Oct 02, 2017

Combatting Unpredictability: How Hotels Can Comply with Fair Scheduling Laws and Drive Employee Engagement in the Process

For hospitality organizations, sporadic demand is inevitable – it’s for this reason that many hotels have difficulty transitioning to fair scheduling laws.

Last month, Oregon passed Senate Bill 828 (the “Fair Work Week” law). The law requires hospitality, food service, and retail employers to comply with a number of requirements relating to hourly employee scheduling. Specifically, Oregon employers with 500 or more employees worldwide will now need to inform employees of their schedules one week in advance (and two weeks in advance after 2020). While this law is specific to companies in Oregon, a number of cities including New York City and Washington D.C. have implemented similar scheduling laws (indicating it’s likely that this trend will catch on across the United States).

The four main requirements from the law that hoteliers should know are:

  • Beginning in July 2018, employers must provide employees’ work schedules at least one week in advance. After July 2020, that will move up to two weeks in advance.
  • Upon hire, new employees must receive a “good faith estimate” of their work schedules, including average hours per week and an explanation of on-call scheduling expectations.
  • Only employees that elect to be on a voluntary standby list will be asked to work additional hours under late notice.
  • Employers must provide an adequate amount of rest periods between employee shifts (with the number of rest periods depending on the number of hours worked).

Though hotels have time to prepare before the law goes into effect next July, banning on-call scheduling will have a significant impact on many companies. For hotels, jobs directly based on customer demand—such as housekeeping, food and catering services, and front desk agents—will likely be most affected by these laws. Of course, it will also impact managers, as they will now need to devote a significant amount of time to demand tracking and analysis in order to keep their hotels adequately-staffed throughout the year.

While these new laws may take some time to get used to, adherence is not impossible. Here are three strategies hoteliers can use to adjust to scheduling laws and better engage their workforce in the process:

  • Provide employee self-service scheduling: Hoteliers should consider implementing digital workplace solutions in order to maintain and prove compliance and avoid legal issues. Digital scheduling platforms provide self-service scheduling features that ensure schedules are released with ample notice, allow employees to approve or decline to pick up additional shifts, record an employee’s closing and opening shifts, and send reminders for employees to take breaks. Not only will this help hotel owners comply with the laws, but it will also promote a healthy work-life balance for employees.
  • Perform comprehensive demand analysis and deploy agile training to fill gaps: While hoteliers can turn to their past records to track demand trends from previous years, last-minute events and bookings can turn establishments on their head. As a result, hotel owners will be challenged to avoid understaffing (or overstaffing) under schedule predictability law. To keep up with these changes, hotels will need to change the way they predict customer demand cycles and schedule employees by conducting more comprehensive analyses of customer demand at least three weeks in advance. In addition, training employees in a variety of areas can help fill last-minute gaps with individuals that were already scheduled to work, as they can bounce between different roles when they receive agile training.
  • Ensure efficient communication to schedule voluntary standby employees: Leveraging the list of voluntary standby employees allowed by the law can help managers fill last-minute positions without sacrificing engagement. When demand spikes, employers will need an efficient form of communication in order to contact all standby employees looking for extra hours and fill the shift as quickly as possible. Rather than emailing or even individually calling these employees, hoteliers will need to deploy mobile communication platforms to reach all standby employees at the same time. This clear communication channel and top-down visibility will help hotels avoid overstaffing or understaffing and meet customer needs as they fluctuate.

While change is never easy, especially for hotel owners with firmly-established scheduling processes, a number of benefits can result from this law if employers react in the proper manner. Predictable schedules will likely draw applicants to the hotel industry, which could help address its current labor shortages. In addition, parts of the law can help employers gain their employees’ trust by providing them with consistent schedules and a better work-life balance. In all, the concept of giving employees advance notice of when they’re working, allowing them to pick up shifts as needed, and mandating rest between shifts can help drive engaged workplace – it’s only a matter of whether hotel owners choose to proactively respond to these requirements with the right technology and mindset.

Mike Zorn / Hotel-Online

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