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What You Need to Know About Predictive Scheduling and the Law

Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko

Predictive scheduling offers hourly workers more predictability in their work schedules.

  • Predictive scheduling is when employers provide employees with their work schedules in advance.
  • Oregon and six cities (Emeryville, California; Chicago; New York; Philadelphia; San Francisco; and Seattle) currently have predictive scheduling laws.
  • Businesses in the food service, retail, and hospitality industries, where on-call scheduling is common, are just some of those affected by the new laws.
  • This article is for employers and managers who want to legally implement a predictive scheduling policy.

In the hospitality industry and with retail businesses and quick-service restaurants especially, on-call scheduling has been the norm, making it difficult for employees to anticipate pay, establish a healthy work-life balance or even determine the number of hours they are likely to work each week.

In response to these difficulties, many cities are adopting a new type of law known as predictive scheduling, which requires an employer to notify an employee of their work schedule in advance. While these laws are designed to provide employees with a “good faith” estimate of their upcoming schedule, they pose new challenges for business owners.

Here’s what you need to know about predictive scheduling, the law, and how you can implement a program that benefits both your employees and your business.

What is predictive scheduling?

Predictive scheduling is when an employer provides an employee with their schedule in advance. For employee schedules that frequently fluctuate, part-time employees who do not work full workweeks, or anyone who works for an hourly wage, predictive scheduling can help establish a predictable schedule and help employees better estimate their expected pay for a weekly or monthly period.

Predictive scheduling is largely a response to the challenges associated with on-call scheduling, a workforce management method that availed hourly workers when needed to accommodate influxes of customers at irregular times. On-call scheduling offered business owners flexibility, but at the expense of predictable employee schedules.

In the past few years, predictive scheduling laws and regulations have become more common, especially in industries where part-time jobs and minimum wage positions are prominent.

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How does predictive scheduling impact the employee?

Any employee who has been subject to an unpredictable work schedule knows how difficult it can be. Without any stable pay or a structured work-life balance, employees are often unable to schedule important things around work, such as child care or medical appointments.

Predictive scheduling legislation seeks to ameliorate these challenges by giving employees a window into their upcoming work schedule, either by banning on-call scheduling altogether, requiring employers to give employees their schedules a week or two in advance, or offering compensation for on-call shifts that never materialize.

“[Predictive scheduling] laws give hourly employees fair opportunities and the ability to achieve an unprecedented work-life balance,” said Steven Power, president of RollKall Technologies and former global president of Deputy. “By knowing their schedule beforehand, employees have more control for how to plan their lives. This is especially necessary for workers with family and other ongoing commitments. Predictability leads to employee retention and can be a boon for talent recruitment.”

Key takeaway: Predictive scheduling gives employees their work schedule in advance. It also compensates workers if their scheduled shift changes at the last minute.

Predictive scheduling and the law

Many cities and more than a dozen states have proposed regulations around predictive scheduling or are considering legislation that would create a predictive scheduling policy. As an employer, it is your responsibility to comply with local and state regulations. Failure to do so could lead to financial penalties and lawsuits. [Interested in time and attendance software for your small business? Check out our best picks and reviews.]

States and cities where predictive scheduling laws apply

Currently, Oregon is the only state that has statewide laws regarding predictive scheduling. There, employees have the right to a 14-day scheduling notice, “good faith” scheduling estimates upon hiring, and the right to refuse shifts scheduled within 10 hours of each other (or time-and-a-half payment if accepted). This applies to companies with at least 500 employees operating in the hospitality, food service and retail industries.

Besides Oregon, six cities have enacted predictive scheduling laws, including:

  • Emeryville, California: Employees have the right to a 14-day scheduling notice and compensation for late employee schedule changes. Employers are required to pay employees time and a half if two shifts are scheduled within 11 hours of each other (for every hour within that 11-hour window). This applies to companies operating in retail and fast-food industries, with 20 or more employees locally and 56 or more employees worldwide.

  • Chicago, Illinois: Employees working in healthcare, hotels, manufacturing, building services, retail and food service, earning $26 per hour or less (or less than $50,000 per year) have the right to a 10-day scheduling notice and compensation for late employee schedule changes. This applies to employers with at least 100 employees, nonprofits with more than 250 employees, and restaurants with more than 250 employees and 30 locations.

  • New York City, New York: Fast food companies with 30 or more U.S. locations are required to have good faith scheduling estimates upon hiring new employees, provide a 14-day scheduling notice, immediately notify employees about canceled shifts, and compensate employees for late changes. Retail employers with 20 or more sellers must post schedules at least 72 hours prior to any shift and can’t implement on-call shifts.
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Employees have the right to a 14-day scheduling notice, compensation for late schedule changes, and the right to refuse shifts scheduled within nine hours of each other. (If the worker agrees to work within this nine-hour time period, the employer must obtain their consent in writing and compensate the employee $40 for each shift.) This applies to companies with more than 30 locations and 250 employees.

