HR Insights
Quick Read
May 7, 2019

What retailers need to know about predictive scheduling laws

Retail and hospitality workforces are evolving, and not complying with employee scheduling laws can cost organizations more than heavy penalties and fines. Here are some ways scheduling impacts employee engagement, and suggestions for managing the process better.

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In the last few decades, “just-in-time” scheduling has been one of the most prevalent labor trends in the retail and hospitality industries. This form of scheduling involves giving associates a tentative work schedule and then cancelling shifts or asking associates to come in to work or leave early depending on the amount of work available.

This scheduling practice provides workers with little notice upon cancelling a shift and can lead to income instability. The implications of unpredictable scheduling may also take a toll on employees’ health. An Economic Policy Institute report states that 26% of employees with irregular and on-call schedules experience frequent work-family conflict and have higher stress levels on the job, impacting performance and productivity.

In recent years, however, legislation around these scheduling practices has tightened as newly enacted laws are providing low-wage associates with more predictable schedules and pay. As lawmakers continue to crack down on scheduling practices, it’s crucial that employers not only remain compliant to avoid the risk of crippling penalties and fines, but to help ensure better work-life balance, which may in turn improve the productivity of associates.

Download our guide to learn more about managing the top compliance challenges in the retail and hospitality industries

Predictable scheduling and fair workweek laws

In response to the growing concern of unstable work hours, many cities have started to pass employee scheduling laws. These laws, also known as fair scheduling or predictive scheduling laws, address a wide range of concerns faced by employees, such as predictable hours, premium pay for schedule changes, so-called “clopening” shifts, adequate rest time, and additional hours for part-time workers.

These policies and regulations vary by jurisdiction, but many of them share common themes, such as:

  1. Providing advance notice of schedules: Some states and cities require employers to provide associates’ schedules within a set timeframe, anywhere from three to 14 days in advance. In some of these same localities, shifts canceled or modified with less than 72 hours’ notice require the employee to be paid a premium.
  2. Offering flexible options: Requiring employers and employees to have conversations about temporary or permanent schedule changes. Employees may also have the right to request schedule preferences.
  3. Fairly allocating hours: Providing a transparent, non-preferential approach to assigning work or hours, for example, based on seniority. Managers often must also offer additional hours to existing employees before hiring new staff.
  4. Allowing minimum rest periods: Many scheduling laws require a minimum amount of rest time between shifts. Rest periods are designed to help employees with the effort-recovery process, which is the time needed for rest in between shifts to perform effectively. These same laws may also require the employer to provide premium pay if employees are scheduled to work during rest periods.

    Whether paid or unpaid, providing minimum rest periods can help employees avoid burnout from working “clopening” shifts that are too close together.

The hidden costs of non-compliance

Failing to heed scheduling laws may put some employers at risk of financial penalties. Additionally, if employers fail to adhere to predictive scheduling laws, employees in some jurisdictions can file private civil actions for damages and legal fees. Employers that comply with scheduling laws should nevertheless also work to reduce the likelihood of needing to pay scheduling premiums in some jurisdictions.

Fines and premium payments aren’t the only price employers pay for non-compliance and poor scheduling practices. Physical exhaustion and strenuous work pace may lead to significantly lower employee productivity, and potentially more stress and work-family conflict.  Low productivity and absenteeism are both hidden non-monetary costs employers may have to pay on top of possible fines and penalties that may be incurred.

Related: How to improve your hourly associates’ work-life balance with better scheduling

Reassessing your scheduling practices

With the ever-evolving regulatory landscape and increasing employee expectations, it’s important now more than ever to assess the implications of adding, cutting, or switching shifts, providing advance notice of schedules, allocating hours fairly, and allowing for rest periods.

Adhering to changing scheduling compliance laws and providing your associates with the power to take control of their own schedules can mitigate risk, both from a compliance and employee experience standpoint.

Download the guide, Managing regulatory compliance in retail and hospitality, to learn more about effectively managing compliance across scheduling, benefits, and payroll.

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