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Blog banner of Shift Swap Policy and How To Create It For Your Organization

What Is Shift Swap Policy and How To Create It For Your Organization?

In any business, your employees can ask for swap shifts and it is not an uncommon occurrence. Still, this seemingly routine procedure can become the bottleneck in workforce management without the right system.

Suppose you expect employee A to show up on Monday for the morning shift, but he swaps shifts with employee B without your knowledge. While employee B shows up on Monday morning, he’s unfamiliar with the opening procedure and doesn’t bother to ask. This will cause a delay in business operation.

This is one scenario, but there can be several such incidents where employees swapping shifts can result in management and productivity issues. It is why you must have a shift swap policy at work.

Read on to find out how to establish effective shift swapping at work.

A shift swapping policy is a documented set of rules and procedures that a company uses to guide and manage the trade of employee shifts. A swapping shift at work policy aims to ensure that guidelines are followed per the strict set of protocols to avoid scheduling mistakes.

You would want to have a shift swap policy at work for several reasons. Without proper procedures in place, employees are more likely to make decisions on their own, resulting in several drawbacks like – understaffing, additional labor costs, employee burnout, and conflict between employees.

Your organization can benefit by removing any confusion from happening and keeping payroll and management duties streamlined. As an HR manager, you must outline a well-defined shift swap policy to ensure that there is not too much flexibility that could result in cutting corners.

How does the shift swap policy work?

In practice, an effective shift swap policy gives a structure for employees to follow when they want to swap shifts with a co-worker. Most organizations implement a digital system for workers to solicit and respond to shift swap requests.

If the workforce size is significant, then the shift swap policy can have several limitations on who can swap with who. For example, employees can be restricted from swap shifts with someone outside their department or work area. Employees who want to change shifts will ‘advertise’ their intention for the same on the system so that other workers can see it.

The workers can detail the shifts they want to work in return so other employees who are willing to swap can accept the request. Once there is an agreement between the workers, the request is forwarded to managers or supervisors for approval.

Benefits of shift swapping policy

1. Employees get flexibility

The unpredictability of life makes it impossible to be fully prepared. No matter how perfect your shift scheduling is, there’s always the possibility that unforeseen circumstances might affect the availability of workers.

When you have a shift swap policy, employees can attend to unforeseen circumstances forcing them to leave early, take leave, work remotely, or arrange shift swaps. The ability to change work schedules provides much-required flexibility to employees to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

It also encourages them to be loyal to the company as they have the option to handle important life events without losing their pay.

You have a happy and engaged workforce when you give your employees the freedom to swap shifts and a flexible schedule.

2. Less no show at work

Most employees cannot work unannounced because they get stuck with personal emergencies. When you give them the flexibility of swapping shifts and laid out policies, they know how to arrange for a substitute for the shifts they cannot attend.

This significantly reduces the time employees are a ‘no show’ at work. It is a boost for productivity and contributes to the overall revenue growth of the company.

3. No extra work for managers

As we explained how the shift swapping policy is implemented in practice, HR managers and supervisors have little involvement. Adopting an automated system to handle the changes in the shift roster only requires the manager to approve or reject the shift.

Also, a shift swap policy ensures fewer shift changes with tighter coverage. With shift swapping tools, you can quickly identify suitable employees who are skilled, cost-efficient, and available so you can easily cover the shift requirements.

Also, a clearly defined shift swap policy streamlines the process that reduces shift-swap frustration. It also minimizes miscommunication among the managers and staff. All this results in effective shift scheduling and can bring significant financial savings by lowering extra labor or overtime costs.

What to include in a shift swapping policy

In theory, shift swapping might seem simple, but it can turn into a nightmare quickly. When you work hard on creating an effective work schedule, impromptu tampering by workers, later on, can wreak havoc. With an effective shift swap policy, you are less frustrated and have more streamlined workers who are least likely to disturb the shift schedules unexpectedly.

Here’s how you can create an effective swapping shift at work policy.

1. Define a clear process

The correct procedure for swapping schedules must start at the managerial level. Managers must create transparent, fair, and accessible rules for everyone.

A good shift swap policy clearly defines the company’s and employees’ responsibilities. It must address the following key things:

2. When staff will receive the shifts

Shift swap is often the result of unexpected personal issues such as a child falling ill, school events popping up, or other workers asking for a shift trade. However, not being aware of their shift details in advance can be frustrating for workers.

As a manager, it is your responsibility to provide them with clarity on who is working and when. It is how you can plan effectively and approve any shift swaps.

Truein offers a shift schedule as a complete time and attendance management app. Managers can create shift schedules and share them with the workers instantly. Workers can also mark their availability or absence within the Truein app on their smartphones.

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3. How much time will you give employees for upcoming schedules?

One important inclusion must be the timeline for shift swaps. Train employees that they cannot ask for trading shifts too close to their scheduled shifts. It can disrupt the entire schedule due to the domino effect.

Depending upon the business nature, you can set rules on how much time employees have to ask for a shift swap. For instance, 5 hours can be allowed as it is enough time for any other worker to respond to work as a tradeoff.

4. Shift swap approval process

A formalized shift swap policy is essential to prevent any adverse consequences resulting from shift swapping at work, such as extra labor costs, worker no-shows, and unskilled workers added to the shift. With automatic scheduling software, such nuances of shift swap can be easily managed. To mitigate such risks, you must:

  • Give supervisors and managers the veto power to review and approve shift swap requests from workers.
  • Set timelines that prevent employees from requesting shift swaps too close to their scheduled shifts.
  • Enforce workplace rules, training requirements, or permitted hours for a valid shift swap request.
  • Allow shift swapping only between qualified employees within the same department or roles.

5. Disciplinary procedures for failing to comply with the policy

It is essential to communicate with the workers what the company’s expectations are from them. Unless they know them, there is no way to fulfill these expectations.

They must be aware of the disciplinary actions that can be taken in case they fail to comply with the shift-swapping policies. You must train employees and onboard them through a formal process to familiarize them with the swap shift process.

Enforcing disciplinary action must be the last resort. Still, keeping employees in line with the shift swap policies is a continuous challenge; don’t be uncomfortable while enforcing the rules. Furthermore, you must ensure that all the disciplinary actions comply with federal, state, and local employment and labor laws.


Shift swaps are not only great for employee schedule flexibility, but they can be an excellent asset for any organization facing potentially understaffed shifts. This is a seasonal trend for most businesses when customer demand is high.

Maintain a comprehensive shift swap work policy that reminds employees that swapping is allowed and recommended. It saves you from no calls and no-shows from employees.

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