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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Are new regulations relating to scheduling or workforce management throwing a wrench in your system?

Whether it’s mandated by your county, city, state or corporate headquarters it’s usually (always?) a pain in the butt when “someone” requires you to add something new to your normal process.

For instance, last fall public agencies in Massachusetts were required to start keeping track of trades after the Boston Globe published an article about firefighters who retired “owing” time for trades they made but never reciprocated. It’s completely acceptable for Massachusetts firefighters to trade shifts but it’s also a requirement if you trade a shift with someone you must make up those hours at a later date...and certainly prior to retiring.   

Subsequently, Massachusetts’ PERAC (Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission) issued a memorandum to all Massachusetts state retirement boards requiring documentation to prove shift substitutions have been “paid back” prior to the employee’s retirement.  Employers must certify the repayment of shifts for the entire period of a member’s employment after the date of October 25, 2011 when the memorandum was issued.  The retirement boards must request and receive documentation that the member has actually worked the requisite number of shifts in a calendar year to qualify for all the regular compensation and creditable service claimed.

The memorandum states, “This documentation should be readily obtainable in departments with restrictions and safeguards on this practice.  In other departments where safeguards are not in place yet, a member may have a difficult time establishing his entitlement to creditable service and regular compensation when attempting to calculate his or her retirement allowance.”

Certifying shift trades is, to say the least, a huge hassle if an agency uses a non-computerized, non-trackable method of shift trades such as a paper calendar or white board.  In a follow up memorandum dated January 25, 2012, the PERAC clarified some questions that arose from the first memo and in addition states, “Since shifts must be tracked only on or after October 26, 2011, we are confident that all employers and systems will develop the record keeping procedures they need to certify that shifts have been repaid.”  

For those of you who use Aladtec's EMS Manager, FIRE Manager or Zanager for your online employee scheduling and workforce management needs you already know it will allow you to track shift trades easily and quickly.  

We discovered the Massachusetts requirement when Martin Greene, CFO EMT-P and Fire Chief at Bourne Fire & Rescue in Buzzards Bay subscribed to our FIRE Manager system specifically to track trades.  He also told us he knows there will be a financial savings to his agency based on the time FIRE Manager will save his staff from having to research and document those trades as per the PERAC requirement.  In Chief Greene’s case with 50 employees at four stations with four different shifts this is a substantial savings in time, in addition to the ease of complying with PERAC’s requirement through FIRE Manager.

Many agencies who haven’t had the budget to invest in an online scheduling system before, now have approved this expense in order to save their agency money on labor costs associated with the mandated shift trade tracking requirement.

Other states and cities have rules in place controlling shift trading so it doesn’t get out of control. For instance, in Denver, firefighters are not supposed to go in debt more than three shifts. Regardless of the current rules, or future rules, using an online scheduling and workforce management system like EMS Manager, FIRE Manager or Zanager helps document, track and comply with various rules and regulations.  Not to mention, it simply makes the whole scheduling process much easier!

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