In Focus

Jul 17, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Schedules that Work Act Reintroduced in House and Senate

By Zoe Ziliak Michel

On Capitol Hill Wednesday, seven members of Congress joined workers and an employer at an event marking reintroduction of the Schedules that Work Act, federal legislation to provide vital protections for employees burdened with unpredictable, inflexible work schedules. If passed, it would provide stability for low-income workers and improve businesses’ bottom lines.

The Schedules that Work Act would guarantee employees the right to request scheduling accommodations from their employers without fear of retaliation. Additionally, workers with caregiving obligations, second jobs, or serious health conditions, as well as those enrolled in educational or job training programs, would have the right to receive such accommodations. Employers in the retail, food preparation and service, and building cleaning sectors would further be required to provide workers with their schedules at least two weeks in advance and compensate them with additional pay for last-minute schedule changes, being sent home from work early, or working split shifts.

This would dramatically improve the lives of workers like Hilaria Bonilla, a fast food worker and single mother who spoke at the briefing. When Bonilla was diagnosed with glaucoma, her doctor advised her not to work after dark. However, because she is afraid that any request to change schedules will lead her manager to cut her hours in retaliation, she has continued to work the night shift. The schedule accommodations guaranteed by the Schedules that Work Act would allow Bonilla to protect her health and spend more time with her daughter.

Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) stressed that businesses as well as their employees benefit from fair scheduling practices. When workers gain economic security [through predictable work schedules], it reduces turnover,” she explained. “This bill is actually pro-worker and pro-business.” This message was echoed by Washington, DC, restaurateur Tony Dundas-Lucca. The owner of 1905 and El Camino provides his 60 employees with their work schedules a month in advance and lets them request changes and trade shifts. The policies have been good for his bottom line: “These practices…are part of what allows us to maintain relatively low turnover in a high-turnover industry,” said Dundas-Lucca. “We save on the costs of hiring and training new staff, and we benefit from the higher morale and productivity of our satisfied employees.”

Research supports Dundas-Lucca’s testimony. Susan Lambert, a professor at the University of Chicago, described how managers at businesses that have implemented more flexible scheduling practices report greater productivity, improved customer service, and reduced absenteeism. Moreover, firms where managers considered employee needs in creating work schedules enjoyed almost 23 percent less employee turnover. Given the high cost of training new employees, implementing practices that encourage employee retention—most notably offering stable or flexible schedules—makes good business sense.

The bill’s reintroduction comes as interest in scheduling rights surges across the country. In 2015 alone, legislation to improve employer scheduling practices has been introduced in 12 jurisdictions. Additionally, San Francisco has enacted the country’s first comprehensive retail workers’ bill of rights, which includes provisions on scheduling and access to hours.

The Schedules that Work Act will provide critical support to workers struggling to plan their lives in the face of last-minute scheduling changes and unpredictable work hours. Wednesday’s reintroduction brings hope for swift Congressional action to promote sound business practices and support our nation’s most vulnerable workers.

Jun 19, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

D.C. Workers Have Too Few Hours, Too Little Notice

By Liz Ben-Ishai

In a town where highflying lobbyists, Capitol Hill power brokers, and political campaign aficionados are known to work long, arduous hours, a “West Wing” fantasy can distract people from poverty and inequality. According to a new study, workers in Washington, D.C. often receive their schedules with just a few days’ notice. They also struggle to get enough hours to make ends meet and are expected to make themselves available at all hours of the day despite rarely receiving work.

The study, released last week by DC Jobs With Justice, DC Fiscal Policy Institute, and Georgetown University’s Kalmanovitz Initiative, highlights a set of scheduling challenges with which workers are contending nationwide. The groups’ survey found that 80 percent of respondents wanted more hours; in the absences of sufficient hours and pay, nearly a quarter of workers in the study were working multiple jobs.

A national study of early-career workers ages 26 to 32, released last year, found that nearly 40 percent were receiving one week or less notice of their job schedules. The D.C. study takes this question to a finer gradation. It finds that nearly half of surveyed workers in D.C. receive less than one week’s notice and one-third receive less than three days’ notice. Among retail and restaurant workers, nearly one-third receive less than 24 hours’ notice of schedule changes. Workers with families to care for, classes to attend, second jobs, or other obligations cannot sustain these fly-by-night scheduling practices.

