What Would Make for a Good Secure Scheduling Law?

It's been a long time coming, but secure scheduling is finally on the way. What will it look like?

It’s been a long time coming, but a secure scheduling proposal is finally on the way. What will it look like?

Over the last few months, Seattle has had an ongoing citywide conversation about secure scheduling laws. City councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Lorena González launched the conversation back in February, we published a podcast on the topic, we’ve addressed some of the concerns and threats from small business owners, we’ve talked about the effects of bad scheduling on workers, and we’ve looked at polling that indicated a lot of Seattle workers desperately need secure scheduling in their lives.

But what should secure scheduling laws actually look like? What rights should laws protect? We’ll find out soon what Herbold and González are thinking, but Working Washington put together a great list of issues that good secure scheduling laws should cover. Aside from the basics—advance notice of two weeks for schedules, predictability pay if a schedule changes, ending clopenings without additional compensation—a pair of other points are very important. First is a caveat that protects employers:

Voluntarily swapping shifts is a key way workers maintain their flexibility, and this must be protected. In order to ensure employers continue this practice for workers who need to create some extra flexibility of their own, there should be no predictability pay for employee-initiated shift swaps.

Absolutely! One of the biggest fears we hear from employers is that their workers’ flexibility will decrease under a secure scheduling law, or that employers would be fined if workers wanted to change their schedules. A caveat to protect employee work shifts is absolutely necessary to preserve a flexible workplace that’s good for workers and employers.

And lastly, Working Washington suggests that the law provides access to additional hours: “current employees who want to work more hours should have the opportunity to take on newly-posted shifts before additional part-time employees are brought on. ” This is important, and of all the parts of the secure scheduling discussion that have happened in Seattle so far, it’s been by far the least examined. Many employers like to keep a fleet of part-time employees at the ready, but this creates real hardship on employees who might have to juggle multiple odd-scheduled jobs every week. If an employer is happy enough with an employee that they keep them on staff, and if that employee would like to work more hours, why wouldn’t bosses offer additional hours to their workers first? It creates less training time and expenses, it results in happier workers with more money to spend, and it improves workplace efficiency.

We’ll soon see what González and Herbold have decided after months of deliberation. Hopefully the secure scheduling that they propose will look a lot like the secure scheduling that Working Washington encourages. Those five simple guidelines would result in a Seattle with happier, wealthier workers, satisfied employers, and a more humane way of doing business for the rest of the country to emulate.

Working Washington has a clever one-click button to contact the City Council and tell them what you want to see in a secure scheduling law. I suggest you go use it.

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.