Washington politicos who keep to a predictable, 9-to-5 schedule seem unwilling to accept that a huge portion of the American workforce not working this way. In our increasingly service-based economy, characterized by such jobs as yoga instructors, restaurant servers, and Uber drivers, the workday of previous generations is gradually becoming a relic of it.
But politicians and regulators, beholden to labor unions threatened by this new economy, are waging a full-fledged assault on job creators who don’t conform to their concept of “work.” Their latest front is the so-called “Schedules That Work Act,” recently introduced in Congress.
This bill places limits on “on-call” and “split-shift” work. It would also require employers to post work schedules two weeks early, accommodate most of their employees’ scheduling requests, and limit changes to the work schedule within 24 hours of a shift. If only employers could demand this type of reliability from their customers.
But with the exception of government jobs, staffing needs vary with customer demand, not employee convenience. Trying to mandate scheduling consistency would place yet another burden on American small businesses and hurt the very people it intends to help.
“On-call,” “split,” and last-minute shifts, for instance, are staples of many industries where consumer demand fluctuates throughout the day and week. They allow restaurateurs, for example, to respond to a surge in diners from, say, a concert finishing nearby, and allow for appropriate staffing when the restaurant is busiest (i.e. mealtimes).
Limiting these shifts would lead businesses to understaff, meaning a less enjoyable experience for both the customer and the employee. It would also mean that employees miss out on the last-minute shift opportunity they otherwise would not have had the chance to take. And, where previously an employee could have worked eight hours over a “split-shift,” under this bill they may only have the opportunity to work one of the lunch or dinner rushes.
Too few hours is already a major problem for many American employees. There are 2.2 million employees in the country who receive 35 or fewer hours a week but who would like to work more. This bill would only exacerbate this trend.
Regarding the bill’s requirement to accommodate employees’ scheduling requests: The overwhelming majority of employers already attempt to do this. But guaranteeing them is not always possible. If such a mandate were passed, it would turn the scheduling process into a glorified logic problem, where employers try to match up which employees can work which hours and which days based on their countless scheduling conditions.
It’s not difficult to see who would be most hurt by such a mandate: those with the most onerous scheduling requests. Why provide job opportunities to employees whose scheduling demands create big headaches? In other words, like so many of the recently proposed workplace regulations ostensibly created to protect employees from the new economy, this bill would hurt the very people it is trying to help.
Alfredo Ortiz is CEO and President of Job Creators Network