Handling the flux of customer demand, staffing and profitability is the true science of business. It is the delicate balance of it all that likely led to the concept of on-call employees to begin with – employees waiting until a specific, often within only hours, of a shift before determining whether or not they will work. This has solved, to some level, the dilemma of over or understaffing for the business owners and managers. However, it is leaving employees scrambling, and because of this, the practice is argumentatively unethical, and will become illegal as worker laws prohibiting them continue to expand across the country.

“In December [2018], six major retailers—Aeropostale, Carter’s, David’s Tea, Disney, PacSun and Zumiez—dropped the practice after coming under scrutiny from a group of state attorneys general. Several other retailers did so in 2015.”  Source: https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/1117/pages/is-on-call-scheduling-on-the-way-out.aspx


Why is On-Call Scheduling Disappearing?

The practice began coming under scrutiny when concerns were raised in New York that it was a violation of state regulation that states employees must be paid for at least four hours if they report to work. In some cases, particularly for those in retail and restaurant industries, workers would report to work and get sent home if sales didn’t warrant the staffing. This poses a financial difficulty to workers who may have counted on the shift, and may have even lost money in childcare, transportation costs or even in the cost of lost time spent in another job, schoolwork, etc.

Imagine calling in to work for an on-call shift as a single parent: if you are to report, you have likely already established child care and transportation, which is an expense to you, but it may not be covered by the low wage and/or hours you report to work to cover. If you aren’t reporting, you may have expected the income that you no longer will receive and need to pick up an additional shift to now cover.

In fact, according to the Economic Policy Institute, most workers with this type of on-call scheduling are among the lowest paid, making less than $23,000 per year. This is the primary reason labor organizations, and others, are coming down on businesses with on-call scheduling believing employees deserve to have a reliable schedule in order to experience less family conflicts due to unpredictable income, transportation and childcare issues and to plan life outside of work. Source: Forbes.com/heres-how-being-an-on-call-employee-really-effects-your-life-and-your-finances


What to Do Instead

New labor laws are eradicating on-call scheduling and predictive scheduling is the way of the future. Large chains have already begun the practice which requires better tracking and management. Technology solutions are taking into consideration a multitude of data points allowing for better predictability of sales, and putting more control of scheduling into the hands of employees.


Zuus Workforce is a worldwide resource for labor compliance and labor optimization for the retail, restaurant, hospitality, security, healthcare, and manufacturing industries. Have questions about how they can support you? Contact them today.