How far in advance should you send out your staff rota?

It pays to send your staff their rotas in advance. But how far is best?

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If your staff work to a rota, how far in advance do you normally publish it or send it over to them?

A few days? The night before? "When it's ready"?

Planning staff rotas isn’t easy. Scheduling enough staff to meet demand while keeping labour costs under control and looking out for the health and wellbeing of your employees can be a real balancing act.

It’s little wonder, then, that so many managers put off sending out their completed rotas until just before they’re needed.

There are, however, a number of reasons why it’s in managers’ own best interests to send staff their rotas early...

When should I send staff their rotas?

We get it: you need all the time you can get to build a schedule that works for everyone.

But by holding onto your rotas until the last minute, you could be making more work for yourself — not to mention negatively impacting your business.

Ideally, you should aim to send your staff their rotas one week in advance of their upcoming shifts.

Almost as important as publishing the rota sufficiently far in advance, however, is being consistent in your timing, so that all staff know when to expect to see their schedules.

Planning in advance, distributing regularly, and making the rota available to your staff (without them having to ring up and ask for it) is key.

Why one week?

Issuing the rota seven days in advance brings with it a number of benefits for both managers and staff:

  • More time to make changes. By sharing your rota a week in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to deal with any unforeseen problems that might crop up, resolve any errors, and handle any last-minute requests from staff.
  • Less work for you. Staff who know in advance when they’ll be working are better able to plan their personal lives around their shifts. This, in turn, means less work for you, since you’ll need to make far fewer tweaks to your schedule.
  • Reduced staff absence. Similarly, your staff will be less likely to pull a sickie or arrive for work late if they know in advance when they’re required at work.
  • Better attitudes at work. Making your staff wait until the very last minute for their rota could give them the impression that you don’t respect them. Give them ample notice of their shifts, however, and they’ll reward you in kind.
  • Improved perception of you as an employer. Releasing your rotas consistently early — as opposed to the night before — presents the image of an employer who is proactive, organised, and can be relied on.

"But, if advance notice is better for everyone," you might be wondering, "why not send the rota out even earlier?"

The short answer is, while it's true that more notice is usually better, in reality it can be difficult for many business — particularly those in the restaurant and hotel industries, where a lot can change in the space of two weeks — to reliably schedule shifts that far in advance.

By sending your rota out more than seven days in advance, you significantly increase the chances of having to revise it to cater to newer bookings and reservations — creating more work for you and more confusion for your team.

A hotel rota shown on a laptop computer against a blurred red brick wall.
Rota planning: there's a bit of an art to it.

Are managers legally required to send staff their rotas early?

In the UK, there are currently no laws dictating that employers must send staff their rotas in advance.

Elsewhere, however, things are beginning to change...

In some parts of the US, for example, predictive scheduling laws dictate that employees must receive their rota a set number of days before they’re due to work.

Employers are also required to financially compensate any staff whose shifts are cancelled or changed outside of an agreed notice period, due to the inconvenience and potential financial insecurity this might cause them. It quite literally pays to send your rotas out early!

Check out our predictive scheduling blog to find out more.

Wrap-up

Planning staff rotas isn’t easy — managers have a lot to consider when deciding where and when they’ll need their staff on any given day.

Hanging onto your employees’ rotas until the last possible moment is likely to cause problems further down the line, however, and will usually mean more stress, and work, for you in the long run.

Aim to send your staff their rotas one week (seven days) in advance of their upcoming shifts. This will give you more opportunity to handle requests for changes, and will reduce the chances of staff showing up late or missing their shifts entirely.

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