Schedule Basics

Create a basic on-call schedule and learn foundational concepts for more complex schedules

On-call schedules are used to map out your coverage needs, and determine who will be notified when an incident is triggered. Only one user per schedule can be on-call at a time, and when an incident is impacting a service, notifications are sent to that user on the service's associated escalation policy.

Create a Schedule

Basic schedules are most often comprised of a single layer that allows you to add users to a schedule on a daily or weekly rotation. You can use layers to clearly organize shifts visually, so that you can tell at-a-glance what days and hours a shift covers. A schedule layer is the foundation for more complex schedules that you can tailor to your team’s needs.

To create a new schedule layer:

Navigate to People, select On-Call Schedules and click New On-Call Schedule. Enter an On-call schedule name and an optional Description. The schedule's Time Zone will be set to the account-level time zone by default. You may change the time zone of the schedule here if desired. Next, follow the instructions in the Step 1: Add Users section below.


Required User Permissions

The following roles can create/edit/delete on-call schedules:

  • User roles
  • Admin roles
  • Manager base roles and team roles. Manager team roles can only manage schedules associated with their team.
  • Global Admin base roles
  • Account Owner base roles

If you're not sure what role you have, or if you need your permissions adjusted, visit our sections on Checking Your User Role or Changing User Roles.

Note: Free plans are limited to one schedule.



Any changes to the schedule apply to present and future dates or times only. Edits will not apply to schedules retroactively. If you want to revert a schedule to a previous state, it is recommended that you refer instead to this article.

Step 1: Add Users

In the first section of the schedule you can add or delete users from your schedule as needed. Users will move through the rotation in the top-to-bottom order they are listed in. If they are in the wrong rotation order, you can also drag and drop users into a different order.


Required User Permissions

All users, with the exception of Limited and Full Stakeholders, can be added to schedules.

If you're not sure what role you have, or if you need your permissions adjusted, visit our sections on Checking Your User Role or Changing User Roles.

Step 2: Set up an on-call rotation

In this step you will set a Rotation type and a Handoff time, and you will have the option to Restrict on-call shifts to specific times:

Rotation type

Rotation Types determine how frequently the shifts on a layer rotate to the next user. Select your preferred Rotation type: daily, weekly, or custom.

If the rotation type is Custom, enter the Shift Length and select hours, days, or weeks.

Refer to the Final Schedule section at the bottom of the page for a preview of what the schedule will look like after saving.

By default, a user will be on-call for the entire length of time determined by the Rotation Type. If you'd only like them to be on-call for for specific times during the day or week (i.e. after hours), please see our section on schedule restrictions.

Handoff time

The handoff time is the date and time when the user's on-call duties are handed off to the next user in the rotation for that layer. This time will be reflected in Step 3 as the Start time for this layer (when creating new schedules) or Changes should take effect at time (when editing existing schedules).

Restrict on-call shifts to specific times (optional)

Clicking this checkbox will allow you to create shifts for only a few hours every day or specific days and times of the week.

If you restrict these to times-of-the-day, users will only be on call during the specified times every day (9am-5pm in the example below).

If you restrict these to times-of-the-week, users will only be on call during the specified times on the selected days of the week (9am-5pm on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the example below).

Please visit our section on Schedule Restrictions to learn more about common use cases for this feature.

Step 3: Start time for this layer

In the Start time for this layer section (when creating new schedules) or Changes should take effect at section (when editing existing schedules), set the date for when you would like the rotation specified in the schedule to start. The time will be set automatically by the Handoff time that you set in Step 2 (above).

  1. Check the Final Schedule section to ensure your shifts are correctly laid out. Click Create schedule (when creating a new schedule) or Save changes (when editing an existing schedule).

Step 4: Connect Schedule to a Service via Escalation Policy

A schedule is intended to be connected to service via an escalation policy so users on-call can be notified about incidents on that service. If you do not add your schedule to an escalation policy, incident notifications will not be sent to users on-call in your schedule.

Assigning a Team via Escalation Policy

Schedules are also designed to be associated with teams by virtue of the escalation policies they are in. If you would like to assign a team to your schedule, add your schedule to an escalation policy and then add that escalation policy to your team.

This being said, it is true that you can attach a team to a schedule when creating the schedule but not while editing it. This is to accommodate the following use case:

With advanced permissions, some users are only allowed to edit their team's objects (schedules, services, escalation policies). If one of these users wishes to create a new schedule and put it inside their team's escalation policy, they can only do so if that schedule is assigned to their team.

