For white-collar workers, jobs that promise flexible hours may be highly sought after. But for workers who are just getting by, the very opposite is often the case. In the restaurant and retail industries, the increasing use of “just in time” scheduling makes workers’ job schedules unpredictable and has, consequently, been transferring the uncertainties of the business world to vulnerable workers and their families.
“Just in time” scheduling allows companies to boost profits, but can make it nearly impossible to organize childcare, to pursue further education, or even to apply for public assistance, since it leaves workers unable to definitively answer routine questions such as how many hours per week they work. What might be done, from a policy standpoint, to help American workers cope with fluctuating hours? Could shift-scheduling software be used, instead, to create more stability for the employees who most need it?
Jodi Kantor’s recent New York Times piece examining a Starbucks employee’s struggles with a variable work schedule generated widespread discussion and led Starbucks to change its policies. Please join New America NYC for a discussion of contemporary workplace scheduling practices and their effect on those who are juggling breadwinner and caregiver roles.