Dec 15, 2017

The Implications of Fair Workweek Laws for HR Departments

When an employee’s work schedule changes unexpectedly or with short notice, it triggers a chain of events that negatively impacts more than just the individual’s performance at work. A single mom, for example, who gets pulled into a last-minute shift might have to find a sitter to care for her children, leading to increased stress and a possible financial loss.diversity

To protect hourly workers, several municipal governments and one state—Oregon—have introduced new labor laws giving employees greater control over their work hours. Oregon’s fair work week legislation holds specific industries (like hospitality, retail, and food services) accountable for meeting a set of requirements relating to hourly employee scheduling.

As more municipalities and states adopt stricter scheduling regulations, human resources departments will need to implement tools that ensure managers and employees have adequate time to plan their schedules—both work and personal.

New Workweek Legislation Protects Employees from Fluctuating Schedule Changes

Individuals working low-wage hourly jobs are often stuck with volatile schedules that can change instantly. Workers’ rights advocates stress that the lack of a clearly defined schedule can contribute to financial instability and affect an employee’s ability to care for his or her family. Fluctuating schedules and irregular payments can also lead to psychological distress for many hourly employees, creating additional pressure for individuals already concerned about making ends meet.

The introduction of new legislation aims to change the way employers treat their employees. In Oregon, one in six employees were found to receive less than 24 hours notice before their shifts. Under new legislation, employers are mandated to provide schedules in writing at least one week in advance. Large retail, food service, and hospitality businesses must also provide employees adequate resting periods between shifts and give current employees the opportunity to pick up shifts before hiring new team members.

In response to fair workweek legislation, employers will need to identify ways to ease scheduling processes while ensuring legal compliance. With clear guidelines and consistent standards for employees, businesses can reduce turnover and encourage greater productivity from their teams.

How HR Departments Can Comply with New Fair Labor Standards

With new legislation mandating improvements in work-life balance, employers must adjust the way they schedule and communicate with their employees. From abandoning paper schedules in break rooms to adopting digital means of communication, there are several steps HR teams can take to support the move to a fairer workweek.

  • Embrace a digital workplace: Under new legislation, employers must provide adequate notice to an employee if their schedule is changed or cancelled. Digital workplaces connect employees directly to their employers, improving communication and creating schedule transparency.
  • Democratize shift management: Understaffed stores lead to poor customer service and employee burnout. With an integrated digital workplace, managers can avoid last-minute cancellations and encourage employees to take charge of their schedules by giving them access to an open shift marketplace. Open collaboration between employers and employees guarantees work shifts are assigned appropriately and businesses avoid costly, disruptive no-shows. 
  • Capture employee feedback: New labor laws present a number of unknowns for businesses previously operating on erratic schedules. To avoid a regression back to poor work habits, HR teams should encourage frequent and honest feedback from employees about updated scheduling practices. Pulse surveys can help managers identify shift challenges and availability issues before they spiral out of control and lead to employee turnover.

Employers must adapt in order to meet changing scheduling requirements. As more governments implement fair workweek legislation, HR departments will lead the way as advocates for improving working conditions for their hourly workforces.

Mike Zorn / HR Daily Advisor

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