Predictive scheduling regulations, laws that regulate how businesses schedule work shifts for their employees, are on the rise across America. Rather than helping workers, they are capping their earning power and imposing unnecessary costs on businesses and consumers. As employees and shoppers begin to gear up for the busy festive season, a time when many families across America need extra cash, these unnecessary laws should be put on ice.
The laws seek to give shift workers certainty by forcing employers to set work schedules well in advance. In cities like San Francisco, employers have to pay their workers penalties if they change their schedule less than a week before their shift. In some jurisdictions, these laws primarily apply to the fast-food industry. However, in Chicago, they apply to the hotel, health care and manufacturing sectors.
Although these laws are often framed with a focus on what workers can claim from their employers, the problem is that they strip workers of their rights — all the while imposing costs on businesses and consumers.
The New York City ordinances are particularly punitive. Fast-food workers, for example, are required to wait at least 11 hours between ending and starting a new shift. But what about employees who want to work extra hours to pay for a new car, a down payment for a house, or Christmas presents for their children? City bureaucrats and their regulations are pre-emptively taking presents from under the tree.
In Philadelphia, the city’s laws are even crueler for workers. According to new regulations that will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2020, retail and hospitality companies with more than 250 employees will have to pay workers a $40 fee if they work shifts that are less than 9 hours apart.
While the rule might look great on the books, a firm that size will henceforth never allow an employee to do back-to-back shifts. Rather than giving workers a pay raise, the regulations will cap an employee’s earning potential.
However, it’s not just employees who suffer. In Seattle, restaurants have to give employees at least two weeks’ notice of their schedule and face a steep additional cost to change it. That forces managers across the city to predict whether the next Seahawks game will draw a crowd, or if the weather will be nice in two weeks’ time.
Rather than paying the penalty for offering additional shifts to workers, they’re more likely to make do with the employees they already have scheduled. Slower service for customers, lower sales for employers, and overworked staff are all the result of these senseless laws.
The cost of compliance is yet another drain on businesses and consumers. Restaurant and retail chains in Seattle are obliged to offer new shifts to existing employees for at least three days before they can bring in additional staff. But that offer has to be documented and saved for at least three years.
Every time a colleague calls in sick or their flight is canceled, managers are forced to waste hours of labor jumping through regulatory hoops. When the cost of compliance goes up, so too do costs for consumers.
Employees and businesses thrive when they have predictability in their obligations to each other. But predictive scheduling laws incentivize employers to work their employees harder, while also stripping workers of the right to earn more. As businesses, employees and consumers prepare for the festive shopping season, scrapping predictive scheduling would be a holiday miracle for all.