Tuesday, November 17, 2015

          Can more stable work schedules help employees and businesses thrive?

          A groundbreaking study launches in 30 Gap stores this month to pilot best practices aimed at promoting schedule stability for hourly workers.
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          “We are excited to see what the data will show. We hope our findings can help move businesses and legislators towards evidence-based practices that are good for employee life-work balance and for business.” - Professor Joan C. Williams

          SAN FRANCISCO – November 17, 2015 – The Stable Schedules Study is a collaboration between Professor Joan C. Williams, the director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law and Professor Susan Lambert from the University of Chicago. This is the second stage of a study that is piloting alternative practices to promote stable scheduling for hourly workers. Unpredictable work schedules are a key source of employment instability in retail.

          “In retail, many workers’ schedules change from week to week, with little to no advance notice. The result is instability that has detrimental effects on everything from work performance and turnover to family economic security and the well-being of workers and their children,” said Professor Susan Lambert. “The Stable Schedules Study will provide insight into novel approaches to scheduling employees and their effects on business performance and employee wellbeing.”

          The Stable Schedules Study recently concluded a preliminary pilot in a subset of Gap stores in the San Francisco Bay Area, which tested practices including the elimination of on-call shifts and two weeks’ advance posting of schedules. In August, Gap announced its decision to eliminate the use of on-call shifts and provide work schedules 14 days in advance to employees at Gap stores in the U.S. The second phase of the study will launch in Gap stores in Chicago and San Francisco this month. In addition, this phase will study the company’s two new scheduling policies and also pilot four additional practices designed to improve schedule stability, including:

          • Part-Time Plus: Increasing the number of workers who receive a minimum of 20 hours per week. Part-Time Plus is designed to provide income and schedule stability to employees as well as a core of dedicated and skilled employees to stores.
          • Stable Shift Structure: Increasing the number of shifts that are consistent from week to week so that employees are able to plan their lives around a more predictable work schedule. Increased consistency of shift start and end times is a key part of this component.
          • Tech-Enabled Shift Swapping: Providing employees the option of using a free app, which is designed to increase the ease and flexibility to swap and pick up additional shifts. This additional tool, which will enhance existing ways employees can swap shifts and pick up additional hours, is intended to save management time and reduce the stress of managing scheduling changes.
          • Targeted Staffing Increases: Utilizing expert analysis of staffing and store traffic patterns to implement targeted staffing increases. This analysis is designed to improve managers’ ability to schedule workers for more stable and predictable hours from week to week and provide improved service and business results. The Stable Schedules Study is working with University of North Carolina Professor Saravanan Kesavan, whose research found that retail stores can boost profits through targeted increases in staffing.

          The study randomly assigns stores to either test out these four intervention components or to serve as a control. Potential outcomes will be measured through a voluntary survey of Gap employees to assess their experiences with the changes, and through administrative data from the company on store performance and profitability to assess business impacts. 

          “We are excited to see what the data will show. We hope our findings can help move businesses and legislators towards evidence-based practices that are good for employee life-work balance and for business,” said Professor Williams. 

          Joan C. Williams is Distinguished Professor of Law, Hastings Foundation Chair, and Director of the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law. Susan Lambert is an Associate Professor at the University of Chicago, School of Social Service Administration and the Director of the Employment Instability Researchers Network.

          Major funding for UC Hastings Center for WorkLife Law’s Stable Schedules Study was provided by a grant from the Kellogg Foundation, with additional grant support from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, The Ford Foundation, The Gap, and Suzanne M Nora Johnson and David G Johnson Foundation.

          Contact

          To contact Professor Joan C. Williams, call 202-365-8013 or 415-565-4706 or email her at williams@uchastings.edu.  

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