Employers (and employees!) in Philadelphia received some big news this past year. On December 6, 2018, Philadelphia’s City Council passed its Fair Work Week ordinance, which puts strict limitations on how certain employers manage and schedule their employees. 

Fair Work Week legislation (also known as predictive scheduling legislation) has been sweeping the nation and Philadelphia is next in line. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2020, so time is of the essence. Employers and managers need to understand how to get in compliance before it’s too late, or they risk a slew of fines and bad PR.  

That’s why we’re here. Below, we’re going to lay out exactly what the Fair Work Week law means for Philadelphia employers, along with tips on how to get compliant before the new year! 

What is Fair Work Week legislation?

Fair Work Week legislation refers to labor laws that aim to curb scheduling practices that negatively affect employees’ finances and work-life balance. 

For example, many Fair Work Week laws mandate advance notice of work schedules for employees. Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week laws for instance state that employees must receive their schedules at least 10 days before the first shift starting in 2020, and then 14 days in advance starting in 2021. 

Predictive scheduling is meant to combat the all-too-common occurrence of employees receiving their work schedules with just one or two days’ notice, which makes it difficult for them to manage both their finances and personal lives. But predictive scheduling is just one aspect of Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week legislation — we’ll get into the others further down.

Who exactly is covered by Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week legislation? 

Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week laws will apply only to large businesses in the retail, food service, and hospitality industries. More specifically, it covers businesses in those industries who meet the following two criteria:

  1. 30 or more worldwide locations, including chains and franchises 
  2. At least 250 total employees worldwide

In order for employees to be covered by Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week laws, they must be non-exempt and work on either a full-time, part-time, seasonal, or temporary basis. Independent contractors will not be covered by Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week laws.

The 6 key provisions of Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week legislation

With a better understanding of what Fair Work Week laws are and who they affect, let’s dive into the new rules that Philadelphia employers will have to abide by come January 1, 2020. We’ll also touch on how businesses can prepare for these new regulations while also causing as little disruption as possible to their current processes. 

1. Advance notice of schedules

We touched on this earlier but it’s worth diving into further. Starting in 2020, Philadelphia employers will be expected to notify employees of their schedules at least 10 days before the work week begins. Starting in 2021, that notice period expands to 14 days.

If your business is still building the work schedule in Excel or printing it out and posting it in the break room, you’ll have a tough time providing advance scheduling notice. Any time somebody declines a shift or requests a different one, a manager will need to make a note of it and edit the schedule accordingly. With a large staff list, that can add hours to managers’ weekly workload, not to mention increase the likelihood of a scheduling error. Businesses should look for a workforce management platform that updates the work schedule in real time when staff accept or decline a shift, so that managers can focus on delighting customers and helping their team improve. 

2. Right of first refusal

Starting in 2020, Philadelphia businesses must also give their current staff members the right of first refusal to work more hours before the business is allowed to hire new employees. Employers have to provide staff written notice of new shifts or work opportunities 72 hours in advance before hiring new workers. And if an employer has multiple locations, the employees that typically work that location must receive the offer to work the shift first.

The law also states that employers must send these notices out electronically, as well as by any other avenues they typically use to communicate with employees. This is another area where workforce management software saves the day. The best platforms today enable managers to send announcements and work requests to precise, targeted lists of employees based on criteria of their choosing, such as the business location at which they typically work.

3. Good faith estimates

When businesses hire new employees, Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week law states that those businesses must provide them with a written good faith estimate of the shifts and number of hours they can expect to work. A good faith estimate means: 

  1. The employer must include the minimum number of hours new employees can expect to work each week over a period of 90 days. 
  2. The employer must specify whether or not new employees will be expected to work full shifts. 
  3. The employer must provide an accurate estimate of the shifts new employees can expect to work. 

Do yourself a favor and clearly define your good faith estimates before hiring any new employees so you’re prepared for their first day on the job. 

4. Predictability pay 

This is where things get tricky for Philadelphia employers. Starting in 2020, if a business alters an employee’s schedule after providing the required advance notice, then they must also add predictability pay to whatever wage the employee was already making. 

There are two key components to the predictability pay rule: 

  1. Reduction in hours: Whenever an employer reduces an employees’ hours, they must pay the employee at least one-half the employee’s usual hourly pay rate for each scheduled hour the employee didn’t work.  
  2. Scheduling changes with no reduction in hours: If an employer alters the date, time, or location of a shift, or if they add time to an employee’s shift, the employer must pay the employee for one extra hour at their regular rate of pay. Employees also get a 20-minute grace period at the beginning and end of their altered shifts. 

That said, employers aren’t required to provide predictability pay in any of the following situations: 

  1. If employees swap shifts with one another voluntarily. 
  2. A reduction in hours was a result of the employee being terminated. 
  3. You have it in writing that an employee asked you to change their shifts. 
  4. An employee volunteers to work more hours because of another employee not being able to work all of their scheduled hours. However, this voluntary act must come in response to an email, text, or other written communication that all relevant staff receuve. 
  5. Emergency situations that pose a threat to your employees’ well-being or property, such as an extreme weather event. 
  6. If an employee’s schedule changes because of a preplanned, ticketed event that’s out of the employers’ control.

Providing advance scheduling notice is one thing, but predictability pay gives employers more of an incentive to make sure they actually get the schedule right the first time they send it out. 

4. No more “clopening” shifts 

Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week law also mandates that employers can’t assign staff shifts that start within nine hours or fewer of the end of the previous day’s shift, unless the employee gives consent in writing. That means no more so-called clopening shifts, in which employees have to open the store in the morning after closing it up the night before. 

5. Recordkeeping requirements 

Philadelphia employers must now maintain records going back at least two years showing that they’re in compliance with Fair Work Week legislation.

These records must include all employees’ schedules, schedule changes, good-faith estimates, written consent for any clopening shifts, payroll records reflecting predictability pay, offers to employees to work new shifts, and employees’ responses to those offers. 

If any employee or enforcement agency requests to see those records, the employer must be able to produce them or face the presumption that they violated the law. In other words, it’s incredibly important employers keep these records on file in order to avoid costly lawsuits. 

But don’t assume this means you’ll have to deal with stacks of papers or mazes of computer files. Modern workforce management software will store this information automatically, making it easy to pull records as needed. 

6. Rules for working with staffing agencies 

Under Philadelphia’s Fair Work Week legislation, employers are only allowed to bring on employees from a staffing agency if the following circumstances are met: 

  1. None of the current employees have accepted the offer to work an available shift within the last 24 hours of that shift’s 72 hour posting period. 
  2. The employer receives written confirmation from each eligible employee stating they’re not interested in working the available open shifts. 
  3. Eligible employees have only accepted a portion of the available shifts, leaving some still available. 

Only when these circumstances are met can an employer hire an employee through a staffing agency. Once the employee is onboarded, the burden is on the employer to prove that employee should be considered an independent contractor should a Fair Work Week dispute arise.

Get compliant in no time! 

As 2020 approaches, many Philadelphia employers are probably worried about how they’ll adapt to the new rules. And rightly so — many businesses will need to make radical changes to their current processes. But Fair Work Week ordinances don’t have to be scary. Workforce management platforms like Nowsta are built to help companies comply with these kinds of labor laws, so you don’t have to go it alone. Sign up for a demo and see firsthand how Nowsta can help your business stay compliant.

Team Nowsta

Nowsta is the easiest way to schedule, manage, and pay hourly staff.