More workers received their schedules at least two weeks in advance during the first year of a Seattle law meant to make their lives less hectic, a new report says.
Yet many workers still didn’t get their schedules ahead of time. Some employers welcomed the law, while others reacted negatively.
The “secure scheduling” law passed in 2016 covers hourly workers at retail and restaurant chains such as Starbucks, Nordstrom and Costco, and it includes a requirement that employers provide schedules 14 days ahead.
The law also regulates shift changes, on-call shifts, shift cancellations and “clopenings,” when back-to-back opening and closing shifts prevent rest.
Seattle and San Francisco broke new ground by adopting such measures, supported by unions, among others. Erratic schedules make it harder to budget and balance work with other parts of life, such as child care.
Before Seattle’s law took effect, in mid-2017, 45.7% of workers surveyed by a research team said they had usually received schedules at least two weeks in advance. A year later, 54.8% said they had usually gotten schedules on time, according to the team coordinated by the University of Washington’s West Coast Poverty Center.
That 20% increase was the most dramatic change noted by the team hired by the Seattle City Auditor’s Office, which released the first-year findings Friday.
In similar cities, where such workers were surveyed in order to provide comparison data, there was almost no change. In 2017, 45.7% of workers said they had received schedules 14 days ahead, and in 2018, 45.5% said they had.
The researchers surveyed several hundred Seattle workers and several thousand workers in other cities. They’ll follow up with a second-year report.
Samantha Grad, political director for the union that represents Seattle supermarket workers, said the initial results are promising. But more must be done to educate workers and employers and to enforce the law, she said.
“This shows us that employers can comply with the law and that the law can improve the lives of workers,” said Grad, from UFCW Local 21.
In addition to workers, the research team talked to 37 managers at Seattle businesses covered by the law, and their opinions varied.
“Most managers interviewed saw both strengths and weaknesses,” according to Friday’s report, although fast-food franchises owners in particular complained about their suburban competitors not having to comply.
Jacque Coe, a Seattle Restaurant Alliance spokeswoman, said managers have told the group Seattle’s law is hurting their relationships with workers.
Employers and workers have complained about “paperwork required when teams simply want to switch shifts on short notice, less time for managers to spend with employees and the rigid nature of penalty pay” when businesses must draw up schedules at the last minute due to circumstances they don’t control, Coe said.
“We urge the city to address these negative impacts on businesses,” she said.
Seattle’s law requires employers to pay extra when making changes to posted schedules, and workers were twice as likely after the law took effect to receive such pay, according to Friday’s report, though the practice remained rare.
Before the law, only 6.1% reported recently receiving extra compensation for shift changes. A year later, 14.2% did. Not all workers experience shift changes. The comparison cities saw a much smaller increase in special pay for shift changes, from 5.8% to 6.7%.
The researchers didn’t find much evidence for significant first-year impacts related to Seattle’s new rules for on-call shifts, cancellations and clopenings.
It makes sense that the 14-day provision yielded the most change right away, because it’s simple to understand, said Sage Wilson, spokesman for the union-backed advocacy organization Working Washington.
Most surveyed managers said that requirement was the easiest provision to implement and 91% had adopted advance-notice policies, though only 68% were actually providing such notices regularly.
The city’s law gives employees the right to request scheduling input based on circumstances related to housing, transportation, health and care-giving. Workers have told Working Washington they’re using that rule, Wilson said.
Seattle investigations related to scheduling are driven by worker complaints, and many workers still may not know about the rules, according to Friday’s report. Before the law, 40% knew about it. A year later, 44% did, with awareness lower for workers who speak a language other than English at home. Most managers were aware but several knew too little.
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