3 Important Ways Bid Shifts Help Employers Overcome the Difficulties of Fair Workweek Legislation and Retain Employees

By: Mike Hetisimer, Solution Manager at TimeForge

Fair workweek initiatives are gaining momentum across the nation. Over the past few years, legislators in places like California, Illinois, New York, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have been called to pass laws that protect workers’ rights to a fair workweek. The laws differ by locality, but in general, they aim to make work more predictable and less stressful for hourly employees. Depending on where you do business in the U.S., you might also hear your clients refer to the laws as predictive scheduling laws, fair workweek ordinance, or fair scheduling legislation.

Regardless of what they’re called, there’s no denying that fair workweek laws place heavy burdens on employers, especially in the retail and food service industries. The laws typically mandate that work schedules be posted weeks in advance and require employers to pay out costly premiums when they make adjustments to posted schedules. As a result, many employers in fair workweek areas are having to make drastic changes to how they schedule hourly workers – changes that they often simply aren’t prepared to make.

As new legislation around fair workweek is introduced across the nation, it’s important for employers to consider the benefits of bid shifts. Below, we describe common use cases for bid shifts and explain how they can help your clients prepare for and overcome some of the difficulties posed by fair workweek legislation while keeping workers happy.

What are bid shifts?
Bid shifts, if you aren’t familiar with the term, are shifts on a schedule that don’t get assigned to specific employees. Instead, a bid shift is opened up to all eligible employees, and those who want to work the shift can make a “bid” for it. The scheduling manager then decides who gets the shift, or the shift can simply be claimed on a first-come, first-served basis. For convenience, bid shifts are usually facilitated through an online employee scheduling system.

For example, instead of slating Joseph for a closing shift on Friday night, an employer could post the schedule with that shift unassigned and allow a qualified employee to pick up the shift through the company’s scheduling application online. Joseph isn’t forced to give up his Friday night plans, if he has any, and the employee who picks up the shift is one who wants the work.

Two common use cases for bid shifts include: 1) building some flexibility into the work schedule, especially for schedules created a few weeks in advance, and 2) opening up more shifts to handle unexpected events, such as last-minute catering requests or large party reservations.

What are the benefits of bid shifts?
There are a number of benefits to using bid shifts, from employee retention to preventing expensive legal penalties from fair workweek legislature. Let’s take a look at the top three that will matter to your customers: employee retention, legal compliance, and cost savings.

Benefit #1: Bid shifts improve employee satisfaction and retention
For employees, bid shifts can be a welcome breath of fresh air. Rather than being forced to work extra shifts at the last minute, they have a choice. They can choose to pick up an extra shift, or they can take a breather and let someone else pick it up. This is a major impetus for the fair workweek movement, but it also benefits employers.

When employers allow workers to opt into extra shifts, the narrative gets flipped to one where the employee is in control, which can help improve employee satisfaction and retention. Many employees today also expect the convenience of being able to accept, decline, or even swap shifts online or from their mobile phones. If your customers don’t provide these conveniences to their workers, chances are good that they’re losing talent to competitors who do.

Benefit #2: Bid shifts help fulfill legal requirements
In certain areas, bid shifts (or equivalents) are a legal requirement imposed by fair workweek legislation. Employers in New York City and San Francisco, for example, are legally required to provide part-time employees the opportunity to pick up extra shifts before hiring on new workers. Online bid shifts offer an easy way to meet that requirement, as the extra shifts are documented and picked up inside of the scheduling application, making it easy for employers to stay compliant while ensuring that those extra shifts are filled.

Benefit #3: Bid shifts save employers money
Bid shifts also cost less! With fair workweek legislation, there’s usually some form of penalty for modifying an employee’s posted schedule or assigning last-minute shifts. Bid shifts are usually the exception to this rule, as employees are able to opt into these shifts instead of being forced to work an unpredictable schedule. Thus, bid shifts allow employers to avoid fair workweek penalties while still staying agile in cases of unexpected business needs.

Although a premium here or there doesn’t sound like a lot, the cost of last-minute schedule changes can add up across a business and over the course of a year – to as much as the price of a luxury sports car or a college education. And if an employer doesn’t track and pay out fair workweek premiums, the costs can be much higher.

For all of these reasons, bid shifts can be an extremely helpful tool for both dealing with fair workweek requirements and retaining hourly workers. In today’s hiring landscape, in which many retailers and food service businesses struggle to meet their labor needs, the ability to attract and retain employees has become more critical than ever.

For more information on fair workweek, how it impacts businesses in retail and food service, and what your customers can do to stay compliant, check out our Fair Workweek eBook here.