Low-income parents and families cannot make daily and monthly budget plans without some previous knowledge and confidence in a steady income from employment. They certainly cannot reach economic security or move toward asset development for themselves and their children. Still, among low-wage workers, and this often means people of color, volatile work schedules are becoming the norm.
Obviously, this unpredictability makes arranging child care, transportation, and other life activities extremely challenging. Volatile work schedules make it difficult for employees to balance work and home responsibilities leading to significant employee turnover, increased absenteeism, lower quality of work, and more dissatisfaction in the workplace culture. States are encouraged to advocate for the Schedules that Work Act, which was proposed in July 2014. This proposed federal legislation supports workers in maintaining flexible and stable schedules. These policies respond to the needs of low-income families and communities, and, in turn, help support and sustain the economy.
The Schedules that Work Act would allow workers in companies with fifteen or more employees to request schedule accommodations without retaliation. The act would provide employees in service industries a right to receive their requested schedule accommodations unless employers had a bona fide business reason to refuse. For these workers, the act includes provisions that require advanced notice of schedules and additional compensation for last-minute changes to schedules, on-call work, and split shifts.
Legislation to address schedule volatility has been introduced in 12 states, as well as several local jurisdictions over the past year. This is likely due to an increased realization by many businesses that when workers have flexibility, productivity increases and turnover and absenteeism decreases. Flexibility not only shows up in productivity numbers, but promotes employee engagement and reduces operating costs with fewer turnovers and less burnout in managerial roles as there is less need to train and engage new employees. If the goals are to improve the quality of the workforce and to support low-wage workers in finding healthy and sustainable employment, states should consider legislation to address volatile work schedules.