Blog Post / October 10, 2018 / Industry Voices

New fair work schedule laws raise table stakes for restaurateurs, are you still in the game?

by Ana Cvetkovic

A wave of new legislation is sweeping across the United States regulating restaurant scheduling practices and introducing hefty fines for violations. From New York City to San Francisco and municipalities in between, these new fair work schedule laws are forcing restaurants to crack down on when and how they schedule staff–and enforcing legal accountability.

For unprepared restaurateurs these legislation changes are already becoming a huge headache–but restaurants able to handle the changes are rapidly gaining a leg up on their competition.

In this article we’re giving you the scoop on:

What is predictive scheduling?

Predictive scheduling laws require employers to give their employees their work schedules well in advance of their shifts, as well as afford them protections from unfair work practices. Also known as fair scheduling, predictable scheduling, restrictive scheduling, and secure scheduling, these hospitality and restaurant laws require employers in the industry to pay fines for changing work schedules after a certain time period.

In addition to requiring employers to give their employees advance notice of their schedules, predictive scheduling laws also include provisions for predictable pay and fair treatment of employees. 

Benefits of predictive scheduling

On average, restaurants currently give their employees only 2.44 days advance notice of their weekly work schedules. For low wage hourly workers, unpredictable schedules make it difficult to schedule other obligations (like second jobs or child care) and cause a lot of stress.

While predictive scheduling laws may take some getting used to for restaurateurs, they are ultimately beneficial to both restaurateurs and their employees. Predictive scheduling lets restaurant workers enjoy a better work/life balance, which in turn makes them happier, more productive employees. Ultimately, fair work schedule laws help reduce staff turnover and create happy, loyal customers.

How new fair work schedule laws affect restaurants

While some US states and cities are only talking about creating predictive scheduling legislation, it’s already a reality in some municipalities. The following are commonalities in fair work schedule laws cross the country, paired with solutions for making compliance easy.

Keep in mind that these are just generalizations. Check your area’s labor laws on schedule changes for the most accurate and specific regulations.

Advance notice

The cornerstone of predictive scheduling is giving restaurant workers advance notice of their work schedules. Fair work schedule regulations require employers to give their employees their work schedules by a certain time.

So when should work schedules be posted? Exact timing varies by municipality, so some areas requires as much as two weeks advance notice of work schedules, while others require as little as 72 hours notice prior to the shift.

Can employers change schedules without notice under the new predictive scheduling restaurant laws? Yes, but generally if they do so after the shift change window, they owe their workers a schedule change premium.

Moreover, while most municipalities that have adopted predictive scheduling laws don’t allow on-call scheduling, some areas allow it if employees elect to participate in it. In this case, the employer owes their on-call employees a minimum number of hours of work, or premium pay.

How restaurant employee scheduling software can help:

A good employee scheduling platform enables you to quickly create schedules and notify your employees about them via text, email, or mobile app. Look for platforms with auto-scheduling or custom shift templates which can automate the process for you while making it easy to make changes within your municipality’s shift change window to avoid fines.

An employee scheduling tool like 7shifts can reduce the time you spend scheduling your restaurant’s employees by 80%. It enables employees to accept and reject shifts in real time through free mobile apps, making it easy for you to adjust schedules in a timely manner.

Predictable pay

In addition to requiring employers to give their employees advance notice of their work schedules, predictive scheduling restaurant laws also enforce predictable pay measures, which help employees forecast their income.

In general, predictable pay regulations require employers to:

How restaurant employee scheduling software can help:

Look for a restaurant scheduling app that can provide you with real-time labor expense reports. This kind of tool helps make payroll predictable.

To go a step further, look for a tool that alerts you when you’re about to schedule your employees into overtime shifts. This feature will help you provide your employees with predictable pay and rest without creating any surprises for your bank account with penalties.

Fair treatment

Fair work schedule laws have several measures to ensure fair treatment of restaurant workers.

Most of these new regulations protect employees against “clopening” – closing one day and opening the next without the required minimum period of rest between shifts (typically between eight and 12 hours). For example, if Tony closes and works until midnight, and then is scheduled to open the restaurant the next day at 8 a.m., his employer may be on the hook for a violation if Tony didn’t get his city’s required minimum of 12 hours rest time between shifts.

Fair work schedule laws also require employers to treat their full time and part time employees equally when it comes to promotions, benefits, and other opportunities. Additionally, employers cannot hold employees’ requests to change schedules against them.

Employers must also offer available shifts to current employees before looking to hire new staff, unless this would require the employer to have to pay overtime. In order to give all employees an equal opportunity, employers must post available shifts somewhere where all employees can see them.

How restaurant employee scheduling software can help:

Look for an employee scheduling platform that provides proactive break and overtime alerts to help your managers give employees the time off they need and deserve.

Additionally, look for a platform that offers built-in communications tools which allow you to offer your staff additional shifts that come available for them to fill before you need to start looking for additional help.

Record Keeping

Another underlying principle of predictive scheduling laws is keeping records of employee schedules and payroll for certain period of time, usually several years, in case of an audit.

These audits can be extremely detailed and require restaurateurs to show the change logs for your schedules, showing every edit you made up until the point a new schedule is published. If you were to try to do this with pen & paper, it would take a colossal amount of effort to note every change that took place.

How restaurant employee scheduling software can help:

If you currently use old school methods of scheduling employees, your notebooks and spreadsheets may not be there when you need them years later. Online employee scheduling solutions store your employees’ schedules in the cloud, which means that you can access them from anywhere, at any time, for years to come – including a history of all the edits made.

Remember that the above are generalizations about predictive scheduling restaurant laws. To find out if your city or state has predictive scheduling laws, and what those laws entail, check your local labor laws on schedule changes.

How predictive scheduling will affect your restaurant

Owning a restaurant requires you to do a lot more than just make delicious food for your customers. Staying on top of local legislation is part of the job, but tools like employee scheduling software can help you stay on the right side of the law, while making scheduling a breeze.

Are you ready to embrace predictive scheduling laws?

About the Author

Ana Cvetkovic is a freelancer and content producer for 7shifts. She is also the CEO of BLOOM Digital Marketing, a Boston-based creative marketing agency that helps the hospitality and tourism industries reach new audiences online.