Schedule Predictability Legislation Passes in Oregon: What It Could Mean for Your Business - nettime solutions

Schedule Predictability Legislation Passes in Oregon: What It Could Mean for Your Business

In August 2017, the Oregon governor signed schedule predictability legislation into law for workers in some retail, food service, and hospitality jobs.

Senate Bill 828 was designed to prevent mandatory, last-minute schedule changes for on-call, low-wage workers. The bill impacts other aspects of workplace scheduling, including a worker’s input regarding her schedule, the need to provide a good faith estimate of a worker’s schedule upon hire, advanced notice of an upcoming schedule change, and the establishment of a voluntary standby list.

Schedule Predictability Legislation in Oregon

To limit the impact to small businesses, the law is limited to employers with 500 or more employees worldwide, including chains. Oregon has become the first state to enact such legislation. It is not alone, however. The trend to protect worker’s rights has been legislated in municipalities as well.

Schedule predictability has been an issue in various localities for a number of years. In 2014, San Francisco became the first city to provide for predictability in worker’s schedules. After San Francisco, Seattle, New York City, and the Bay Area suburb of Emeryville, moved to enact similar legislation. Seattle regulated workplace scheduling starting in July 2017; New York City enacted similar legislation at the end of May 2017.

Much like the Oregon legislation, the Seattle ordinance (pdf) mandates that employers of 500 or more employees worldwide, including chains, post worker schedules at least 2 weeks in advance. Seattle also asks that every employee receive a written estimate of weekly hours upon hire and a statement as to whether they will be expected to work on-call shifts.

Why Predictable Scheduling Requirements Matter

Control over one’s work schedule can increase workplace satisfaction. In fact, a University of Birmingham (UK) study showed that job satisfaction rises as worker autonomy increases. Some employees need a very flexible schedule to accommodate fluctuating needs at home or school. Others prefer to work on particular days, or at certain times of the day. Whatever their needs, most workers desire a certain level of consistency in their work schedule in order to make arrangements in their personal lives.

Supporters of the Oregon bill pointed out that unpredictable schedules incur undue stress on parents, who need to schedule care and support for their children. In particular, they noted single parents, who are frequently trying to juggle all of their children’s needs without the assistance of a partner. Thus, the Oregon legislation mandates that workers have advance notice of their schedule, and that participation on standby lists be voluntary.

What Problems are Solved with Schedule Predictability Requirements?

Supporters of the Seattle plan argued that workers bore the brunt of changing business needs, resulting in erratic earnings, unreliable schedules, and a lack of rest time between shifts. Prior to the new law, employees might have found themselves on a late-night closing shift, only to be expected back bright and early the next day to open their store. For non-exempt employees, this could mean exhaustion and no guarantee of overtime or other compensation for their extra efforts. Further, employees may feel coerced into taking unwanted shifts out of fear of termination or other employer reprisals.

The New York City ordinance requires workers to have a separation of at least 11 hours between consecutive shifts.  Thus, close/open shifts are eliminated. However, in cases where they cannot be avoided, workers must be compensated with an extra $100. In Seattle, on-call employees receive mandatory pay (at a rate of no less than one-half times the employee’s scheduled rate of pay per hour) when they are scheduled for work but not called in.

What are the National Implications for Schedule Predictability Legislation?

It is yet to be seen if the legislation enacted in these major cities, and now an entire state, will begin to spread nationwide. However, since a large number of companies do business in these cities and states, corporate policies may have to change, and new ways to track schedules enacted. Businesses that begin shifting towards more schedule predictability may see lower rates of attrition and have an easier time with future legal compliance. While the legislation is limited to larger employers at this time, there is the possibility (and likelihood) that the applications of these requirements will eventually extend to smaller businesses.

What Employers Can Do About Schedule Predictability

As regulations continue to change from state to state, and municipality to municipality, it becomes more important for employers to have systems in place that accurately track employee schedules and can assist with compliance with these laws.  Schedule templates can be set up to avoid open/close shifts, and on-call workers can be accurately marked and compensated as required.  In businesses with a high degree of employee illness or absenteeism, businesses can set up swift swapping mechanisms to empower employees to voluntarily adjust schedules themselves, helping management avoid expensive on-call scheduling.

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