As we continue to confront the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in our homes and communities, Philadelphia is no exception. Like many big cities in the United States, Philadelphia has a deep pool of business owners, both large and small. Some of the hardest hit economically during the social restrictions and quarantines that have stalled cities and ground economies down are the business owners.
As cities and states try different strategies to keep their economies flowing, Philadelphia has applied the Fair Workweek Law. Starting in April, this new law now requires that covered employers provide service, retail and hospitality workers with a predictable work schedule, among other protections. This would apply to employers with at least 250 employees worldwide and 30 or more locations worldwide.
Within the Fair Workweek law is a provision that employers should be aware of. As of July 1, these covered employers must also provide their employees in writing an average number of work hours they can expect to work in a week. It doesn’t just apply to long-standing employees either. Any new hires that the covered employers have hired since April 2020 should have been receiving their Good Faith Estimate upon hire.
Within the Good Faith Estimate, there are requirements that employers: provide at least 10 days of notice for work schedules; obtain employee consent when an employer wants to add hours to an employee’s work schedule; have the employee’s consent if they are asked to work with less than nine hours since their last shift and also compensate the employee $40 in this instance; offer their existing employees the option to work more hours before an employer makes the decision to hire new employees; and give predictability pay, which is a premium pay for employees in the event of an employer initiated change to the 10-day advance notice of the work schedule.
Although this provision will apply for many employees, it does not, however, apply to employees who are on an official leave or who have been furloughed due to the pandemic, or if a business is shut down and not currently operating. But when the employees return to work from any time away from their position, they are to be provided with a new Good Faith Estimate, or at least the most recent active Good Faith Estimate.
With this development of the Fair Workweek Law and the Good Faith Estimate provision, employees should know what they are legally allowed to expect from their employer. Their written Good Faith Estimate should, of course, include their employer’s estimate of the employees work schedule. As an employee or business professional, you should also include within that written Good Faith Estimate the average number of work hours the employee can expect to work weekly during a 90-day period; explicit clarification of whether the employee will be expected to work any on-call shifts; and a list of days and times - or shifts - the employee can expect to work, which might also be the days and times and employee can expect to NOT be scheduled for work - including art least one day off.
As employers adjust their communication with employees, identifying and understanding what “good faith” means is vital in obeying the law and provisions, while also providing the best communication with their employees. As far as the Good Faith Estimate is concerned, “good faith” means a sincere intent to deal fairly with others - and in this case, most importantly, your employees. This would mean that the estimates provided to employees are made from the most accurate, fact-based, data-driven estimates they can find within their field or with a similar business.
Additionally, employers and employees should be aware of the employees options for requesting time off. Whether for illness, family emergency, personal time, or something else, every business will still have employees who need some time off. With the Good Faith Estimate provision within the new Fair Workweek law, an employee is still entitled to make requests regarding their work schedule. It’s important to communicate to employees that these requests can be made and what types of requests can be made. These requests should include: requests to not be scheduled on certain shifts or at certain times or at certain locations; requests to not work on-call; requests for specific shifts or times; requests for fewer or more hours.
If an employee makes these requests and they can be met by the employer, the Good Faith Estimate should be revised as soon as possible if they are deemed significant. But as an employer revises the estimate, they should also note what are “significant changes” requested and which are voluntary changes. A voluntary change to the employees schedule - or some change they volunteer for - wouldn’t count as a significant change and thus wouldn’t be deemed a reason to revise the Good Faith Estimate. A full list of the types of significant changes can be found online.
The new law and its provision will change how employers practice within their businesses and how they communicate with their employees. Employers should have already begun ironing out how they plan to adjust their policies to become compliant with the new law and its provisions. They should also be sure to communicate these changes to their employees and make sure their employees are aware of their options and rights within the laws and provisions.
Because this is a new and complex law with a new provision, the Office of Benefits and Wage Compliance is offering support and training to employers so they can best follow the letter of this law. Templates for the written Good Faith Estimate can also be found at the Fair Workweek resources page.