What exactly is a shift swapping policy?

Shift swapping allows employees to change one or more of their shifts for one that is more suitable for them. They do this by trading it with a colleague and in exchange will agree to work one of their shifts at a time that suits them.

A shift swapping policy is a way for an employer to build shift swapping into the services they provide for their employees. It will dictate the rules and regulations around shift swapping and will give a fixed structure for how swaps can take place.

Is a shift swap the same as a rota change?

In essence, yes. A shift swap is the same as a rota change in so far as you are changing the hours you work. The main difference between a shift swap and a rota change is that instead of arbitrarily changing hours, you have to find somebody who will work the time you vacate.

How does a shift swap policy benefit the employee?

For employees a shift swap policy allows them to change the hours they work when they need to. It gives them the ability to accommodate specific events – like a birthday or hospital visit – and makes it easier for them to get the all-important work/life balance they need.

How does such a policy benefit the employer?

Trying to balance the hours of staff within any business is never easy and one wrong move can leave one or more of your employees unhappy with the hours they work. A shift swap policy allows workers to control their rota and gives them opportunities to change their working hours to accommodate their needs. This can in turn may make them feel more empowered and happier.

How does a rota swap policy work in a workplace in practice?

In practice, a shift swap policy will give a structured way for employees to swap shifts with each other. This is generally achieved by implementing a digital system for workers to solicit and respond to requests for roster changes.

If the business is a large concern with many employees, there may be a variety of limitations on who can swap with who. For example, you may not be able to swap shifts with someone outside your department or work area.

Usually, the employee who wishes to swap shifts will ‘advertise’ their intention to swap on the system for others to see. They may at this stage detail the shifts they are willing to work in return. An employee who is willing to swap will then accept the swap and put forward the times they need covering. Once both are in agreement, the shift swap will be put into place and the working rota amended.

Are there any legal regulations that need following?

There are no specific legal regulations that cover shift swapping as it is generally seen as a bonus activity employers can offer. In certain situations, the European Working Time regulations may apply but this is generally only concerned with the fairness of application. If an employer does offer shift swapping they need to make sure that it is offered consistently to all staff.

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