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Get Ready for Predictive Scheduling Laws

Employees work on large calendar

Whether you call it predictive scheduling or its other names (secure scheduling, fair scheduling, or fair work week), you’re about to be affected by it if you employ shift workers. Jurisdictions across the U.S.—from Seattle to New York—are tackling the issue of unpredictable schedules for hourly workers with strong mandates for employers. We’ve heard the Austin City Council is looking to get in on the action, too. Here’s what you should know:

“While each proposal varies, they generally include four common provisions: advance posting of schedules, employer penalties for unexpected schedule changes, burdensome record-keeping requirements and prohibitions on requiring employees to find replacements for scheduled shifts if they are unable to work,” explains the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Supporters of predictive scheduling laws claim mandates will reduce employee turnover, which is good for everyone. But, as with the Paid Sick Leave debate, that argument falls short. Service industry experts warn a mandate would come with a heavier burden than simply keeping employees satisfied.

“In order to retain and recruit talent, retailers take many steps to keep their employees happy—from education and training to bonus incentives and flexible hours. Retailers set scheduling expectations up front in the hiring process and many employers already voluntarily provide schedules well in advance, further demonstrating why costly and restrictive mandates are unnecessary,” says the NRF. The National Restaurant Association adds that “predictive scheduling mandates challenge employers, especially restaurateurs and small business operators, whose businesses are ruled by the unpredictability of seasonal traffic, customer demand, weather, holidays and turnover issues.”

“When it comes to predictive scheduling laws, improper documentation is a profit-killer,” Austin-based labor management company HotSchedules explains. “Seattle’s law demands that employers maintain documented records for three years of operators’ responses to employee schedule requests, good-faith guesses of employees’ expected work hours and other aspects of the ordinance. Operators and franchise owners will need to keep a verifiable, electronic, printable trail of all schedules and shift transactions.”

Austin small business advocates agree.

“This type of policy can be especially problematic for many on-call employees, including restaurants and landscaping,” points out Austin Independent Business Alliance (AIBA) Executive Director Rebecca Melancon, who is concerned not only about how such a policy will affect Austin businesses but also how the Austin City Council might mishandle it. “The process for the Paid Sick Leave ordinance [in Austin] was destructive and divisive. We want to help steer the next process to be one where all parts of our community come together to produce better policies.”

If you’re in Austin and are concerned about how predictive scheduling may affect your business, consider joining with AIBA to have your voice heard. The organization recently conducted a survey of local businesses on the issue but, if you missed participating, you can still let AIBA know how you feel. Also, contact your Austin City Council member and let them know how predictive scheduling could affect your livelihood. For more background on predictive scheduling, read this guide by Deputy and Xerox.