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  • Writer's pictureMartin Hesse

Can you cover my shift? Employee-led vs. Employer-led shift swapping

In some fast-paced industries, it can be common for employees to find their own replacements for shifts at short notice if they become unavailable to work. Despite the apparent benefits, this practice has its share of detrimental consequences. In this article, we delve into the drawbacks of employee led shift replacement, exploring the challenges it presents, and how using alternative methods can be more effective. 

The drawbacks of requiring an employee to find someone to cover a shift 

The aim could be to grant employees flexibility and control over their schedules, but it can result in several undesirable outcomes that affect both employees and the organisation as a whole. 


1. No consideration for labour budget  

The employee seeking to find someone who can cover their shift wouldn’t be aware of the labour budget that their manager is having to keep in mind when creating rosters.  By allowing staff to find their own replacements you could find that the replacement ends up working overtime and becomes a much more expensive labour cost than the person originally scheduled to work the shift. 


2. Administrative Overload 

Managing the process of finding replacements and coordinating changes can place a significant administrative burden on both employees and managers. This administrative overhead takes time away from them doing their actual role and can lead to inefficiencies. Not only can it lead to negative job performance but it can also cause distress if the employee is not able to find a replacement or they are overwhelmed by the task of finding a replacement.  

The manager is also tasked with a greater load as they try to manage these changes in a reactive manner rather than having ownership over the process themselves. 


3. Complexity in Compliance 

Industries with strict compliance requirements, such as healthcare, have additional challenges in ensuring that replacements meet the necessary qualifications and certifications. It can complicate compliance efforts and expose organisations to compliance risks. A common example is where a worker must have undertaken an induction to be able to work at a specific location. If they accept a shift without having completed the induction, the risk for all involved increases. Furthermore, the person who accepts the shift from someone else may be overqualified for the shift, meaning  they may be paid more for those hours worked than the person who was originally rostered to work. 


4. Disrupted Continuity 

The process of employees seeking replacements for their shifts can lead to frequent changes in schedules. This constant reshuffling disrupts team continuity, making it challenging for employees to establish stable routines and collaborate effectively. The lack of consistent team dynamics can have a detrimental effect on productivity and can negatively impact customer service quality. 

It can also negatively impact team morale if workers undertake shift bidding so that specific people can work together or to avoid working with them. 


5. Unpredictable Shift Coverage 

If an employee’s availability isn’t taken into account, and they regularly must find people to take their shifts, this could create uncertainty around shift coverage. This unpredictability can lead to staffing gaps, overstaffing, or even the inability to find suitable replacements in time, which can disrupt operations and compromise service quality.  


6. Reduced Employee Engagement 

While theoretically giving the employee the option to find a replacement for their shift could provide a sense of autonomy, it often results in burnout and reduced employee engagement. Constantly having to find replacements for shifts disrupts work-life balance, making it challenging for employees to plan their personal lives. This, in turn, affects their overall job satisfaction and commitment to the organisation. 



Leveraging Rostering Software to Overcome Challenges 

For organisations seeking to address the challenges associated with filling last minute vacant shifts, modern rostering software offers a compelling solution. By removing the need for employees to find replacements and automating scheduling processes, rostering software presents several advantages that positively impact employee well-being and operational efficiency. 

1. Predictable Scheduling 

Rostering software provides a predictable scheduling framework, minimising the need for employees to find replacements on short notice. This stability allows employees to better manage their work-life balance and reduces stress related to finding coverage. Rosterspace enables workers to specify their availability and unavailability so that when the roster is being created, they will only be chosen for shifts that they can actually work. They can update their availability as frequently as needed. 

2. Enhanced Employee Satisfaction 

The removal of the burden of finding replacements leads to enhanced employee satisfaction. Employees can enjoy more predictable schedules, reducing burnout and contributing to higher levels of engagement and commitment. 

3. Efficient Resource Allocation 

Rostering software optimises resource allocation by taking into account employee availability, skills, and qualifications. This ensures that shifts are assigned efficiently and that staffing levels align with operational demands. In Rosterspace, you are able to create different versions of the roster before you publish so you are able to look at labour cost variations. Furthermore, when looking to fill a last-minute vacancy in Rosterspace you can see what the labour cost would be of the available workers and allow that to factor into who you would offer the shift to. 


4. Reduced Administrative Load 

The Vacant Shift Workflow function in Rosterspace enables managers to find a replacement for a shift in a fast and simple manner, with offers only going out to those who are compliant and available.  The first person to accept the offer receives it and all relevant information is made available to them.  The roster is updated automatically, thereby reducing the administrative workload. Managers can focus on strategic tasks rather than spending time coordinating replacements. 


5. Simplified Compliance Management 

When working under an award or enterprise agreement the compliance and organisational requirements can be included in the rostering software to ensure that only compliant workers are eligible to fill vacant shifts.  Utilising a feature, like the Vacant Shift Workflow in Rosterspace ensures compliance is intact even when looking for a shift replacement. 


To Sum It Up

The drawbacks of having to find a replacement for your own shift are becoming increasingly apparent, especially in industries with complex modern awards and organisations are labour cost conscious. Disrupted continuity, administrative overload, inequitable distribution, and complexity in compliance management underscore the challenges associated with this approach. 

However, organisations can overcome these challenges by embracing modern rostering software. By automating scheduling processes and removing the need for employees to find replacements, rostering software enhances predictability, employee satisfaction, efficient resource allocation, and compliance management.  

Rosterspace is an Australian workforce management software made for advance award interpretation and complex rostering needs. To find out more head to 


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