5 best steps to ask someone to cover your shift

Updated on July 27, 2023
5 best steps to ask someone to cover your shift

It turns out that you are unable to work your scheduled shift. Hopefully, a trusty coworker of yours will be available to cover for you. Here is how to nicely ask someone to cover your shift in 5 steps to minimize the impact on everybody.

1. Ask them to cover your shift as soon as possible

how to ask a coworker to cover your shift

It would be best to contact your coworker as soon as possible and ask them to cover for you. Giving them as much head start as possible will allow them to have their personal affairs in check so they could work the shift instead of you.

2. Give them a good reason why you can’t work your shift

When you ask your coworker to cover the shift, make sure to give them a good reason why you can’t work your shift.

Be it a family emergency or a health issue, simply mention that you are dealing with something serious. There is no need to go into detail.

They will be more willing to help you out if they know that you have no other option and this is your last resort. Also, here is how you can tell your boss that you won't be able to work today.

3. Tell them that they can count on you to return the favor

Reciprocity among coworkers is important. Tell them that you are willing to do the same for them in case they ever can’t work a shift.

This way you will convey that you value their time and that you are thankful for the favor that they are making you.

4. Make sure to inform your manager

Don’t forget to inform your manager about the change. Always keep your manager in the loop with what is going on. Most likely they will be fine that you won’t be working the shift as long as they know that somebody is going to cover for you.

Remember that in some cases your boss has the right to deny you unpaid time off and even fire you if you don’t show up at work.

5. Don’t abuse the trust of your coworkers

Don’t turn this into a weekly habit. Asking your coworkers too frequently to cover your shift will only result in negative consequences for you. Eventually, they will either deny you or simply complain to your manager.

Do you need to find someone to cover your shift?

You might be wondering: “Am I required to find someone to cover my shift?”. Generally, employees who work on a shift rotation basis are allowed to ask their colleagues to cover for them (unless company policy says otherwise).

So you can take the initiative and approach one or several of your coworkers to cover for you.

If you are unable to find somebody to cover your shift, then speak to your manager. Perhaps they will be able to make changes to your work schedule and arrange for somebody to cover the shift.

In case nobody is able to cover your shift, here you can find some good excuses for being late to work.

How to ask someone to cover your shift email

Here is a simple how to ask someone to cover your shift email example:

Hey Josh,

I hope you are well, sorry to bother you like this. I am dealing with something urgent/serious and I won’t be able to work my shift on DD.MM from HH:MM to HH:MM.

I was wondering if you’d be able to cover for me? I promise to make it up to you and, of course, I’d be happy to return the favor any time in the future!

Please let me know if you’d be able to so I can tell (your manager).

Thank you in advance!

What to do when no one can cover your shift

So what if you can't find someone to cover your shift? Your best option is to approach your manager.

Explain to them why you won’t be able to work that shift. These things happen from time to time and a good manager would expect it.

Perhaps they will be able to approach a team member and convince them to take the shift. As a last resort, if nobody is able to cover your shift, your manager might be willing to cover for you if they are available.

Is it a manager's job to cover shifts

If a manager is available, it is very likely that they will be willing to cover the shift for a team member who is not able to work. Their work contract might have a specific clause stating that it is indeed their responsibility to cover shifts in such cases.

How to politely decline covering a shift

If you’re asked to cover for somebody, then you should take one for the team if you are able to. You will be paid for your hours anyway so why not? Of course, if you are unable to, here’s how to say no to covering a shift in a nice way.

  • Apologize – Make sure to apologize to the person and tell them that you are unable to cover the shift.
  • Give them a good reason – As always, make sure to give them a good reason why you are declining.
  • Tell them you’d be available in the future – Make sure to tell them that this is just a one-time thing and you’re willing to cover for your colleagues whenever the necessity arises.

And here you can take a look at what to do in case your boss is asking you to stay after your scheduled shift.

Should you feel bad for not covering a shift

You shouldn’t feel bad for not being able to cover a shift. In life, all sorts of unpredictable situations can arise.

Sometimes we are dealing with emergencies, illnesses, or important family matters. Personal affairs are more important so work can wait.

Any good manager would agree and tell you to take care of your important matters so you can return to work later on.

Written by:
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galin office topics square
co-founder / office worker
Galin has been an office worker for 8+ years. He has dealt will all kinds of situations at work, so he knows a thing or two about management, co-worker relationships, and productivity. Galin specializes in digital marketing and dabbles in web development.

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