Regulating scheduling at the workplace: Proposed rules may reduce opportunities for young workers

A Seattle Times commentary by Calvin Lyons, president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of King County, brings valuable perspective to consideration of something called “predictive scheduling” – the latest wave in workplace regulation. Predictive scheduling addresses an issue common in retail and hospitality work: employees are subject to frequent schedule changes, being called into work on short notice or sent home when there’s insufficient work for them to do.

Lyons acknowledges the problem, then adds:

Respectfully, we disagree with this policy for a couple reasons. First, in targeting part-time work, these ordinances seek to resolve a problem that doesn’t exist. Today’s workforce is a diverse mix of people with varied interests — some wanting 40 hours a week and others who don’t. Flexible part-time work is the choice of many members of our community who balance employment and their education, their retirement, their personal interests in the arts and any number of other scenarios — meaning some people simply do not want, and are not seeking, full-time employment.

Second, and more troubling: If enacted, such a law would punish some of the most vulnerable people in our community — the thousands of disconnected youths living in King County.

That’s because young workers benefit from the scheduling flexibility the retail workplace requires. 

Fortunately, many Seattle-area companies are looking for bright, energetic, positive and hardworking additions to their teams. But, infusing this talent requires managers who are willing to schedule around myriad complexities and challenges that define the lives of economically disadvantaged youths.

If managers are limited in the amount of flexibility they can provide, and if part-time employment is reduced, Seattle’s young men and women will suffer. Fewer flexible part-time-employment opportunities mean fewer people would find their all-important first job that provides immediate income and a chance to pursue greater dreams.

The Washington Research Council also comments on Lyons op-ed, noting that in addition to the Seattle city council, some state lawmakers are considering the idea.

Predictive scheduling will be a big issue this year – we’ll keep our eyes on it and bring you the latest as events unfold.

Like the minimum wage and paid leave, predictive scheduling proposals crop up first in cities with sympathetic council members and voters. In our foundation report, we noted the challenges that come with inconsistent regulatory policies.

In addition to the absolute costs of these measures, and the challenge they create in competing with other employers not subject to the same mandates, local governments’ wage and benefit regulations create compliance problems for employers operating in multiple jurisdictions. They also create difficulties as employers look to align their human resource policies among cities with different mandates.

As, as Lyons writes, the unanticipated consequences of many regulations undermine the objectives they attempt to achieve.