Victoria’s Secret uses “on-call shift extensions,” where
employees report for a scheduled four-hour stint and then,
while at work, wait to be notified if they’re needed for an
extra two hours. That strategy avoids state scrutiny for
dodging reporting pay laws, Gleason says, though it does
not eliminate unpredictability. As employers become more
innovative, “it’s going to make for some murky waters in
terms of how this is regulated,” Leimbach says.
Even if employers can’t end on-call scheduling, they
can mitigate the pain it causes by spreading just-in-time
assignments throughout their workforce, using technology to forecast staffing needs and paying incentives
to workers who accept last-minute changes. Organizations that make these efforts are often rewarded with
higher morale and employee loyalty.
Chicago’s Fifty/50 Management Group seeks to limit
last-minute scheduling changes for its 450 employees,
Software Systems’ Ximble
software to set schedules
two weeks in advance at
its nine restaurants, says
Malinda Reicher, the company’s HR and training
On rare occasions, such
as when unexpected spring
showers fall, restaurant staffers scheduled to work the
outdoor seating areas will
learn as late as that morning
that their evening shifts have
been canceled. Though uncommon, those down-to-the-wire changes, for which workers are not paid, can dampen
morale and increase turnover, Reicher says. She reminds
managers to make sure not to repeatedly cancel shifts for
the same employees.
When the restaurants expect surges in patrons—
during Cubs playoff games, for example—Fifty/50
makes optional last-minute shifts available to qualified workers. Those who want to pick up extra hours
can do so on a first-come, first-served basis. “They
know it’ll be worth their while to come in,” Reicher
says, because private parties pay an 18 percent gratuity
and large crowds mean more tips.
Sometimes the solution can be as simple as extra pay.
There’s nothing to prevent businesses that use on-call
scheduling from compensating workers, even if no laws
require them to do so, Gleason and Leiwant contend.
That’s what New Castle, Del.-based N. K. S. Distrib-
utors Inc. does. The beer distributor pays its employ-
ees for four hours of labor if they’re called in outside
their scheduled shifts, even if they work fewer than four
hours, says Joanne P. Lee, SHRM-SCP, the company’s
vice president of human resources.
Because the 130-employee company cannot always
predict when long-distance truckers will arrive with
goods to be unloaded, managers must sometimes call
workers in with little notice. The on-call scheduling
pay bonus is built into the contracts of the company’s
unionized workers, Lee says. To be equitable, N.K.S.
extends the provision to nonunionized staff as well. Lee
credits the company’s approach with keeping turnover
low, around 5 percent, less than half of the typical 13
percent rate for its industry.
Finding Middle Ground
If local and state governments opt to enact legislation
governing schedules and pay, HR professionals will
face more challenges to ensure corporate compliance,
Coburn says. Some locations may have no rules regulating workers’ schedules. Others may have detailed
regulations and penalties for noncompliance.
If your business operates in jurisdictions that don’t
bar on-call scheduling, consider experimenting with
varying amounts of notice to find a comfortable middle ground that meets the needs of workers and the
business. There’s plenty of space for compromise
between one hour’s notice and two weeks’ notice. “It
wouldn’t surprise me to see different approaches,”
Ultimately, getting scheduling right may entail using
data analytics, good judgment and flexibility to max-
imize customer service while keeping costs in check.
“Something is always going to come up,” says Fifty/50’s
Reicher, “but being prepared and using data and your
experience prepares you to do the best you can.”
June D. Bell is a San Francisco-based journalist who covers
California labor and employment issues for SHRM.
‘Something is always going to come up,
but being prepared and using data and
your experience prepares you to do the
best you can.’
–Malinda Reicher, Fifty/50 Management Group