Predictive Scheduling: What You Need to Know

10 Secure Scheduling Rules Employers should know
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A predictive scheduling law may be coming soon to your state. Is your employee scheduling compliant? In this post, we discuss ten practices contained in these “fair workweek,” “stable scheduling” and “fair scheduling” laws.

Of course, predictable employee work scheduling affects more than compliance. It is central to company culture. Good scheduling practices increases engagement, satisfaction and retention. Poor scheduling, in contrast, fuels turnover and creates resentful employees. It is hard for any company to prosper with employees whose lives are in constant upheaval due to poor scheduling.

Let’s discuss 10 employee shift planning rules contained in many of these laws.

Rule #1: Good Faith Estimate of Employee Schedules

Employers must give new employees a good faith estimate of their work schedule. The schedules must be fairly accurate and employers are often bound to these estimates. If anything changes, the employer should notify the employee 14 days prior to the change taking effect. Employers must give schedule estimates on or before the first day of work.

Rule #2: Prior Notice of Schedules

Similarly, managers must post schedules (and all changes) in advance. 

Some fair workweek laws require 14 days before the first shift starts and others 21 days. Employers who need to make changes may have to pay the employee extra if they don’t give them advance notice. Employers who follow this one rule will prevent a host of problems.

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Rule #3: Employee Schedule Requests

Predictive work scheduling legislation typically allows employees to give schedule preferences to the employer without any negative repercussions. Employers must make a good faith effort to work with the employee. This doesn’t mean that the employer must go without coverage to acquiesce to the employee’s request, but it does mean that whenever possible employers must try to accommodate. Employees can submit the location they prefer to work, the number of hours, shifts, and the times they prefer not to work.

  • Preferred location
  • Preferred shifts
  • Desired number of hours
  • Desired time not to work

Rule #4: Limits on Additional Hours

While it’s paramount for workers to have predictive scheduling stability, there are business needs as well. Employers who find themselves in a bind or with an MIA employee, have limited options for filling a vacant shift. Scheduling laws usually prohibit short-term changes to a shift schedule. As a result, the employer probably can’t call for a replacement without paying a penalty. The best practice here is for employers to keep a volunteer list. The more detail, the better. Which employees want more hours? When are they available? Note that the employer will still need to follow any penalties for last-minute changes, but at least the manager knows which employees are available and want the hours.

Rule #5: Offer Vacant Shifts to Employees First

When a vacant shift arises, predictive scheduling laws usually require that employees be offered the shift first. Often there is a 24- or 48-hour notice requirement. The employer cannot seek outside help unless employees have had those 24 or 48 hours to respond and volunteer to take extra shifts. The purpose of these laws is to force employers to give extra hours to existing employees. Many hourly workers at the lower end of the pay scale are barely making it, and would eagerly take extra hours.

Of course, flexible scheduling laws can hamper you from filling a vacant shift when an employee fails to show up for work. As most shifts are less than 24 hours long, there is not sufficient time to comply with the 24- or 48-hour requirement. Because of this, other employees must often carry the additional workload. Employers simply cannot call a temp agency to fill a shift when there isn’t the required evaluation time.

For example: Monday morning, your manager gets two call-outs. Two employees are sick. Since 24 hours go until Tuesday morning, your manager simply has no way to fill the shift. They can ask employees still on shift if they will work later. That only works if those employees aren’t booked at the same time as the missing shift. And, again, they can turn to their volunteer list and may find an employee who will take the shift on the spot.

  • Additional hours must be offered to existing employees first
  • Employees must have 24 hours to accept an additional shift
  • Which makes it difficult to fill sudden vacancies with temporary help

As discussed previously, keeping tabs on schedule preferences and employee availability is the best way to handle competing demands and provide flexible schedules.

Rule #6: Schedule Change Notice

Employers must provide employees with prompt notice of any schedule changes. Schedule changes can occur in a smaller than 14-day window. Most scheduling laws require at least a 24-hour notice, however. 

Some shift scheduling laws require the employer to give the employee the right to accept or refuse. Others, however, require the employer to pay a premium, though the employee doesn’t have the right of refusal.

Rule #7: Premium Pay for All Changes

“Premium” or predictability pay is designed to prevent employers from cutting a worker’s expected hours and, therefore, their paycheck. For example, consider an employee who generally works 26 hours a week. The employer cancels several of the shifts due to decreased business demand. The law may require the employer to pay for half of the hours originally scheduled.

Another example of premium pay is when an employee who is scheduled for additional hours must be paid extra. Say, for example, a manager asks an employee to stay another 2 hours. The law might mandate that the employer pays them for 2 hours plus 1 hour of premium pay.

Rule #8: Required Rests and a Ban on Clopenings

Employee scheduling laws set a limit on maximum hours in a work day. Many also require mandatory rest periods between shifts. These rest periods are commonly set at 8 hours or 10 hours between the ending of a shift and the beginning of the next shift.

This bans a practice commonly called clopening. A clopening is when an employee works a closing shift and then starts an opening shift soon after. This occurs in restaurant and hospitality more often than other industries. Needless to say, it’s brutal for employees and leads to burnout and high turnover.

Rule #9: Recordkeeping and Assumed Guilt

Unlike other types of lawsuits, when an employee charges an employer with wrongdoing, the defendant (employer) isn’t deemed “innocent until proven guilty.” Courts generally assume employer guilt unless the employer has sufficient proof of compliance. This means that paper documents and manual recordkeeping puts you at risk in case of a dispute.

Employers should rely on automated shift scheduling tools that track changes, notices, and employee responses. With a digital system, it’s easy to pull up time and labor records or run a report.

Remember, it doesn’t matter if you have the records if you can’t find them!

Rule #10: Notice of Employee Rights & Anti-Retaliation

Secure employee scheduling laws require employers to notify employees of their legal rights. In addition to a workplace fairness poster, employers are required to provide notice upon hire. For example, in the employee handbook. Employers can do this digitally through an employee portal.

As with other workers’ rights, employers are restricted from penalizing employees who assert their rights. Including refusing to work shifts with little notice and giving schedule preferences.

Scheduling Analytics

Tracking scheduling metrics improves workforce management and compliance. Review historical scheduling data to detect trends and prevent problems. For example, perhaps you could lengthen some shifts and shorten others. If you operate with a small team, overlapping shifts for an hour or two can ensure high levels of service — without adding another employee or shift.

Scheduling analytics can help you plan for seasonal changes as well. They can help you know when you need to hire. Even small businesses can use big data.

Employee Scheduling Tools

Clearly, employee scheduling compliance is a tall order for Human Resources. Especially if you use spreadsheets. Fortunately, there is a better way to fulfill this crucial component of workforce management. Employee scheduling software (also called a scheduling app) lets you quickly create schedules, track preferences, and publish the schedule electronically to employees.

The software make it easy for employees to swap shifts, with manager sign-off if needed. Employee scheduling software can also help employers more accurately predict needs through historical data, as discussed previously. That means fewer changes to staff scheduling and a decreased risk of a violation. Furthermore, it will help you better control labor costs.

Meals and breaks laws can also be a compliance minefield. Learn each state law here: Meals and Breaks Laws

PTO management is part of good shift scheduling as well. Look for an employee scheduling app that includes time off requests and approvals synced with shift planning.

WorkforceHub helps you easily comply with any predictive scheduling law and improve shift scheduling and time tracking in general. See WorkforceHub scheduling to request a demo.

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