Predictable scheduling laws

Program overview

  • Predictable scheduling laws (also known as “fair workweek” laws) require businesses to provide hourly workers (primarily in fast food restaurants and retail chains) with schedules at least 14 days in advance.
  • Employers can change schedules within a 2-week period, but must pay the impacted worker a premium (which rises as the shift gets closer). Premium pay typically varies between $10-$75 per change. Premium pay also often applies to the practice of “clopenings,” wherein a worker is scheduled to close a restaurant one night and then open it the next morning within 11 hours.
  • Implementing jurisdictions often include additional provisions for increased worker access to hours (such as a requirement to offer available shifts to existing staff before hiring a new employee) and restrictions on termination (such as “just-cause” provisions that require written warnings and retraining before firing).
  • Enforcement of predictable scheduling laws, like many worker protection laws, is complaint-driven. In most cases, workers must file a complaint and participate in an investigation with the city’s designated enforcement agency. However, the process of filing a complaint can often result in a private settlement.
  • Enforcement agencies are typically housed within a mayoral office, such as the Office of Labor Standards (as in Seattle and San Francisco).

Evidence and impacts

Promising

Predictable scheduling laws are not yet in any major clearinghouses, but have demonstrated positive results in independent evaluations conducted by the Harvard Kennedy School Shift Project.

  • Increased work schedule stability and predictability
  • Increased compensation for last-minute schedule changes
  • Reduced material hardship, including hunger, housing instability, and inability to pay for medical care
  • Increased worker wellbeing and mental health outcomes, including overall happiness, job satisfaction, and sleep quality

Best practices in implementation

  • Invest significant resources in enforcement capacity, including traditional investigation processes executed by attorneys and emerging techniques that leverage data science to identify law violations embedded in scheduling software. A predictable scheduling law’s impact often hinges on the city’s ability to quickly process and investigate claims, helping workers reach settlements or securing restitution on their behalf.
  • Develop a robust marketing and awareness-raising campaign around the law’s launch date. This should include traditional advertising (such as in bus shelters) and social media, as well as direct, in-person events and presentations delivered to workers and employers. Prioritize using translation services to reach as many workers as possible.
  • Provide employers with multiple pathways to compliance, including graduated premium pay for schedule changes, while still maintaining a sufficient penalty for repeat offenders (such as an increasing penalty schedule). Emphasize the multiple pathways to compliance in direct engagements with businesses.
  • Consider comprehensive legislation that provides workers with supplemental supports, such as increased access to a full-time schedule (by requiring available shifts to be offered to current employees before hiring) and restrictions on termination (such as requiring a legitimate business reason for firing someone).