Today over sixty percent of all working Americans get paid an hourly wage. When you think about it, the wheels of our entire country are essentially kept in motion thanks in large part to hourly workers. Baristas and bus drivers, police officers and nurses, servers and teachers, volunteers and hotel managers, customer support reps, caregivers, construction workers, technicians, lifeguards, caterers, physical trainers, yoga instructors, tutors, cooks, delivery people, daycare providers—we depend on all of them on a daily basis to keep us safe, happy, healthy, and productive.
As the number of people working hourly jobs in the U.S. has steadily increased over time, so have conversations among business owners, politicians, and entire communities about how to fairly manage and treat this increasingly present type of worker.
One of the most active conversations currently taking place right now has to do with the fair and unfair scheduling practices being implemented by business owners managing hourly employees in cities and regions all around the country.
Over the past 12 months, nearly every major media organization has published a piece highlighting the issues surrounding employee scheduling:
- Starbucks Vows to do More to Ease Barista Schedules (CNN)
- Gap Says It Will Phase Out On-Call Scheduling of Employees (New York Times)
- Regulators to Probe Controversial On-Call Scheduling (Wall Street Journal)
- New York Investigates Retailers For Unpredictable Work Schedules (NPR)
- Many Americans Still Work Part-Time Grudgingly (USA Today)
As the conversation continues to intensify, new legislation is being proposed on local, state, and federal levels by employee advocates, lobbyists, and politicians who want to help improve the lives and rights of the nearly 75 million people currently working hourly jobs in the U.S.
As a business owner, it’s important to understand the main issues that are driving the discussions surrounding fair scheduling, the solutions that are being proposed, and most importantly, what you can do now to prepare your business for potential future changes in legislation.
There are a few main challenges that a lot of business owners managing hourly employees face on a regular basis that can lead to unintentional unfair scheduling practices. These issues lay the groundwork for the entire unfair scheduling discussion:
1. Poor Communication
When you’re not using a centralized tool to manage the schedule and store important information, the communication that occurs between employees and managers can get pretty messy. Without the right tools in place, managers and business owners really have no other choice but to manually manage and keep track of the flurry of PTO requests, swap and drop requests, and availability preferences that constantly come in from employees.
When you’re forced to read through emails, find text messages, listen to voicemails, look for handwritten reminders, and try to remember verbal requests every time you need to make a new work schedule, you’re bound to make a few mistakes. It’s almost impossible to avoid accidentally scheduling someone on a day or time when they can’t work.
You know or at least can imagine how these situations go: you track down an employee who hasn’t shown up for their shift, they tell you they requested the time off and that you told them it was OK, but because you don’t have a centralized location where you’re storing and keeping track of requests, it’s your word against theirs. As a result, your only options are to either threaten repercussions if they don’t come in for the shift they were scheduled to work, or accept that you might have made a mistake and scramble to find a last-minute replacement to work the shift. Neither option is ideal.
This is a very real and common problem that a lot of business owners across every industry are having to deal with week after week, and one that can contribute greatly to unfair scheduling practices.
2. Unrealistic Expectations & Poor Planning
Unfair scheduling can also happen as a result of unrealistic expectations and poor planning by managers and makers of the weekly work schedule. The most common and controversial examples of unrealistic expectations and poor planning when it comes to scheduling hourly employees include:
- Clopens: scheduling an hourly employee to work a “close” shift followed by an “open” shift. You might think that scheduling your employees to work clopenings every so often is beneficial to your business (they allow you to rely on a smaller team of only the most trusted employees), but it can actually be fairly damaging to your business in the long run. Clopening shifts can make employees more tired, more unhappy, and more likely to leave your business for another. And as you already know, employee turnover is incredibly expensive.
- On-Call Scheduling: the practice of putting fewer hourly employees on the floor during slow periods or putting more on during busy times. This is a common practice among retailers, and the one that’s getting the most attention in the media. On-call scheduling (sometimes referred to as automatic or non-flexible scheduling) is another practice that can have a significant impact on the happiness and success of your hourly employees. In fact, research even suggests that on-call scheduling, or irregular scheduling, can worsen work-family conflict and increase stress among hourly workers. Regulators claim that this type of unpredictable scheduling, “makes it difficult for workers to secure a babysitter if necessary, make last minute travel arrangements, or get a second job to supplement their income.” (Source).
