The following is true. This truth was imparted by a person who works for a huge, multinational corporation. The person, who depends upon the corporation not only for a wage, but also for help toward healthcare, has asked not to be identified.
So that, in the unlikely event that a top manager of the corporation might read this article, the corporation will also not be identified. This is not to protect the heartless corporation, but to ensure that the identity of the worker is not discovered.
The operation requires that the workplace runs twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Consequently, the worker works a rotating shift. The shift consists of a four person rotation; that is, four people do the same job. One person is always off and the other three are working except on the weekend where two people work twelve hour shifts and two people are off.
When someone either takes vacation or calls in sick, someone else has to cover.
On the regular schedule, coverage during the week is done by those who are already at work. They work twelve hour shifts instead of eight hour shifts. Coverage on the weekend is provided by the two people who are off. One is expected to be the "primary coverage" person. This means that person has to be available to work. The primary coverage person cannot make plans to go away or just plans in general on days off unless the other person who's off is willing to accept the primary coverage responsibility. It also means that, as the primary coverage person is expected to be available to work, that person really can't be sick, have a few drinks or just plain not want to work.
This occurs once a month and there is no compensation for this. If the primary coverage person has to work both days off, that person will be working fourteen days in a row.
There have been a few times where the primary relief person has not answered calls from work or returned phone calls. That person is then "in trouble" for not being available. Although, to date, there haven't been any real severe penalties handed out, like time off without pay or worse, letters documenting the unavailability of primary coverage people have been put in their files. Letters are usually placed in files so that there is documentation for the corporation to fall back on if it wants to fire a worker.
In contrast to workers having to be available on days off without compensation, management has the freedom to change the regular schedule at any point without warning. If a worker is fired, quits, undergoes an extended illness or injury, management has to cover that person's spot.
The work rotation of management's choice is called a six and three schedule. One works six twelve hour days and has three days off, then six twelve hour nights and has three days off. As there is one less person from which to choose, anyone who is off is expected to be the primary coverage person for all of those days off. If the primary coverage person is called in to work, that person is paid at one and one-half times the base rate in overtime. However, for all of their days off when the workplace is short one person, workers are essentially "on call" with no compensation.
The purpose of days off, as proclaimed by Teddy Roosevelt in 1912, is to afford the worker sufficient time to recuperate and return to his work thoroughly refreshed. Nowhere in The US Constitution is it written that the purpose of workers' days off is for them to sit around, wondering if their employer will contact them to come to work. Furthermore, with some possible exceptions, there has never been a law passed by Congress which states that workers have an obligation to their employers during such time that their employers are not required to compensate them for that obligation.
There are rules concerning when and how workers should proceed in requesting vacation time. The main thread of these rules acts as a courtesy to those workers who have to cover the vacancy. The main rule is that a person who is planning to take vacation time is required to give ten day's notice.
On the other hand, this particular workplace has changed workers' schedules from day to day with minimum or no notice.