Precarious employment is a major issue in Canada, but one aspect of it in particular needs immediate attention and that is scheduling.
For people who work a ‘typical’ 9 to 5 job, this issue is not something you have to think of too often. You know what time you work on what days of the week, and you are able to plan you work-life balance around that.
Doctors appointments for the kids, camping on the long weekend or an aunt’s birthday dinner– these are all things that can be managed when you know when you have to be at work.
This is not a reality for people in precarious employment.
In Alberta, the current legislation states that ‘an employee must not be required to change from one shift to another without at least 24 hours written notice and at least 8 hours rest between shifts.’
A notice of one day does not allow for a lot of flexibility for you personal life or personal finances. If your shift is cancelled, you do not get paid and you are not guaranteed to make up that money anywhere else.
According to recent research, people who are working in retail, health care and restaurants are most commonly victims of erratic work schedules and also tend to be young women of colour. These also are almost overwhelmingly industries that are non-union.
And there are many benefits to the employers who use erratic scheduling.
In a recent article from the Toronto Star the pointed out that it ‘allows companies to spend less on payroll when sales are down.’ They also avoid obligations to pay medical or dental benefits.
Workers are left in a spiral of part-time work, multiple jobs and instability and it is clear we need change. This change can help not only workers, but employers.
Many critics of erratic scheduling have pointed out that stable jobs mean stable income, which can create economic growth. Secure jobs also create lower turnover and higher productivity at companies.
Some companies and governments are taking notice.
Gap has said that by the end of September all five of its brands – Old Navy, Banana Republic, Gap, Intermix and Athletica – will end their on-call scheduling. Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret have also made similar claims.
In the United States Seattle, San Francisco and New York City have all passed laws related to irregular scheduling, and Oregon is following suit.
Not only can companies and politicians push for change, unions can also help these vulnerable workers.
Unionized workers have their rights protected through collective bargaining and have the union to back them up if an employer tries to change schedules, take away pay or not provide benefits.
We have fought hard over the last few years to raise the minimum wage for many across the country and now it is time to pay attention to scheduling.