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New scheduling requirements may be coming to your area
Wages, overtime and paid sick leave laws have impacted the service and hospitality industry. But a new beast is rearing its head. The Fight for Fifteen and union rights movements are inspiring new city and regional legislation designed to provide workers with schedules that are more stable, predictable and take employee input into account.
As a franchise owner or restaurant executive, you expect your team to be flexible about the ebb and flow of traffic at your stores. You’re already running lean and mean without a lot of overhead and operating profit. You’ve got to optimize your labor costs and still maintain high food and service standards. You ought to be able to ramp up staff to meet a boost in traffic and take workers off when sales slump. You don’t need another cost eating into your numbers.
On the flip side, workers can have beef. They may appear happy to be sent home when guest traffic is low, but deep down they’re thinking, “Will I be able to pay my next bill?” When faced with variable earnings, budgeting quickly becomes unbearable and a lack of predictability can make it hard to fulfill caregiving responsibilities, pursue a higher education or balance a second job.
The ever-changing legal environment for food service
Introduced in June 2017, the Schedules That Work Act- sponsored by Rosa DeLauro, the Representative for Connecticut’s 3rd congressional district - will give employees input in their work schedules and the right to ask for changes without fear of reprisal. If passed, employers will be required to review and respond to scheduling requests, as well as grant schedule changes for certain situations. Other provisions address problems with erratic schedules, including giving employees advance schedule notices and paying them for schedule changes without the proper notice. At the time of this report, H.R. 2942 bill is still with Congress.
At the local level, several cities have already passed laws to create what they deem job stability - helping part-time workers live off their labor. Oregon’s own version of the law goes into effect in July 2018. Other cities are considering laws to remedy scheduling uncertainty as well.
Double down on documentation
Scheduling mandates will require chains and franchise networks like yours to post notices regularly and retain records for as long as four years. For example, Seattle’s law demands that employers maintain documented records for three years of operators’ responses to employee schedule requests, good-faith guesses of employees’ expected work hours and other aspects of the ordinance. Operators and franchise owners will need to keep a verifiable, electronic, printable trail of all schedules and shift transactions.
Failing to keep records could float the presumption that the restaurant operator violated the law. When it comes to predictive scheduling laws, improper documentation is a profit-killer. The cost of digital documentation is still negligible compared to the penalties around the predictive scheduling legislation and punitive damages arising from employee lawsuits. Consider this: small businesses spend on average $125,000 per case to defend a lawsuit.
How to limit the impact of new scheduling laws
Of course, you want to comply with the laws. But how can you provide schedules weeks in advance, in addition to retaining all records and notices required by law? Forget spreadsheets, company-built systems and onerous manual efforts.
An advanced labor forecasting tool that incorporates sales, point-of-sale data, guest counts/volume and labor/business rules. Schedules are less likely to change if they are originally built applying business rules, historical POS and volume data. Managers can then use that information to create accurate labor hours and shifts for each store.
Empower workers with mobile scheduling
Technology with intelligent functions goes deeper than routine scheduling software. It boosts access to schedules and the communication about them, while providing a documented trail of changes and notifications. One of the best ways to abide by laws that require input is with online and mobile scheduling software.
Accessing an app via a smartphone or PC, crews can make changes, trade shifts and accept time slots. They can submit time-off requests and their weekly, monthly or annual availabilities. So, if employees can’t work because they have class or another part-time job, that’s built into the system. Managers keep the approval rights of swaps, requests and availability notifications - with changes appearing instantly.
Is my restaurant affected?
To get more detailed information on laws by city and state, visit the HotSchedules predictive scheduling resource center.