25% of workers get 3 days notice (or less). 66% have worked clopens. Deep inequities in access to hours. And more…
The 119-page Scheduling in Seattle report released late yesterday afternoon by Vigdor Measurement LLC was commissioned by the City of Seattle after employer lobby groups repeatedly tried to claim that despite all evidence, scheduling was actually somehow not a problem for workers in the city. They apparently hoped to find that larger business trends in the service industry would be defied, because somehow giant retail, coffee, and fast food chains behaved differently in Seattle than they did elsewhere.
The results are in and it didn’t quite turn out that way — despite flaws in the survey design that tended to tilt the results in the direction sought by the employer lobby groups.
Key takeaways from the survey
Despite the serious methodological issues (outlined below), a reading of the full 119-page report in fact reaffirms the need for action on secure scheduling:
- Short notice: 25% of workers and 21% of businesses report schedules go out just 3 days in advance — or less.
- Inequity: 66% of African-Americans, Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders received less than one week’s advance notice of their schedules, vs 38% of white workers.
- On-call: 42% of workers said they had worked on-call, and 70% of managers reported they scheduled people on-call.
- Access to Hours: 30% of workers would like to work additional hours, including more than half of African-American workers and 42% of API workers.
- Clopens: 66% of workers report having worked a clopening, and only 20.6% of clopeners did it voluntarily. Clopens are closely tied to scheduling-related hardships, and franchises are the most likely to schedule clopenings.
The survey design was vulnerable to employer coaching, among other methodological issues
These results likely underestimate the prevalence of scheduling issues for hourly service workers in Seattle — perhaps substantially so. More than a month ago, Working Washington and numerous other organizations wrote a letter expressing concerns about the methodology of this survey, in particular:
- Lack of safeguards: A single individual could easily submit multiple responses to the survey, allowing unscrupulous actors a way to intentionally sway the data collection — and therefore the conclusions.
- Lack of verification: We are aware of no process in place to verify the source or validity of responses.
- Vulnerability to “coaching”: The heightened public debate incentivizes game-playing and makes the survey more likely to be exploited.
Given the reports we have received that corporate executives from Target, Starbucks, and some big restaurant chains have been misleading employees about secure scheduling, particular attention is due to the issue of employer “coaching”.
The report's own methodological note suggests how that vulnerability could manifest:
We focused on reaching businesses through affiliation groups including the City’s Business Stakeholder Group, the Chamber of Commerce and other industry-specific associations.
Despite these methodological issues, the city-commissioned report nonetheless has uncovered some valuable information about scheduling practices in Seattle, as outlined here.
More key datapoints from the survey
Short notice schedules are pervasive:
- 25% of workers and 21% of businesses report schedules go out just 3 days in advance — or less
- 43% of employees reported they had worked a shift with no more than 24 hours notice in past two weeks.
- 24% of managers reported calling in at least one worker with less than 24 hours notice within past two weeks.
The impacts of unstable & unpredictable schedules are inequitable:
- 66% of African-Americans, Asians, Asian-Americans, and Pacific Islanders received less than one week’s advance notice of their schedules, vs 38% of white workers.
- 12.4% of parents report their schedules have severe impacts on parenting and childcare obligations
- African-American workers reported higher rates of their schedules causing difficulty related to parenting, attending class, and working second jobs.
- Spanish-speaking respondents reported elevated rates of difficulties with parenting, family obligations, paying bills, attending class, working a second job, and hobbies.
- Workers who reported one serious scheduling-related difficulty were significantly more likely to report additional difficulties.
Access to hours is a critical issue:
- 30% of workers would prefer to work additional hours, including more than half of African-American workers and 42% of API workers.
- 45% of foreign-born workers want additional hours, as do 52% of workers speaking Chinese at home.
On-call shifts are frequently mandatory:
- 42% of workers said they had worked on-call, and 70% of managers reported the scheduled people on-call.
- 43% percent of workers who had been on-call said it was required. 24% said they felt it was required.
- African-American and Latino employees are disproportionately likely to be placed on-call. Workers speaking either Spanish or Chinese at home were also significantly more likely to be placed on call.
Clopens are common, and unpopular
- 66% of workers report working a clopening, and 43% had worked at least one clopening within the past two weeks. Franchises are the most likely to schedule clopenings.
- Involuntary clopenings are closely tied to scheduling-related hardship. Almost half of workers required to work clopening shifts reported that their work schedule imposed caused difficulties.
- Only 20.6% of those who worked clopens did it voluntarily, and these people do not actually work these types of shifts as frequently as other workers.
Other items to note:
- 63% of employers with 50-249 Seattle employees use software for scheduling.
- Advance notice is so important that nearly half of all respondents (49%) would sacrifice even a 20% pay raise in order to maintain one week’s advance notice.
- 38% percent of workers reported they had been sent home early at least once, and one in ten had been sent home at least three times.
- 52% of reductions in hours are described as involuntary.
- Employees who speak Spanish at home reported significantly higher rates of being sent home before the scheduled end of a shift.