Author Topic: Please help with working hours and employment conditions  (Read 444 times)

Offline Lamb Chop

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Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« on: December 02, 2019, 06:14:54 PM »
Hi all

I need some assistance with my employment conditions and working hours. I am very happy where I work and my bosses are really nice people. However, I have some issues which are making me very unhappy lately and due to the nature of my job is causing tremendous stress and I believe I will suffer from burnout sooner than later.

I work every Mon- Fry from 7.30-16.00 without a lunch break. I can go and get something to eat, but there is absolutely NO chance of me taking say an hour or even half an hour lunch break. If I do, I will not get through my duties for the day. That will just cause more work stress and problems. So best is to just avoid the stress and work straight without eating anything. If I do not finish my work for the day, I will get flack from my managers & clients. It's just how it is. The lack of a break and lunch is not so much of a bother, I am used to it by now.

BUT, what is making me very unhappy at work currently, is every second weekend I am standby 24/7. This means if someone calls at 3 am I have to take the call and deal with the work/stress associated with it. Standby duty is working from home. I do not have to leave home to work. I need to arrange and manage that the work gets done. The effect is that every second weekend I cannot leave my house at all. I have to stay at home. Heaven forbid if I am in the shower and I miss a call... then management gets all upset. Initially, when I joined the company - we did not offer a 24-hour service, so I agreed to do the every second-weekend telephonic standby, based on that. Now it is 24 hours standby. I was not asked if I agree with the new hours. No extra pay either. The normal time weekend standby duty (not 24/7 duty) was negotiated as part of my basic salary.

This means I work 12 days on 2 days off, 12 days on 2 days off of which every second weekend is 24/7.

I do not want to continue like this. I will suffer from burn out. I can't take the 24/7 standby stress anymore and nor do I want to do it anymore. I do not have enough time to have a mental break from all the associated work stress.

Where do I stand and what advice can you give me, please?

Love and peace
Lamb Chop

Offline chrisc

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2019, 06:23:26 PM »
How long have you worked there?
What is your age?
What does your initial employment contract state about this after-hours work?
Were you offered an incentive to undertake after-hours work (besides the days off, which transgressed Dept of Labour guidelines in any case?
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Online Carnajo

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2019, 07:20:35 PM »
Were you offered an incentive to undertake after-hours work (besides the days off, which transgressed Dept of Labour guidelines in any case?

I believe that portions of the act (including the overtime portion) don't apply to employees paid over a certain threshold, around R150k per annum or so.

https://www.labourguide.co.za/conditions-of-employment/842-the-basic-conditions-of-employment-act26

Offline Katji

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2019, 07:38:47 PM »
The hours are according to spec / Conditions Of Employment Act.  Assuming the specified lunch break is 30 minutes (at least) but you are choosing not to take it.  I'm not sure, maybe it's a "grey area" in terms of the law...that the employer is obligated to compel you to take a break.  (Company i worked at eventually forced people to take a minimum number of days of their annual leave, instead of accumulating it, because of legal requirements.  One reason for it happening was that some people's work, some of what they took care of, would not be maintained while they were away on leave - quite common in IT context, so it could be extra stressful when they came back from leave. And it was quite common to be called while you were on leave.)

You need to eat something.  *It will eventually affect your health.*  It is already.  Like lack of sleep, you can't "mind over matter" it. 
So you need to take some sort of food to eat at your workstation. 

The standby weekends is another story...
Just *vasbyt*.  Think of how much worse it could be.  ...Not just working in a coal mine, but jobs like Checkers cashiers - the shifts are according to spec but it sucks to work until 8PM, and it rotates so you regularly work Sundays, the work itself is stressful. 

IT work is often stressful.  Working late is often quite normal - sometimes the only way to get work done, before you get there the next morning and have to do the fire-fighting again.  Wives/husbands cannot understand. 
Permanent shift work is lousy - you have to switch between day shifts and night shifts...it sucks for family life......we had coworkers arranging to take the women home at night...
...I was not on standby officially, but so many times I had operators calling me at night, and on weekends, and so many times I had to go in to help them. ... :/ Although the people who were actually responsible would not.

Offline JonnyP

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2019, 07:39:29 PM »
How long have you worked there?
What is your age?
What does your initial employment contract state about this after-hours work?
Were you offered an incentive to undertake after-hours work (besides the days off, which transgressed Dept of Labour guidelines in any case?

