Employee Work Schedule | 4 mins read

Best Practices for Creating a Fair Employee Work Schedule

best practices for creating a fair employee work schedule
Michelle Jaco

By Michelle Jaco

Creating fair employee work schedules and time-off policies can be a daunting task for many employers. But as an employer and business owner, there's no doubt it's also one of the most important tasks for keeping your employees happy and your business running smoothly.

Of course, communication between yourself and your staff is key, but there are some best practices you can follow that will keep complaints and dissatisfaction to a minimum. Start by defining clear policies for using PTO and vacation time, changing shifts, or requesting certain hours.

It's essential that your employees have clear guidelines for letting you know when they need time off and what hours they're available to work. While you'll never be able to please everyone all the time, following these guidelines will help you create fair employee work schedules in the best interest of your business and your staff.

1. Be Clear About Your Expectations

Once you establish your scheduling and time-off policies, be sure to include them in your employee handbook. You should also go over the policies verbally with every new hire to establish an open dialogue about their preferred work hours, requesting vacation time, and using sick days.

Make sure employees understand how to request time off, whether it's planned in advance or not. Who do they contact if they get sick or have an emergency and can't come to work? Do they need to bring a doctor's note if they're sick for an extended period? Do they have to work a certain number of hours per week to earn scheduling consideration? How do they request PTO and vacation time and how much notice is required?

Establishing an open line of communication about scheduling and time off will lead to fewer complaints and less confusion for your staff, and less frustration and paperwork for you!

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2. Establish a First-Come, First-Served Policy

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There are bound to be times when multiple employees request time off during the same week or at an especially busy time. So, how do you decide who gets it and who has to work? The first thing to remember is that their reasons for asking for the time off shouldn't be a factor in your decision, as long as they followed your policies and requested the time in advance.

For example, one team member might ask for Fridays off because they don't have a babysitter. Another might want Tuesdays off to attend a class. That's their business. Your primary concern is that you can count on them once the schedule is made. The same goes for vacation time and PTO. That's their time and what they plan to do with it shouldn't affect any decision on your end.

Let's take a look at two hypothetical employees as an example-

  • Tom is a homebody who wants to use his vacation time to chill out at home with his family.
  • Mary is always on the go and wants the same week off to go on vacation with her family.
Even though Tom doesn't plan on going anywhere, his request for time off is just as important as Mary's. Their plans shouldn't influence your decision in any way. The only fair way to decide is on a first-come, first-served basis. This policy will save you a lot of headaches and keep things simple and straightforward during peak vacation times like holidays and summer break.

Although many companies consider seniority when granting vacation time, this type of policy will leave your staff feeling like tenure is more important than job performance and reliability. On the other hand, a first-come, first-served policy eliminates legitimate complaints because they only have themselves to blame for not planning far enough ahead.

3. Consider Bundling Sick Days and Vacation Time

Many companies are now offering a PTO benefit that bundles sick days and vacation time. This is a great way to give your staff more flexibility and control over their schedules while simplifying the PTO process. Employees like this approach because it seems fairer.

For example, when an employee uses up their paid time off early in the year and then gets sick, they already know their sick days will be unpaid. Hopefully, they'll learn to be more conservative with their PTO in the future.

But whether they learn or not, they can't complain to you about it. It also means you'll spend less time dealing with sick time requests and worrying if an employee is really sick or just skipping out on work.

4. Offering Overtime and Comp Time

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Many companies allow their employees to work overtime, but that may not be in your company's best interest. If you are asking your staff to put in a lot of overtime throughout the year, you would probably be better off hiring additional staff. On the other hand, if you only need extra workers during busy times once or twice a year, offering your employees overtime hours might be more cost-effective.

Some companies also offer comp time. In this case, employees who work more than 40 hours per week get comparable time off instead of overtime pay. This may seem like a simple solution, but it tends to cause issues, especially when employees who don't qualify for overtime try to take advantage of the policy. You're probably better off addressing scheduling and time management issues or hiring additional staff as needed.

Scheduling software reduces overtime and comp time by utilizing forecasting to ensure that you're never understaffed. It eliminates human error by keeping track of your entire staff's schedule and PTO. With scheduling software, you never have to worry about forgetting to schedule staff to work in place of someone who's on planned paid time off.

In Summary
Utilizing fair scheduling practices boosts employee morale and reduces turnover while reducing paperwork. Start by establishing clear scheduling, PTO, and first-come, first-served policies to minimize employee dissatisfaction and complaints. Then, streamline the process even further by bundling paid time off and sick days.

And finally, utilize scheduling software to reduce labor costs by minimizing overtime and ensuring that shifts are covered adequately.

Online employee scheduling software that makes shift planning effortless.
Try it free for 14 days.

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