Report

Unstable and On-Call Work Schedules in US and Canada – One out of six works a schedule that varies primarily according to employer needs

Unstable work schedules are schedules in which the times of work vary and workers have little or no control over that variability, either as individuals or through collective agreements. These schedules are also often called “just-in-time” schedules. Their main attraction for employers is flexibility: the ability to respond to changes in demand and other contingencies, measured in small intervals of time. However, such scheduling practices often impose significant costs on workers, including the difficulty of planning and coordinating non-market times with others when the specific times of work vary, and the instability of income when total hours vary and workers are paid by the hour.

Definitions

Unstable work schedules are schedules in which the times of work vary and workers have little or no control over that variability, either as individuals or through collective agreements. These schedules are also often called “just-in-time” schedules. Their main attraction for employers is flexibility: the ability to respond to changes in demand and other contingencies, measured in small intervals of time. However, such scheduling practices often impose significant costs on workers, including the difficulty of planning and coordinating non-market times with others when the specific times of work vary, and the instability of income when total hours vary and workers are paid by the hour.

There is no legally defined category of zero hours contracts in the United States; thus, American laws do not specifically prohibit zero hours of work in any particular interval of time.

On-call work is one type of unstable schedule, among many others. In the United States, on-call work refers to a situation in which the worker is not assigned any specific hours of work in advance, but rather is assigned specific times during which s/he must be accessible by phone in case s/he is needed on short notice. This is common, for instance, among substitute school teachers.

Both variability and lack of control matter. In the two-by-two matrix of Figure 1, where the parameters are working time variability and working time control, unstable schedules are located in the southeast quadrant of Figure 1.

If an employee can decide to take a few hours off on one day, then make up the work on another day (cell A or B), this variability is a prized job perquisite. But if management tells a worker to report for work at times not of the worker’s choosing, and the times often change (cell D), this is likely to create a multitude of problems for workers, especially in the institutional contexts of the United States and Canada.

There are numerous forms of instability in scheduling. When the times of work vary, workers may additionally receive very short advance notice of their work schedules, such as one week or less before they are expected to report to work. They may also work a variable total number of hours per week. These practices are of course highly correlated. All these kinds of instability may involve yet other variations.

Types and Measurement of Work Schedule Instability

The Federal Reserve’s Survey of Household Economics and Decision-Making (2016) is the largest recent source of data on work schedule instability for a broad range of ages in the United States. One survey question asked, “Thinking about your main job, do you normally start and end work around the same time each day that you work or does it vary from week-to-week?”, and provided options where the schedule varied mostly from the employer’s or the worker’s side. Figure 2 displays the result for American workers and contractors aged 18-65. Approximately one out of six works a schedule that varies primarily according to employer needs.

Among those who worked variable schedules primarily at their employer’s behest, work schedules were highly unpredictable (Figure 3). Nearly two-thirds received advance notice of their work schedules less than one week in advance.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Conditions of Work and Employment Series No. 99: Unstable and On-Call Work Schedules in the United States and Canada

Discussion

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Jobs – Offres d’emploi – US & Canada (Eng. & Fr.)

The Most Popular Job Search Tools

Even More Objectives Statements to customize

Cover Letters – Tools, Tips and Free Cover Letter Templates for Microsoft Office

Follow Job Market Monitor on WordPress.com

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow Job Market Monitor via Twitter

Categories

Archives

%d bloggers like this: