A recent news report stated that DavidsTea, and several popular retailers, have been asked by multiple US jurisdictions to provide information regarding the use of “on-call” shifts. According to the article “DavidsTea is under fire for scheduling of staff” (Canadian Press, Wednesday April 14, 2016), the practice of “on-call” scheduling requires employees to call in to the employer prior to shift to confirm if they are required to come in.
Presumably employers would use such a policy in flexible volume operations to reduce or eliminate the need to pay employees call-in pay if they show up to work but due to low volume of customers, are not needed.
Critics of the practice complain that employees bear the cost of such practice, as not only do they lose the wages they would have earned, but are unable to plan child care, commit to additional work obligations, or plan a budget based on expected hours of work.
Almost all jurisdictions in Canada provide some reporting pay requirements which require employers to pay employees a minimum number of hours for reporting for their regular shift whether they are required to work or not, with most varying between 2—4 hours’ minimum pay, with some exceptions. By requiring employees to call in to confirm shifts prior to “reporting” for work, employers may avoid the reporting pay requirement but they won’t avoid the reputation of being a terrible employer.
I remember my own workplace at a big three fast food establishment when I was a teenager where managers would schedule employees for a half hour shift, just to assist through the peak dinner rush. Imagine the time spent dressing and preparing for work, the time to travel to and from work, and the costs of getting to work, for an earned wage of less than $1.75. We may have been young, but we weren’t stupid, and with some complaining, the practice stopped. But as expected, the turnover rates for the workplace were very high and scheduling was only one of the many problems with the management of the operation.
So even though the employment relationship is a legal, contractual one governed by minimum standards legislation, it is best not to forget that it is also a human one, where respect begets respect and where treating employees and their time like disposables to meet the bottom line might actually mean that management isn’t doing it’s job.
Human resources—which word is more important?
See the Human Resources PolicyPro “Call in Pay” and “Reporting Pay” commentary for more information and sample policies on these topics.