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Vacation Bidding in Public Safety - a Win-Win for All Concerned

Posted by Jackie Belasky

Mar 10, 2017 3:37:35 PM

Bidding for time off is a fair way to ensure there are always enough public safety employees on duty.
Bidding for time off is a fair way to ensure there are always enough public safety employees on duty.


Vacation bidding programs are a helpful way to balance the push and pull of scheduling at your public safety agency. Whether you're in the law enforcement, fire or EMS sphere, you can't afford to have too many employees off-duty at any given time.

On the other hand, you still need a way to ensure that your workforce can take vacations and re-charge. The stress of public safety work can take a toll on personnel who feel like they never get a chance to get away.Bidding for vacation dates enables employees to seek out time off through competition, with preference going to those who have accumulated privileges based on agency policies, such as seniority. These programs can be flexible and beneficial to both agencies and their workforce - provided they are handled in a responsible and thought-filled fashion.

Examples of departments using vacation bidding
The public safety space has ample reason to implement bidding systems for time off, and agencies have made the change. These examples show various facets of this approach in context and demonstrate why public safety leaders may want to adopt it instead of more straightforward time-off selections seen in other industries.

Overtime control in New York
A police department in Guilderland, New York, near Albany, implemented vacation bidding as part of an overtime-cutting effort, according to the Times Union. The source delved into the budget of the department and noted that, faced with excessive overtime costs, leaders turned to vacation bidding. With bidding in place, agencies avoid ending up in situations with too many officers on leave at one time. In these kinds of scenarios, employees have to be kept on duty for longer hours, straining the budget.

The news provider noted that efforts by Guilderland PD to reduce overtime have been largely successful - a 2014 uptick was attributed to officers' need to investigate a serious crime rather than a systemic issue with scheduling. Town supervisor Kenneth Runion told the Times Union that when major, unpredictable events such as extreme weather or major crimes occur, there are spikes in overtime. Beyond these sudden spikes, bidding can have its positive effect.

Reward for TSA officers
The contract secured by Transportation Security Administration screeners in 2012 contains another example, as New Jersey's The Star-Ledger reported at the time. In this case, the program was cited as a perk for senior TSA agents. Employees were eager to secure new benefits in the contract, and a bidding program for vacations helped to ensure that those who stayed with the agency for years would be able to exert more choice when they scheduled time off.

The use of vacation bidding, instead of simply adding more time off to schedules in general, is significant because the TSA, like every public safety agency, has minimum staffing thresholds of agents on duty at a given time. Furthermore, TSA roles becoming busier during times when many people are vacationing. As a result, staffing at prime vacation times may be very high. Being able control minimum staffing efforts and award vacation bids to veteran TSA employees benefits everyone.

The Case for Technology
One thing to keep in mind when implementing a vacation bidding program is whether your department can manage the program effectively. This is where technology can save significant time and ensure fairness.

For example, public safety workforce management software is helping today's agencies save time and guarantee fairness when it comes to vacation bidding programs. With software like this, compliance with union rules and organizational policies are automated so that fairness is ensured. What's more, employees are provided the opportunity to state their vacation preferences well in advance, boosting morale and enabling optimal management of staffing levels during peak vacation seasons. It's a win-win for all concerned.

Learn About Public Safety Workforce Software

Topics: Scheduling

About Orion Communications

As workforce management and data interface experts, Orion Communications is a leading provider of public safety workforce management software.  Orion’s AgencyWeb® software helps agencies simplify complex workforce management processes and reduce labor cost. Orion has been serving the public safety industry since 1998 and is a certified women-owned business headquartered in Dallas, Texas.

For more information, please contact Jackie Belasky at 214-361-1203, #2413 or jbelasky@orioncom.com.