Retail businesses often rely on flexible working arrangements, and you probably need your employees to work a variety of shifts. In some cases, circumstances may exist where you have more employees in the store than you need, which may prompt you to send workers home. If you send people home at these times, you could find yourself in breach of reporting time laws. Learn more here.
How reporting time pay laws work in New York
If an employee turns up for work as part of a scheduled shift, reporting time pay laws mean that you must pay the worker, irrespective of whether you have work for him or her to do. This law aims to protect workers from unscrupulous employers who may waste their employees' time through bad planning. The law also gives workers the chance to work for different companies.
Put simply, when a worker arrives for a scheduled shift, you must pay him or her for at least four hours' pay. If the scheduled shift is shorter than four hours, you must pay for the full shift. You must also pay the worker at least the minimum wage.
There are certain exceptions to this law. For example, certain jobs don't have this protection (like golf caddies), while workers who live on the company's premises and are on call during sleeping hours don't get this protection either.
On-call shifts and reporting time pay laws
On-call shifts are popular with retailers in New York. In fact, one survey of retail workers in New York found that around a quarter of the respondents had to put with up with scheduled on-call shifts.
With an on-call shift, workers receive a basic proposed schedule of work each week, but the employees must then contact the store a day (or even a few hours) before the shift to confirm if they should attend work. These working arrangements could possibly let employers get around reporting time pay laws because they could argue that the shifts do not fall under the definition of scheduled hours, but a judge may disagree.
If an employee makes a formal complaint, you may fall foul of reporting time pay laws where you only offer on-call shifts. A court may ultimately argue that you have still scheduled an on-call shift, and as such, you must therefore pay a worker four hours' pay if you later decide you no longer need him or her at work, even if you try to phone ahead to tell your employee not to come in.
Practical advice for employers
Retail employers should take practical steps to avoid issues around reporting time pay laws. As a general rule, you should avoid sending workers home after they arrive at work, but if you do, make sure your payroll teams have the systems in place to record and pay these shifts. More robust scheduling and management practices can avoid ongoing issues.
Carefully review how you schedule workers' shifts, making sure you regularly review customer demand and attendance patterns. For example, seasonal trends can create hot spots, and you should schedule shifts to cope with these times accordingly. Look for ways to find a balance between regular scheduled hours and on-call shifts to minimize disruption to your people.
On-call shifts may seem to give you flexibility, but these working patterns are unpopular with workers and may soon fall foul of revised scheduling laws. Nonetheless, where you use these shifts, aim to give a reasonable amount of notice (more than 24 hours) of a change in shift pattern, as this gives workers time to make alternative plans. For example, some people may have a second job. You should also make sure you hold your workers' current contact details so you can discuss proposed changes as soon as you need to.
Reporting time pay laws in New York affect the way you pay your staff if they turn up for work, and you no longer need them. Talk to an experienced corporate lawyer for more information or advice. See this website for information about how different laws may affect you in another state, such as California. This can be important to know if your company is nationwide.