Today, Connecticut has an opportunity to pass a bill to grant workers the right to a predictable schedule. Currently, employees don’t have that right. If this is new news, please imagine for a minute what that means.
You have children, are a caregiver for a parent or sibling, or have your own health needs that include dialysis, infusions, or radiation. You have to wait until your schedule is posted to schedule child care or attempt to schedule or reschedule medical appointments. Perhaps you are a single mom, or your partner also works, and you’re scheduled for a shift outside of your childcare center’s hours. Now you’re scrambling to find help. You’re trying to find the additional financial resources to pay a babysitter on top of your routine child care expenses. You’re needing to find help to check in on mom while you’re at work.
Predictable scheduling is essential to a multi-faceted life. We are more than our work, and not having a predictable schedule impacts our ability to balance and support the rest of our lives. Additionally, not having predictable schedules disproportionately impacts those with marginalized identities, and magnifies the more oppressed identities we carry. Being a parent is hard enough. Being one without a predictable schedule, or the financial resources to pay for individualized childcare or other needs, makes that much harder.
In the face of perceived labor shortage, a predictable schedule is key. Research shows that a predictable schedule is six times stronger in predicting front-line employee retention than a flexible schedule (MIT Sloan Management Review, 2022) https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/toxic-culture-is-driving-the-great-resignation/.
As a former executive director of a 24-hour program, I assure you predictable schedules are possible. Through pre-planning, stay policies when inevitable call-outs occur, per diem and/or floating staff, employers can grant their staff the right to plan and balance a rich, multi-faceted life. Predictable scheduling for our workforce comes down to what we choose to value, and whether we see our workers as full people entitled to their own agency, or whether they are simply an impersonal means to an end. Choosing to value our workforce not only is the right thing to do, but also contributes to employee retention; saving the marketing and search costs of replacing a vacancy, reducing stress on fellow employees of having to cover newly vacated shifts, and promoting a well-trained, experienced staff by increasing worker longevity.
The law in front of elected officials in Connecticut includes the primary components of: 1. A good faith estimate of expected schedules upon hire, including estimated weekly number of hours; 2. A defined minimum period of rest between shifts; 3. Advanced notification of scheduling changes and confirmations to allow employees ample time to adjust and meet their other needs; 4. Additional compensation to employees for last minute changes and mandates.
When you look at each of these on it’s face, they are obvious benefits that most workers already enjoy. To deny them to the ones most affected: those in poverty, women, people of color, single parents, caregivers, workers with disabilities, etc. is another way our society rewards and encodes privilege and then denies it exists. In 2021, the Institute for Research on Poverty at University of Wisconsin-Madison looked at the ways that the increased financial burden to workers of “just-in-time scheduling” compounds the challenges for employees of meeting basic needs. Short notice of scheduled shifts can occur less than 48-hours before the start of shift, sending staff into a planning frenzy; as can last minute cancellation of shifts or early dismissal from slow shifts, and thus relied upon income. Chase bank data shows that almost 75% of households in the lowest 20% of income experienced monthly income fluctuations of 30%, or more from unpredictable scheduling (Farrell, D., & Greig, F. (2016, January). Paychecks, paydays, and the online platform economy).
What can you do? For starters, take a look at your own values. Can you accept that supporting predictable schedules for our lowest income earners and most marginalized populations supports community health? Yes? Great. Then consider telling your legislators to do the right thing. In the face of corporate profit margins capable of chartering passenger flights into space, let’s make sure that those still firmly rooted on Earth can pay their bills, enjoy their child’s play or tennis match, take care of their aging dad, by having one (financial) stressor slightly reduced. The change is in our reach if we act.
An Act Concerning Predictable Scheduling, HB 6859, is awaiting action. This bill has 10 sponsors, and was voted out of the Labor and Public Employees Committee in March. It needs to be called for a vote in the House before the end of session. You can find your legislators at https://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/menu/cgafindleg.asp. Never doubt that your action can support change.
Meriden resident Sharlene
Kerelejza is a social worker who works as a clinical assistant faculty member at the Sacred Heart University School of Social Work.