October 17, 2018

Scheduling laws continue to trend across North America – here’s what you need to know

Unpredictable just-in-time scheduling can negatively impact employee earnings and work-life balance. As lawmakers work to pass laws promoting more predictable schedules, here, Ceridian’s Emerson Beishline and Jessica Hofrichter provide the latest on scheduling laws and what they mean for employers.

Employee scheduling in the retail, hospitality, and service industries often leverages just-in-time scheduling, which helps companies cut labor costs. They do this by using digital platforms to match labor costs with needs. By using data points like traffic, weather, and daily sales, they can better predict up-to-the-minute staffing needs.

While just-in-time scheduling has helped control labor costs, the unpredictability of work schedules makes it difficult for workers to schedule appointments, arrange childcare, and manage other jobs. Fluctuation in hours also results in significant variations in pay, causing income instability. The result is that workers who are working in industries where just-in-time scheduling is being used have less predictability and security in their schedules and earnings.

As retail and hospitality sector jobs continue to make up a larger part of the economy, lawmakers are working to pass laws to promote predictability and stability for workers. Sometimes called “fair workweek” or “secure” or “predictable” scheduling laws, these laws cover several topics, but share the same goal: to provide low-wage employees with more predictable schedules and pay. 

Scheduling laws: Where are they happening?

Scheduling laws began emerging onto the scene in the U.S. in 2014 when Vermont and San Francisco enacted laws focused primarily on giving employees protections for requesting a flexible work arrangement.

SeaTac, Washington also enacted a law in 2014 that required certain employers to offer work to existing employees before hiring new workers. In 2015, San Francisco enacted the Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights requiring advance notice of schedules, flexible schedule protections, premiums for schedule changes, and requirements to offer work to existing employees first. In 2017, several jurisdictions followed suit, including Seattle, New York City, and Emeryville. Oregon also enacted a robust scheduling law which is enforceable starting in January 2019. 

Scheduling laws now exist in Oregon, Washington D.C., and seven cities including Berkeley, San Jose, San Francisco, Emeryville, Seattle, SeaTac, and New York City.

In Canada, Ontario and Quebec have both passed provincial scheduling laws that take effect on Jan. 1, 2019. However, Ontario is currently considering repealing their new scheduling requirements.

While each scheduling law is unique, there are some common trends we’ve seen among the laws. Many of the laws require one of the following: flexible work schedules, premium pay for schedule changes, adequate rest time between shifts, and requiring employers to offer additional hours for part-time employees.

In addition to these trends, we've also seen proposals including requirements for employers to pay employees retention pay and to offer employees a minimum number of hours during a pay period.

If you want to dive into these trends in greater detail, check out our scheduling updates and trends post from July 2018.

Where we anticipate seeing new scheduling laws

Where are scheduling laws going to show up next? The short answer is “anywhere,” but we have a few educated guesses based on where we have seen scheduling laws introduced. At least eleven states have considered scheduling bills, including ArizonaConnecticutHawaiiIllinoisMassachusettsNew HampshireNew JerseyNew York, VermontVirginia, and Wisconsin. Several cities such as Chicago and Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and Austin have also considered scheduling bills.

Proposed bills are generally a good indicator of trends to come in future years. Most bills introducing new concepts can die several times over several years before finally being enacted.

What this means for employers

As the scheduling trend continues, each new law adds to the patchwork of existing scheduling law requirements, making compliance more challenging for employers. Here some tips for employers to take away:

  • Review and monitor scheduling laws: It should go without saying that it is important to stay on top of any new scheduling law that might apply to your employees. Organizing the scheduling laws that impact your business into a matrix can help you compare and contrast the requirements, which can be especially helpful when you are developing policies, developing training, and assessing technology needs.
  • Conduct regular policy reviews: Regularly review your scheduling policies to identify gaps and accommodate new laws. Consider whether costly premium pay requirements can be avoided with policy changes or other planning.
  • Train management: Make sure that management staff understands the scheduling requirements that apply to the locations they manage, and that they know how to ask clarifying questions.
  • Leverage technology: Where possible, use technology to help automate scheduling requirements. Often, technology can help automate certain scheduling requirements, such as offering safeguards to alert managers when they are scheduling a shift that will incur premium pay, and paying scheduling premiums automatically.
  • Document scheduling law requirements: All employee requests for schedule changes and offers of additional hours should be documented. Many laws require that scheduling records be kept for three or four years, so be sure you have a recordkeeping policy.
  • Consider promoting your compliant scheduling policies as a business benefit: Research shows companies that implement fair scheduling practices can see benefits to their bottom line. In 2015, a large clothing retailer rolled out a pilot program that provided employees with schedules two weeks in advance and eliminated on-call scheduling. The stores that implemented these practices saw a 5% increase in labor productivity and a 7% increase in median sales over the study period. Several other major chain retailers have done the same.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is provided for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon or construed as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. You should review with your legal advisors how the laws identified in this post may apply to your specific situation.


Emerson Beishline

Emerson is Compliance Counsel at Ceridian with many years of experience in U.S. and international legal research and writing. In his current role, Emerson tracks U.S. and international employment legislation impacting Ceridian products, works closely with development teams to integrate compliance changes into the company’s Dayforce HCM software, and conducts legal research as needed. 

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Jessica Hofrichter

Jessica Hofrichter is Senior Compliance Counsel at Ceridian.

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