There’s been a shift in shift scheduling | Crain's Portland

There’s been a shift in shift scheduling

Restaurant servers are among the occupations most affected by unpredictable scheduling. | Pixabay photo. 

As many workers will tell you, the burden of not knowing a schedule – whether that’s the number of hours, or which days of the week they work – can adversely affect everything from childcare arrangements to family budgeting.

Predictive scheduling is a growing employment trend primarily affecting the retail and food service industries. The goal, as the name implies, is to take much of the guesswork out of employees’ professional lives and help ensure predictable schedules that help bring work/life balance closer to reality.

San Francisco enacted the first such scheduling laws with its formula retail employee rights ordinance in 2014. Seattle’s secure scheduling ordinance and California’s fair workweek ordinance took effect in July 2017. Oregon followed suit with the passage of its fair workweek legislation, slated to take effect in July 2018.

Similar legislation is now being considered in more than 10 states and a handful of municipalities, and experts predict the laws will continue to expand – and employers will feel growing pressure to voluntarily implement such measures as they seek to attract and retain the best talent.

Studies show that unhappy employees can cost business owners $550 billion each year. And, chances are, unhappy employees won't stick around for long and will leave their employers with additional recruitment and training costs, a reduced staff, and low employee morale.

To get a better sense of the trend and how predictive scheduling is affecting employers and employees, Crain’s spoke with Stephanie Jeneson, content marketing analyst with T Sheets, a time tracking and employee scheduling app for companies needing to track, manage and report time.

Crain’s: Can you talk about shift jobs? Is it typically retail employees, i.e. restaurant workers, grocery clerks, etc., or are those workers beholden to schedules changing in some way? If yes, please discuss briefly the trends?

Jeneson: In general, when we talk about shift jobs, it’s in relation to predictive scheduling laws and fair workweek initiatives. We’re talking about retail, hospitality, and service employees – workers who are known to have unpredictable schedules and very little notice of changing or canceled shifts. That said, as these laws become more prevalent, more industries could be impacted.

Crain’s: What are the reasons behind the passage of these laws? 

Jeneson: Fair workweek initiatives are sweeping the nation, and they’re working in response to many service and retail industry workers who are calling attention to the difficulty of balancing life and work with unpredictable shift schedules. The laws are meant to give employees more notice of their schedules and sometimes provide “predictability pay” when schedules are changed at the last minute.

Laws have even been used to prevent “clopening” shifts, or when a worker closes up shop at night and works the opening shift in the morning.

Crain’s: Can you discuss the pros and cons expected, and to date since it took effect if they are at all different? Address both employee and employer, please.  Specifically, please address the business/economic benefits for both the employer and employee if applicable

Jeneson: For employees, a more predictable workweek means they can plan for appointments, childcare, and lost wages. And employers who give employees more notice of their schedules can experience less confusion when it comes to the weekly schedule. Employers may also be required to post schedules in a break room or another common area and maintain scheduling records for several years.

As I mentioned, some employers will also be required to pay their employees for lost wages if the schedule changes without enough notice. Businesses might have more rules to follow with predictive scheduling laws in place, but they’ll also attract employees looking for stability and will perhaps see an increase in employee retention as a result. Proponents of the mandates stress that employees in shift-based industries will be able to rely on their shift schedules to better plan and budget accordingly.

Crain’s: Do you anticipate most states, municipalities will enact prescriptive scheduling regulations?

Jeneson: Although these mandates are becoming popular in several cities and states across the country, some jurisdictions have already written legislation to prevent it, and these laws have yet to reach the majority of cities in the nation.

March 3, 2018 - 7:01pm