New Bill Addresses Unfair Job Scheduling Practices

July 22, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 22, 2014 —Today, U.S. Representatives George Miller (D-CA) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Schedules That Work Act in Congress, a bill that would address the problems faced by millions of low-wage workers who have unpredictable and unstable job schedules. The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), a leading national organization that promotes policies to help low-income families, praised the groundbreaking bill, which would benefit all workers while also giving special protections to individuals working hard to balance their jobs with caregiving responsibilities, postsecondary education, and additional employment, as well as those with serious illnesses.

The bill would give workers in all industries the right to request a flexible, predictable, or stable schedule, without fear of retaliation. For workers in the retail, restaurant, and building cleaning sectors, employers would be required to provide two weeks’ advance notice of schedules and compensate employees who are sent home before the end of their shifts, work a split shift, or are assigned on-call shifts.

“This legislation addresses one of the most pressing problems facing lower-wage workers today,” said Liz Ben-Ishai, a policy analyst at CLASP. “The proposed law would go a long way towards curbing volatile scheduling practices that disproportionately affect low-income families. These include last-minute notification of schedules and major fluctuations in hours and shift assignments, as well as minimal worker input into scheduling. Since job growth is concentrated in the service industry, where workers often encounter these practices, it is urgent that Congress take action.”

Scheduling challenges are widespread, according to a study released today by Susan Lambert and colleagues at the University of Chicago. The new research shows that 41 percent of hourly workers receive less than one week’s advance notice of their job schedules. Seventy-five percent of hourly workers have hours that fluctuate from week-to-week, for example, receiving 10 hours of work one week and 40 the next. These workers see their hours vary by 50 percent, on average.

The Schedules That Work Act would require employers to accommodate the scheduling needs of workers who attend school or who have serious illnesses, caregiving responsibilities, or more than one job, unless the employers have bona fide business reasons for not doing so.

Working parents with unpredictable job schedules are often left scrambling to find child care arrangements. “Stable and nurturing relationships with caregivers are crucial to the long-term development and well-being of children. No parent should have to make compromises on his or her child’s care because of unthoughtful scheduling practices,” said Hannah Matthews, director of CLASP’s child care and early education team.  

Like those with caregiving responsibilities, working students are hit especially hard by volatile job schedules. “With the skyrocketing cost of postsecondary tuition, the majority of students must work while going to school. In order to succeed, these students need job schedules that are in sync with their class schedules—not last-minute notice of their shifts and fluctuating hours,” said Marcie Foster, senior policy analyst at CLASP’s Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success. “This bill is critically important to students who are working hard in their jobs and at school to further their career prospects.”

The bill is also receiving support from employer associations, including the Social Venture Network (SVN), which views fair scheduling practices as good not only for workers but also for business. Deb Nelson, executive director of SVN, said the bill is in line with the group’s mission of supporting “a triple bottom line of people, planet, and profit.” She explained: “Our business leaders, social entrepreneurs, and impact investors appreciate that companies benefit when they are responsive to employees and flexible with work schedules.”

Read an overview of the bill >>

Learn about the intersection of job scheduling issues and higher education >>

Learn about the intersection of job scheduling issues and child care >>

Other CLASP resources can be found at http://www.clasp.org/pages/scheduling-resources.

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CLASP develops and advocates for policies at the federal, state, and local levels that improve the lives of low-income people, with a focus on strengthening families and creating pathways to education and work. Through careful research and analysis and effective advocacy, we foster and promote new ideas, mobilize others, and help advocates and government implement strategies that deliver results for people across America. For more information, visit www.clasp.org and follow @CLASP_DC.

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