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I don't know how best to describe it, but I do work where I go to various (public and retail) locations and promote various products. I find work through a few different agencies that usually don't place me in the same location for more than a few days in a row

Suddenly I got a few longer term offers for the length of 1 month or more. As such I need to cancel some of shifts I had already said I would do with other agencies. I don't like doing this but right now money is important for me as I'm trying to pay off student loans.

How do I best phrase this in an email?

Hi,

Regarding job x at location y on date z, I'm very sorry but I've become double booked and will no longer be able to attend. If at all helpful, I have contacts that can cover my shift.

A large part of which one's I decided to keep and which one's I cancel on, is based on pay. Should I mention this or not (some did pay bellow standard)?

I would like to keep on good terms with the agencies as possible as I would like to find work with them in the future.

I got two longer term offers from 2 different agencies. Coincidentally the second starts on the same week as the first one ends. So I have to miss a couple shifts if I were to do both. How can I phrase this email asking if this is possible or if they need someone who can do 100% of the shifts?

Hi,

Due to a resent change in my schedule, I was wondering if it's possible someone else can do the shifts for event x on day y and z? Unfortunately I've become double booked. Please let me know before changing > anything and I'll reply back.

Last sentence is important as some of these agencies are quick to jump the gun and I don't want both of them to cancel shifts and be left without any work on these days. Does this email convey the point correctly?

I don't want to say this is contract work as I never signed a contract. As such, it is legal what I'm doing, but again I do feel bad about cancelling on them.

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tl;dr: Keep it short and professional - that's all you can do.


As such I need to cancel some of shifts I had already said I would do with other agencies. [...] How do I best phrase this in an email?

Make it short and to the point: "Due to changing circumstances, I cannot work the shift on X and Y. I have contacts that can cover my shift - feel free to contact me if that would be helpful."

Don't bother explaining why you cannot cover the shift - your employer most likely does not care, they just care that they have to change their schedules. Offering practical help (such as help with finding a replacement) is always a good idea - no matter whether it is accepted or not.

A large part of which one's I decided to keep and which one's I cancel on, is based on pay. Should I mention this or not (some did pay bellow standard)?

No - at least not in the mail noting that you cannot cover the shift. At that point, it does not matter, and at worst it could be seen as extortion tactics ("pay me more, or I'll cancel on short notice"). Everything has its place and time - and the time for discussing pay is when you are negotiating a new assignment, not when you are declining one.

I would like to keep on good terms with the agencies as possible as I would like to find work with them in the future.

By keeping it short and professional, and offering help with finding a replacement, you have done all that you can do. Maybe they will resent you for canceling a job, maybe not - but that's out of your hands, so don't worry about it.


As an aside - I just wanted to correct a common misunderstanding:

I don't want to say this is contract work as I never signed a contract. As such, it is legal what I'm doing, but again I do feel bad about cancelling on them.

Note that (in most jurisdictions) a contract does not need to be in writing. If your boss says "Do this work, we'll pay you X dollars", and you say "OK", you have probably entered into a contract. So strictly speaking you may be in breach of your contract if you cancel a shift. Howver, that has little practical meaning because employers rarely bother to actually sue in such cases - but realize that from a purely legal point, they could do it in some cases (details vary according to specifics and jurisdiction, of course).

  • Related to the aside: in a sense isn't the name 'contractor' misleading because by definition anyone who agrees to do work has entered into a contract (whether written or not)? Anyway my point was I'm sure they're not going to take me to court over cancelling on them. – Bertelem Apr 3 '18 at 8:03
  • @Bertelem: Yes, the name is misleading, but language is like that. It's more precise to use a term like "independent contractor", or "freelancer". And yes, they are unlikely to sue you over that, as I noted. – sleske Apr 3 '18 at 8:09
  • I did this and one of the agencies replied very positively but the other said 'as per our policy can you provide a document proof'. I was unable to find such a policy and these are the one's that pay low. Should I reply asking what they mean or tell them another job pays better and gives more hours? – Bertelem Apr 4 '18 at 3:40
  • @Bertelem: That's up to you :-). If they don't pay well anyway, I probably would not bother. – sleske Apr 10 '18 at 9:58
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Simple state that you need to cancel certain shifts.

Dear Steve, unfortunately I need to cancel these two shifts:

  • blah at blah date
  • blah at blah date

Sorry about this, cheers Bert

it's that simple. Don't mention any whys or wherefores.

Note that when they need to cancel one of your shifts, the only email you get is "Your shift is cancelled."

Same for you to them.

To repeat, mention nothing - absolutely nothing. Just state that you are cancelling some shifts.

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    Sounds like a fantastic way to come across as unreliable (cancels existing commitments seemingly at random) and uncommunicative (never says why). Unless the goal is to get fired this is awful, awful advice. – motosubatsu Apr 20 '18 at 12:11
  • Sure, if you have a slave mentality, go ahead and grub and grovel to the non-entity in HR who handles scheduling. Or, just act like a normal professional worker and state clearly what shifts you can and can't do. Regarding >changing< shifts already organized - it happens continuously from both sides. It's a non-event. – Fattie Apr 20 '18 at 13:20

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