Fair Scheduling for Home Health Providers

A growing number of cities across the United States are considering fair scheduling laws. Fair scheduling, also known as predictive scheduling, refers to regulations that require employers to give workers advance notice of their work schedules. The primary goal is to provide employees with more stability, predictability, and input when it comes to work schedules.

In Chicago, for instance, a proposal before the City Council would require large employers in the city to give workers at least two weeks advance notice of their schedules and financially compensate them for any last-minute changes.

As far back as 2014, other parts of the country, including Vermont, San Francisco, and New Hampshire, started enacting fair workweek or “right-to-request” laws, which protect the rights of all workers to have a say in their schedules. California has also proposed a statewide Fair Scheduling Act.

It’s unclear how far these fair scheduling laws will stretch across the U.S., but with more and more states adopting them—including New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Washington—it’s crucial for all home health providers to consider how their systems and processes would work under fair scheduling laws.

Fair Scheduling Laws

Fair scheduling regulations vary from state to state, sometimes even city to city. However, they all adhere to a similar set of rules. Fair scheduling proposals often include:

  • Advance work schedules: Employers cannot post work schedules at the last minute. Instead, they must post them well in advance, typically 7 to 14 days before the first scheduled shift.
  • Extra wages for last-minute schedule changes: In the event an employer changes the work schedule after posting, affected employees must receive additional pay. If a shift is canceled within a certain time frame of the start of the shift (i.e. 72 hours before scheduled start time), the employee may be entitled to a higher level of compensation.
  • Adequate rest periods between shifts: Employers are required to provide employees with adequate rest periods between daily shifts, usually 10 to 11 hours. However, in some industries, an employee can volunteer to work during a rest period, if desired.
  • Schedules recordkeeping: It is the responsibility of employers to maintain detailed records on the work schedules they create and any changes they make to them.

While proposals vary among states and municipalities, these core elements of fair scheduling are designed to give workers more notice of when they work (and therefore, how much they will be paid) and compensate workers for last-minute changes that affect their schedule and income.

Challenges with Predictive Scheduling for Home Healthcare

The home healthcare industry is subject to many regulations and challenges. Fair scheduling, in and of itself, can exacerbate some of these existing challenges and even present new difficulties for home healthcare providers.

Increased Financial Costs

Many industries in the U.S. are experiencing pressure to increase the minimum wage offered to employees, and healthcare is no exception. Over a dozen health systems have implemented minimum wage increases over the past 2 years, with several health organizations increasing to a $15 minimum wage in the near future.

Healthcare providers face a unique challenge when it comes to increasing the minimum wage: Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements. When overhead costs like employee compensation rise, but Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements do not, healthcare providers have to operate on slimmer margins, putting a financial strain on the organization.

When fair scheduling rules are enacted, this financial strain becomes even more acute. Home health organizations are responsible for not only higher hourly wages, but also premium wages for the last-minute schedule changes that are common in home healthcare.

To offset these costs, home healthcare organizations need to find ways to schedule their caregivers more efficiently and with greater precision. This allows home health providers to see more patients in a day and provide the agency with a higher return on investment per employee.

Decreased Scheduling Flexibility

Home healthcare providers are used to last-minute schedule changes. A home health provider may need to schedule an additional visit for a patient whose condition is not improving, or they may want to reduce the number of visits for a patient who is recovering quickly. Certain predictive scheduling laws reduce the flexibility that home health agencies need to reassign home care aides and other workers to meet patients’ current needs.

Home healthcare is in high demand, especially as the U.S. population ages and technology enables more in-home healthcare, making this a particularly challenging time for rules that restrict flexibility. An older patient’s health can worsen or improve without notice, an elderly patient could be admitted to a nursing home or hospital and no longer require services, or a senior can be discharged from a hospital or nursing home early and need home care—all of these unpredictable situations can affect a worker’s schedule, and therefore be affected by fair scheduling laws.

Due to the nature of home healthcare, fair scheduling laws can create scheduling headaches that are not as prevalent in industries like retail or hospitality. In order to adapt, home healthcare organizations will need to optimize scheduling to provide workers with advance notice of schedules, while still accommodating the real-time needs of patients.

How Healthcare Organizations Can Prepare for Fair Scheduling

Fair scheduling reinforces just how important it is for home health organizations to rely on a robust, intelligent scheduling system—not manual scheduling tools. A strong healthcare scheduling system gives you the tools to respond to ever-evolving legislation and worker expectations.

In order to remain competitive and grow, home healthcare agencies must keep up with new labor laws and be prepared for the future of home healthcare. As the home healthcare industry continues to evolve, invest in a mobile workforce management solution that helps you stay agile, efficient, and competitive in the marketplace.

The right tool should help you:

  • Share schedules with staff ahead of time
  • Communicate schedule changes in real-time via mobile devices
  • Collect patient data from the field without carrying paperwork back and forth
  • Streamline the patient intake process and collect important information about patient needs, preferences, and care plans up front
  • Manage recurring appointments, complex care schedules, and one-off appointments in the same system
  • Match healthcare providers to patients based on experience, patient preferences, and other factors

With the right healthcare scheduling tool, home healthcare organizations can comply with fair scheduling laws more easily and provide a better experience for both patients and providers.

The Bottom Line for Home Healthcare

While fair scheduling legislation may benefit home health providers across the country, it also introduces new challenges for productivity, profitability, and flexibility.

However, a mobile healthcare scheduling platform can help alleviate this burden and increase your home healthcare organization’s efficiency and quality of care.

With Skedulo’s healthcare scheduling platform, managing complex home healthcare schedules has never been easier. Request a demo today to see the Skedulo platform in action.