Does Your Company Need to Give the Fair Workweek Initiative A Fair Chance?

December 15, 2020
Since 2014, advocates have been calling for state and local governments to enact these laws. So why has the move to legislate a fair workweek not improved?

Introducing: the Fair Workweek

The movement to legislate the fair workweek has become a popular topic of conversation amongst both employees and employers for its undeterred determination, advocacy and various reasons for opposition.

Erratic work schedules put a lot of stress on managers who need to quickly fill in shift gaps and schedule employees at the last minute, and definitely on the employees who are given little to no notice. Employees working with this scheduling framework are unable to give notice to prior commitments when they have conflicting schedules, cannot properly plan for child care, are unable to properly manage another part-time job, and essentially have no idea what their schedules - or their end of the month pay checks - will look like.

The concept of the fair workweek is certainly not new, although there has recently been greater public acknowledgment. Since 2014, advocates have been calling for state and local governments to enact these laws. So why has the move to legislate a fair workweek not improved?

Roadblocks in the Path to the Fair Workweek

Covid-19 has arguably caused the most intense change in the past year, especially in conjunction with the transformation of the workforce, shifts in the jobs market and fluctuations in employment status.

While the fair workweek has been gaining momentum since 2014, it may have hit a significant, unexpected obstacle with the outbreak of the pandemic. Fair employee scheduling and rights may have shifted focus to health and safety protocols to keep employees, customers, and the workplace aligned.

What steps are included in fair workweek laws?

  • Posting schedules 2 weeks in advance
  • Compensation for last minute changes
  • Allowing sufficient rest time between shifts

However, when employees don’t have a predictable schedule, even more so during these times of need and total unpredictability, they are unable to properly plan ahead. Putting an end to erratic scheduling is perhaps even more necessary as an aftereffect of the coronavirus. If that’s the case, you may be wondering why the legislation hasn’t been passed in most states and why some companies are opposed.

Why Some Companies and States Oppose Fair Workweek Laws

There are many reasons why predictive scheduling is a tricky topic for so many companies.

There are the expenses involved. Properly forecasting and preparing for different staffing situations, and giving advance notice on schedules, can be extremely costly for companies. In order to do so, managers would need to predict the exact staffing levels needed for certain days, times and shifts, and accommodate for changes in demand. The time and money involved in this accuracy is enormous, and in general can be overwhelming and difficult for managers, who themselves are already overseeing many other company operations and processes.

Managers working directly with scheduling and time tracking are often given budgets for labor hours, along with projected numbers of sales, consumers, attendees and other factors influencing the amount of employees needed to be scheduled. In this way, managers often try to ensure that they are meeting these metrics by last-minute changes to schedules. While this is productive for managers and companies, this can be counterproductive for employees.

Additional claims against the fair workweek legislation is that predictive scheduling takes away from the flexibility of the job. In many cases, employees who choose to work in dynamic industries like food service (hospitality and retail for example) are leveraging the flexibility that these shift-based jobs have to offer, whether in conjunction with another part-time job, family obligations, studies, and more. Having the ability to pick up last minute shifts because of sudden availability and to work flexible hours are some of the defining points of working in this type of business.

Is predictive scheduling really that expensive?
Advocates argue that the time and cost spent on efficient predictive scheduling is minimal.

Companies are monetarily compensated and more when they employ predictive scheduling, which results in higher profitability, employee engagement and retention levels.

With the right tools, businesses can easily predict how many employees they need for certain days, tasks and shifts; automate scheduling and shift rotations; and allow employees to swap shifts between themselves.

Does Predictive Scheduling Reduce Flexibility?

Legal protection against unfair and unpredictable scheduling may actually promote workplace flexibility.

Fair workweek laws provide employees with greater stability and predictability while promoting a high level of flexibility in their work schedules. How? Employees would have knowledge of their work schedules ahead of time with greater control over how and when they work, and the ability to get a bird’s eye view of their plan ahead.

Some laws would also require employers to offer workers the opportunity to increase their hours or pick up additional shifts before adding or hiring new employees. This gives existing staff the opportunity to increase their earnings and scope of work with the power to decide for themselves the type and frequency of employment that best suits their needs.

Another way a fair workweek would actually increase scheduling flexibility is that workers would be allowed to swap shifts with one another or to give input into their shift times. Some companies today schedule shifts in a way that is considered more rigid, with employees sometimes having little or no input about their preferences. When employees have to undergo a chain of approval just to swap a shift with a colleague, this arguably decreases the amount of flexibility workers could have.

Fair Workweek is a Win-Win for Employers and Employees

How Employees Can Benefit

Unpredictability causes stress. Knowing your work schedule ahead of time lowers the  amount of stress caused by unpredictability, both to workers and their families. 70% of workers with high levels of scheduling instability - including short notice of work hours, cancellations and “clopening” shifts - reported serious psychological distress, especially when comparing this number to 40% with more predictable schedules.

Work-life balance is improved. The fair workweek laws can improve the quality of life for millions of workers. Companies that made improvement to their workers’ schedules (with a 35% reduction in instability) showed major improvements in workers’ sleep quality and stress levels.

Predictable scheduling means income stability. Putting a stop to erratic work schedules, early shift dismissals and canceled shifts also puts the brakes on income volatility. Many workers and their families face heavy financial problems when they don’t know how much they will be earning at the end of each month. A predictable schedule also means having a stable and predictable salary.

How Companies Can Benefit

Unpredictability leads to higher employee turnover. Employee turnover can be extremely costly and time-consuming, especially in periods of high demands and staffing shortages. In the retail trade, the employee turnover rate is over 58% while hospitality and food service is over 78%.

Higher employee satisfaction leads to more sales. When employees feel that they are being treated better and more fairly, it’s no shock to discover that business profitability increases as well. Gap stores randomly encouraged in-store managers to make predictable and stable schedules and saw that productivity increased by 5% and sales by 7%. They even earned an additional nearly $3M in revenue over an 8-month period.

Overall, these laws benefit employers and the greater economy by reducing employee absenteeism and turnover while increasing productivity, engagement and profitability.  

Looking Forward: Improving the Workweek in 2021

What States Have Predictive Scheduling Laws?

Chicago is the latest major city to join the Fair Workweek movement and is actually the first city to include healthcare workers. Other states, including Washington, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, are considering statewide legislation.

There is still much to do to improve and implement predictive scheduling and fair workweek legislation in the upcoming year.

Even if your city is not on the list of locations that currently require fair workweek laws, this movement is not going anywhere. Companies could prepare themselves ahead of time by implementing measures that will save them excessive time and money on predictive scheduling and fair employment practices.

Proactively Preparing for Fair Workweek Legislation

Companies and businesses are looking for solutions to put into place to help ensure they properly follow the laws of fair workweek, like Chipotle who are “working cooperatively with the city to ensure we have systems and processes in place to comply with the law.”

Aided by new technology, companies would be able to create smart schedules with analytics that could predict current and future staffing needs, avoid exceeding legal employee working hours, create a flexible scheduling system and work in conjunction with compliance laws easily and to the satisfaction of employees.

Learn more about how Ubeya accommodates predictive scheduling and is compliant with fair workweek laws.

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