Unpredictable, Unsustainable: The Impact of Employers’ Scheduling Practices in DC

| June 11th, 2015 |

The push to boost corporate profits and keep labor costs low has led many companies to adopt scheduling practices that often result in erratic and unpredictable hours for the women and men who work for them. New data reveals the prevalence of such “just-in-time” scheduling in Washington, DC’s service sector. In line with previous research, it finds that this approach to scheduling negatively impacts many employees’ lives.

The report examines scheduling practices in the District’s service sector, particularly focusing on the retail and restaurant/food service industries, through a survey conducted with 436 respondents in 2015.

Key Findings

Insufficient work hours, combined with low wages, prevent employees from making ends meet:

  • Low Pay Common: The typical employee works 32 hours per week at a pay rate of $10 per hour, resulting in an annual income of approximately $16,000.
  • More Hours Needed: Four out of five people said it was very important or somewhat important to get more hours.
  • Second Jobs Required: Nearly one-quarter of individuals work at least one additional job.

Besides generally unpredictable work schedules, just-in-time scheduling policies include split shifts, which are back-to-back shifts separated by more than one hour; shortened shifts, when workers are sent home before working a full shift, often without compensation; and on-call/call-in shifts, when workers are called at the last-minute, or told to call into work at the last minute, to see if they must work certain shifts.

These just-in-time scheduling practices mean that employees face erratic schedules, making life difficult for themselves and their families. Challenges include:

  • Economic Insecurity: Just over 17 percent of individuals overall, and 21 percent of employees in the restaurant/food-service industry, reported that their work schedule hindered their ability to budget.
  • Childcare Difficulties: Among employees with dependents age 13 or younger, 28 percent reported that their work schedules complicate childcare arrangements.
  • Education Challenges: Twelve percent said their work schedules negatively impact their ability to attend classes or job training.
  • Employment Options Limited: Some 12 percent of individuals said they could not pursue a second job despite wanting to do so.

To read the full report, click here. To read the executive summary, click here.