A number of municipalities have passed rules that govern how far in advance an employees' hours must be set, but it all started in San Francisco in 2014, when the city passed the Formula Retail Employee Rights Ordinances. The laws mandate that restaurant and retail employers with more than 40 locations worldwide and 20 or more employees in San Francisco share work schedules two weeks ahead of time and pay staff extra for last-minute schedule changes.
Now, Bay Area restaurants are contending with some unforeseen impact on their businesses—some "serious consequences,” says Mike Whatley, director of state and local government affairs for the National Restaurant Association. “That has given certain jurisdictions a pause.”
As he and others note, the unexpected burdens are falling not just on restaurants, but also on their staffs.
Here are some of those unanticipated results.
1. Empty shifts
San Francisco's law requires restaurants to pay one to four hours of a worker’s standard rate for changing shifts less than seven days ahead of time. Operators have told Whatley that instead of paying extra to cover a shift on the fly, restaurants are leaving slots open. “Therefore, some workers who want to work additional hours have found it difficult to add hours,” he says.
2. Shift swapping
The scheduling law has added new documentation requirements that take up a lot of restaurant managers’ time, Whatley says. In some cases, keeping up with compliance has led to less flexibility for employees. “While the law in San Francisco doesn’t ban voluntary shift-swapping between employees, we’re seeing employers reduce that practice, because it’s too difficult to document,” he says.
On the other hand, some restaurant operators are placing the responsibility of filling empty shifts on staff to avoid penalties, says Gwyneth Borden, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association in San Francisco. “If employees have a scheduling conflict, the onus is really on them to find someone else to fill that shift,” Borden says. “It creates an additional burden for workers.”
Other restaurants are opting for on-demand labor to fill scheduling gaps without paying additional fees, Borden says. “We do have some companies locally that do on-demand talent filling, so if you need dishwashers at 10 o’clock, you might use that resource instead,” she says.