Maintaining inconsistent employee work schedules is not limited to retail and service industry employers. Fluctuating schedules that change from week to week – or even month to month – gives employers the ability to have more accurate schedules.
A similar system is using on-call shifts where employees are on standby and report to work as needed. Typically, this type of shift scheduling requires employees contact employers within 24 hours of designated shift times. For employers, this offers greater staffing flexibility.
However, critics are gaining steam with the argument that such practices bring unstable work schedules to employees. They argue that this type of scheduling prevents employees from steady work and income. Jeopardizing their eligibility for benefits adds to uncertainty.
To be available, employees must secure transportation and childcare for shifts they may never work. The ultimate goal is to end on-call shifts completely and replace it with the practice of predictive scheduling.
What is Predictive Scheduling?
As the name implies, this type of scheduling is setting predictable work hours for employees without considerable changes from week to week.
At a minimum, employers will give employees more notice of schedules weekly. This, in turn, allows employees to adapt and have more stability in their pay and schedules.
Some parts of the country have already implemented laws requiring employers to give advance notice. If employers fail to do so, they may face penalties such as giving employees extra pay when they do not receive notice within the required timeframe.
Additionally, predictability pay may be required if:
- On-call employees are not called in for a shift
- Changes or reductions to shifts are made after initially scheduled shift notice
Cities Leading the Way for Changes to Employer Requirements
San Francisco, considered the pioneer of predictable schedules, was the first city to pass an ordinance. Employers covered by the law must provide a good faith written estimate to new employees of a minimum number of shifts per month.
In addition, employers must include the days and hours of the shifts for which employees are scheduled. They must receive the schedules two weeks in advance. Managers can post a paper copy of schedules or give employees access to an electronic scheduling system.
Under the law, changes to schedules that provide less than a seven days’ notice mean employers must pay employees 1-4 hours of pay. The amount of notice given and length of the anticipated shift determines how much is paid.
When employees are on-call but never called into work on that particular day, employers must pay for 2-4 hours. This is also based on the amount of notice that was given and the length of the anticipated shift.
Seattle will enact a similar ordinance July 2017. In addition to providing a good faith estimate of median work hours to employees, there are other stipulations in the law that will change the way employers handle workers with irregular schedules.
- Employees can submit schedule preferences to meet outside commitments
- Employers must post work schedules 14 days in advance
- Employers must pay employees one additional hour if hours are added to a previously posted schedule
- Employers must pay for half of a scheduled shift when the employee is sent home early
- Employees must receive half-time pay when they are on-call for a shift but never are called into work
Seattle does include exceptions to these rules:
- Employee requests changes to a work shift
- Employee swaps shift with coworkers
- Employer sends a notice to all employees and employee volunteers to work additional hours
Expect More State and Federal Changes
Other areas across the country are also considering whether these type of laws should become standard on a larger scale. In fact, this is expected to become the next legislative trend to impact the employment sector.
Since 2015, eight other states – Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan and Minnesota have introduced some form of predictable scheduling legislation. Even the United States House and Senate have delved into implementing federal changes.
Many ordinances and federal proposals will include provisions for employees to be entitled to one of more of the following:
- Schedule modification requests as a new or current employee to meet child care, elder care or a serious family illness need
- Change requests to schedules to accommodate job training programs, education classes or a second job
- Predictability pay to compensate employees who are sent home before the end of a scheduled shift
- Compensation for being required to call in availability but not given a work schedule
How to Prepare for Possible Legislation
First, employers should not wait for predictive scheduling to pass in their city or state before updating work scheduling policies. A brief look at changes already in effect offers an outline of what to expect.
While predictable schedules make life easier for employees, employers can also make the changes manageable.
Implementing a workforce management system that incorporates varied work shifts, easy changes to schedules and streamlined communication processes will help employers stay compliant with laws that are changing the employment landscape.