The laws require employers to notify employees of work schedules weeks in advance.

Small business owners typically take into account their employees’ needs, working with them to accommodate their schedules when challenges arise.

Predictive scheduling laws being introduced across the country, however, regulate how employers schedule hourly employees’ time. While such legislation varies from state to state, it generally requires businesses to provide hourly employees with work schedules several weeks in advance—something that isn’t always possible or realistic for small businesses. It severely limits owners’ control over their scheduling decisions and urgent business needs.

In some states, employers face fees or are required to pay employees for changing or canceling a shift. Oregon, Seattle, and San Francisco have already passed such legislation, and Chicago has an ordinance under consideration.  

“We’re taking it up several notches in terms of making our members aware of [predictive scheduling proposals],” says Mark Grant, NFIB’s Illinois State Director.

RELATED: Have You Considered Alternative Workweek Schedules?

Harmful for Workers and Employers

For some of the smallest companies who lack access to large-company resources, such as a human resource or accounting department, the unpredictability of staff needs in certain industries like construction and hospitality raises concerns.

The laws not only prevent employers from adjusting to market changes, bad weather, or other demands outside their control, but they also prevent employees from picking up additional work hours at a moment’s notice or requesting unanticipated time off.

Cities like San Francisco and Seattle have passed rules requiring certain retail and food services to provide workers with schedules up to two weeks in advance. Oregon has the first statewide predictive scheduling rules, but they only apply to businesses with at least 500 employees worldwide in hospitality, retail, and food service, according to Oregon.gov.

A recent proposal in Chicago will leave business owners with a much broader and costlier outcome. It would subject employers who alter schedules within two weeks of being posted to covering “predictability” pay and $500 fines.

Big Challenges for Small Business

Grant recently testified against a statewide proposal that would have regulated scheduling and imposed penalties on businesses.

He testified that business owners have told him the proposed rules would affect in-home healthcare, conflict with an existing Patient’s Bill of Rights, and pass costs onto the elderly and disabled. It would affect trucking business owners, given they have to schedule their trucks 48 hours in advance or less since their customers expect same-day service. And weather conditions, safety issues, and delays in product deliveries are inevitable, especially for those who work in the construction industry.

Grassroots Efforts

Mike O’Halloran, NFIB’s Maryland and Delaware State Director, is also working to prevent predictive scheduling laws. (At the moment, O’Halloran says predictive scheduling laws have not yet been passed in either state.) “As often as possible, we bring our member stories to legislatures and provide testimony in person,” O’Halloran says.

If predictive scheduling laws are proposed in your area, O’Halloran suggests contacting your state representatives about the potential impact that the regulations could have on your ability to run your business. Stay in contact with your state director, and to receive action alerts for your states, download the NFIB Engage App—the app built with your small business in mind.

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