Few Service Workers In Connecticut Have Predictable Schedules

by Christine Stuart | Apr 2, 2018 11:53am

The legislation failed to make it through the committee process, but proponents of predictable scheduling practices aren’t giving up on the concept.

The bill, which would have required employers to provide advance shift notices to their employees, died by a vote of 7-6 in the Children’s Committee. Rep. Pat Boyd, a Democrat, joined six Republicans in voting against the legislation.

Proponents are pointing to a new study by the Shift Project at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at Berkeley University that found 48 percent of workers have no input into their work schedules. Almost 37 percent have some input, and only 15 percent have a large degree of control over their scheduled work days and times.

The study included input from 438 hourly food and retail service sector workers across Connecticut.

Opponents of the legislation say workers like to have flexibility in their schedules.

The report found that when asked 74 percent of the workers expressed a desire for more stability and predictability. Among Connecticut workers who reported a variable schedule (83 percent of those workers) and 85 percent of on-call shift workers wanted more stability and predictability.

An estimated 31 percent of these workers work between 20 and less than 30 hours per week. Another 40 percent are working between 30 and less than 40 hours per week. Only 12 percent are working 40 hours per week. Asked if they would like to work more house, 58 percent percent overall and 64 percent of those working less than 30 hours per week report they would like to work more hours.

This type of scheduling which is typical for low-wage workers who on average were making $12.40 per hour in the retail and service sector often impacts their ability to care for their families or find a work-life balance.

“Unstable work hours that result from on-call shift scheduling impact many of Connecticut’s working families who as a result struggle with fluctuating incomes,” Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said. “A working mother, who budgets with the anticipation of a 30-hour work week, may find herself only working 10 hours in a given week. This type of unpredictable and unstable income makes it extremely difficult for families to meet basic expenses and arrange childcare, doctor’s appointments, or family meals.”

The report found that 40 percent of workers say that their work schedule always or often makes it hard to meet their caregiving responsibilities, and an even larger share (72 percent) experience conflicts between work and their caregiving responsibilities sometimes, often, or always.

There are an estimated 250,000 workers employed in the retail and food service sector in Connecticut.

“The retail and restaurant chains that schedule workers on-call show little regard for the livelihoods of their employees,”  Carlos Moreno, state director of the Connecticut Working Families Organization, said. “Workers are forced to accept that this is how the industry works. Of course, most workers who take these jobs have few employment options. That’s the catch 22. Until we pass legislation, employers will keep treating their employees like they’re expendable. And employees will have to accept it as part of the culture - or quit. That’s not an option for most low wage workers.”

San Francisco and Seattle and New York and Oregon State have all passed legislation requiring a certain amount advance notice of work schedules (usually two weeks).

The business community is largely opposed to the concept.

In written testimony, Eric Gjede, counsel at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (CBIA), which represents thousands of large and small companies throughout the state of Connecticut, said CBIA is opposed.

“In the clear majority of employment circumstances, employers are able to provide employees with their schedules well in advance,” Gjede said. “However, on-call employment positions are critical component of certain industries that are unable to determine their labor needs in advance.”

He said businesses need predictability.

“Employers may not have the resources, equipment, or materials needed for segments of their workforce to work on a particular day,” Gjede added. “Further, it makes employers unable to adjust for unexpected employee absences. Without on-call scheduling, daycare centers, for example, may be unable to meet their state-mandated student-to-teacher ratio if an emergency arises for a parent or teacher.”

Mandating that employers in certain industries commit to the size of their workforce in advance will also mandate the employer take a financial loss during periods of time in which their business is slower or busier than expected, Gjede said in his submitted testimony.

Gjede claimed that workers also are impacted by scheduling restrictions. “Studies done in municipalities that have scheduling restrictions, like San Francisco, showed that employers respond to these laws by hiring fewer part-time workers and by scheduling less employees per shift,” he said.

Wayne Pesce, president of the Connecticut Food Association, said the mandate would “create additional burdens that in the end will hurt the employees you are trying to protect by not allowing scheduling changes without penalties.”

He said in his written testimony that grocery stores would “view these requirements as extremely challenging for a workforce that primarily attracts workers who desire nontraditional/alternative work schedules with flexibility, such as students, retirees and second jobbers.”

Bhumika Choudhary contributed to this report.