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Are You Ready for Fair Workweek Laws, Building Service Contractors?

July 25, 2019 - minute read

Are you ready for fair workweek laws BSCsIf you think fair workweek laws only apply to restaurants and retailers, think again. On July 24, 2019, Chicago’s City Council unanimously passed a sweeping fair workweek law that covers building services, manufacturing, and healthcare, as well as restaurants, hotels and retail services.

Chicago joins a rapidly-growing list of cities and states—including Oregon, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, New York City, and Philadelphia—that have passed similar legislation. More and more municipalities are considering fair workweek laws of their own.

Also known as predictive scheduling laws, these ordinances require employers to provide workers with schedules up to 14 days in advance—or pay.  While Chicago’s law is the broadest ordinance passed to date in terms of covered industries, other cities may well follow suit. 

As a result, building service contractors—and other employers with an hourly workforce—should be asking themselves:

  • How will fair workweek laws impact our business?
  • Is our current HR policy and scheduling software up to the challenge?
  • If not, how do we get up to speed?  

What Fair Workweek Laws Entail

According to fair workweek advocates, the combination of low wages and unpredictable work hours creates serious challenges for low-income hourly workers—from living on a fluctuating income to managing stress-related health issues created by wage insecurity.

These workers struggle to do ordinary things: arrange dependable childcare, go to school part-time, stick to a household budget. The thinking is, more predictable work schedules will lead to more stable lives.

While every fair workweek ordinance is unique, most require employers to provide workers with: 

  • Advance notice of schedules (often up to 14 days’ notice) 
  • Compensation for schedules changed on short-notice
  • The right to decline hours without penalty
  • Mandatory rest periods between shifts 

For example, here’s Chicago’s fair workweek law in a nutshell:

  • Effective date: July 1, 2020, except for some hospitals (January 1, 2021).
  • Covered Industries: Buildings services, manufacturing, healthcare, hotels, restaurants (with at least 30 locations), retail, and warehouse services.
  • Covered Employers: Those with 100+ workers (250 for nonprofits), at least 50 in Chicago.
  • Covered Workers: Hourly workers earning $26 per hour or less; salaried workers earning $50,000 per year or less.  
  • Advance Notice Required: At least 10 days (effective July 1, 2020); then 14 days (effective July 1, 2022). Workers can decline schedule changes made after this period.
  • Extra Compensation: If a shift is changed after the advance notice deadline, the worker must be compensated with one extra hour of pay. The Worker also must receive at least 50% of pay for scheduled hours if a shift is canceled or cut short with less than 24 hours’ notice.
  • Right to Rest: Workers can decline shifts that are scheduled less than 10 hours from their prior shift. If they choose to work it, they must be paid 1.25% of their regular rate.
  • Offer of Additional Hours: When additional shifts are available, employers must offer them to workers covered under the ordinance before offering them to temporary or seasonal workers.
  • Exceptions: Schedules can be changed by mutual agreement, as documented in writing.
  • Penalty: $300-$500 per offense.

Obviously, non-compliance with fair workweek laws can become expensive for employers and create public relations problems as well.

How BSCs Can Prepare for Fair Workweek Laws

After becoming familiar with fair workweek laws and their business implications, BSCs should audit their existing HR policies and scheduling practices, identifying where changes are required.

BSCs should also audit their HR scheduling software—assuming their managers are using it—to ensure it will facilitate compliance. Functional scheduling software should be able to: 

  • Apply fair workweek rules correctly for each worksite location.
  • Allow managers to create and post/share work schedules in advance as required.  
  • Allow managers to categorize workers by training and certifications, ensuring schedules are done right the first time.
  • Integrate with payroll software to correctly tabulate additional pay resulting from last-minute schedule changes.
  • Allow workers to bid on open shifts and swap shifts with coworkers (pending manager approval), engaging workers in the scheduling process. 
  • Maintain records of workers’ schedules and actual hours worked, while capturing schedule changes and as they occur.

And of course, once new policies and scheduling software is in place, it’s critical to thoroughly train managers and workers to ensure compliance. Renegade scheduling practices are no longer an acceptable option.   

An Unexpected Upside  

While many employers object to fair workweek laws and worry about their impact on their business, studies indicate that these ordinances not only benefit workers as intended, but are benefiting employers through increased productivity. 

For example, in one study involving a chain of retail stores, those that switched to predictive scheduling saw sales leap to 7%, up from an average of 1-3%.

Whether you’re looking to get ahead of looming fair workweek legislation or to reap the workforce management benefits of optimized scheduling, EPAY’s advanced scheduling software can help. It’s part of our time and labor management solution—and it’s designed for BSCs and other employers managing an hourly workforce. See how it works.

Filed Under: Compliance HR News BSCs