Oct 16, 2017

Gauging the Impact of Schedule Consistency Laws

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown recently signed a new scheduling law that requires retail, restaurant, and hospitality companies with 100+ workers to provide an estimated work schedule of hours and on-call shifts at the time of hire.

Schedule predictability requirements for hourly workers are starting to become commonplace; will employers change their recruiting and hiring processes as a result, and can we expect any push-back from these kinds of employers?

Mike Zorn, vice president of Workplace Strategy at hourly employee engagement and scheduling suite WorkJam, offers insight into what these companies will need to do moving forward under these laws. (The company is based in Montreal with its U.S. headquarters located in Cincinnati.)

1. What are the details of Oregon’s new fair scheduling law?
Most of Oregon’s “Fair Work Week law” (Senate Bill 828) seeks to provide more consistent schedules and an improved work-life balance for hourly employees. While this specific law only impacts the retail, food service, and hospitality sectors, this is relevant to all industries, as experts predict that fair scheduling laws for all organizations with hourly workers could arise in the coming months and years.

Beginning in July 2018, the law will require companies within these three industries with a workforce of 500 or greater worldwide to inform employees of their schedules at least one week in advance. This will extend to two weeks’ advance notice after 2020. Employers will be required to ensure a proper amount of rest time for employees between shifts and compensate them for last-minute schedule changes. Additionally, the law also notes that employers may run a voluntary standby list, where employees can elect to take on shifts at the last minute if they so choose.

As a result, many of the on-call scheduling practices that are so common in demand-volatile industries will likely cease in Oregon and employers will need to find other ways to fulfill fluctuating customer needs.

2. Do you think that laws like these are indicative of an emerging national trend that will eventually affect other industries with hourly workers? If so, which industries will laws like these likely affect next?
It’s difficult to predict where fair work week laws like this will spread to next. While major cities like New York and Washington, D.C., have implemented similar laws, Oregon is the first to do this on a statewide level. Trends say that it’s likely that other states may adopt similar laws or individual facets of Oregon’s laws in the near future.

While Oregon’s law specifically impacts retail, food service and hospitality industries, it’s likely that other similar laws in the future would impact any industry with hourly workers, expanding to home health care, manufacturing, and more. Industries that have historically dealt with unpredictable demand will likely need to make the most adjustments to their analytics and scheduling practices in order to avoid understaffing or overstaffing.

3. How can employers ensure that they’re complying with the laws? What will be some of their biggest challenges in doing so?
Of course, the main challenge of these laws will be to avoid understaffing or overstaffing without being able to send employees home early or turn to on-call scheduling for backup reinforcements. Employers with unpredictable demand will now need to more accurately analyze historical consumer behavior and control customer demand as much as possible. They’ll also need to analyze employee availability at least two to three weeks in advance of the first day of the work week.

Additionally, hourly employers will need to remain diligent in their scheduling practices in order to avoid legal issues and ensure compliance with the new laws. One solution for this is digital workplace solutions. These platforms allow employees to input their own availability and pick up or swap shifts through mobile applications, and also provide the capability to implement mobile training programs and create a more agile workforce. This way, employers have a well-rounded workforce with a number of different skills to help ensure employees can fill in gaps across departments or locations during a shift.

4. Even with these challenges in mind, how can employers use fair work week laws to their advantage to benefit their employees?
While adapting to fair scheduling laws often aren’t easy (especially for organizations with traditional methods of scheduling employees), they present a number of unique opportunities and benefits for employers. With predictable schedules in place, organizations will likely see increased employee well-being, lower turnover rates, and improved recruitment when this is used as a tool attract prospective employees. Employers will certainly need to do their due diligence to ensure the fair work week law’s requirements are met. However, in the long run, both employers and employees can benefit from increased engagement and well-being when they are better able to balance work and home life with predictable schedules.

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