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Don't Try This at Work: The Dangers of On-Call Scheduling for Small Businesses

4. November 2015 07:42

worried woman on the phone

If you're not in the retail industry, the concept of on-call (also termed call-in) scheduling might be news to you. But thanks to a continuing labor investigation by New York attorney general and a high-profile lawsuit in California against Victoria's Secret over the practice, on-call scheduling is starting to trickle into mainstream awareness. And from the reports, it doesn't look pretty.

BuzzFeed News released a long-form report on call-in scheduling, which requires employees to:

The report notes the California lawsuit against Victoria's Secret claims call-in scheduling is a form of wage theft, and companies that require workers to be available on-call should pay them if their shifts are canceled. Essentially, the lawsuit aims for call-on shifts to be considered as reporting for work. In California, employees must be paid when they report for work (read more about reporting time pay on the CA Department of Industrial Relations website). However, the report states it's not clear whether an employee must physically be at work for that rule to apply.

You can see the appeal of the practice for big retailers – it cuts down on labor costs when done across multiple locations. However, the current legal debacle over call-in scheduling may mean bypassing this practice is the smarter decision for small-business owners who don't have as much to gain from it, even if every dollar saved feasibly helps.

Need more incentive? Check out these three reasons to keep staff on hand during slow days.

1. Employees want some semblance of stability.

While customer behaviors, buying patterns, and sales are always in flux, some things in your employees' lives aren't, such as their student loan repayments, rent, and bills. Most workers are in search of some form of consistent income so they can survive and plan for their futures.

You might be thinking, "Aren't millennials really into flexible work schedules?" According to research from Ernst & Young, millennial workers do want flexibility, but not at the expense of their career development and work-life balance. As you learned above, call-in scheduling actually makes employees' lives harder by requiring them to reserve time for the chance of a shift without the guarantee that they will be compensated.

So while call-in scheduling may save you some dollars in labor costs, ultimately, the practice may lead to more spending. You may have to invest more resources in hiring and recruitment to replace the employees who find more reliable gigs.

2. At a small business, there's always work to do.

With the holidays and the end of the quarter fast approaching, there's plenty of work to do. The extra hands on deck can help you plot out holiday marketing strategies (find tips to help you get started in "End of Summer Holiday Marketing Tips"), tidy up the office, or run errands.

Just make sure you don't ask employees to do anything too far outside their usual scope of work. For example, you wouldn't want an office assistant regularly playing the role of office handyman. That may alter their Workers' Compensation Insurance class coding, which determines your rates. Learn more about these codes in our article "How Proper Workers' Compensation Class Codes Can Save a Business Money."

3. Slow days can be training and development days.

Having employees around during slow times can be a great opportunity to brainstorm new ideas for business growth and train your staff on new skills. And if you're a real go-getter, you can even use downtime to give your employees risk management training on:

For financial incentive to do this training and ideas on how to get started, check out "How Workplace Safety Can Save A Business Money" and "Want to Cut Business Losses by Three-Quarters? Try Security Training."


General | Retail | Small Business | Small Business Risk Management | Tips for All Small Businesses | HR

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