- Last-Minute Publishing: the practice of not giving employees enough notice about upcoming shifts or work schedules. This is a big problem for a lot of employers who are still building work schedules using Excel, or worse, a paper and pencil. Making the work schedule takes a lot of time and planning, For a lot of business owners and managers, it can take hours to coordinate shifts and build a schedules that works for the entire team. In cases like these, schedules are sometimes not completed or posted until only a few days before the new work schedule starts, giving employees little notice about upcoming shifts. It’s an unfair way to schedule employees, and it really only leads to more problems for you, the manager (more missed shifts, more last minute shift change requests, more tardiness, etc).
3. Lack of Employee Accountability
If you manage hourly employees, you’ve probably had to deal with employee accountability issues at one time or another—i.e. employees not showing up for shifts they were scheduled to work.
For business owners and managers in charge of making and managing the work schedule week after week, lack of employee accountability can cause big problems (added stress on other employees, scrambling to find a replacement, not being able to serve customers fast enough, understaffing, struggling to fulfill orders, etc).
When you don’t have a good system or process in place for communicating with employees about the schedule and their upcoming shifts, it’s difficult to keep employees accountable. The frustrations that business owners experience in situations when employees don’t show up can sometimes result in the adoption of unfair practices, such as last-minute scheduling, required on-call scheduling, just-in-time scheduling, and other types of unpredictable and erratic scheduling methods.
With these issues in mind, there are a number of solutions being proposed and put into place all around the U.S. aimed at making work better for hourly employees.
The Proposed Solutions
On Local Levels:
In Seattle, city officials are considering adopting new rules to protect hourly employees that would require things like two weeks advance notice of schedules, a minimum of 11 hours rest between shifts, an hour of additional “predictability pay” when an employer changes a worker’s posted schedule, up to four hours pay for workers who are assigned shifts that are either canceled, or reduced to less than four hours, with less than 24 hours notice, and more. Read more here.
In D.C., officials want to, according to this Washington Post article, “prohibit employers with more than 40 locations nationwide from changing workers’ schedules less than two weeks in advance. If a business does make a change after the initial schedule is posted, the employee must be compensated one hour of pay. If the change is made within 24 hours of the shift, the employee must be compensated between two and four hours of pay.” Read more here.
In San Francisco, laws have already been passed that regulate how managers schedule their part-time employees. Read more here.
On State Levels:
In New Jersey, legislation known as the New Jersey Schedules That Work Act has been introduced, which will, according to this article, “would require employers of those workers to post schedules two weeks in advance, pay employees who are asked to call in to see if they are needed, and provide an hour’s worth of extra pay for shift changes made with less than 24 hours’ notice.” Read more here.
On a Federal Level:
The biggest and most potentially impactful legislation being proposed on a nation-wide level is the Schedules That Work Act. There are a lot of pieces in the proposed bill, but here are the biggest highlights that you you should know about:
According to this report compiled by the National Women’s Law Center, The Schedules That Work Act would:
- “Require employees to consider scheduling requests from all employees and provide a response (Source).”
- Require employers to provide certain hourly employees with reporting time pay, split shift pay and advance notification of work schedules (Source).”
- “Require employees who were sent home with little to no notice after arriving for a scheduled shift to be paid for a minimum of four hours of work or the hours in the scheduled shift, whichever is less.
- Require that, if an employee be paid a premium equivalent to one hour of pay if they are required to call in less than 24 hours before the start of a potential shift to learn whether he or she is scheduled to work (Source).”
- “Require an employer to disclose the minimum number of hours an employee will be scheduled to work. If that minimum number changes, the bill would require the employer to give two weeks’ notice of the new minimum hours before the change goes into effect. In addition, the bill would require an employer to provide an employee with his or her work schedule two weeks in advance. If an employer makes changes to this work schedule with notice of only 24 hours or less, the bill would require the employee to be paid a premium equivalent to one hour of pay (Source).”
There are more requirements included in the proposed bill, so it might be beneficial to spend some time learning more about it and how it could affect your business in particular. To get started, read through this report from the National Women’s Law Center, or read through the proposed Schedules That Work Act itself.
How to Prepare Now
The Schedules That Work Act hasn’t passed yet, but as you can see from above, changes are slowly being made at nearly every level of government in communities all around the U.S.
So what can you do to ready your business?
We put together a short ebook that provides you with the answers you need*. In it, we include the content within this blog post, PLUS the tips you need to build a better, fairer employee scheduling environment for your business.
What do you think about the scheduling changes being proposed all around the country? Tell us below in the comments.
*Note: we are not lawyers. We are simply providing general information and guidelines about how businesses can approach proposed fair scheduling legislation. If you have specific questions about how different proposed legislation could impact your business, it’s best to talk to legal counsel.The New Legislation That Could Change The Way You Schedule Employees Forever Rob Wormley