The best employee scheduling software is easy to use and affordable, with compliance solutions and an auto-scheduler to help automate the process. In addition to offering an intuitive schedule builder, it should have mobile apps to help managers save time while providing employees with self-service tools for requesting schedule swaps and viewing work shifts online.
We evaluated 10 providers to find the best employee scheduling software for small businesses and narrowed it down to our top four.
- Homebase: Best (overall) for retail businesses and restaurants that need unlimited free employee shift scheduling
- SocialSchedules: Best for hospitality businesses that are strict with labor law compliance
- 7shifts: Best for larger restaurant operations managing complex employee work shifts
- Deputy: Best for multilocation companies that share employees across job sites
Best Employee Scheduling Software Compared
For one location
For one department/location and up to 10 employees
For one location and up to 30 employees
For US-based users
Paid Plans Monthly Pricing
$24.95–$99.95 per location*
$15.99–$39.99 per location*
$34.99–$76.99 per location*
$3.50–$4.90 per user**
Free Trial for Paid Plans
Built-in Time and Attendance Product
GPS and/or Geolocation Tracking
Live Phone Support
Read Full Review
*Get discounts on yearly billing.
**Deputy requires a minimum monthly spend of $25 per invoice on its paid plans.
Note that all four providers in this guide has the following:
- Free plan
- Shift swapping
- Customizable reporting
- Can message supervisors and co-workers
Give us your number of employees and business locations to compare monthly and annual fees for these providers.
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If you’re still not prepared to use software for scheduling, try our free downloadable employee schedule templates.
Homebase: Best Overall Employee Scheduling Software
Homebase is our top pick for small businesses due to its free scheduling plan for those with one physical business location. It’s great for small retailers and restaurateurs, specifically, because these industries are made up of many hourly workers who have changing schedules that need to be tracked. Given that overtime is also a huge compliance and expense concern if you have an hourly workforce, Homebase can help you manage this with its labor cost and overtime hour forecasting solutions.
Scoring 4.40 out of 5, Homebase’s schedule builder with automated scheduling tools can help you easily create work shifts for an unlimited number of employees. Additionally, it’s the only provider on our list that offers live phone support. Note that it has a bit of a learning curve (mainly because of its many features) and its mobile apps (iOS and Android) can be glitchy at times. However, users find the schedule builder easy to navigate. Several others even commended its responsive support team.
Aside from employee scheduling, Homebase has solid time tracking functionalities with an offline mode that captures clock-ins/outs even when the Wi-Fi connection is down. It even topped our list of best time and attendance software for small businesses.
Homebase Standout Features
- Unlimited scheduling: Unlike the other software in this list, Homebase doesn’t charge per employee nor does its pricing options have schedule and staff limits. You can create as many work shifts as you want for as many employees as you have. Further, if you grow your workforce, you don’t need to worry about paying extra for additional user seats—provided your employees all work in the same business location.
- Feature-rich free tier: Homebase ranked the highest in this guide and in our free employee scheduling software guide due to its Basic plan that comes with a comprehensive set of free-to-use online tools. Aside from time tracking and scheduling, it includes hiring, job posting, onboarding, and team messaging solutions. Note the other software in this list doesn’t have hiring and onboarding tools.
- Robust labor and schedule reporting: In addition to its drag-and-drop online scheduler builder, shift swaps requests, auto-scheduler tool, automated alerts, and mobile apps, Homebase has a wide range of customizable reports that can help you gain insight into work shifts, labor expenses and percentages, attendance-related performance, and sales (if synced with a POS). This is unlike Deputy, which offers robust labor cost reporting tools but only as part of its highest tier.
- Compliance tools: With Homebase, you automatically get the standard breaks and overtime settings for the state where your business operates. The software also captures and stores schedule edit histories, including previously run timesheets and reports, for either 90 days or four years (Deputy and 7shifts don’t offer long-term cloud storage for these). This makes it easy for you to comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and recordkeeping requirements.
SocialSchedules: Best for Hospitality Businesses Requiring Strict Labor Law Compliance
SocialSchedules (formerly OpenSimSim) is an employee scheduling software with tools designed to reduce compliance risks for hospitality-based businesses with multiple departments and locations. Scoring 4.21 out of 5 stars, it allows you to create compliance rules that will guide your scheduling options and help you avoid penalties. It even sends notifications and mobile alerts for overtime and breaks that don’t comply with state and local labor laws.