What ChrisC said and Iíll run it through a Labour lawyer if I see him
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Offline Timber_MG

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2019, 07:55:35 PM »
At least your daily hours are 8hrs only, I burnt out doing 2.5-3 hours travel + an average 11hr day with many weekends working in and due to the managerial and supervisory nature of the position sick absenteeism was not an option. What really helps is being able to adapt to intermittent fasting/OMAD type habits as then food is just something you take care of once daily. Many in the finance industry work like that with perhaps small top ups through the day (though that often makes matters more difficult).

My wife is on 24hr standby once a month and it's killer for planning, but it's not like with a young 'un one gets to do much anyways.

If it's managerial work with good pay and some element f growth, I've seen much worse than what you list. If it's a grind, benchmark yourself and evaluate/motivate yourself in terms of short term and mid-term plans.

Sterkte.

Offline Lamb Chop

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2019, 08:16:55 PM »
Thank you for all the posts and words of encouragement.

How long have you worked there?
What is your age?
What does your initial employment contract state about this after-hours work?
Were you offered an incentive to undertake after-hours work (besides the days off, which transgressed Dept of Labour guidelines in any case?
I have worked there since April 2019.
I was only presented with an employment contract in Aug 2019 (The annexure detailing my duties was not attached and not signed) They did sneak in on the employment contract that I signed, that I am only on a contract employment basis until terminated despite the fact that I have been "full time" for about 5 months.
I am younger than 30.
I did not see or read anything about my after-hours work - it only stated my normal 7.30 to 16.00 hour work.
Weekend work - No incentive or extra pay or extra time off - it was just part of my monthly salary.

I believe that portions of the act (including the overtime portion) don't apply to employees paid over a certain threshold, around R150k per annum or so.

https://www.labourguide.co.za/conditions-of-employment/842-the-basic-conditions-of-employment-act26
I earn more than R150K pa.

The hours are according to spec / Conditions Of Employment Act.  Assuming the specified lunch break is 30 minutes (at least) but you are choosing not to take it.  I'm not sure, maybe it's a "grey area" in terms of the law...that the employer is obligated to compel you to take a break.  (Company i worked at eventually forced people to take a minimum number of days of their annual leave, instead of accumulating it, because of legal requirements.  One reason for it happening was that some people's work, some of what they took care of, would not be maintained while they were away on leave - quite common in IT context, so it could be extra stressful when they came back from leave. And it was quite common to be called while you were on leave.)

You need to eat something.  *It will eventually affect your health.*  It is already.  Like lack of sleep, you can't "mind over matter" it. 
So you need to take some sort of food to eat at your workstation. 

The standby weekends is another story...
Just *vasbyt*.  Think of how much worse it could be.  ...Not just working in a coal mine, but jobs like Checkers cashiers - the shifts are according to spec but it sucks to work until 8 PM, and it rotates so you regularly work Sundays, the work itself is stressful. 

IT work is often stressful.  Working late is often quite normal - sometimes the only way to get work done before you get there the next morning and have to do the fire-fighting again.  Wives/husbands cannot understand. 
Permanent shift work is lousy - you have to switch between day shifts and night shifts...it sucks for family life......we had coworkers arranging to take the women home at night...
...I was not on standby officially, but so many times I had operators calling me at night, and on weekends, and so many times I had to go in to help them. ... :/ Although the people who were actually responsible would not.
I am not in IT. I don't mind not taking lunch - I actually like the intermittent fasting, to be honest.
What I do mind is the weekend work which has now changed to 24/7. The nature of my work is very stressful and I get called all hours. That means if I get a call at 3 am - I can't go back to sleep and arrive at work at 730 and function normally (with the stress that is associated again during normal working hours) I need rest and suffer from brain fog if I don't sleep properly.

At least your daily hours are 8hrs only, I burnt out doing 2.5-3 hours travel + an average 11hr day with many weekends working in and due to the managerial and supervisory nature of the position sick absenteeism was not an option. What really helps is being able to adapt to intermittent fasting/OMAD type habits as then food is just something you take care of once daily. Many in the finance industry work like that with perhaps small top ups through the day (though that often makes matters more difficult).

My wife is on 24hr standby once a month and it's killer for planning, but it's not like with a young 'un one gets to do much anyways.

If it's managerial work with good pay and some element f growth, I've seen much worse than what you list. If it's a grind, benchmark yourself and evaluate/motivate yourself in terms of short term and mid-term plans.

