In Focus: Employees and Responsive Workplaces

May 2, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

How Good Jobs Help Parents Meet Babies' Vaccination Schedules

By Lauren French

As we recognize the health benefits of vaccination during National Infant Immunization Week, we must also recognize the impossible choice faced by many working parents: jeopardize their family’s financial stability to take their children to immunization appointments or put those children at risk of contracting a dangerous illness.

Immunizations are a critical aspect of the health and well-being of infants and toddlers. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that vaccinations will prevent more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years. Failing to vaccinate can put children at serious risk of diseases such as measles and whooping cough. Despite the wealth of evidence demonstrating the importance of vaccinations, lack of paid sick leave and inflexible or unpredictable job schedules often mean that working parents are unable to take their children to immunization appointments. In fact, 13 percent of working parents report that they are unable to meet their children’s preventive health care needs often, some, or all the time.

Research shows that job schedule flexibility and workplace supports make it substantially easier for parents to obtain preventative care for their children. For example, a parent being able to make a personal phone call at work reduces by 56 percent the odds of not meeting their child’s preventive health needs. Jobs that allow working parents to make schedule adjustments reduce those odds by 40 percent.

New data from an EINet working paper by Susan Lambert, Julia Henly, and Peter Fugiel show that among those with young children, only half of hourly workers and less than 40 percent of non-hourly workers have any input into their job schedules. Additionally, more than 40 percent of hourly workers with children under six receive just one week or less advance notice of their schedules.

Because doctors’ office hours generally overlap with parents’ working hours, getting infants and toddlers to vaccination appointments often means taking time away from work. Unfortunately, about 40 percent of private sector workers have no access to earned sick days. One study found that working parents who did not have paid leave reported losing income when they had to take a child for immunizations. This is especially problematic for low-income families, as only 30 percent of low-wage workers have access to sick days.

Ensuring our nation’s children are protected from preventable disease requires that we address the significant hurdles facing working parents. National Infant Immunization Week reminds us that we urgently need public policies that make it possible for parents to provide for the financial health of their families without having to sacrifice their physical well-being. Policies that give workers the right to paid sick time and workplace flexibility are important steps towards a happier, healthier future for our children. 

Mar 10, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Unstable Work Schedules Hurt Economy, Communities, and Families

by Liz Ben-Ishai

Imagine if your work schedule changed from week to week or even from day to day. Imagine being scheduled to work 40 hours one week and 15 hours the next, with no warning of these fluctuations. Imagine paying for child care, only to have your manager send you home without pay, claiming there aren’t enough customers for you to work your shift. For many lower-wage workers, it doesn’t take much imagination at all to conjure up these scenarios.

A new report by the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Retail Action Project (RAP), and Women Employed reveals that unstable and unpredictable work schedules have severe implications for hourly-wage workers, as well as businesses and consumer spending. The report highlights two policy approaches that would lift up the economy and give workers a boost so that they can cover the basics.

Tackling Unstable and Unpredictable Work Schedules examines the recent trend toward “just-in-time” scheduling practices, where employers schedule workers based on fluctuating consumer demand, which they monitor from day to day or even hour to hour.

These struggles aren’t unusual; a study of 17 major U.S. corporations in various industries found that only three gave more than a week’s notice of schedules. Another study focusing on one major U.S. retailer found that 59 percent of full-time hourly workers experienced fluctuations in either the days or hours of their shifts from week to week.

Two approaches that some employers are taking create jobs with better conditions while meeting business needs.  For example, Costco jobs guarantee a minimum number of hours each week. Cooperative Home Care Associates, a home care staffing agency, has a program that guarantees participating employees a set number of paid hours per week, even if they are not ultimately needed to work all of those hours. In addition to these voluntary minimum hours policies, some collective bargaining agreements and many states’ laws require employers to pay a set amount even if they send a worker home early or decide the worker is not needed for a shift (known as “reporting pay”).

Erratic schedules can cause workers to lose wages and jobs, which leaves them unable to pay for basic goods. Businesses should be concerned. In fact, Wal-Mart was recently the focus of press coverage as it weighed whether to support an increase in the federal minimum wage—a choice driven by the company’s reliance on low-wage workers not only as employees but also as customers. Just as Wal-Mart is waking up to how wages matter to the company and the larger economy, it is time for businesses to realize that unstable scheduling practices are a part of the picture, too.

With nearly 8 million hourly-wage workers in the U.S., many of whom struggle to pay the bills and cover the rent, it’s clear that change is needed. We need public policies that make it possible for working families to get by—and this includes policies that help to create good jobs. Stable and predictable schedules are a key piece of the job quality puzzle.

Read Tackling Unstable and Unpredictable Work Schedules.

Feb 12, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

Costas, Wonkblog are Right: Going to Work Sick is a Bad Idea

by Liz Ben-Ishai

In today's Wonkblog piece, "Bob Costas is right: Going to work sick is a terrible idea," on the broadcaster's withdrawal from NBC's Olympics coverage, Sarah Kliff rightly points out that many U.S. workers go to work sick because they don’t have access to paid sick days, leading to high rates of costly “presenteeism.”

One of the most devastating aspects of this issue is that those who need paid sick days most—low-wage workers—are least likely to have access to them. Nearly 80 percent of the lowest-wage workers lack a single paid sick day. In fact, almost half of all workers making less than $514/week receive no paid leave of any kind (no personal leave, sick leave, family leave, or vacation). And the consequences for families’ economic security are severe: one in seven (14 percent) low-wage workers has lost a job in the past four years because they were sick or needed to care for a family member. For low-wage working moms, the number rises to almost one in five. Workers who can’t afford to lose wages or even jobs are forced to go to work sick, or send a sick child to school. To protect these workers, along with the public health and our economy, laws that guarantee employees the right to earn paid sick days are essential.

Around the country, advocates are successfully campaigning to pass such laws at the state and local level; hopefully, a federal standard will soon make it possible for all workers in the U.S. to have such protections.

site by Trilogy Interactive