On-call scheduling in industries like hospitality and retail can make 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 challenges, many cities are adopting predictive scheduling laws that require employers to notify employees of their work schedules.
Here’s what you need to know about predictive scheduling, the law, and how to implement a program that benefits your employees and your business.
Predictive scheduling is when employers provide employees with their schedules in advance. Predictive scheduling can help employees estimate their expected weekly or monthly pay and enjoy a better work-life balance. This scheduling technique can significantly benefit the following workers:
Predictive scheduling is largely a response to the challenges associated with on-call scheduling. This workforce management method avails hourly workers when needed to accommodate influxes of customers at irregular times. On-call scheduling gives business owners flexibility, but it comes 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.
Any employee who has experienced an unpredictable work schedule knows how challenging it can be. Without stable pay or a structured work-life balance, employees often can’t schedule crucial responsibilities like child care or medical appointments.
Predictive scheduling legislation seeks to ameliorate these challenges by giving employees a window into their upcoming work schedule. Some of these laws ban on-call scheduling altogether and require employers to give employees their schedules a week or two in advance. Others require that employers offer 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,” explained Steven Power, president of CommentSold and former president of RollKall Technologies. “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.”
Editor’s note: Looking for the right time and attendance software for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.
Adopting a predictive scheduling policy goes beyond compliance and can even benefit employers. For example, an effective predictive scheduling program helps employers attract and retain top talent while reducing turnover and new-hire training costs.
“More predictable scheduling can also lead to happier, more engaged employees,” advised 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.
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 business regulations. Failure to do so could lead to financial penalties and lawsuits.
Currently, Oregon is the only state with statewide predictive scheduling laws. Oregon employees have the right to a 14-day scheduling notice, good-faith scheduling estimates upon hiring, and to refuse shifts scheduled within 10 hours of each other (or accept time-and-a-half payment). These rules apply to companies with at least 500 employees operating in the hospitality, food service and retail industries.
Besides Oregon, eight cities have enacted predictive scheduling laws:
This is not a definitive list of predictive scheduling laws. These laws and requirements are subject to change. Consult an attorney or check with your city or state for comprehensive predictive scheduling law requirements.
A few states don’t allow predictive scheduling; they prohibit their local governments from passing predictive scheduling laws.
The following states that currently prohibit predictive scheduling:
Remember that predictive work schedule laws change frequently; the guidelines within these states may eventually change.
Predictive scheduling laws target businesses in industries where:
Predictive scheduling laws also focus on industries that reserve a portion of their hourly employees for activity fluctuations. Examples include the following:
You can follow several best practices to successfully implement predictive scheduling in your workplace.
The first step to implementing a predictive scheduling policy is auditing your locations. Employment laws vary by jurisdiction, so you may need to follow various guidelines, especially if you have multiple business locations. A one-size-fits-all policy will likely not work here, since each location will have different needs. Once you audit your locations, you can create localized policies to accommodate their needs.
Understanding what predictive scheduling laws govern your business is critical to implementing a legally compliant policy. Additionally, you must be aware of laws unique to your industry. You may want to perform a competitive analysis to see what type of scheduling policies your competition has.
Implementing a predictive scheduling policy could pose unique challenges at first. However, with the help of careful planning and rapidly developing software, including machine learning algorithms, many employers will likely find it easier than they initially thought to carry out such a policy.
“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,” Power explained.
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 scheduling changes to your workforce, and train them on using any automated systems you might implement to support it. As with any significant changes to business processes, communication is vital. Transparency can help ease your staff through any changes and reduce the obstacles you encounter while adapting to the new system.
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 an excellent opportunity to plan and streamline processes in a way that benefits your entire organization. Stay current on local regulations to ensure your company complies with the often-changing predictive scheduling legal landscape.
Natalie Hamingson contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.