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Predictive Scheduling And Hiring: Why A Strong Economy Makes Small Benefits Valuable For Applicants

Predictive scheduling laws are popping up in cities across the U.S. In general, these laws require certain employers to provide employees with schedules in advance and compensate employees for cancelling or rescheduling shifts at the last minute.

Large employers, like Walmart, have tried using predictive scheduling in their workplaces. A survey found that predictive scheduling could reduce unplanned employee absences, which waste 10 percent of budgeted employee work hours.

Predictive scheduling laws specifically target businesses in industries where on-call scheduling, hourly employees, and minimum wage employees are common. The laws tend to focus on those industries that hold back some of their hourly employees for fluctuations in activity. These laws commonly include retail businesses; restaurants; and seasonal businesses in the hospitality industry. 

San Francisco's "The Predictable Scheduling and Fair Treatment for Formula Retail Employees Ordinance", for example, applies to "formula retail" businesses, a local definition that includes chain stores with 11 or more locations worldwide. The law applies to a subset of those businesses, which employ 20 or more individuals in the city of San Francisco, and have 20 or more locations worldwide. The law also includes property services contractors that provide janitorial or security services to these types of businesses.

San Francisco employers in these industries are required to provide employees with their schedules at least two weeks in advance and to make no schedule changes with less than seven days' notice. Also, on-call employees must be paid for two to four hours of a shift whether or not they are called in to work.

In Seattle, this type of law similarly requires 14 days' notice of schedules, as well as compensation for schedule changes after work schedules have been posted.

In New York City, the law applies to fast-food employers with 30 or more such establishments nationally and retail employers with 20 or more employees engaged "primarily in the sale of consumer goods." The NYC employers are required to post schedules at least 72 hours prior to any shift, as well as schedule all retail employees for a minimum of 20 hours of work for every two-week period.

Other states that have adopted predictive scheduling laws for certain employers also include New York, California, Washington and Illinois,  and others.

Research also suggests that employees benefit from predictive scheduling. One study found that unpredictable schedules cause negative health effects for employees. Valerie Bolden-Barrett "NFIB urges pushback against predictive scheduling laws" (Mar. 21, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

Most family employers will not be deemed subject to predictive scheduling laws, which target specific industries.

Nevertheless, it is important to review the local laws with your legal counsel. If you are subject to laws like predictive scheduling, be sure to comply.

Even family employers who are not subject to any predictive scheduling law may still want to provide predictive scheduling for several reasons.

First, although predictive scheduling takes advanced planning, it can benefit family employers. When staff is constantly dealing with last-minute schedule changes, they become frustrated and disengaged. When staff are disengaged, their productivity suffers. They are also more likely to leave the organization, resulting in high turnover costs.

Also, studies suggest that predictive scheduling can reduce staff sick days and health care costs. As a result, predictive scheduling may cut expenses for family employers that provide health coverage for staff or who have experienced lost income from staff members who are frequently off sick. 

Many workers are attracted to employers that offer predictive scheduling. Predictable schedules may benefit parents and other staff members who need to know their work schedules in advance because of other responsibilities. By providing benefits, such as predictive scheduling, that other family employers do not provide, you will attract the best staff people. For smaller businesses, moving away from manual scheduling processes to online employee scheduling software can ease the burden of adopting a predictive scheduling policy.

Finally, predictive scheduling can help limit your risk of overtime and complaints that overtime was not paid. With predictive scheduling, you can set the number of hours to your budget and avoid overtime.

With the current "full-employment" economy, more family employers will be competing for talent. Here are some more ways that family employers can hire exceptional staff members:

  • Have a well-written job description for every position, and only hire an individual if he or she clearly demonstrates, though education, previous experience, and the interview process, that he or she can meet all of the job requirements.
  • If possible, have a selection committee, rather than a single individual, review candidates for open positions and promotions.
  • Look at applications for evidence that prospective hires are motivated to learn - for example, taking non-required workshops or classes, or taking on work outside of their job description. 
  • When talking to applicants' references, ask if they were self-motivated and hard workers, dependable, dedicated to the organization, and good communicators.
  • During the interview, ask applicants about their willingness to learn new skills, their desire to work on a team, and their commitment to working for you. 
  • Also, ask applicants to tell you about times when they have sought additional learning opportunities or asked for greater challenges in previous positions.
  • Be sure to conduct thorough background checks on new hires before they begin the job.


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