Like Homebase, its free tier includes employee scheduling and allows you to post open shifts and get time off and shift replacement requests via its mobile app (iOS and Android). While it can handle multilocation and unlimited employee scheduling, including overtime reporting, you have to subscribe to its paid plans to access these functionalities.
SocialSchedules also doesn’t have phone support—you only get a dedicated support contact if you purchase its highest tier. Nonetheless, users rated its customer service favorably, wherein they commended its support team’s responsiveness and professionalism. Many others also like its intuitive interface and user-friendly tools. It is also the only provider on our list that doesn’t offer a free trial with its paid plans.
SocialSchedules Standout Features
- Smart shift management: Unlike the other software in this list, SocialSchedules lets your employees drop shifts (along with requesting shift swaps) if they need to. However, your managers can lock important workdays to prevent schedules from being swapped and dropped.
- Strong labor laws compliance: SocialSchedules has more robust compliance features than most of the software in this list. It automatically allocates paid/unpaid breaks based on actual worked hours, applies penalties for missed meal breaks, and stops the send-outs of schedules with compliance breaches. It also provides cloud storage for edit histories and reports for up to seven years (compared to four years for Homebase). You can even add certification-related scheduling and time-tracking rules, enabling you to enforce work shifts that require employees with specific certifications.
- Multiple employee availability sets: SocialSchedules allows your employees to create multiple availability sets that show when they are available and unavailable to work. Each set contains start and end dates and can be repeated on a weekly or biweekly basis.
- Certification management: SocialSchedules is the only scheduling solution on our list that offers a certification management module. While available only in its higher tiers, this helps you track the training sessions that employees need to attend and the expiration dates of certification programs (if applicable).
- Restaurant-specific recruitment network: Unlike Homebase, which lets you post open jobs to partner job sites, SocialSchedules has its own talent pool that consists primarily of restaurant staff. It uses AI to help you find and hire employees whose skills and availability match your staffing requirements.
7shifts: Best for Larger Restaurant Operations With Complex Staff Schedules
7shifts is a cloud-based scheduling software created specifically for restaurants. Scoring 4.07 out of 5 stars, we recommend it for restaurants with large operations in multiple locations that have complex scheduling needs. Aside from its easy-to-use drag-and-drop schedule builder and restaurant-friendly time tracking tools, 7shifts offers robust reporting that allows you to see how all of your business locations are performing in terms of sales, labor costs, and employee management.
However, it doesn’t offer phone support and even if you upgrade to a paid tier, you only get email and live chat support. While it has an auto-scheduler, like Homebase, and can integrate with a wide range of payroll and POS systems, you have to subscribe to its higher tiers in order to access these functionalities.
7shifts Standout Features
- Smart employee scheduling: Included in 7shifts’s Gourmet tier, its machine-learning employee scheduling tool automatically creates work shifts based on your restaurant’s workforce demands, labor cost and sales forecasts, and overtime compliance requirements, including your employees’ skills, schedule availability, and approved PTO. Only Deputy offers a comparable auto-scheduling feature.
- Restaurant-friendly tools: In addition to tip reporting, 7shifts has real-time labor reports and restaurant performance dashboards that provide a birds-eye view of your entire business operations (via the Enterprise Dashboard), including how all the restaurants are performing and which locations may need extra attention (through the Location Overview). Other software in this list either don’t have this type of reporting or the restaurant-specific reports aren’t as extensive.
- Efficient task management: While this feature is a paid add-on, it can help improve employee productivity since this lets you add work tasks that your staff needs to do during a shift. You can create recurring and one-time tasks, set completion timelines, schedule when these will appear for applicable employees, and track who completed the tasks. Homebase and SocialSchedules only let you add reminders to shifts, while the rest of the software in this article provides limited task management controls.
- Robust POS integrations: Compared to Homebase and SocialSchedules (which have up to 10 partner POS systems), 7shifts integrates with more than 20 POS solutions like Aloha, Micros, Dinerware, Square POS, Revel, POSitouch, Squirrel Systems, and Heartland Restaurant POS.
- Compliance tools: Along with audit logs, automated alerts, break and overtime settings, and early clock-in prevention, 7shifts can also help you to avoid assigning “clopen” shifts (Homebase and SocialSchedules don’t have this feature). This ensures that employees get ample rest between schedules instead of working a closing shift and then an opening shift immediately the following day.
Deputy: Best for Multilocation Businesses That Schedule Staff Across Work Sites
Deputy is a great scheduling option for businesses with shared hourly and shift workers across multiple locations. Scoring 3.98 out of 5 stars, you can either manually create shifts that assign employees to different work sites and departments or use its AI-powered scheduler to build demand-based and labor-optimized work shifts. Further, if your employees request swap shifts online, the system automatically transfers their department and worksite data after the requests have been approved.
