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? Or perhaps it's more a case of 'when it's finished!'?

Planning 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 staff is 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 you should 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 moment, you could actually be making a lot more work for yourself — not to mention negatively impacting your business.

Ideally, you should aim to send your staff their rotas seven days 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.

Why seven days?

Issuing the rota a week in advance brings 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 why seven days specifically?” you might be wondering. Why not two weeks? Or even a whole month before the rota is needed?

Put simply, seven days is the sweet spot for most businesses whose staff work to a rota.

Distribute your rota any later, and you’ll leave yourself less time to make any necessary changes to it.

Send it out any earlier, and — as well as your employees’ availability potentially changing in the interim — you risk building a schedule based on outdated projections and end up being either over- or understaffed.

Are managers legally required to send staff their rotas early?

We hear this question a lot. 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 areas 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.


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, make necessary changes, and will reduce the likelihood of staff showing up late or missing their shifts entirely.

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