Optional Schedule Components

Schedule Restrictions

PagerDuty's calendar will automatically distribute on-call shifts continuously (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) between users on a layer based on the rotation type and the selected starting point. Adding restrictions to a layer creates limitations on the times or days to which the schedule applies.

This functionality allows you to achieve two common use cases:

Creating Schedule Gaps

Restrictions allow you to create gaps in coverage where no one is on call. This feature is most commonly used for coverage after business hours. If no one is on-call at a certain escalation level, the incident will immediately escalate to the next level of the escalation policy. If no one is on-call on the entire escalation policy, an incident will not be created.

If you try to create a new incident in the web UI on a service where no one is on-call, you will get an error message that the Incident cannot be created. Any trigger events sent to an integration where no one is on-call will not trigger an incident.



If you want an incident to be created, but do not want anyone to be notified, or if you do not want any notification noise for an incident, this can be accomplished by setting up support hours on your service using low-urgency Notification Rules.

When setting up gaps in an after-hours schedule, special attention must be paid to setting the schedule starting point. In the example below, the schedule must cover Friday at 17:00 through Monday at 09:00, and 17:00 until 09:00 the rest of the week. In this case, Friday at 17:00 is a good starting point.

To create schedule gaps:

  1. Go to People On-Call Schedules.
  2. Click the schedule to edit and click Edit this Schedule.
  3. Select the Rotation type from the drop-down menu.
  4. Click on the Restrict on-call shifts to specific times checkbox.
  5. Select Restrict on-call duty to specific times-of-the-week.
  6. Select the correct days and start times from the drop-down menu.
  1. Click Apply to save.

The completed weekly schedule has gaps (meaning that nobody is on-call) from 09:00 to 17:00 Monday through Friday.

Create Restrictions For On-Call Shift Duration

If you would like to limit the amount of time a user is on-call, instead of having a continuous 24/7 distribution between users, you will need to set up restrictions for the on-call duty duration.

To create restrictions for on-call duty duration:

  1. Go to the People On-Call Schedules.
  2. Click on the schedule to edit, then Edit this Schedule.
  3. Select the Restrict on-call shifts to specific times checkbox to limit on-call duty to specific hours in the day.
  4. Select Restrict on-call duty to specific times-of-the-day or Restrict on-call duty to specific times-of-the-week.
  5. Set the from and to time and, if necessary, the day of the week, to restrict the on-call schedule to only apply during that time.

In the example below, we restricted the on-call user to be on call from 19:00-07:00 every weekday.



Restricting on-call duty to specific dates and times creates gaps in schedule coverage. These gaps can remain unfilled, as with after-hours schedules. The gaps can also be filled with other layers, as in follow-the-sun or weekend/weekday schedules. Once the restrictions are set, the final schedule will show that the user is only on call from 19:00-07:00 every weekday. No one is on call from 07:00-19:00 or at any time during the weekend unless a second layer is created.

Schedule Layers

A schedule layer is comprised of a group of people who will rotate on-call responsibilities through the same shift. In a basic weekly schedule, you create a single layer where each member is on-call for one week, with a set day and time for transferring on-call responsibility.

PagerDuty’s calendar enables you to create multiple layers for one schedule. This feature can be useful for international companies wishing to create a follow-the-sun schedule, where each time zone can be grouped as a layer.

In cases when one schedule has multiple layers, the last layer created (the bottom layer on the schedule creation page) has precedence over the previous layer. This is illustrated in the example below.

Layers are also very commonly used for different weekday and weekend rotations. The example below has three separate layers. Layer 1 and Layer 2 have been shown as a weekday rotation and the bottom layer (Layer 3) is shown as a weekend rotation.

End-Dating a Schedule Layer

If you would like to permanently delete a specific layer within an on-call schedule, you can set the end-date for that layer as today’s date with time set to whatever time you want that layer to end.

To end-date a schedule layer:

  1. Go to People On-Call Schedules, then click on the schedule you want to edit.
  2. Click Edit this Schedule.
  3. Click X on the top right corner of the schedule layer you want to delete.
  1. In the Schedule Layer Removal screen that appears, enter a date and time that you want to remove the schedule layer and click Remove Layer.
  1. Click Save Changes.
  2. If you create an end-date for a schedule layer, you can return to the schedule and either undo or edit the end-date. Click to edit the on-call schedule so that you can edit or undo the end-date.

Updated 17 days ago

Schedule Basics

Create a basic on-call schedule and learn foundational concepts for more complex schedules

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