A&F to phase out on-call scheduling

Discussion
Aug 10, 2015

Following New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s April decision to investigate "on-call" retail employee schedules, Abercrombie & Fitch has joined the ranks of those phasing out the policy.

On-call workers are expected to be available for work, often waiting until the last minute to find out whether or not they are needed to come in. Mr. Schneiderman asked 13 retailers to explain their shift-setting system, saying being on-call made domestic arrangements difficult, often resulting in "stress and strain on family life."

Other stores cited by Mr. Scheiderman included Target, Sears, J.Crew and Gap which, in total, operate more than 16,000 stores in North America, according to BuzzFeed. Some denied using the system.

Reuters reported in April, however, that several state legislatures and the U.S. Labor Department are considering action. A National Employment Law Project attorney cited a study as far back as 2011 showing a fifth of participants were required to always or frequently be available for on-call shifts that might not materialize, frequently leaving them unneeded and unpaid.

Telephone calls, text messages or emails to check if they’re needed saves New York employers having to pay the legal minimum of four hours’ work when staff turn up only to be turned away. These are potential violations, which Mr. Schneiderman’s office is investigating.

A&F associates=

Photo: RetailWire

Abercrombie told CBS MoneyWatch that New York is just the beginning, with the system being eliminated across the country over time. "We believe that this change is beneficial to our store associates, and reflects our commitment to creating a positive work environment," a spokesperson said. From September, shifts for New York stores will be scheduled one week in advance although employees will be offered the option of e-mail alerts when unexpected scheduling opportunities arise.

In June, Victoria’s Secret announced staff would be given advance notice as well as warnings that some shifts could last longer. Employees could indicate a willingness to work extra hours.

Store traffic forecasts sometimes require last minute adjustments in staffing levels making on-call systems a useful solution. Meeting customer needs and changing business demands must remain a priority according to National Retail Federation vice president, Neil Trautwein.

Will eliminating on-call schedules improve relations for both retailers and their employees? How should stores handle last-minute staffing situations?

Braintrust
""On-call scheduling" ... that is, you work for me full-time and maybe more, but I only pay you for the hours you are on the floor. It is a bizarre concept and one that strikes me as terribly illegal. But of course it is not."
"On-call scheduling makes it next to impossible for parents to work in retail. Abercrombie & Fitch will find that, by making this change, they’ll be able to attract a more mature and responsible workforce."

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7 Comments on "A&F to phase out on-call scheduling"

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David Livingston
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
I’m totally against the government playing human resources manager. Retailers know best what works for them with regards to last-minute staffing situations. If their system wasn’t working then they wouldn’t be doing it. Sure it doesn’t sound so great when you are an employee but we must all give and take and compromise when we are in an employment relationship. Many times I have gotten a call from a client on short notice to fly out the next day to work on an emergency acquisition project. I’m certainly not thrilled about that, however I love my work, I want to… Read more »
Bob Phibbs
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

About time and I hope all other retailers follow suit. With the wealth of data major retailers now have at their fingertips, correlating weather with traffic counts in the parking lots to traffic counts in the malls and estimated shopping volume, there shouldn’t be that many last-minute staffing crises.

Max Goldberg
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

Like raising the minimum wage, ending on-call scheduling is just the right thing to do. Does the practice save money? Yes. Does it make employees’ lives difficult? Yes. When retailers treat their employees with respect that respect is usually returned and loyalty is increased.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
2 years 4 months ago
“On-call scheduling” … that is, you work for me full-time and maybe more, but I only pay you for the hours you are on the floor. It is a bizarre concept and one that strikes me as terribly illegal. But of course it is not. But, truly, isn’t this similar to working over 40 hours a week and not getting paid for overtime? It doesn’t matter if you are actually in the store. If the time is not yours, it is theirs and they must pay you for it. Retail workers who are “on-call” are not slaves. The retailer pays… Read more »
Cathy Hotka
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

On-call scheduling makes it next to impossible for parents to work in retail. Abercrombie & Fitch will find that, by making this change, they’ll be able to attract a more mature and responsible workforce.

Doug Fleener
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

I have always been against on-call scheduling, and I’m glad that the Attorney General took action. It’s completely unfair to the employee and, as noted above, very difficult if not impossible for parents.

There are a lot of tools and solutions a retailer can use to cover their store without on-call scheduling. (Bob listed many of them.) If anything, pay a small bonus to employees who are willing to come in on short notice.

I hope to see the rest of the retailers who use on-call scheduling phase it out.

Billy May
Guest
2 years 4 months ago

Good decision. That said, this sure seems like a business opportunity ripe for the picking. In today’s on-demand, Uber-like economy, why hasn’t anyone built an app for “on-demand” staffing—whether stores, distribution center, or other volume based opportunities? Sign me up as interested.

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Braintrust
""On-call scheduling" ... that is, you work for me full-time and maybe more, but I only pay you for the hours you are on the floor. It is a bizarre concept and one that strikes me as terribly illegal. But of course it is not."
"On-call scheduling makes it next to impossible for parents to work in retail. Abercrombie & Fitch will find that, by making this change, they’ll be able to attract a more mature and responsible workforce."

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