Just about everyone supports the idea of “workplace flexibility.” Of course, we want businesses to have enough people on hand to meet the needs of their customers — you don’t want a hospital to have such flexible schedules that there aren’t enough medical professionals on hand when you rush to the emergency room — but we also like the idea of workers being able to arrange schedules that meet their needs and allow them to take care of their families and other outside-of-work life pursuits.
Yet some lawmakers are pushing in the opposite direction to make our workplaces less flexible and make it harder for employers to accommodate the needs of employees.
As Christina Britschgi writing in Reason explains, that’s exactly what’s happening in Oregon, where lawmakers are pushing legislation calling for a “Fair Work Week,” which would require businesses to pay workers extra anytime their work schedules are changed with less than one week’s notice.
Undoubtedly, lawmakers believe that restricting employers’ ability to change schedules will help workers: They don’t like the idea of workers having to deal with shifting schedules, having to find child care at the last minute or, just as bad, having arranged for child care and then finding that their shift has been eliminated.
Yet they are overlooking that flexible scheduling is often a two-way street, with employers making changes to schedules not just because of business demands, but also because of employee’ requests. Britschgi writes:
Creating ’stability’ through regulation, however, comes at a cost. Employers’ workplace needs change suddenly, sometimes shift to shift, for all sorts of reasons. Denbrow would like to penalize them for responding to those changes.
The penalty might be triggered by the request of an employee, according to a University of Washington (UW) study commissioned to measure the impact of Seattle’s “secure scheduling” ordinance. The study found 80 percent of managers had within the previous two weeks of being surveyed changed schedules at the request of employees.
The reasons were as simple as illness (28 percent), recreation time (18.6 percent), or caring for a sick child (18 percent).
“Flexibility is a benefit all our employees enjoy,” one West Seattle manager told survey takers. “Employees’ needs dictate our schedule.” Penalties for changing schedules on short notice, the manager said, would “take control of schedules away from the workers.”
Be sure to read this whole article here. It also describes what’s happened in San Francisco where a similar law is in effect, with businesses reducing flexibility, cutting back on hiring part-time workers, and doing with fewer workers overall. That’s an important warning for the rest of the country and for anyone who values workplace flexibility.