Everything You Need to Know About Predictive Scheduling

To better protect employees, many cities and states are now considering or enacting a new type of scheduling law: predictive scheduling. We’ve put together a quick guide on everything you need to know about predictive scheduling laws, and how to get your business ready for the change.

What is predictive scheduling?

Predictive scheduling is giving out employee schedules ahead of time. It counteracts on-call and “just-in-time” scheduling practices that can hurt employees.  This includes posting and changing schedules without advance notice or scheduling back-to-back closing and opening shifts.

There’s a reason why predictive scheduling laws are also referred to as “fair scheduling laws.” A majority of workers who experience unstable scheduling report that it interferes with their ability to provide for their families financially and emotionally. They can’t predict their day-to-day routines or their paychecks—a perfect recipe for high employee disengagement and turnover.

Changing the way you schedule can change your team and your business. In one pilot study on predictive scheduling, several stores in San Francisco and Chicago cut on-call scheduling and instead shared employee schedules two weeks ahead of time. These stores experienced a 5% increase in productivity and a 7% increase in sales.  That’s more than triple the 1-2% increase experienced by other typically successful locations.

What are the predictive scheduling laws?

With more and more states enacting scheduling laws, mandatory predictive scheduling is a “when” not an “if” for business owners. Depending on where your business is located and how many employees you have, you may already or soon be required to participate in predictive scheduling.

Predictive scheduling laws require employers to post work schedules a certain amount of days or weeks before shifts begin and observe employee rest periods between shifts. They also discourage employers from changing schedules by requiring them to give employees more pay or giving employees the right to refuse to come in when they aren’t scheduled to work.

Handing out and sticking to a work schedule may not seem like a big deal. But if your business is based in these cities or states and you don’t fulfill your predictive scheduling requirements, you could receive a hefty fine:

San Francisco

Businesses affected: “Formula retail establishments” with at least 40 stores worldwide and 20 or more employees in San Francisco, as well as their janitorial and security contractors.

New York City (on hold)

Businesses affected: Fast food employers and retail businesses with more than 20 employees.


Businesses affected: Retail and food service establishments with more than 500 employees worldwide and full-service restaurants with more than 500 employees and more than 40 full-service restaurant locations worldwide.


Businesses affected: Retail businesses with 56 or more employees globally and fast food businesses with 56 or more globally and 20 or more employees in Emeryville.

Washington, DC

Businesses affected: Retail and food service employers, including franchises.

State of Oregon

Businesses affected: Certain employers in retail, hospitality, or food services industries that have at least 500 employees worldwide.

Are you required to post work schedules?

Absolutely. Predictive scheduling laws were created to help employees know when and how many hours they’ll be working ahead of time. You can share work schedules with employees in person or electronically.  Just make sure they can also electronically access their schedule at work through scheduling apps or other means.

Start your free 14-day trial of When I Work! Click here to start scheduling your employees today.

How far in advance do you have to share employee schedules?

The key to predictive scheduling is advanced notice. Work schedules must be given to employees days or weeks before their shifts begin. Schedules have to be posted seven days in advance in Oregon and 14 days in advance in Seattle, New York City, and San Francisco. In Washington, DC, schedules must be posted 21 days in advance.

While creating schedules weeks in advance might feel daunting, it doesn’t have to mean extra work. If you already know your employees’ availability, predictive scheduling makes it much easier to plan work around upcoming vacations, time off, or busy seasons. You can find out which employees are comfortable taking on extra shifts, and who might need a better work-life balance.

What if you have to change the schedule?

Once schedules are posted, even making small changes can have big implications. Seattle and Oregon’s predictive scheduling laws require employers to pay additional compensation if they add to or reduce hours from an employee’s schedule after sharing it. For example, employers in Oregon have to pay employees for half of the hours not worked if they schedule a shift and then cancel it—and have to give employees one additional hour of pay when hours are added without notice.

What about closing and opening shifts?

No more “clopening.  Under predictive scheduling laws, employees have to take mandated rest periods between their shifts. That means employers can’t make employees work closing and opening shifts less than 10 hours apart unless their employees specifically request or agree to work. If employees do agree to “clopen” or work during their required rest period, employers may have to pay time-and-a-half for the hours.

Can you fire employees for not coming in on days off?

Again, no. Requiring employees to come in when they’re not scheduled to work falls under the same guidelines as unplanned schedule changes. If you ask employees to come in and they agree to work on their day off, expect to pay a similar premium.

What about new employees?

“Good faith estimates” are another important part of predictive scheduling. When you hire a new employee, you should provide them with a written “good faith estimate” of how many hours they can expect to work. Some states require you to write estimates for current employees and revise them annually based on changes to employees’ availability.

Current employees also have first call on extra hours. Instead of hiring new employees to work, extra shifts have to be offered to existing employees first. This gives current employees the chance to move from part-time to full-time work or accept more hours when they need them.

What can you do now to prepare for predictive scheduling laws?

Switching from on-call to predictive scheduling is a big adjustment for everyone involved. The sooner you give it a try with your team, the sooner you’ll find out what works for you. Ease your business into the transition by incorporating these predictive scheduling requirements along the way:

Check in on availability

Touch base with everyone to make sure their available hours are still accurate. Use this as an opportunity to get employees’ feedback about their current schedules.

Cut down on “clopening” shifts

Give your employees a break from back-to-back shifts and try observing a 10-hour rest period. You may find that more hours between shifts actually equals more productivity (and more engaged employees).

Post schedules early

Try posting schedules a week earlier, especially if most of your staff are on-call. This trial run will show you the amount of time and resources you’ll need to fulfill predictive scheduling requirements.  It will also give you a chance to try out different scheduling software and solutions.

Find volunteers

Instead of mandating employees come into work on their days off, put together a volunteer on-call list. Employees can sign up for extra hours and give specifics around availability so you know who can fill last-minute shifts.

Remember: the goal of predictive scheduling is to create fair scheduling practices. Changing from on-call scheduling to predictive scheduling will take some getting used to.  Ultimately, it will also help build a better work environment for everyone on your team.

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