February 22, 2018

Fair Workweek Laws Are Coming — Are You Ready?

Written by
Danielle Higley

Predictive scheduling laws are the latest sensation sweeping the nation. Many large cities — including New York, Chicago, and Seattle — have already taken the leap, prompting local and state governments all over the country to reexamine shift workers’ rights.

While some states have worked to prevent so-called fair workweek laws from passing, others are in the beginning stages of drafting their own legislation in favor of predictive schedules. It’s feasible that within the next 5–10 years, most states and cities across the US will have their own fair workweek laws on the books.

Should predictive scheduling laws pass in your state, you can expect a lot of changes in how your company conducts business regarding shift scheduling. From when the schedule is posted and the legality of on-call shifts to the scheduling of opening and closing shifts, fair workweek laws require employers to prepare and evolve.

What are the common components of predictive scheduling laws?

Every predictive scheduling law is different. Each has its own amount of give and take. Largely, though, predictive scheduling laws seem to have a few basic components:

  • A set minimum time the schedule needs to be given to employees. In Seattle, employers must post the schedule a minimum of two weeks in advance. In New York City, it’s a minimum 72 hours.
  • Limitations to on-call shifts, and additional compensation for workers who take previously unscheduled shifts. San Francisco requires employers to provide predictability pay to any worker whose schedule is changed with less than seven days’ notice. In New York City, on-call shifts are banned altogether.
  • Permission for workers to decline a shift if the employer has altered the schedule within the required time frame. In Chicago, workers may turn down a shift without fear of retaliation if hours were added to it or subtracted from it, if the shift was moved to another date or time completely, or if a previous shift was canceled.
  • Various rights regarding rest between shifts. In New York City, fast food employers are not allowed to schedule workers for an opening shift directly following a closing shift. In Chicago, employees have a “right to rest,” meaning the employee is fully permitted to decline a shift that falls within the 11-hour time span following their previous shift.

3 ways employers can make the most of predictive scheduling laws

Like many things in life, predictive scheduling laws are a glass-half-empty-glass-half-full situation. On the one hand, they require employers to put a great deal of thought into each schedule.

For instance, without the ability to schedule on-call workers, employers must pay close attention to peak times, slow times, sports events, etc. that might affect customer turnout. Failing to schedule the right number of workers may lead to overstaffing (and thus reduced profits) or understaffing (which may affect profits as well as the company’s reputation for great customer service).

On the other hand, employers can look at predictive scheduling as an opportunity to save money, retain good employees, and acquire a more talented pool of applicants. Here are three ways employers can adapt, and the benefits they could see if they invite change into the workplace.

1. Invest in a better process and save yourself some time.

Schedules take hours to make. A recent survey of 500 US employers found nearly 40 percent of respondents spend three hours or more each week building the schedule. But here’s the kicker: 45 percent of employers are still scheduling shifts using paper. No wonder it’s taking so long!

Scheduling apps and software can help. Such technology is designed to be intuitive, giving employers the option of copying over a previous week’s schedule, sharing schedules instantly via email or mobile app, and notifying employees of upcoming shifts (among other options).

2. Increase employee accountability by releasing the schedule earlier.

While 54 percent of employers already give their employees two weeks’ or more advance notice, 46 percent give one week or less. In response, only 45 percent of employees feel they get enough notice of their schedules from their employers.

These statistics could have something to do with the fact that two-thirds of employers say it’s common for employees to miss shifts. These no-call, no-shows cost employers around $100 a month, or $1,100 a year — an expense that could be reduced when employees receive more advanced notice.

When workers receive their schedules early, they have more time to plan ahead and are less likely to miss work. Sure, there’s always going to be that occasional emergency, but missing work on account of not knowing a shift is scheduled would no longer an acceptable excuse.

3. Give employees a better work-life balance, and see if more qualified applicants apply.

Retail and food service are the two industries most impacted by fair workweek laws. In the past, applicants faced little competition, due to the industry’s lower wages and less predictable hours. Now that service industry workers have more control over their work schedules, however, employers will likely see an increase in skilled applicants.

Predictive scheduling laws are here to stay

Like them or not, predictive scheduling laws are here to stay. Even if they haven’t reached your state yet, chances are good you’ll have to accommodate them sooner or later. Employers can get a jump on such legislation by investing in scheduling technology now and releasing schedules at least two weeks in advance to give workers more time to prepare.

For more information on the fair workweek movement, check out FairWorkweek.org, or visit the United States Department of Labor page on flexible schedules for additional resources and articles.

Danielle Higley is a copywriter for TSheets by QuickBooks, a time tracking and scheduling solution. She has a BA in English literature and has spent her career writing and editing marketing materials for small businesses. Last year, she started an editorial consulting company.