and we don't have to arrange cover, and also this costs them less in retainer fees etc so it's win win as far as I'm concerned.

One other thing to be careful of is the likelyhood of getting called in the day. If you're at a day crewed station like I am, the chance of getting called in the day is extremely slim. We only get called for specials if the station is at full capacity with WT staff. That said, if we do get a call in the day we do know it's going to be something decent and not an AFA. 

Also on a final note - I started off doing all the nights and the lack of sleep eventually got to me. Be careful of this! 3 night in a row of 1-2 night calls can make you feel pretty sh*te.

Good luck.

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Thank you everyone - this has all been extremely helpful (and interesting to see how it works).

It's good to know that a lot of services/stations have some flexibility built in and it's based on an average number of hours given.

To be clear, If I was offered the job, I wouldn't be taking it to immediately take loads of time off... I realise it's a commitment and I'll of course stick to it!  I just want to see how it works, and to be honest I like what I've heard.

All good to know before I go speak to them :)  Thanks again!

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