Work Time Management··8 min read

What is Predictive Scheduling? And How Can You Use It?

What is Predictive Scheduling? And How Can You Use It?

Predictive scheduling in the workplace is essential to sound business practice. Without it, it can cause instability and a loss of the freedom to plan without losing out on finances. After all, many still spend a good third of their lives at the workplace. Plus, predictability makes things easier, as employees are better able to plan their life around their hours.

So far, most states do not have this law. Only two states have implemented predictive scheduling laws but it is safe to say that what employees are able to accomplish outside of work greatly contributes to how well they perform inside the workplace. So let’s explore why predictive scheduling laws are spreading across the country.

What is predictive scheduling?

Predictive scheduling is a proactive measure for the sake of clearing up arguments between employees and employers about hours earned for pay. This is especially useful for smaller businesses, where employees have a more personal relationship with their employer (I.e., family member) and may feel obliged to cover hours without pay.

Overall, it lessens the confusion and keeps the peace as current employees know their schedules weeks in advance. Whether it's for full time or hourly employees, this gives everyone an advance notice of who is available and at what times. And complying with employment law is a nice extra too.

Moreover, it restricts employers from imposing harmful tactics such as back-to-back scheduling and short-notice schedule changes. Simply stated, an employer is required to provide a schedule ahead of time so employees can plan for the shift. This law, on its face, is reasonable because it covers retail, food service, and hospitality workers who are vulnerable to unpredictable scheduling practices.

Employees who fail to notify employees have premiums imposed for all the hours. But despite laws surrounding the issue, being upfront and consistent with hours means an upfrontness and consistency with pay. Consistent pay is a way to gain respect and preserve fairness.

States with predictive scheduling

Despite those being the ideal outcomes for a law such as this, some states and cities put their own spin on it. The laws are often aimed at retail employees, those working in hospitality, and food service industries with at least 500 workers worldwide. Though many are similar, each emphasizes specific policies or prioritizes demands from certain sides.

For example, San Francisco requires businesses to provide notice seven days in advance for any schedule changes. In Oregon, employers have 14 days to provide a written work schedule for all shifts. If there are unincluded shifts, they can be declined; there is room for negotiation as well, but if notice is not given 14 days ahead of time, the employer is required to provide premium payment.

As for Vermont, they have a lighter version that deals with open dialogue in the workplace, more than anything else. Since 2014, the state has had some version of specific concerns addressed in predictive scheduling laws. The state believes that open communication is key between the employer and the employee.

Specifically, if an employed person desires more flexibility in their work schedule, the employer must consider their argument at the very least, but whether or not such flexibility is granted is still the employer’s decision. Vermont even outlines that employees have the opportunity to appeal twice per calendar year. It’s a start, some may say, but it is undoubtedly something that needs to be witnessed in action.

The law paves the way for open dialogue, without the fear of discharge or discrimination, but Vermont is very unique in its decision to leave it up to the parties involved. So much so that one may wonder if studying its effectiveness over time is best to ascertain whether or not confrontation gets results. On its face, it is something unionizing struggles to accomplish, let alone single employees.

So Oregon and Vermont, including the eight municipalities of San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Berkeley, and Emeryville have taken predictive scheduling laws on board in some capacity. Meanwhile, Arkansas, Tennessee, Georgia, and Iowa have prohibited them. Others currently considering are as follows:

  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Connecticut
  • New Jersey
  • North Carolina
  • Michigan
  • Rhode Island

Note that different representations exist in one state than another and are expected to evolve in the coming years. What’s important is remaining updated about local and state laws to avoid penalties.

So, unless you want to get legal advice when it's too late, it's best to get informed ahead of time. Besides getting relevant information from the area of your business location, you should also get accustomed with your state laws. Using employee scheduling software such as Unrubble can help you automate some of the more tedious tasks, but it is up to you to find out the laws that apply to your business.

