legal working hours???

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billington | 22:50 Fri 24th Feb 2006 | Jobs & Education
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i work as a trainee nurse for a private veterinary clinic and i think the hours are a bit unfair. we are regularly made to work 12 or so days in a row with no break. we also work on average more than 43 hours a week. is this normal? all this is on minimum wage. it just doesn't seem fair. any advice would really help.


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That's the nature of the profession I'm afraid. I know people who recently worked nearly 4 weeks without a day off due to staff problems. Animals don't stop getting sick just because vets and vet nurses want time off.

If veterinary practices were to adhere strictly to working time rules, they would have to increase their charges massively to afford the extra staff - ultimately it will be the animals that suffer.

That, my friend, is why veterinary medicine is a vocation, not just a job.

There is a European working time directive, that gives you rights on this matter. Google it I'm sure you'll get some answers. I know people at my place who like overtime needed to sign to say they were prepared to work over 43 hours. Also, are you not in a union? I'd definately recommend one.
Oh and Eels ... if Veterinary nurses are overtired and have low morale, they are far less likely to do a good job with that sick animal. Ultimately recruitment will become a big issue and there'll be no vet nurses to look after the sick animals. Veterinary nursing I'm sure as with generic nursing involves professional dedicated staff who if needs be, will not leave a situation to the detriment of a patient, but this should be few and far between, not a regular expectation of your role. If this is continuously the case, then extra staff are needed to provide the service you are giving.

curiosity - I agree with you - in principle.

But the fact is that pet owners are simply not prepared to pay out for the full costs of such staffing. The NHS is a wonderful thing but it means that people in the UK have no concept of the real cost of healthcare.

I entered this profession because I wanted to help animals and because I have a genuine interest in the science of it and because I care. I accept that as part of a big team in practice, we all do extra because we're all needed to. Part of the reason the rest of the team I mentioned in my earlier post had to work for nearly a month without rest is because another member of staff decided they had issues with working time! So while they enjoyed their time off with their feet up, everyone else had to make huge sacrifices of personal time to cover for them.

I guess we could all down tools and insist that we're finishing work at 5pm on the dot ... but it wouldn't be fair on those that depend on us. To do so would cripple the profession.

I guess the long and the short of it is that if you begrudge working long hours then you shouldn't be in a profession that demands such committment and operates out-of-hours. It's never been a secret that life's like this for a vet or nurse.

The upper permissable limit for an average working week is 48 hours, so 43 hours, while I personally feel is excessive, is not illegal. Of course, you would need to refer to the specific wording of your contract as to whether you were being treated unfairly.

You are entitled to one full day off per week. It is possible to arrange this to two days off per fortnight if you wish but as I understand it, that is up to you - not your employer.

Young workers (those aged over minimum school leaving age but under 18) have extra rights, including, a maximum 8 hour working day & a minimum of two days off per week.

Click here & here for more info

Click here for the boring legal stuff

Sorry, I also meant to add that employers can only require young workers (as defined in my previous post) to work an absolute maximum of 40 hours per week
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thankyou everyone, especially eels. i know it comes with the job really but i just wanted to know. i would never let colleages or the animals down by demanding time off because this would be even less fair on everybody.
as you are in the profession yourself eels, do you know anything about the cuts in government funding for the education of vet nurses? if it only affects the company i am in now i may need to look for a new job as the fees are very high!!
I'm not involved in a VNTP billington, so I'm not up to date with training issues. Howabout calling the college for advice? Sometimes there are exceptions/bursaries etc which people miss out on because they didn't get the right advice, so try ringing the student affairs people first.

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