While it has efficient scheduling tools that are easy to learn and use, it doesn’t offer a comprehensive free tier (unlike most of the software in this list) and its paid plans require a minimum monthly spend of $25 per invoice. You may also have to deal with the occasional mobile app glitches (iOS and Android), login errors, and integration issues. However, many users still find its system convenient to use with plans that are reasonably priced.
Deputy Standout Features
- Affordable employee scheduling: For businesses that only need scheduling tools, Deputy offers an affordable solution for creating, managing, and sharing employee work shifts through its mobile apps. You can simply drag-and-drop shifts or use its AI-powered scheduler to build demand-based work shifts with a single click.
- Labor compliance tools: Deputy has smart wage and hour compliance tools (although not as robust as those of SocialSchedules) designed to help keep you compliant with labor laws and protect your business from potential risks. Its features include meal and rest breaks settings, fair workweek rules, “clopen” schedule notifications, and compliance alerts.
- Flexible time tracking: In addition to scheduling solutions, you get time clock apps that allow you to track employee attendance and manage your workforce from any mobile device, including the Apple Watch. Its apps for tablets even support touchless clock-ins, enabling your employees to start and end their shifts through facial recognition and voice commands. The other software in this list doesn’t support voice command clock-ins/outs and time tracking through the Apple Watch.
As an alternative (and just trailing our top picks), When I Work is a solid employee scheduling solution for small businesses that provides shift planning and scheduling tools that can be accessed on multiple devices. At a low cost of just $2 per employee monthly, it even provides team messaging, task management, and online document solutions, including a paid time and attendance module that you can add to your plan.
How We Chose the Top Employee Scheduling Software
We checked and compared several employee scheduling solutions that offer reasonably priced plans—some even have free tiers (we gave more consideration to these). We also looked for essential staff scheduling features, such as auto-scheduling, labor forecasting, overtime and break management, reporting, ease of use, and customer support.
After an in-depth evaluation, we recommend Homebase as the best employee scheduling software for small businesses. In addition to free employee scheduling, it has time clocks, time sheets, team communication, hiring, onboarding, and labor compliance tools. It works great for businesses with hourly workers—particularly those in the restaurant, retail, healthcare, home and repair, and professional services industries.
To view our full evaluation criteria for best employee scheduling software, click through the tabs in the box below.
30% of Overall Score
We looked into the free options that most of the software in our list offered. Aside from transparent pricing, preference was given to providers who charge $5 or less per user monthly and allow you to purchase the scheduling system separately from the time and attendance tool. Homebase and SocialSchedules received high scores here, given their transparent pricing, free tiers, and reasonably priced plans. Deputy was also rated favorably for pricing since you can purchase its scheduling solution as a standalone product for a very low price.
25% of Overall Score
We gave high marks to software that supports auto-scheduling, labor forecasting, multi-location scheduling, shift swapping, and overtime, break, and paid time off (PTO) planning. Extra points were also given to those with mobile apps and a self-service portal to check schedules, clock in/out, and communicate with the team. Most of the software in this list received perfect scores except for 7shifts and SocialSchedules, mainly because these providers’ multilocation scheduling feature is available only in higher tiers.
25% of Overall Score
Having an employee scheduling platform that’s intuitive, easy to learn, and simple to set up is a must. We also considered solutions that offer live phone support, new user training, and video tutorials. While most of the software in this list is generally user-friendly with intuitive controls, what pulled the scores down for providers like Deputy and 7Shifts include the lack of live phone support and having a Time and Attendance module that costs extra (others offer this for free).
10% of Overall Score
Aside from having access to standard and pre-built reports, users should be able to customize reports. All providers on our list received a perfect score in this category.
10% of Overall Score
We considered user reviews, including those of our competitors based on a 5-star scale; any option with an average of 4+ stars is ideal. Also, any software with 1,000+ reviews on any third-party site is preferred. All of the software we ranked scored well under popularity.
Consistent scheduling can help small businesses save time and money. You’ll need to consider your budget so that you know what you can afford, the structure of your business (is everyone working in the office or out in the field?), if you need to integrate it with other software, and how flexible you want scheduling to be.
We found that Homebase offers all of the features the average small business owner would need when creating their employees’ schedules. Compared to other providers, it’s easy to use, affordable, and robust—and it has a time clock product and other functionalities that you can add on later. And, it is free to use.