Feb 1, 2022 - Economy

Service workers still struggle with unstable schedules

Photo of a masked worker with one arm reaching out a window with a receipt toward a hand in the car

Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Companies talk openly these days about ways to improve workers’ lives, but employers in the service sector may be ignoring a critical issue.

The big picture: Workers in the service industries — think retail and restaurants — continue to face unpredictable work schedules, seeing little change from what they experienced in 2017, according to a new study from the Shift Project, a national survey of more than 100,000 workers at the nation's biggest retailers.

Why it matters: Unstable schedules harm workers' health and well-being, and the well-being of their children — especially during a time of uncertainty around schools and child care.

By the numbers: About two-thirds of workers received less than two weeks’ notice of their work schedule.

  • 21% performed "on-call" assignments, requiring them to be available if needed, but without paying them for their time.
  • 57% experienced last-minute changes to scheduled shifts.

The bottom line: Flexibility is the new buzzword for a certain class of professionals, but for those earning low pay, more structure is desperately needed.

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