It seems like a simple question, but it turns out this is quite a complex part of the employer-worker relationship. It pays for employers to be well-informed about all the factors that go into questions about rosters and leave, including notification.
Different countries and jurisdictions will also have differing rules, agreements and laws governing rosters, so make sure you explore those in detail after reading this introduction to rostering and leave questions.
In general, an employer needs to give employees a fair and minimum amount of notice of any proposed change in their rostered shifts. For example, two weeks.
Any proposed change to the roster might be limited to, say, seven days’ notice before the shifts commence, with an exception being made for illness or emergency.
Usually, there’s a requirement for employers to consult employees about roster changes to ordinary hours, invite their opinions and consider these in changing the roster to maintain a proper balance of shifts.
Specific rules about changing rosters, which can be quite variable, are found in industry award agreements, enterprise agreements and any other registered agreement.
It might also be that employees earn additional pay or benefits when working shifts that have been changed without the agreed time notification.
Given the difficulty of recruiting and retaining staff, it’s best to avoid the habit of 19% of UK employers: giving staff less than 48 hours’ notice of a proposed shift change in rosters.
A moment’s notice and frequent variation create needless conflicts and employee churn, as well as legal jeopardy.
One employment law expert believes that seven days’ notice is a reasonable notification period for changes to an employee’s regular roster.
For many businesses, it’s helpful to develop policies around rosters, which are transparent, fair and accessible to everyone.
Policies should cover:
Roster publication schedule
Roster changes rules
Notification times for changes to shifts, leave or holiday
Process for requests for roster changes.
Both employers and employees should read and understand all of the industrial awards and benefits, as well as any enterprise agreement affecting their rights at work.
These are the kind of employee rights normally addressed by agreements and awards:
Notification periods and rules for changing rosters
Pay penalties for employers’ late changing of a regular roster
The maximum number of consecutive days you can work
The minimum and maximum number of hours you can work in one shift
Minimum turnaround hours between shifts
The number of consecutive days off you must have per week or fortnight
The maximum number of hours that you can work per week or roster cycle.
Wellbeing is a crucial issue for everyone, and when work hampers wellbeing and non-work commitments, the consequences can be dangerous.
To cite just one example, two out of three Australian film crew surveyed have fallen asleep at the wheel going to or from work due to fatigue from long shift hours, short turnaround times and frequent variation of rosters. Even when triple pay applies for employers breaking the 10-hour turnaround time, some employers continue to do it.
To avoid all the risks of this and to act ethically, employers should:
Explore the problems of stress, burn out and working conditions for workers and their families
Do fatigue risk assessments for ordinary hours
Assess proposed roster changes for health risks
Consult relevant guidance and codes of practice to sustain a proper balance of shifts and leave.
Every country and jurisdiction has specific legislation and agreements covering the responsibilities employers have for organising the work of their employees. Broadly, in terms of communicating and negotiating changes to rosters, these cover areas like:
Discussing proposed changes to rosters
Consult employees about the changing rosters
Taking into account workers’ situations regarding family, study, transport, health and other non-work commitments
Allowing workers to appoint a representative to be involved in the negotiations and agreements about roster change.
Employers who enter into the spirit of the law and not only the letter of the law in these negotiations can foster greater employee engagement and boost productivity.
Specific days of notice for roster change requests, leave requests and resignation are all determined by your employment contract, enterprise agreement or industry award. All parties should be aware of these entitlements to avoid unnecessary conflict.
Employers can offer an incentive for last-minute shifts, either as extra pay or a benefit. Some workers may appreciate the chance to earn more.
A good policy to implement is to decide on a notice period limit. Any shift cancelled after that period should be partially or fully paid. This can help retain your employees’ trust.
Humanforce management can help all deskless workforce scheduling processes, even automated staff rostering.
If you want to learn how much notice is needed for work schedules, or how to manage legal and ethical rostering considerations in the workplace through Humanforce Software, get in touch.
Humanforce was founded in Sydney in 2002, and today has offices across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK.