‘Predictive scheduling’ cuts turnover, ups productivity, experts say

By Jamie Herzlich

Inconsistent work schedules in certain industries, such as retail and food services, make it difficult for many employees, particularly low-wage workers, to hold second jobs or plan ahead for child care.

That’s one of the primary arguments driving various states and municipalities to implement so-called “predictive scheduling” legislation that generally requires employers to give a certain amount of advance notice to employees of their work schedules and compensate them if those schedules are changed.

San Francisco was the first city to pass predictive scheduling legislation in 2014, and others have followed suit. New York City’s measure takes effect in November. With additional bills pending nationwide, Long Island employers may want to take heed and review their own practices.

“These laws are gaining momentum,” says Jordan B. Schwartz, a partner in the labor and employment group at Conn Maciel Carey in Washington, D.C. “At the very least Long Island employers should start paying attention to it and start thinking about how they can adapt to such a law if it does get adopted.”

Even if the law doesn’t specifically impact them, employers should evaluate their existing workforce and scheduling practices and consider whether moving toward predictive scheduling would be beneficial for their businesses, he says.

While many of these laws are similar, they each have technical requirements that could be unique to their geographic location, Schwartz says.

For example, New York City’s Fair Work Week legislative package requires covered fast-food employers to post schedules at least 14 days in advance and provide new hires with good-faith estimates in writing about the number of hours to be worked every week, says Barbara DeMatteo, director of HR consulting at Jericho-based Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates.

These employers also would have to pay employees a premium on top of their regular wages, ranging from $10 to $75, for making schedule changes without adequate notification.

New York City’s law has separate rules for retail employers, for example requiring them to provide written work schedules to employees at least 72 hours in advance of scheduled work hours, says DeMatteo.

These requirements will be a record-keeping burden for employers, because they have to document what shifts people work, when they posted notices of changes in schedule, how they posted them and much more, DeMatteo says.

It also significantly limits the employer’s flexibility in scheduling, says Kimberly Malerba, chair of the employment law group at Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale.

For example, if a fast-food restaurant has a particularly busy weekend that wasn’t anticipated and has to call in workers, now it will likely cost the establishment more money in premiums to get last-minute help, she says.

Long Island employers aren’t required to make any changes at this time, but “they definitely need to monitor the situation,” Malerba says.

It may just make good business sense to improve scheduling practices. “It decreases absenteeism, increases productivity and also reduces turnover,” says Pronita Gupta, director of the Job Quality policy team at the Washington-based Center for Law and Social Policy.

Inadequate notice “makes it really hard for workers to make any other plans,” she says, noting the biggest challenge is arranging child care. If employees have enough notice, they can make other accommodations.

Look at laws in other localities as a benchmark to perhaps make changes.

“As these policies get crafted, you can use that to help inform yourself on what’s right for your business,” Gupta says.