Sterkte.
Yes, it is managerial work. Still, I would not have agreed to the working conditions when I was employed if I knew I had to work 12 on 2 off with every second weekend being 24/7. The conditions I agreed to is not what is the reality now.


Offline ScottulusMaximus

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2019, 09:24:04 PM »
On call every second weekend is hardly slave labour... My GF did 7-1700 weeks and 24/7 call for most of this year.

Have you spoken to your manager about it?
Have you put procedures etc in place to minimise calls needed?
Maybe up skill a subordinate to share weekends with?
Talk to the person who covers the other shift and split it up fri/sat/sun rather than doing a whole weekend?

Work the problem.

And if you don't get to a satisfactory solution either quit or throw the labour law at them and ruin the working relationship.
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Offline Lamb Chop

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2019, 09:28:08 PM »
Thank you, Scott, interesting input. No one else at the company is capable to do the standby. It's me and the ops manager who does the other two weekends. But you give me some food for thought.

I do like working there. It is a lekker working environment and the directors are nice/good people. I do not want to sour my relationship with them and go the legal route.

Offline Shonver

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2019, 10:47:08 PM »
I do like working there. It is a lekker working environment and the directors are nice/good people. I do not want to sour my relationship with them and go the legal route.

This is a mistake. For many years I worked with/for people whom I just loved, but were poor managers. Never benefited me. Poor managers also are not equipped to recognise your contribution. For one, they are too busy fighting their own fires. Any situation that calls for people being overworked is a non-feasible operation. Talk to the person in a decision-making position and explain why the situation is not sustainable. Express how that you had noticed that they had changed the conditions of employment without prior consultation or negotiation. It is the duty of top management to ensure that the resources are made available to ensure success of the organisation. If they can't see reason, you will know that they are recklessly or deliberately running the business to the ground. Then you'll know how "nice" they really are.
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Offline The Godfather

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2019, 08:27:30 AM »
@Lambchop

How often while you are in standby, do you actually get called? Standby is meant to be for exceptions, but I have seen it used as business as usually as well.

I would go to the managers with possibly the point of having fatigued employees is not good for business as accuracy suffers and mistakes can often start to creep in.

My own preference if it canít be sorted out would be to leave with relationship intact, rather than get into a legal battle as that helps no-one.

Offline Shonver

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2019, 08:37:11 AM »
There must be a stage between "legal route" and where you are now. Just try talking first.
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Offline ScottulusMaximus

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2019, 08:47:30 AM »
Thank you, Scott, interesting input. No one else at the company is capable to do the standby. It's me and the ops manager who does the other two weekends. But you give me some food for thought.

I do like working there. It is a lekker working environment and the directors are nice/good people. I do not want to sour my relationship with them and go the legal route.

You're very welcome. First step would be to talk to the higher ups about it as everyone said.

They are playing fast and loose with the permanent contract work as well.
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Offline ron g

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2019, 08:07:32 PM »


i am seeing companies having to load their employees more, & sometimes reduce benefits simply in order to survive.

perhaps you can come to some kind of quid pro quo - additional leave, or a periodic day off. or similar.

also, since there are only the 2 of you capable to do whatever it is, perhaps propose some kind of a training program to develop others to do it as well?

will probably be far more appreciated than going in with threats i think.

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Offline Rick

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Re: Please help with working hours and employment conditions
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2019, 09:21:56 PM »
@Lamb Chop

There has been lots of advice in this thread most of it suggesting "suck it up"

However I disagree, I am in a similar situation where I am basically "on call" 24/7 even when home weekends - I teach and am available for my students 24/7 on WhatsApp and by phone out of choice and have done so for many years which brings me to the burnout part.

All I can suggest in terms of your original post is:

1) Eat and "try" as hard as it may be to set aside a half hour no matter what, you are not a slave and cannot be forced to not take a break, you can just work a teenzy bit faster after.
2) Never approach your employer with a problem unless you have a suggested solution to that problem or you are immediately seen in a bad light.
3) Your situation lends itself to suggesting they hire another body with the appropriate skill, and at some point you are going to need to look for an opportunity to suggest this.

I really do hope you resolve this and remember you are not alone, this is common. here's a thought, stress is how you perceive a situation, one can put two people in the same situation with one coping and the other not. if you are getting stressed try focus on the better part of the job and go with the flow never fight it because that is stress.

I really hope you manage to sort this I have been and am there as well, remember you and your health come first if you burnout they just replace.... So the "how do I see my job differently?" technique comes in to it here.

Anyhow best of luck with this one