A Framework for a National Conversation
How to make ends meet? Answering this question is an ongoing struggle for many American families. Today, making ends meet is not just about money. It’s also about time. It’s about getting children off to school or child care, trying to
arrange back-up child care when plans fall through, taking the car to the mechanic, catching the bus or the subway to work, caring for an elderly parent, keeping a doctor’s appointment, attending a class to learn new job skills, and going to a parent-teacher conference. It’s about doing all of these things, and still getting a job done.
In this report, we focus on flexible work arrangements that can improve scheduling for low-wage hourly workers in each of these areas. Examples of flexible work arrangements include shift-swapping, team scheduling, self-scheduling, honoring worker preferences to work certain shifts or certain days, and seeking volunteers first for overtime. These and many other flexible work arrangements will be discussed in this report. Time off policy, another key aspect of workplace flexibility for low-wage hourly workers, is discussed in Workplace Flexibility 2010’s recent report, Family Security Insurance: A New Foundation for Economic Security.
A large proportion of low-wage hourly workers – whether working standard or nonstandard schedules, full-time or parttime – experience rigid, unpredictable, or unstable scheduling practices. Our report is one of the first to highlight the extent to which these three different types of scheduling problems — rigidity, unpredictability, and instability — pervade the low-wage hourly workforce. We note, however, that the data on which we rely is incomplete. There is no national data available that will allow us to state conclusively the extent to which low-wage hourly workers experience unpredictable scheduling and instability in their work hours, or the consequences of these types of employer practices on employees and their families. Given the scope of the scheduling challenges we have uncovered in this report with the existing data, we can say with certainty that the problems of rigidity, unpredictability, and instability impact substantial numbers of low-wage workers on standard and nonstandard work schedules.