How much notice are employees getting of their working hours – a complete analysis

Jamie Harvey

Jamie Harvey


The Living Wage Foundation recently published findings that stated 62% of workers, whose job involves variable or shift base work, receive less than a week’s notice of their work schedules. They reported 12% receive less than 24 hours’ notice.

Over here at Rotaready, we’re proud to partner exclusively with hospitality, leisure and retail businesses – the vast majority of whose staff work in variable, shift-based roles. So we thought we’d do some of our own analysis to see how our customers compare.

It’s not as easy as it sounds

Timing the communication of work schedules is a delicate balancing act. Confirming a rota early offers employees a significantly improved opportunity to plan their lives around their work (as this BBC article explains), boosting employee wellbeing and ultimately reducing turnover. However, it comes at the cost of rota efficiency. For most businesses across hospitality, leisure and retail, the anticipated demand for a week isn’t truly grasped until much closer to the start of the week. It’s only at this point that bookings & reservations are made and the weather forecast becomes more reliable. An inefficient rota is one fraught with both understaffing and overstaffing, both of which negatively impact a business’ wage percentage and ultimately profit and loss.

Our findings

Due to the importance of capturing and storing lots of data for our demand forecasting capabilities, collating the data needed for this exercise was quick to come by. After cleansing the data to remove any blank rotas (due to lockdowns), we were able to identify some interesting trends.

The graph above shows the percentage of rotas that were published at a specific number of days’ notice. The most common notice given was four days, which occurred for just over 12% of all rotas. Interestingly, we found slight upticks just before 14 and 21 days. This is most likely attributed to some of our customers having policies whereby rotas must be published at least two (or three) weeks in advance.

Since we began recording data, we found the average notice given to be 11.3 days across all of our customers’ rotas.

To compare our data against the Living Wage Foundation’s findings, we pulled together the following distribution. The graph below shows the percentage of rotas that were published in advance of a number of days’ notice.

This shows that:

  • 6% of rotas were published with less than a day’s notice (half of the Living Wage Foundation’s findings)
  • 58% of rotas were published with less than a week’s notice (in line with the Living Wage Foundation’s findings)
  • 28% of rotas were published with more than two weeks’ notice
  • 5% of rotas were published with more than four weeks’ notice

Things have changed over time

We’ve had a passion and commitment to innovation since we first opened our doors to customers in 2016. Since then, we’ve listened closely to customer feedback to further enhance Rotaready in all areas. Our improvements here have focussed on:

  • making rotas quicker and easier to build (helped by our all-new rota and automated scheduling)
  • getting rotas right first time (helped by integrations with reservations (and other demand) metrics, demand forecasting, inbuilt validation, automated wage projections and comparisons against budgets)
  • improving the visibility and insight for those in head office (such as our notifications/subscriptions feature and aggregated wage percentage forecasts)

The chart below shows how the average notice has increased over time, reaching just over 14 days in 2019. The uncertainty of COVID-19 in 2020 is reflected in the data. Notice dropped by over 40% from the prior year, as businesses had to contend with volatility and short-term changes never experienced before.

Retail leads the way

As the below analysis shows, our retail customers give significantly more notice (25 days) than those in hospitality (9 days) and leisure (8.6 days)

We attribute this variance to the fact that, in our experience, retail businesses typically have smaller teams and shorter opening hours. This leads to simpler rota structures and therefore more predictability. Our customers in retail are also more likely to have ‘set shifts’ (i.e. repeating shifts every week). This means rotas are similar week-to-week and therefore quicker and simpler to build (allowing more notice to be given).

Christmas plays a part

Christmas and New Year are a notoriously difficult time of the year for operators across hospitality, leisure and retail to plan for. Balancing booming demand and staff requests for time off necessitate getting rotas planned early. This is reflected in the analysis below, which shows a peak of ~15 days’ notice in the final two weeks of the year. Another spike can be seen earlier in the year across week numbers 20-22, corresponding to the UK late May bank holiday.

Customer viewpoint: Outdoor & Country

Outdoor and Country, who joined us in 2017, has averaged an impressive 36.4 days’ notice in recent times. This puts the retailer, who has 9 sites across the UK, in the top 2% of all Rotaready customers for this metric!

We caught up with Operations Director, Dominic Eves, to get his insight. Here’s how the business decided the amount of notice to give, how they execute it so consistently and the benefits that come with doing so:

How did you decide on how much notice to give?

Our decision to give four weeks’ notice came with the introduction of the Good Work Plan; a plan which outlines that you must give employees ‘reasonable notice’ of when they’re working. We identified this as being four weeks’, so implemented a policy whereby our employees must be given at least this much notice.

What are the benefits of planning staff rotas a month in advance?

Giving plenty of notice enables us to plan better. Our team has seasonal budgets to stick to, so being able to see rotas weeks in advance, helps them plan better and informs recruitment. They can easily see if they’re going to meet the budgeted number of hours/week and hire accordingly. However, if you plan too far in advance you can get issues caused by staff churn. For example, if you schedule a shift for someone in six months’ time, but then they leave, you have to go back to the drawing board.

What advice would you give similar business, in relation to advance rota planning?

Planning this far ahead only works if you have someone in place to make sure rotas are done in advance. We never used to have this so the amount of warning given to employees varied massively between stores. It was also much more difficult to monitor when we had a paper based Excel system. We hired a Head of Retail who is now accountable for this, which means it always happens! No rota is ever published with less than four weeks’ notice, save for exceptional circumstances.

Rotaready makes it easy to plan ahead and for our Head of Retail to see if rotas have been published. The rota dashboard gives a full overview, weeks in advance.

To conclude…

Whether it’s the industry you work in, legislation or seasonality; there are a number of factors that impact how much notice employees are given of their upcoming shifts. 

If you’d like more information on how Rotaready can help you get control over advanced rota planning and sign off, all whilst ensuring your rotas are always perfectly aligned with demand, just get in touch via live chat or email us at

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