Crew leave – how to get the balance of time off right

A contentious issue for Captains, Owners and crews is the granting of appropriate time off. Today, we will be looking at the issues surrounding leave time and how to deal with this most efficiently.

What off shore crew life normally entails:

Most people working offshore know that their job is never going to be a typical ‘9 to 5’ which usually comes with weekends off and set holiday entitlements. And, it can be argued, if you are following your dream and you’re passionate about the industry, you will appreciate that every day onboard will bring its own rewards and therefore time off should not be a major issue. It is well-known in the industry that offshore workers often make substantially more money than they would onshore, due to zero living expenses and nominal taxation. Most understand and expect the sacrifices they have to make in return – and that is usually a lack of time off. Additionally, many ‘new money’ yacht Owners are not sympathetic to the crews’ personal agendas because they themselves made their money by working long and unsociable hours.

However, does this mean that crew members don’t deserve a personal life? Of course not! Spending time with family and friends is normally the top priority related to personal issues of crew members, and they often find it difficult to get the exact time off they require for important events like family birthdays, weddings and funerals. It is an understandable frustration.

What is the usual protocol for crew leave?

All yachts differ and many Owners and their Captains do a phenomenal job of managing time off, making allowances for individual requirements. Some will even allow extra unpaid leave if individuals have no holiday entitlement left, as well as promoting leave during down time such as refit periods.

Responsibility for enabling time off ultimately comes down to the yacht’s Captain (another heavy burden for those wanting to reach the top of the yachting ladder; as discussed in our earlier blog on what it takes to become a Captain!) It is a difficult call because Captains know that if crew don’t get any time off they will eventually lose passion for their work, and will not be able to deliver the standard that is expected of them. Whilst empowering and helping to keep crew happy will lead to loyalty and longevity, Captains have a responsibility not to risk the smooth-running of operations onboard.

What you crew members can do to help get their required time-off

We would encourage crew members to help the Captain in his/her decision making by taking personal responsibility for ensuring all their work is completed in a timely fashion so that the schedule can allow for time off. Crew must also recognise that time off is difficult to plan in the long run due to the Owner and guests potentially changing their program at the last minute. The crew need to be adaptable to deal with such changes, and this can mean sacrificing their scheduled time off to support the rest of the team.

Rotations are often a good solution. Crew rotations can be implemented to provide crew with a chance to visit family, recharge batteries or even just explore the world. A simple rotation pattern sees one crew member onboard for a set amount of time, followed by a set amount of time off, when they are ‘swapped’ with another crew member. Sharing a position with someone else can re-energise crew members, and the Owner and guests can benefit from more variety from its crew. Particularly for senior crew, rotation can be a solution to balancing time between work and personal life in order to maintain the value of a yachting career. In the long term, this can reduce costs for the Owner as it keeps the most efficient crew happy and rested.

Ultimately, there have to be compromises between Owner, Captain and crew which will allow for everything to run smoothly and at the same time keep crew motivated and happy. If this is done successfully, the issue of time off will ultimately perish.

Next week we will be looking at the issues behind rotations of crew on large yachts in further detail.