Employee Manipulates Her Work Schedule

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about scheduling:

We have an employee who is on an adjusted work week schedule, which has her off on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. She has been requesting Sundays off as a vacation day in order that she may have the whole weekend off. (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.) The schedule that the employee has is the one she chose. There are other options where the employee can work five days and have two off; e. .g. Sunday thru Thursday with Friday and Saturday off or Tuesday thru Saturday with Sunday and Monday off. (Instead she has chosen the one with Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday off.) I have spoken to the employee about having to hire overtime for the Sundays she had requested off, to no avail. I intend to give her a schedule with Sunday off if it is so important that she has it off. What do you suggest?

Signed, Frustrated

Dear Frustrated:

This is a situation that definitely requires you to talk to your HR section about policies and procedures related to schedules as well as about allowing employees to take vacation time. If you were to do something in violation of policies or that they think is not best or appropriate, they could reverse your decision or you could get in trouble. If the employee has the right to request vacation any time she wants it, she’s not wrong to request a day that fits her life and preferences. What if she requested to take off on Monday, to give her Monday and Tuesday together? You probably wouldn’t consider that to be so much of a problem. If your organization works like most, vacation time is only approved when staffing and work situations allow, not every time the employee requests it.

So, the best solution is to do what you probably know should have been done all along–don’t approve vacation for days when staffing is not available or when it creates problems to have the employee gone.The role of the manager is simply to say, “No, I’m sorry but I’d have to hire someone at overtime pay if you take off, so you can’t have that Sunday. What about Monday instead?” Or, “We need you here to work on that project, so you can’t take that Sunday for vacation.” Or, “Sunday is when we’re always short staffed, so we can’t give that as a vacation day.” Or, “Barb, if you want Sunday off, just vote a different work shift. I can’t give it to you for a vacation day.”

You’ll want to make sure you’re correct about that and be able to show the problems with her taking the day off, in case HR asks or you have to provide the information. I doubt she has more than two weeks of vacation, maybe a bit more. So, that’s only 14 or so Sundays out of 52, or approximately one a month. Maybe you could tell her she can ask for one Sunday off a month and if you can allow it, you will–but you won’t give her consecutive Sundays off.All of this is something to talk to HR about. Let them know the situation and ask for ideas. You’ll want to know you’re on solid ground about what you decide to do and HR can hopefully help you achieve that.Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe