The Pro and Cons of the Four Ten (4/10) Shift Schedule

Since I first wrote a post about the 4/10 shift schedule back in 2011 there has been  a steady stream of views on that particular post.

That caused me to review the post and write a  follow-up  to address a few issues left unsaid.

Although the original post clearly laid out the parameters of such a shift schedule it was somewhat light on the pros and cons of such a schedule.

Most police departments that adopt some form of compressed work week do so through the collective bargaining process or at least discussions between unions and management.  Most unions see great benefit to their members that accrue from a compressed work week. There are also some benefits for the employer.


Pros for employees:

  1. Although the total number of hours worked is the same under the 8 hour and the 4/10 shift schedules, the actual numbers of days employees are required to come to work is dramatically reduced (up to 52 less days per year) under the 4/10 schedule.
  2. Due to the fewer number of days employees are required to come to work there is an approximate 20% saving in work related traveling cost.
  3. The ability to arrange for longer periods of work absence (12-14 days  by using only 40-50 hours of accumulated holiday leave).
  4. Ability to extend periods of days off by using accumulated banked time in conjunction with regular days off.
  5. Fewer shifts worked on weekends (Saturday-Sunday).
  6. Greater ability to get additional time off (on overlap days).

Cons for employees

1.Fatigue due to length of shift, especially if the regular shift is followed by overtime.

Pro for employers

  1.  The biggest advantage the compressed work week offers for employers is the ability to overlap shifts.  This is especially pertinent to organizations such as police departments that in many instances have peak hours in terms of call for service or other needs in terms of boosting police presence during specific hours.  The overlap creates the ability to significantly increase manpower (person power to be politically correct) without incurring costly overtime which results from call-outs.
  2. Most larger organizations have ongoing training requirements such as firearm qualification, first aid training and regularly mandated in-service training to retain professional certification.  Training tends to be pushed to the back burner when thing are hectic and the overlap days generated under a compressed work week schedule can assist in ensuring training time is available again without the need to incur overtime.
  3. The availability of  a large pool of resources to conduct planned  special patrols, special operations or projects on overlap days.
  4. In the case of employees who have built up excessive hours in their accumulated bank the employers can reduce such banks by giving employees days off on overlap days in keeping with operational needs.

Cons For Employers

  1.  The greatest issue for employers centers around the division of the workforce into two distinct platoons.  It is akin to creating two separate and distinct organizations who only rarely see each other or work together.  The issue is one of communication between the two platoons especially as it relates to complex ongoing investigations.  If an investigation is being handled by ‘A’ Platoon and the entire platoon goes on 4 days off, things can easily fall between the cracks unless adequate processes are in place to ensure communication and continuity.
  2. Some police executives have also noticed the development of separate and distinct cultures within platoons.
  3. If work schedules have been negotiated and embedded in the Collective Agreement, flexibility is limited and generally changes can only be sought during the collective bargaining process.
  4. Overlap shifts require additional expenditures for  equipment (cars, radios) which will be utilized during the overlap period but sit unused for many hours each day.


The Four Ten (4/10) Shift Schedule

In a previous post I wrote about the 18:1 ratio and indicated that in a future post I would outline why it takes 18 officers to staff one patrol unit.

First, let me start by providing an overview of  the uniform patrol shift schedule used by the Winnipeg Police Service.  It is generally referred to as the 4/10 shift schedule.

Police officers assigned to the six  general patrol divisions are split into 2 platoons, essentially 2 police departments,  A-Platoon and B-Platoon commonly referred to as A-Side and B-Side.  When A-Side is working, B-Side is off and vice versa.

Each platoon is subdivided into 3 sub-platoons to correspond to the 3 shifts: day shift, evening shift and midnight shift. Platoons are identified as A1, A2 and A3 and the same on B-Side.

A person working an 8 hour day, 40 hour week ends up working 2080 (52 x 40) hours a year with every Saturday and Sunday off.  This works out to 260 working days, and 104 days of weekly leave.

Police officers working the 4/10 also work 2080 hours per year.  With 10 hour shifts that means they work 208 days and have  157 days off.

Many people refer to this shift schedule  as the four on/four off shift but that is not entirely accurate.  In order to have a true 4 on/4 off system, the shifts would need to be around 11.5 hours in length.  Because the shifts are only 10 hours, police officers quite often work 5 and sometimes 6 ten-hour shifts and then get 4 days off.

The 4/10 shift schedule also has provision for overlap days where all members of both platoons are scheduled to work.  These overlap days are intended to be used for training, catching up on report writing and other administrative functions.  They are also used as an opportunity for officers to take additional time off.

Lastly, because the day has 24 hours and 3 ten-hour shifts work out to 30 hours, there is an opportunity to overlap the shifts and create a 6 hour period where the number of patrol units on the road is doubled.  This overlap normally occurs between nine at night and three in the morning.

Using the 4/10 shift schedule as a back drop the next post will explain why it takes 18 officers to staff one patrol unit.

End Note

I have noticed recently that although this post was written some time ago it is still getting a steady stream of hits on a daily basis.  If you have any questions about the 4/10 shift schedule in terms of pros and cons or just questions in general please feel free to contact me via email.

For a follow-up on this post click here