Many Part-Time Workers Get the Shaft

Photo (cc) by Unlisted Sightings

Not knowing what days or times you’ll be scheduled to work next week, being sent home from a shift before you’ve even clocked in, low wages, no job security, never knowing how many hours you’ll be scheduled to work each week, an expectation that you’ll be on call to come in at the employer’s whim – it doesn’t really sound like a dream job, does it?

Unfortunately, it’s the harsh reality for millions of part-time workers in the U.S.

According to The New York Times, there is a push by some government officials and women’s and labor groups to limit some of the unpredictability faced by part-time workers. Initiatives requiring employers to pay extra to those who are called in to work while being on call and to provide at least two weeks’ notice of a work schedule have been proposed. The Times said:

Vermont and San Francisco have adopted laws giving workers the right to request flexible or predictable schedules to make it easier to take care of children or aging parents. Scott M. Stringer, the New York City comptroller, is pressing the City Council to take up such legislation. And last month, President Obama ordered federal agencies to give the “right to request” to 2 million federal workers.

U.S. Rep. George Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, recently introduced federal legislation that would bar employers from denying employee requests for time off due to caregiving or school-related conflicts, unless the employer can prove they have a business reason for the denial, KQED News said.

Miller’s proposal would also require that part-time workers be compensated for at least four hours of work when they’re sent home early and it mandates that employees be paid for an extra hour of work if they’re given less than 24 hours’ notice of a schedule change. The Times reported:

“It’s becoming more and more common to put employees in a very uncertain and tenuous position with respect to their schedules, and that ricochets if workers have families or other commitments,” Mr. Miller said. “The employer community always says it abhors uncertainty and unpredictability, but they are creating an employment situation that has huge uncertainty and unpredictability for millions of Americans.”

Not surprisingly, business associations oppose Miller’s proposal, arguing that it could undercut efficiency and profits, the Times said.

“The hyper-regulation of the workplace by government isn’t conducive to a positive business climate,” said Scott DeFife, an executive vice president of the National Restaurant Association. “The more complications that government creates for operating a business, the less likely we’ll see a positive business environment that’s good for the economy and increasing jobs.”

The number of “involuntary” part-time workers – those who are working part time only because they can’t find full-time work or because their hours were cut back – is now at 7.5 million, nearly double where it was in 2007, the Times said.

I can’t imagine having an unpredictable work schedule, especially if you have children or are trying to juggle a second (or third) job. Like many child-care facilities, the day care that I use for my children requires that we have a set schedule in place. Obviously, an unpredictable work schedule and working on call would make child care exceedingly difficult.

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