Predictive Scheduling Laws: Penalties, Fees, and Fines, Oh My
Arranging childcare, scheduling transportation, attending school or second jobs, or caring for family members…there are many things hourly restaurant employees juggle outside of work. When managers make changes to a previously set schedule, the impact on the employees can be a tough one. Unfortunately, it often comes with additional costs for these workers. Predictive scheduling laws are designed to help combat this. They charge penalty fees to help compensate employees who have been inconvenienced (or over-worked), while simultaneously providing a financial disincentive for restaurants to make last-minute changes.
Predictive scheduling laws vary by city and by state, but the trend is sweeping the nation, with states regularly embracing this legislation. These laws are designed to help employees gain some predictability with their schedules. But the burden of logistics tends to fall on general managers, who now must juggle multiple requests, nuances, and tricky timings when crafting the schedule.
Luckily, there are some big advances that can help alleviate this administrative burden. Technology to rescue! The right solution helps minimize the headaches and maximize efficiency, with your managers setting a solid schedule. And, since employee happiness and engagement is at stake, even those in states without predictive scheduling laws — or even states that prohibit the introduction of predictive scheduling penalties — can benefit from this technological solution.
Collaboration is Key
Hospitality is an inherently warm, social, and collaborative industry. It relies on strong communication and everyone working in harmony in order to deliver outstanding guest experiences. Applying that collaborative lens to the scheduling process fits with the nature of the industry, and has a similar role in the success of your business.
Collaborative scheduling takes this more hospitable approach. It encourages open communication and transparency, while limiting liability for managers and your restaurant. With a collaborative scheduling tool, your team can:
- Suggest unavailability/shift conflicts in advance
- Request to swap or drop shifts
- Coordinate with other team members to make swaps (pending manager approval)
- Respond to open-shift postings after a schedule has been set
- Maintain a clear, up-to-date record of who initiated changes to the schedule and for what reason
- Gain flexibility with split-shift options
- Reduce the administrative burden of setting schedules and making changes
- Avoid the confusion of juggling multiple versions of schedules and ensure only the most up-to-date version is used
Embracing collaborative scheduling shows a respect for employees and their time. Involving them in the decisions that impact their life both at and outside of your restaurant will help them feel cared for and more engaged at work, building trust and loyalty, and improving employee retention rates.
Give Your Mangers the Tools to Thrive
Improve Scheduling Accuracy
The first step in making scheduling easier and maintaining compliance with predictive scheduling laws is to set a schedule that requires the least number of changes down the line.
The secret here is demand forecasting. This is an item-based approach to scheduling, rather than using a set weekly budget, sales-per-labor-hour, or a forecasted-covers approach. With the right forecasting algorithm, your restaurant will be able to predict what will be sold. Now, your managers can match labor with expected activity level, and can do so in increments as small as 15 minutes. To create the most accurate schedule possible, the algorithm must draw from multiple data sources, including current and past trend analysis, holidays and events, and weather forecasts, while leaving room for local manager knowledge. This approach achieves higher levels of accuracy than alternative scheduling methods. It also helps eliminate the last-minute shift cutting. The right tool helps managers craft the most effective schedule possible, with staggered start- and end-times to achieve the maximum productivity while minimizing spend.
Embrace a Collaborative Scheduling Approach
When adjustments must be made, the most efficient approach is one that encourages collaboration. A collaborative-scheduling solution provides employees with a platform for communicating effectively and efficiently with managers. The system also maintains a clear and accurate record of all changes (including origin, result, and time of request). This piece is critical to ensuring compliance with predictive scheduling laws, and protects your business from potential lawsuits in the future.
When an employee speaks to a manager about making a change to the schedule and the manager posts something to find a replacement, ultimately it looks as though the manager requested the change. Down the line, that could result in a penalty or, in extreme cases, a lawsuit. The more time that goes by, the harder it is to prove who said what. When employees initiate changes, however, there are no fees for your restaurant. A collaborative scheduling tool enables employees to request changes, while maintaining a record of who initiated the request.
In a similar vein, if a manager posts an open shift to fill a last-minute vacancy, your restaurant will not owe a fee to those who volunteer to work it. A collaborative scheduling tool will allow managers to post open shifts to anyone available to work them, and can select among those who volunteer to pick up the extra hours. Unlike a paper posted on a notice board, this digitized approach allows for instant changes, while keeping timestamped records of how the change was made.
A Note on Avoiding Fees
It’s easy to get stuck in the mindset of avoiding fees at all costs. But without considering the larger picture, this can end up costing your business extra. For example, in an effort to avoid paying an employee overtime, a manager may put someone else on the schedule. If that someone else is more senior, however, their base hourly rate may end up costing your restaurant more than someone more junior making time-and-a-half. Being able to see the true cost to your business for any given iteration of a schedule will help your managers find hidden gains while maximizing efficiency.
With collaborative scheduling, the employee is able to figure out the logistics with fellow co-workers. Because the platform is digital, they can make these arrangements without both having to be on the same shift at the same time. As a result, the employee who needs the change can more quickly suggest their replacement.
Meanwhile, managers maintain control: each change the employees submit must still be approved (or rejected) and ultimately made at the managerial level. With this approach, managers can simply review the requests, and don’t have to spend time fielding inquiries and follow-ups by the staff member who wanted the change.
When the manager approves the change, it automatically updates the schedule. This new iteration is then instantly available for everyone via the workforce management platform. The advantage here is that changes are not lost or overlooked on a noticeboard in the back office: affected employees are notified via their mobile device and the changes are instantly available for anyone to reference digitally.
A Note on Restricting Requests
Some restaurants prefer an approach that restricts change requests. The thing is, while you can stop a request from being submitted, you can’t eliminate the associated event from happening. In reality, employees instead call managers directly to ask for exceptions and changes, creating an urgent, short-term-management burden. And, as employees are making requests in person or over the phone, there is no paper trail to ensure compliance with predictive scheduling laws and to limit liability.
Embracing a fully-integrated platform that gives you demand forecasting capabilities. Meanwhile, collaborative scheduling functionality will surely save managers headaches, frustrations, and time. But it won’t keep last-minute changes from arising.
There are simply some things you can’t predict: sickness, babysitter cancelations, an unexpected hospitalization of an employee’s relative, and so on. These things happen, but they shouldn’t have to negatively impact your business. With these employee-driven changes, collaborative scheduling makes it easier to find replacements. And, it keeps a record of what initiated the last-minute change to the schedule. The system logs that the employee has reached out requesting the dropped or swapped shift, removing any risk that in the future, one could claim they were unfairly cut from a shift at the last minute. With finding a replacement made easier, it also helps ensure that you have the coverage you need for every shift.
The beauty of collaborative scheduling is it reduces the administrative burden from the manager, yet not the control: it simply reduces the workload for everyone.
To learn how you can help your managers create highly accurate schedules, download our complimentary white paper, the Science of Scheduling. Or to learn more about collaborative scheduling and our fully-integrated workforce management solution, get in touch with us here.
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