How much notice for rosters do you need to provide?


UPTADED: 29/05/2024

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.

Award/Employment Agreement compliance: What kind of notice do you need to give for roster changes?

A common complaint from frontline, shift-based workers is that important communications do not reach them in a timely manner – and that includes information about rosters. The earlier a roster can be shared with workers, the easier it is for them to plan and balance their other obligations with their work commitments. Of course, plans always change, so both sides need to be flexible and accept that sometimes unexpected gaps need to be filled or additional shifts need to be taken.

To further complicate matters, there’s no set rule about how much notice employees need to be given for roster changes. Specific rules about changing rosters, which can be quite variable, are found in industry award agreements, enterprise agreements and any other registered agreement. 

For both employers and employees, that is the first place to check.

As an example, in Australia, the Restaurant and Hospitality awards require employers to give at least seven days’ notice of a change (unless the employee agrees otherwise). Check the rules for various awards here.

In general, an employer needs to give employees a fair and minimum amount of notice of any proposed change in their rostered shifts. ‘Fair’ might translate to 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.

It might also be that employees earn additional pay or benefits when working shifts that have been changed without the agreed time notification.

Scheduling tips for an employee's regular roster

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 duration

  • Roster access

  • Roster changes rules

  • Notification times for changes to shifts, leave or holiday

  • Process for requests for roster changes.

Employee rostering fair work rights

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.

Looking out for employees' wellbeing and ethical considerations

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.

What you must tell your permanent employees when dealing with their ordinary hours

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.

How much notice do employees have to give their employers?

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.

Additional information about scheduling notice periods

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.

How workforce management software can help

The Humanforce suite includes several solutions that may help managers stay compliant.

Firstly, our Awards & Compliance solution is a sophisticated award interpretation engine – also commonly referred to as a pay conditions engine. This engine can interpret every aspect of an award or employment agreement to ensure that entitlements and pay are correct for every employee. This can include nuances around roster change notifications. Read more about our award interpretation engine in this blog.

Secondly, our Rostering & Scheduling solution helps operations managers create rosters easily and hopefully well ahead of time. Shift offer and shift bidding features mean that unexpected absences can be covered easily, and this can remove the fear of letting people know their shifts have changed – because they themselves have proactively stepped up to take on that additional shift. Read more on rostering in our blog.

About Humanforce

Humanforce is the best-in-one platform for frontline and flexible workforces, offering a truly employee centred, intelligent and compliant human capital management (HCM) suite – without compromise. Founded in 2002, Humanforce has a 2300+ customer base and over half a million users worldwide. Today, we have offices across Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.

Our vision is to make work easier and life better by focusing on the needs and fulfilment of frontline workers, and the efficiency and optimisation of businesses.

To learn more about how Humanforce can automate and streamline all aspects of people management, please contact us.