Is It A Manager’s Job to Cover Shifts? We Weigh In

Is it a Manager's Job to Cover Shifts?


Is it a Manager’s Job to Cover Shifts? We Weigh In

When an employee calls in sick, it’s the manager’s job to step in and cover the shift, right? Well, maybe not.

Some employees think it’s their manager’s responsibility to be ready to fill in when needed, while others feel that management shouldn’t be held accountable if they aren’t notified about an absence in advance.

We asked three of our experts how they handle it when employees call out sick unexpectedly, and how they encourage team members to take responsibility for covering shifts themselves.

Here are their thoughts on the matter: Is it the manager’s job to cover shifts?

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My Story

There are several stories floating around the internet about managers being expected to cover shifts.

I’m sorry, but we’re not going there. If you want someone who has your back and can be counted on at a moment’s notice, call HR. They are much better equipped for handling employee issues than I am.

And in this case, their job is not simply going to be handing out schedules (though that does have its benefits).

No, if one of my employees comes and asks me for coverage for any reason I will listen politely, offer my opinion when asked for it (if necessary), and then gently ask them to contact HR instead. Now before you get angry with me–just hear me out.

Managers Who Have Said Yes

No one said that management was an easy job. Managers deal with staffing, scheduling, discipline and so much more.

The buck never stops at the manager’s desk, but this question has us second-guessing our decision. Is it possible for managers to take on all of the company’s tasks while still juggling the day-to-day managerial duties? Absolutely not.

They can’t work overtime without getting pay, they can’t be expected to break the rules just because they’re in charge, and they certainly don’t have enough time during their eight hour shift to cover shifts for an employee who isn’t putting in their share of hours when needed.

Managers Who Refuse

It is not a manager’s job. Management, in general, should stay on top of all staffing needs and be sure to avoid over-staffing an area.

It can be very demoralizing for someone who works hard every day and helps the company with achieving goals to find out that they are replaced in the middle of their shift by someone who sees time off as more important than helping their co-workers.

The job of management is to utilize resources wisely and balance employee morale with organizational success

Tips for Having the Conversation

Before you can answer the question of whether or not managers should cover shifts, you need to know what their title is and how the process for covering shifts works at your workplace.

It could be that managers are only responsible for overseeing departmental tasks, which would mean they shouldn’t be called in to cover shifts.

If managers are responsible for covering shifts and other things like leading meetings and managing different projects, then yes, they should cover when needed because that is part of their job description.

It might also depend on how many employees there are in your company and if employees share coverage responsibilities or not.

Final Thoughts

We often talk about the manager’s main responsibility being employee management.

That’s not to say that managers are forbidden from stepping in and taking on other roles in the organization, like scheduling work and filling shifts.

But there is typically a lot of overlap between those two jobs, so it would make sense for any gaps that need filling to be filled by someone who already does one or both of them.

The question of whether or not it is a manager’s job (or an assistant manager’s) to cover shifts is not as clear-cut as you might think.


Some managers don’t cover shifts because they are assigned tasks that don’t involve communicating with staff.

They also may not want to spend their time making sure everything is running smoothly while they’re off the clock.

It can also be harder for managers who are more on the administrative side of things,

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