Stable and fair scheduling

Why This Matters

An unstable or inflexible work schedule often contributes to cycles of poverty and makes it hard for workers to optimize their health, family care and educational and economic advancement. Conversely, predictable schedules empower workers, increase productivity, and benefit employers. You can advocate for changes by educating and influencing policymakers, employers and jobseekers so that everyone benefits from a stable and fair work schedule.

The Problem

Schedule instability is widespread in service sectors like retail, hospitality and food service. Workers lack agency with regard to work/life balance, struggling to make medical and childcare appointments or build additional skills through education. Employers claim that variable scheduling saves money, but it's often counterproductive when turnover and callouts are factored in.

87% of retail workers experience fluctuating hours and 50% receive their schedules a week or less in advance. Among food service workers, 90% experience schedule fluctuation and 64% receive schedules a week or less in advance.

The Covid-19 pandemic has expanded awareness of the importance of frontline workers in our economy, but little has changed to improve schedule stability since the crisis began. Recent research demonstrates that the average worker would be willing to give up 20% of wages to avoid short-notice scheduling.

For some real life examples of employers that have shifted to stable schedules such as Gap, Mercadona and Sam’s Club, check out this overview.

The Solution

Stable scheduling initiatives focus on the following components:

  • Stability: Employers provide a good faith estimate of an employee’s schedule at the time of hire.
  • Predictability: Employers provide employees with 7-day schedules at least 14 days in advance. Employers provide “predictability pay” for short-notice changes and allow workers to decline short-notice requests.
  • Reliability: Employers do not use on-call scheduling, which requires individuals to be available at a moment’s notice.
  • Rest: Employers pay time-and-a-half for hours worked between closing and opening shifts separated by fewer than 10 hours.

Through job quality initiatives focused on these four components, workforce agencies can support stable and fair scheduling practices. These initiatives are designed for agencies that:

  • Place a large number of adults or youth in retail, leisure or hospitality occupations to help them address near-term economic needs or as on-ramps to build transferable skills
  • Seek to remove barriers preventing employees from advancing their education, retaining childcare and accessing health care
  • Are committed to improving individuals’ agency over where, when and how they work so that they can balance work and life commitments
  • Want to help populations advance in the service sector and hospitality industries, growing their earning power and diversifying the managerial ranks of local companies
  • Want to partner with other organizations and policymakers to advance lasting change that doesn’t require grant funding for a new program

Recommended actions can help workforce and economic development agencies advance strategies to finance their job quality strategy for the long term.

Diversifying Revenue Streams

Recommended actions provide the specific steps that a workforce or economic development agency can take to implement job quality in their local area. The steps are intended to provide both guidance and inspiration by highlighting a variety of options including how to support job seekers, businesses and their own operations.