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There’s a new change on the horizon for businesses with over 500 employees, requiring a two-week advance schedule notice for hourly employees. The law is intended to target large retail, food service and coffee shop businesses. However, small business owners who operate franchises with parent companies who meet the criteria will also be required to comply.

About the Law

Seattle is now the second major U.S. city to pass a “secure scheduling” law, which will go into effect July 1, 2017. The law is intended to create a more predictable schedule for employees in service-oriented industries who work for large companies such as Northwest-based REI and Starbucks.

Supporters of the initiative argued that the law protects workers against unpredictable schedules, which make it difficult to plan for life events such as child care or working a second job. Seattle mayor Ed Murray shared his support for the law saying “Secure scheduling helps working families, young people, students and workers of color by providing stability and clarity to their work schedule.”

Those opposing the law voiced concerns that being able to call employees in for sick coverage or unexpected absences are crucial for retail operations. The Washington Retail Association feels the law will lead to reduced work hours and less flexibility for retail employees.

Could secure schedule laws affect you?

Currently, Seattle and San Francisco are the only two cities that have passed laws regulating retail and food service employee schedule changes. However, Seattle and San Francisco were also two of the first cities to approve minimum wage laws — a trend that quickly expanded to other areas of the country. Minimum wage laws (or ordinances) have passed in Los Angeles, Chicago, Oakland and Washington DC.

Supporters of the secure schedule law have argued that raising the minimum wage is useless without guaranteed scheduled hours, which are protected by the secure scheduling law. So it’s relatively safe to assume that scheduling laws will eventually follow a similar path for approval across the nation.

What it Means for Small Business Owners

The secure schedule laws are intended to target large businesses, but small business owners operating a franchise with over 500 employees worldwide will be required to comply with the regulations. Though the laws vary between Seattle and San Francisco, highlights of the Seattle law include:

  • A minimum two-week advanced notice for employee schedules for hourly workers.
  • Required pay for scheduled hours that are cut short.
  • Required pay for on-call hours if no hours are worked.
  • Civil penalties for failure to comply.

Much like the minimum wage increases that started on the West Coast, we can likely expect this trend to continue to pop up in major cities and potentially on the federal level. The key for franchise owners is being informed about the changes that could affect your small business and staying attuned to proposed ordinances in your area.

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