From music to fashion to culture, over the years San Francisco has launched many trends that have influenced the retail and hospitality industries. But, the trend it started when it introduced predictive scheduling with the Retail Workers Bill of Rights in 2015 is probably having the most significant impact on these industries today.

Formally called the Formula Retail Employee Rights Ordinances, these laws (there are two) are intended to regulate the scheduling and treatment of hourly workers in retail and hospitality establishments. Today, Seattle, Emeryville, San Jose, Washington, D.C., New York City, the state of Oregon, and Philadelphia (effective January 1, 2020) have enacted similar laws with more cities and states considering similar measures.

These laws are all well-intended as legislators seek to protect hourly workers. The retailers that Axsium Group works with recognize that giving associates more control of their schedules improves retention and engagement which translates into better service and ultimately leads to higher sales and profits. Unfortunately, the laws are challenging for retailers to understand, implement and comply with.

While each jurisdiction’s law is different, most share common ideas:

  • Employees must be provided with a good faith estimate of expected work schedules/hours when hired
  • Schedules must be posted well before the workweek begins
  • Workers are entitled to minimum rest periods between shifts
  • Additional hours should be offered to part-time employees before hiring new staff or bringing in workers from other locations
  • Employees should have a say in their schedule by setting availability, accepting changes to their schedules, and swapping shifts with others
  • On-call shifts are prohibited or heavily restricted

 

The penalties for not complying start with compensating the employee but can result in fines and vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  For example, if an employee’s scheduled hours are reduced, the Seattle Security Scheduling Ordinance entitles employees to receive pay for half of the hours eliminated while Oregon’s law requires time and a half for time removed from a schedule.

Finally, these laws require that employers keep records to document their compliance, with most requiring that documentation is maintained for a minimum of three years. And this is where workforce management systems become vital for a retailer of almost any size. A WFM system becomes the primary source of documentation about schedules and time records.

The problem is that no WFM solution really solves the predictive schedule compliance problem for retailers.  Most WFM systems cannot do seemingly simple things like documenting when a schedule is posted, and all systems struggle to do hard things like automating the workflow of a schedule edit after the schedule has been posted.  In such a case, the system would have to ask the user why the schedule was being changed, determine if that results in compensation to the employee and then adjust the employee’s pay accordingly. WFM systems cannot handle this type of complex workflow today and won’t in the future until predictive schedule laws become more widespread.

At Axsium, we have seen many retailers try to use manual processes to comply with predictive scheduling laws, but as with most manual processes they are prone to poor execution and manual errors.  A better solution is to leverage a WFM system to the best of its ability, augment the WFM solution with other technology such as mobile shift management and communication solutions, and fill any remaining gaps with bulletproof processes.

As more and more state and local regulations are put in place that affect how employers schedule their employees, it is becoming increasingly critical for retailers to seek out expert advice to ensure compliance while also effectively supporting their associates and making the most of their labor budgets.