Importance of predictive scheduling

Employers and employees have been at odds for time immemorial on wages and hours. Fortunately, some form of protection is given to create a fair atmosphere. Labor laws create the right to unionize but give the two parties a sort of civil way to hash out their differences. The two, at its core, are employees who desire to work less for more, and employers who often desire to work more for less.

Labor law predictive scheduling settles tensions rising with the need for discrepancies in the law to be better nuanced. For one, before fair work schedule laws, companies do not consider that many people have a second job. This consideration allows employees the opportunity to commit to taking on extra hours.

Second, employees can achieve what’s acknowledged more and more to be a healthy work-life balance. By establishing more ways to chime in on extra work hours or swap hours with coworkers, a sense of control over their lives is being redefined and financial security is secured. No matter if it's minimum wage or a regular rate for a role in your industry, they get to control how they work.

Other benefits include:

  • Loyalty – employees are prioritized and must be asked to take up extra hours before delegating them to new hires.
  • Limitations on “clopenings” - working double shifts back-to-back is considered inhumane under work schedule laws. Employers must allow for 10 hours (sometimes more in certain jurisdictions) of recuperation time for employees expected to immediately work an extra shift. You cannot force employees to take on additional shifts, be it retail employees or some other industry - not even if you offer additional compensation.
  • Bad practice protection – protection is granted from the threat of being fired for not coming in on off days. It also prevents employers from making last-minute changes to schedules.
  • More flexible work schedules - when employees are in control of their work hours, they can create flexible schedules and plan hours of rest between shifts or just create a regular schedule for themselves.

The government exists to consider such oversights and dole out guidance. They set the standard for wages and overtime pay and uphold the right to unionize via the labor law. Thus, drawing the lines between man and business to solve the ongoing disagreement of hours worked and proper payment is only natural.

In retail establishments, building services, food employers and others, these legislations help employees.

How to use predictive scheduling

So whether it affects a business or not, predictive scheduling will require an overhaul of a centralized way of managing workload distribution.

This is necessary for those who have multiple locations, such as food services businesses or retail businesses. Each location is different and thus will need a specific method of handling staffing shortages, whether it's retail employers or some other industry.

One way to do so is re-training management. An audit is a great way to start to better understand what actions are necessary to take for which location to comply with the laws in the area. In terms of communication, managers will need to understand which employees are available to pick up extra hours. Those volunteers will then need to be logged because let’s face it: the alternative isn’t productive for either party involved.

So it’s no wonder that large-sized companies are depending on AI systems to keep up with fair work schedule laws. In addition, many scheduling apps have popped up on the market for large companies to manage employee work schedules.

Apps will often display extra work hours for employees where they can pick up more hours. Plus, seeing hours to work weeks ahead of time is great for planning around every hour of predictability pay.

This approach indirectly impacts business in a positive way. Time for setting medical appointments, time with family and friends, and hours to rest between shifts are top concerns for many workers in fields that this law impacts and are likely to have more than one job or work additional hours. Essentially, a more negotiable work schedule greatly influences morale in the company.

Each company will need to take a different approach to navigate scheduling laws as they evolve. In theory, any method that allows for voluntary schedule swapping and sign-up policies is recommended to lessen last-minute schedule changes. There will also need to be fluidity between each department so that a business avoids oversight and does not fall prey to labor code violations.


Change often requires stressful changes, but that doesn’t have to be the case. The days of the spreadsheet era are passing as more complex laws make for a more responsible and respectable way of doing business. Predictive scheduling has pushed hourly wage-making into the modern era by making the necessity of backlogging and extra hours simpler.

Syncing up management, searching for the volunteers of the crew, and retraining will keep down payroll costs, provide a better purview of overtime, shut down traditional on-call work, and create a more flexible work environment. As more states consider fair work schedule laws, the goal is that tensions are soothed in the workplace by establishing better standards for distributing labor.

As an employer, one of the best ways to protect yourself and your employees is to use employee scheduling software. With Unrubble, you can track your employees' time, set an hourly rate and create predictive schedules with ease.

Sign up for free today!

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