Hourly employees (especially those in the retail and restaurant industries) are often faced with a number of struggles that come with on-call scheduling. From anticipating pay to determining the number of hours they are likely to work each week, it can be difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

However, change is in the air. Many cities are implementing predictive scheduling laws that require employers to give employees advance notice of their work schedules. The purpose of the laws is to give hourly employees a “good faith” estimate of their workweeks, but it’s understandable that it can bring up some challenges for business owners. 

Here is a breakdown of what exactly predictive scheduling is, why it’s important and what kind of scheduling practices you can implement to not only help your employees, but increase the efficiency of your business. 

What is predictive scheduling?

Predictive scheduling is when an employer provides posted schedules to employees in advance. The practice benefits both part-time employees who have fluctuating schedules and full-time employees who work at an hourly rate because they can better estimate how much money they’re going to make in a given workweek and maintain a more predictable lifestyle. 

The trend of predictive scheduling is highlighted by several studies that learned just how much of an impact on-call shifts and just-in-time scheduling practices have on employees, including one by The Shift Project at UC Berkeley. 

Researchers surveyed food service and retail workers and asked them questions surrounding their work schedules, economic security, and health and wellbeing. The data revealed that “routine uncertainty about when and how much an individual will work from day to day and week to week could lead to feelings of distress,” according to a press release on the study

The research team cited short notice and lack of control as factors that cause distress. 

“Workers who receive less than one week’s advance notice of their work schedules are more distressed than those with two or more weeks’ notice, and workers exposed to cancelled shifts, on-call shifts, and clopening shifts [when an employee closes on a late shift and then works an opening shift early the next morning] are significantly more likely to experience psychological distress,” the researchers said. 

The study went on to suggest that employers eliminate clopening shifts and requiring 72 hours of advance notice would reduce the psychological distress of employees by nearly 5 percentage points. 

What are the laws about predictive scheduling? 

Many cities and states have implemented predictive scheduling laws and regulations in the past few years. For example, San Francisco employers are required to provide a schedule at least two weeks in advance to employees, and a New York City law requires employers to provide schedules at least 72 hours before any shift. 

Seattle also requires employers to provide schedules two weeks in advance, and employers are also required to provide compensation for schedule changes after the schedule has been posted. 

Chicago recently signed into law one of the most expansive predictive scheduling laws in the nation. The Fair Workweek Ordinance follows the lead of other cities’ regulations by requiring two weeks’ advance notice and extra pay for last-minute schedule changes. However, it’s the first ordinance in the U.S. to include health care workers. 

States that have adopted predictive scheduling laws include New York, Oregon, California, Washington and Illinois. It’s important to research your municipality and make sure you’re staying compliant with the scheduling laws in either your state or city. 

How can I prepare for predictive scheduling laws?

While regulations around predictive scheduling obviously benefit employees by reducing stress, they can bring about added stress to employers due to lower flexibility and potentially higher labor costs. 

The first step to preparing for predictive scheduling laws is to figure out if they apply to your business. Consult a lawyer for advice on how to comply with any regulations in your municipality and get advice on if you could be impacted.If the laws do in fact apply to your business, it’s important to ensure your policies are up to date and in sync with the mandates.

It doesn’t have to be difficult to establish a routine program that not only gives employees adequate notice, but also is easy and efficient enough for managers and business owners to maintain. 

The number one solution for getting into the groove of predictive scheduling is to adopt a scheduling software that does the hard work for you. For example, Homebase’s free scheduling app allows you to create and publish a work schedule in just a few minutes, and if you keep the same schedule week to week, you can easily copy it over or even schedule weeks in advance. Plus, your employees will be alerted by the app as soon as you publish the schedule to ensure they get it as quickly as possible.

You should also document everything and keep the documentation for two to four years to protect you in case a lawsuit should arise. Luckily, our app can help out with that since it keeps track of the date you sent out your schedules.

Make sure to also train your managers promptly on both the new laws and your new scheduling software to ensure everyone is following protocol.

Using an automated solution takes the time and stress out of predictive scheduling for both you and your managers. Consider tossing the spreadsheets to increase the happiness of your employees and potentially prevent falling out of compliance. 

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