Today, far too many hourly workers are subjected to irregular, erratic work schedules that wreak havoc on their families. The advent of new computer software that can accurately predict sales patterns and hourly custom demand allows employers to create “just in time” schedules, or send employees home early without being paid for the full shift. Additionally, retail stores and restaurants have been relying on “on-call” shifts to minimize labor costs. “On call” shifts require employees to call in right before their shift starts to see if they’re needed. If they’re not, they aren’t compensated at all.

These practices prevent employees from being able to secure a second job, find childcare, or arrange transportation. Constantly changing schedules cause a workers income to fluctuate widely, while their bills remain the same. And because a number of social supports, like childcare subsidies, are tied to the number of hours worked, irregular work schedules can prohibit vulnerable workers from taking advantage of benefits that keep them from falling into poverty.

Erratic scheduling practices harm children, particularly children of color and children living in poverty. Research shows that black, low income, and single parent workers are more likely to have nonstandard work schedules. Their children are more likely to have poor cognitive and behavior outcomes than their peers. These scheduling practices especially impact young children. Toddlers whose parents work non-standard work hours have poor memory, learning, problem solving, verbal communication, and exhibit more depression, anxiety and withdrawal. When parents aren’t home with their children, they lose out on family mealtimes, reading books, helping their children with homework. And when they don’t have notice before a shift, they aren’t able to secure quality childcare for their kids.

Employers and legislators are recognizing the harmful impact of unpredictable schedules, and are taking action to address this issue. J-Crew, Abercrombie & Fitch, Bath & Body Works, Gap, and Victoria’s Secret have ended on-call scheduling. San Francisco passed legislation in 2014 requiring chain retailers to post schedules at least two weeks in advance, and pay employees when they are required to be “on call” for a shift that is cancelled with less than 24 hours notice. New Jersey requires non-exempt employees to be paid for an hour of work if they aren’t needed for a shift that they were signed up for, and Vermont also has a flexible scheduling law.

California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon have proposed legislation to require fair scheduling. On the federal level, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Bobby Scott (D-VA) introduced the Schedules that Work Act. But much more is needed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over half of retail workers, 66 percent of food service workers, and 40 percent of janitors and house cleaners know their schedules a week or less in advance.

Parents who work hourly jobs deserve the opportunity to provide a better life for their children, who represent the future of our nation. There are common sense compromises that can protect workers without impacting a business’s bottom line.

Join First Focus in demanding that working individuals and parents get the predictable work schedules they need to support their children and provide a stable environment for them.

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