The movement for fair, sustainable job schedules is gaining momentum across the country. Over the past year, public concern around unfair job scheduling practices has led about 10 states to introduce legislation to expand workers’ rights. The federal Schedules that Work Act, first introduced last year, is likely to be re-introduced in the coming months. And last year, a coalition of worker’s rights groups in San Francisco, led by Jobs With Justice, helped pass the nation’s first “Retail Workers’ Bill of Rights,” which includes advance notice of schedules, compensation for last-minute schedule changes, and access to hours for part-time employees.

The new D.C. survey shows that action is needed in the District, too. Some employers, such as child care center owner Marcia St. Hilaire-Finn, are doing the right thing. “Having happy employees is critical for the success of our business,” St. Hilaire-Finn said. “Fair and flexible scheduling is one way we accomplish this.” She provides at least two weeks’ notice to her employees and accommodates staff requests for flexibility.

Unfortunately, too many employers are ignoring the business case for fair scheduling. That’s why public policies to create minimum standards for workers’ schedules are needed. Employers like St. Hilarie-Finn and others agree that policy solutions are needed to extend the benefits they already extend to all workers.

In the coming months, we expect the momentum to continue on this critical job quality issue—here in the District and all across the country.

Read the report >>

Visit CLASP’s National Repository of Resources on Job Scheduling Policy >>

May 12, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Paid Sick Days and Paid Family Leave: Just What the Doctor Ordered for National Women’s Health Week

By Felicia Onuma

As we celebrate National Women’s Health Week (NWHW) this week (May 10-16, 2015), advocates, policymakers, and others will mark the progress made in improving health care for women. One sometimes overlooked, but critical, ingredient to health care is access to paid sick time and paid family and medical leave. These worker protections ensure that workers have the time to see their health care providers and attend to their health needs.  Today, in honor of NWHW, CLASP is releasing a brief on the importance of paid leave to preventive health care.

NWHW was instituted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Women’s Health in 1999 to draw attention to strategies that help women lead healthier, longer, and safer lives. One critical aspect of achieving these goals is increasing routine health checkups and screenings for women in order to prevent illnesses, diseases, and other health problems—or at least detect them at an early stage when treatment is most likely to be effective. Yet, without paid leave, this avenue to better health may be a nonstarter for far too many women.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA) an increasing number of Americans, especially low-income earners, now have access to health care. According to most recent data from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 16.4 million Americans who were previously uninsured have gained coverage since the ACA took effect. Besides expanding health care access, one particularly welcome aspect of this health care reform law is that it covers 100 percent of preventive care for women’s health. This means that women who seek a wide variety of preventive services, ranging from mammograms and well-woman visits to contraception, can get them without any without any out-of-pocket expenses.

Despite this important legal step forward in access to preventive care,  too many women do not have take the time they need to actually get these services. With our country’s labor standards seriously lagging behind those in much of the rest of the world, an inordinate number of Americans cannot take time away from work to reap the benefits of this reform. Today, more than 40 million workers in the U.S. (39 percent) are without access to paid sick days and nearly 95 million workers (87 percent) have no paid family leave. Among low-wage workers earning $15,000 or less per year, 80 percent do not have paid sick days. Similarly, 80 percent of part-time workers working fewer than 20 hours per week do not have paid sick days.

Lack of access to earned sick days impedes many women from heeding the advice of medical practitioners to seek preventive health care. In a 2014 study, researchers found that women without sick leave were 12 percent less likely to undergo breast cancer screening than women with sick leave. According to HHS, nearly 10 percent of women who delayed prenatal care were unable to take time off work or school to obtain medical care. Furthermore, those with an insufficient amount of sick days usually opt to save their only available leave to tend to their children, often times skipping or delaying care for themselves.

For their own or a family member’s longer-term illness, or to welcome a new baby, about 60 percent of workers have access to unpaid job protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). However, even for those who qualify for FMLA leave, the financial cost of taking unpaid time off is often impossible to bear. Among workers with unpaid FMLA leave, 52 percent deferred care and 50 percent chose to forgo care altogether because they could not afford to take leave or were fearful of losing their jobs.  

Fortunately, a growing number of states and cities – 21 jurisdictions – have now passed paid sick days laws. Three states have enacted paid family leave programs. And a growing number of states, cities, and even counties are providing their own public employees with paid family and medical leave. Dozens of campaigns to pass paid sick days and paid family leave at the national, state, and city level are gaining momentum around the country.  This important movement forward is worth celebrating this National Women’s Health Week. At the same time, this occasion presents an opportunity to step up the intensity of our calls for further action on paid leave. It’s just what the doctor ordered for women’s health, and for the nation.

Read CLASP’s brief on paid leave and preventive health care >>

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