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09/15/2017

Fair Scheduling Laws: Implications for retail, and navigating the changes

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Oregon passed Senate Bill 828, known as the “Fair Work Week” law, last month. This law requires foodservice, retail and hospitality employers to give hourly workers reliable work week schedules upon hire, maintain a voluntary list of standby employees to address unanticipated customer needs or unexpected employee absences, and provide their workers with advance notice of schedule changes.



Within these three industries, the law will specifically affect employers with 500 or more employees worldwide. With various sections of the law going into effect over a two-year span from 2018 to 2020, many companies that fit this bill are left wondering: “What are the specific requirements of this law?” and “What are its implications for me?”



To answer these questions, let’s first break down the law’s requirements:



Specific Requirements

In its 18 sections, Senate Bill 828 lays out several fair scheduling directives for companies that meet the above requirements, but here’s a more digestible snapshot:



A good faith estimate of work schedule: An employer must provide a new employee with a written, good faith estimate of the employee’s work schedule at the time of hire that not only states the median number of hours, but also explains the voluntary standby list and on-call scheduling.



A voluntary standby list: An employer can maintain a list of employees whom the employer can end requests to work additional hours that the employee can then accept or decline.



Advance notice of the work schedule for the week: An employer must provide an employee with a work schedule at least one week before the first day of the work week starting July 2018, and at least two weeks before starting July 2020.



Rest between work shifts: An employer has to ensure a proper amount of non-working time for the employees, per the specifics of the law.



Employee’s right to input into work schedule: At any time, the employee may identify limitations or changes in their availability. Employers are able to request verification and are under no obligation to grant an employee's request.



Compensation for work schedule changes: Finally, depending on the situation, a worker may collect compensation for work schedule changes that affect their regular work week hours.



Implication

Ultimately, these requirements mean affected employers will now require a better sense of foot traffic and advance in-store demand analysis. Employers will need to analyze historical consumer behavior and employee availability at least two to three weeks in advance of the first day of the work week. This kind of early review means that employers will need to keep better track of consumer demand and conduct more intelligent, comprehensive analysis to ensure well-run work schedules to which employees can confidently adhere.

Employers can expect increased pressure to be on their toes and quickly respond to industry trends, which will hopefully mean more efficient operations and increased innovation.



How to Navigate Changes

For many, this will be uncharted territory and will require technology as a compass. Many of the law’s mandates require employers to make more streamlined, lean changes within their operations, so employing digital scheduling platforms and channels of communication will be vital for not only their ability to perform efficient analysis, but also stay compliant. Here are three ways tech will be necessary when implementing this law:



Efficiency: To conduct in-depth analysis of historical consumer demand and employee availability data before creating advance work schedules, employers will require a level of automation through a digital workplace platform. Automated analyses will take the guesswork and manual labor out of creating comprehensive and historically-based schedules for employees. This system will also need to be a place where employees and employers can post shift changes, swaps and covers. This will provide a quick and efficient way to process these requests, as well as file records of these interactions correctly per the law’s requirements.



Standby list: The Fair Work Week law requires employers to maintain a list of standby, voluntary employees from which to pull when customer demand is higher than expected. Without the technology needed to organize and keep track of employees, employers could face huge headaches in the form of delays, miscommunication and unfulfilled consumer demand - risking compliance in the process



Faster communication: With sections calling for consumer input in their schedule, a standby list and the ability to request schedule changes, compliance with this law necessitates an open channel of communication in real-time. Employers and employees should be able to communicate any changes to the schedule or in the customer needs with each other as they are happening. A clear way of communicating will help employers avoid last-minute mishaps and ensure that employees are aware of any changes as they occur.



With so many changes resulting from this law, employers will need to stay on top of compliance requirements. Through automation and clear communication, compliance of the law’s various mandates should be easily accomplished to create a better-functioning workforce. The underlying principles of laws like the Fair Work Week law in Oregon serve to empower hourly workers whose livelihoods are currently being disrupted due to last-minute schedule changes and miscommunications. Giving employees the ability to feel more in control of their work weeks ultimately leads to a more engaged workforce with increased overall satisfaction and productivity.






Mike Zorn is the VP of workplace strategy at WorkJam, a digital workplace platform for the service industry. He has more than 30 years of HR-related experience in the retail industry, and previously served as the senior VP of associate and labor relations at Macy’s Inc. He is also chair of the National Retail Federation's sub-committee on employment and human resources.