As the advent of the gig economy has highlighted the precarious nature of many non-salaried workers’ incomes, predictable scheduling has practically eclipsed the minimum wage as the labor rights cause of the day, both in the US and in other countries. In the past year, we’ve seen cities like Seattle and New York pass “secure scheduling” laws mandating guaranteed hours for certain classes of hourly employees, and Oregon is on its way to becoming the first state with such legislation.
That many Americans work unpredictable hours from week to week is not in dispute, but opponents of these mandates argue that they impose unreasonable burdens on employers in industries like retail and food service where turnover is high and demand is naturally unpredictable. There is also some debate over just how big a problem variable scheduling is. A recent Gallup survey, for example, finds that among the one in six US employees who are paid hourly and say their hours vary each week, 67 percent say their variable schedules are not causing them financial hardship:
These results are based on interviews conducted Aug. 23-Sept. 4 with 528 hourly workers who say the number of hours they work each week varies. Thirty-seven percent of all hourly workers — equivalent to 18% of all U.S. workers — say the number of hours they work varies from week to week, while the rest say their hours are fixed.
A new study from the Center for Financial Services Innovation finds that nearly half of US adults are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with expenses equal to (or even greater than) their income—including 54 percent of those aged 18-25—CNN Money‘s Anna Bahney reports:
Of the 25% who say they have too much debt, 96% report being stressed. This kind of financial stress has lasting health effects for those constantly working to cover the nut, says [Jennifer Tescher, president and CEO of CFSI]. “We can’t deal with their health problems if we can’t deal with their financial health.” …
Certainly we can all do the hard work of cutting back on our expenses, says Tescher. But she says the results of this study show something more structural than individual spending. “People are spending a shockingly large amount of income on housing. They have to pay for transportation to get to a job. These costs are going up while their wages stay the same.” Another major contributor, according to the study, is irregular income. Nearly 40% of those who spend as much or more than their paychecks have volatile income, which means it varies from day to day, week to week, month to month.
The issue of employees’ financial insecurity is highly salient for employers, who are increasingly aware of the negative impact financial stress has on well-being and productivity. This topic came up in the Minneapolis Evanta leadership summit in Minneapolis earlier this month, during a boardroom discussion on emotional resilience. Several companies were talking about introducing financial wellness benefits and receiving feedback from the vendors that so many of their employees were living hand to mouth that they didn’t need financial wellbeing benefits, they need debt consolidation guidance.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed a suite of bills into law on Tuesday that will require fast food and retail employers in the city to provide employees with more predictable work schedules, Reuters reports:
A key component of the package is a requirement that fast food restaurants schedule their workers at least two weeks in advance or pay extra for shift changes. … The legislation also ensures that fast food workers have breaks of at least 11 hours between shifts and are given the option of working additional hours before their employers hire extra workers. …
The New York City package, which takes effect in six months, also would ban unpaid on-call scheduling of retail employees and would enable fast-food workers to contribute voluntarily to worker advocacy groups or other non-profit groups, but not unions, through payroll deduction.
With this legislation, New York becomes the third (and by far the largest) US city to take aim at the controversial practice of on-call scheduling, which San Francisco targeted in its 2014 “retail workers’ bill of rights” and Seattle banned in a law its City Council passed last year. Another such law is scheduled to take effect July 1 in the Bay Area city of Emeryville, CA, and similar scheduling bills have been introduced at the state level in Connecticut, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Texas.
According to the New York Daily News, however, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo is working on a series of regulations that would preempt the city’s and offer employees somewhat weaker protections, albeit more than they currently enjoy: