University College London Planday Customer Case
Planday UCL

‘A logistical nightmare made feasible and simple’: How Planday empowers this COVID testing centre to get the job done

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the key to controlling outbreaks has been an effective test-and-trace program. So as the UK launched a massive testing program for university students in the lead-up to the winter break, UCL (the University College London) looked to Planday to make their day work and help get students home safely. 

Sian Minett

Sian Minett


University College London

“Planday allowed us to let students pick their own shifts within the rota to suit themselves, and to easily define the number of staff we needed, and at which level,”

The University College London

Founded in 1826, UCL is London’s leading multi-disciplinary university, with more than 13,000 staff and 42,000 students from 150 different countries. But as 2020 drew to a close and the UK Government called for mass testing of students before the winter break, how exactly does such a large university quickly and effectively staff a COVID-19 testing clinic

The Planday Blog spoke to Sian Minett – Director, Estates Portfolio and Business Services at UCL – to find out.  

Setting up a vaccine center with Planday

“UCL set up a testing centre as part of the national programme for universities to support students who do not have symptoms to travel over the winter break,” Sian says.  

“The centre initially opened for two weeks to provide students with free, rapid Lateral Flow Tests, opening again after the winter break.” 


Within a week, UCL had found, interviewed and trained around 140 staff for its 22 test booths to meet its 30 November opening date to start testing students. In all, 145 people – including management – use Planday to take the guesswork out of scheduling at the testing centre. 

With many of the staff students themselves, Sian explains UCL needed a sophisticated scheduling tool to handle its 14-hour per day, 7-day-a-week rotas, as well as complex needs like working hour limits for students on a visa

“It was a new team, many of whom are our students, so they needed an easy way to choose shifts so they could continue their studies. Planday allowed us to also monitor students whose visa limited the number of hours they could work,” Sian says. 

A student

The Solution: Planday

Implementing Planday made the scheduling task simple for staff and their managers. 

“Planday allowed us to let students pick their own shifts within the rota to suit themselves, and to easily define the number of staff we needed, and at which level,” Sian says. 

“It helps us fill shifts as a result of last-minute cancellations.” 

Already scheduling hundreds – if not thousands – of shifts, Sian says Planday’s easy-to-use platform helps the centre get the job done and stagger shifts to reduce potential staff exposure. 

“It’s incredibly quick and simple to set up and maintain. We also have a gap in between the shifts so the morning staff do not overlap, except for a small number of test supervisors so they can hand over any issues they have had,” Sian says. 

And by using Planday to connect with payroll systems, management can get a fast and accurate glance at shift costs. 

“We use Planday alongside the systems used by our in-house temp agency which manages our payroll for these staff,” Sian says. 

“The information in Planday about shifts worked makes timesheet reconciliation straightforward. The costing tool is also really helpful – so you can see at a glance how much a shift is costing in staff terms.” 

Two students

Helping out in the Pandemic

Importantly, Planday also lets the large student workforce balance study, work and the realities of staff scheduling in the middle of a pandemic. 

“It is hugely popular with the managers of test centre and has removed a very significant challenge in scheduling new staff for a new centre at very short notice,” Sian says. 

“In fact, on our busiest day we had several staff call in sick. We were immediately able to open up their shifts and fill them within a couple of minutes, meaning we had the right number of staff on site and no disruption in service.” 

Sian says Planday has empowered the UCL COVID-19 testing centre to make their day work. 

“Planday has made a logistical nightmare feasible and simple.” 

As countries and businesses adapt to testing and vaccination for COVID-19, Planday is trusted by some of the biggest and busiest centres in the UK and Europe to take the guesswork out of staff scheduling at the centre. To see how Planday can make your day work, no matter what your COVID test or vaccination centre needs, speak to a specialist today or visit the dedicated COVID-19 staff management resource page. 

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