Memo for fiscal year 2019, updated 2018-03-30

[Archived] Question #39: What would be the financial impact -- overtime, additional staff-- if the firefighters and medics workweek was 4 or 6 hours less?


Has fire department leadership looked at changes to the amount of hours that fire employees work. What would be the financial impact -- overtime, additional staff-- if the firefighters and medics workweek was 4 or 6 hours less? 


Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) leadership continues to examine the cost/benefits of reducing the current work week of 56 hours for firefighters. AFD leadership agrees that reducing the workweek would be a health/safety benefit for employees and would also assist the Department in staying competitive for recruitment/retention of personnel. However, any investment decreasing the 56-hour workweek has a substantial cost to the City. Therefore, the cost of reducing the 56-hour workweek and its benefits would need to be weighed against other City funding priorities. 

Two options for reducing the workweek that the Department has considered include a 48-hour work week and a 42-hour work week. The Department has not discussed these two options in detail with HR, the City Manager's Office, and OMB. 

The 48-hour work week option is known as a “Kelly Day” schedule. In this model, employees continue to work a schedule similar to a 56-hour schedule, but once every 21 days, they receive an extra day off that they normally would work. This schedule is currently used in Montgomery County (MD) and Prince William County (VA). 

The 42-hour work week option is known as a “4-platoon” schedule. In this model, the Department would expand to four shifts rather than three shifts. A variety of different scheduling options could be deployed with a 42-hour work week, but they all equate to averaging 42 hours per week.  This schedule is being utilized in Washington D.C., Prince George’s County (MD) and is being studied in Arlington County. 

Both schedules would require AFD to hire substantial additional personnel and cost the City millions of dollars annually. Using Montgomery County as a model for the level of operational staffing that would be required, AFD would need to hire approximately 34 FTEs to transition to the Kelly Day schedule. Transitioning to the 4-platoon schedule would require the addition of 61 FTEs in order to staff a fourth shift. 

It is unknown how much these schedule changes would save in regard to the use of overtime. One of the goals of the fewer hours options would be to reduce overtime by having fewer sick and annual leave days used, along with fewer days on restricted duty for injuries. Additionally, there would be cost savings due to a reduction of FLSA mandated overtime. AFD continues to study how we compare to neighboring jurisdictions in these areas while considering differences in size, scope, and personnel policies. 

The chart below shows the workweek comparison for the region:

 BMQ - 39 - Shorter Schedules for Firefighters

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