  • San Francisco, California: Employees have the right to a 14-day scheduling notice and “good faith” scheduling estimates for each month. This applies to retail stores with 40 or more locations worldwide.

  • Seattle, Washington: Employees have the right to a 14-day scheduling notice, “good faith” scheduling estimates for each month, and the right to refuse shifts scheduled within 10 hours of each other (or time-and-a-half payment if accepted). This applies to food-service businesses with at least 500 employees worldwide.

These laws and requirements are subject to change, and therefore should not be taken as a complete list of predictive scheduling laws. Consult with an attorney or check with your city or state for comprehensive predictive scheduling law requirements.

States that have prohibited predictive scheduling

There are a few states that don’t allow predictive scheduling, and they prohibit their local governments from passing predictive scheduling laws.

The states that currently prohibit predictive scheduling are:

  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Iowa
  • Tennessee

It is important to keep in mind that predictive work schedule laws are everchanging, and the guidelines within these states may eventually change.

Key takeaway: Oregon and six cities have predictive scheduling laws that often require employers to provide good-faith scheduling estimates and 14-day advance notice for work schedules.

What industries does predictive scheduling impact?

Predictive scheduling laws target businesses in industries where on-call scheduling is common, where employees are classified as hourly (not salaried), and they receive minimum wage. The law also focuses on those industries that reserve a portion of their hourly employees for fluctuations in activity, such as retail businesses during holiday seasons, restaurants that have anticipated peak hours and seasonal businesses in the hospitality industry. 

Predictive scheduling offers benefits to employers

Adopting a predictive scheduling policy goes beyond compliance, sometimes generating benefits for employers as well. For example, an effective predictive scheduling program helps employers recruit and retain employees, reducing turnover and reducing the costs of training new hires.

“More predictable scheduling can also lead to happier, more engaged employees,” said Atif Siddiqi, founder and CEO of Branch. “Without the added concerns of an unpredictable schedule, employees are less likely to have stress that will impact their work productivity. This can lead to decreased turnover for employers as well, as the cost of replacing an hourly employee is about $2,500.”

While it represents an adjustment to current practices in many cases, predictive scheduling also establishes a routine that helps managers more effectively anticipate and plan for spikes and dips in business activity.

Key takeaway: Retail, hospitality and food service are the industries most impacted by the new laws.

How to implement predictive scheduling

There are several best practices you can follow to successfully implement predictive scheduling in your workplace.

Audit your locations.

The first step to implementing a predictive scheduling policy is auditing your locations. Employment laws vary by jurisdiction, so you may need to follow a variety of different guidelines, especially if you have multiple locations. Creating a one-size-fits-all policy will likely not work here, as each location will have different needs. Once you audit your locations, you can create localized policies to accommodate their needs.

Understand the laws that govern your state and city.

Understanding what predictive scheduling laws govern your business is a critical step to implementing a legally compliant policy. Additionally, you want to read laws that are unique to your industry. It can be beneficial to perform an analysis of your competition to see what type of scheduling policies they have.

Leverage employee scheduling software.

Implementing a predictive scheduling policy could pose unique challenges at first, but with the help of careful planning and rapidly developing software, including machine learning algorithms, many employers might find it easier than they initially thought to carry such a policy out.

“For smaller business owners using manual scheduling processes, the rollout of these laws can cause confusion, which leaves themselves open to risk around noncompliance, and the consequences of rectifying noncompliance can be expensive,” said Power.

For those businesses, Power advised against using manual scheduling processes, instead, business owners should use online employee scheduling software, which can ease the burden of adopting a predictive scheduling policy.

“Most scheduling software has the ability to auto schedule, which ensures that the employer is meeting all of the laws across all locations,” Power said. “The online platform also enables employees to check and change their schedules from anywhere as well as pick up additional shifts if they’re eligible, which gives the employee more power and control over their schedule resulting in an overall happier and more productive workforce.”

Communicate with your workforce.

Communicate the changes to your workforce, and train them on the use of any automated systems you might implement to support it. As it is with any major changes to business processes, communication is key. Transparency can help ease your staff through any changes and reduce the obstacles you encounter while adapting to the new system.

Key takeaway: Implement a predictive scheduling policy that adheres to all relevant city and state laws. Use time and attendance software, and communicate with your workforce.

Predictive scheduling isn’t going away

Developing and adopting a seamless and easy predictive scheduling policy can result in happier employees, reduced turnover costs and a more efficient workflow that still meets the fluctuating needs of your business. Predictive scheduling isn’t going away, but it doesn’t have to be a challenge; in fact, it could be a great opportunity.

Key takeaway: Predictive scheduling offers advantages like reduced turnover and workflow efficiencies.

Additional reporting by Skye Schooley. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Image Credit: AndreaObzerova / Getty Images
Adam Uzialko
Adam Uzialko
Staff Writer
Adam Uzialko is a writer and editor at and Business News Daily. He has 7 years of professional experience with a focus on small businesses and startups. He has covered topics including digital marketing, SEO, business communications, and public policy. He has also written about emerging technologies and their intersection with business, including artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and blockchain.