Giving Compass' Take:

• Katherine Guyot and Richard V. Reeves at Brookings summarize the harmful effects of unpredictable scheduling practices on workers' health and income.

• Why are unpredictable scheduling practices so common in the United States? What might this do to limit employment opportunities for jobless individuals? How does this disproportionately harm those in marginalized communities? 

• Read about one strategy to develop more flexible schedules for hourly and part-time workers.

Debates about working time tend to focus on quantity. Are American workers having to put in too many hours, especially those with caring responsibilities? This is of course a vitally important question. But it is not the only one. It matters not only how many hours people work, but how much control they have over them. Irregular work hours lead to income volatility for hourly wage workers, increasing the difficulty of making ends meet.  “Just-in-time” scheduling practices put workers in a vulnerable financial position—both by destabilizing earnings and by disrupting their access to safety net programs—and make it difficult for them to arrange childcare, attend school, or pick up a second job.

Less educated workers and Hispanic or Latino workers are particularly likely to experience short scheduling notice. Differences between racial and ethnic groups appear to be driven by more than differences in occupation. Other research has found that among workers in retail and food services, non-white workers are 10% to 20% more likely to experience several other markers of unpredictable scheduling, including on-call shifts, clopenings (back-to-back closing and opening shifts separated by fewer than 11 hours), and involuntary part-time work.

Just-in-time scheduling cuts labor costs in the short run, since businesses only have to pay for the workers they need at the moment. But they shift these costs onto workers by destabilizing work schedules and pay.

For workers paid by the hour, unpredictable hours mean unpredictable incomes. The average gap between a given worker’s shortest and longest workweek in a one-month period is 10 hours.

Work requirements are intended to incentivize work among those who are able, but this assumes that individuals in need of assistance can control their own work hours. Employer-controlled unpredictable scheduling violates this assumption.

Read the full article about unpredictable scheduling practices by Katherine Guyot and Richard V. Reeves at Brookings.