Emergencies happen that sometimes require workers to call out and fail to complete a shift. Vacations, personal time, and medical leaves are other situations that leave employers short-staffed. As a caring worker, you might ask, “Am I required to find someone to cover my shift?” Here’s the cold, hard truth about it from all angles.
At-Will Employment vs. Contractual Employment
When wondering if you have to find someone to cover your shift, you must understand the concept of at-will employment versus contractual employment.
At-will arrangements give employers an enormous amount of leeway regarding terminating employees, changing their job roles, and altering the terms they originally set in the employment “agreement.”
Thus, if an employer says you must find someone to cover your shift when you call in sick, they have a right to make that rule. You also have a right as an at-will employee to refuse to come into work or find a replacement. However, the employer can release you from your job for that reason, no reason, or any other reason aside from a federally-protected one.
In this case, the only thing that could save you would be if your leave falls under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The federal law would then supersede your employer’s fire-for-anything “terms,” and you would have recourse if they chose to terminate your employment for noncompliance.
Contractual employment has clearly defined and legally binding terms for both parties. Therefore, such an agreement would tie you and the employer to a specific set of rules, which may include how you must handle callouts, vacations, and other time off. In a contractual relationship, you and the employer have a right to pursue litigation if either party breaks the terms of the contract.
How Do You Find Out What the Policy Is?
Employers typically give their new-hires helpful information about the policies they have in place. This data usually exists in the employee handbook or the company intranet, and it’s usually explained in great depth on the intranet under “guidelines,” “policies,” or something similar.
A corporation’s policies are the “laws” of their land, and you are under those laws while working for the establishment. State and federal laws supersede their rules, but they typically only address fair labor standards, wage-related issues, and discrimination. In other words, the government doesn’t interfere with most of their practices, and they remain in place, even though many people find them displeasing.
You will find information about the company’s unique callout expectations and other such standards in the above-mentioned locations. You may or may not find a specific “covering shifts policy,” but that doesn’t mean they can’t enforce an unwritten “law.”
That said, most employers do not expect their workers to come to work when they’re sick because they understand the repercussions. They know that forcing a worker to come to work sick can result in losing half the workforce for more than a few days if the worker’s issue is severe.
They also know an ill employee isn’t likely to be productive, and they could end up paying such a person for hardly doing any work. Thus, your employer is more likely to avoid giving you a hard time about a callout than press you to find your replacement.
There’s No One To Cover Me at Work: Who’s Responsible?
Ultimately, finding workers to fill each shift is the employer’s responsibility. They are the ones who own the business, and it’s up to their management staff to ensure that they hire reliable people to cover each slot.
The management staff is supposed to plan each week of work with the most effective strategy so that each shift is full and no one has to take the brunt of the work more than anyone else. They are also supposed to have an idea of who they can talk to if they need someone to cover a shift.
However, some managers who are not strong at schedule planning or communications end up threatening workers rather than being empathetic and consulting with their go-to people in emergencies. These tactics usually backfire and alienate workers who might otherwise work with them to ensure their shift is covered, even though it’s not their responsibility.
Whether the employer is justified in being upset with you about a callout depends on the nature of your missed shift. No one ever knows when they will fall sick. Thus, it’s not your fault if you wake up one morning and feel too lousy to work your job.
The only part you’re responsible for is letting your bosses know as quickly as possible so they can take the necessary steps to find your replacement. Calling out within their guidelines benefits all parties, as it gives them time to call someone and spares you from facing disciplinary actions.
You are not at fault for emergencies such as automotive breakdowns, ER visits, vehicular accidents, unwarranted police stops, traffic jams, etc. Realistically, you can only call about those absences when you are free and coherent.
On the other hand, you are expected to plan things you know are coming. For example, you should find someone to cover your shift if you know you have an upcoming court date or routine doctor’s visit. Employers usually stipulate how far in advance you need to notify them and request time off.
If something comes up unexpectedly and outside of those guidelines, it will be courteous for you to participate in finding someone to cover your shift. Many employers allow workers to trade or swap shifts, and you might want to consider doing that.
Do I Need Work Coverage While on Vacation?
Yes, you need work coverage while you’re on vacation. However, you are not responsible for finding that coverage. Employers typically approve or deny vacations based on whether they have coverage. The decision requires members of management to review the schedule to see if they can move people around enough to approve the requested vacation time.
They will then determine whether they can give you the vacation time you want. It’s wise to request such vacation time well in advance and do it during a time of the year the employer doesn’t consider crucial.
Am I Required To Find Someone To Cover My Shift for Personal Days?
Personal days need coverage, but you should handle them the same way you handle vacation requests. Ask for the time off the way the company specifies in its guidelines and accept the response they give you. The employer implies that they have covered your shift when they approve the time off.
What Happens if You Can’t Get Someone To Cover Your Shift?
Your employer has free reign to respond to the lack of coverage how they see fit, and several things can happen. For one, they can issue you absentee points or occurrences and terminate you whether you’re in your probationary period or not. Alternatively, they can wish you well and try to find a worker who can cover your shift.
You should now better understand leave time and how it works in relation to shift coverage. The short answer to the question, “Can an employer make you find your own coverage?” is no. No one can make you do anything. However, an at-will employer can terminate you, and a contractual employer can theoretically sue you if you don’t.