Monday, September 21, 2015

          Washington Center for Equitable Growth Funds WorkLife Law Center’s Stable Schedules Study

          The research study tests profitability and benefits of scheduling practices for hourly retail workers in Gap stores. 

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          The Washington Center for Equitable Growth has awarded Professor Joan Williams’ Center for WorkLife Law a second $40,000 grant for the 2015-2016 fiscal year.

          The Washington Center for Equitable Growth is a new research and grant-making organization that works to build bridges between academics and policymakers focused on economic inequality.

          The grant, along with grants from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Suzanne M. Nora Johnson & David G. Johnson Foundation, supports a pilot to be launched in roughly 30 Gap stores in the San Francisco and Chicago areas. “Our goal is test out best practices to make hourly workers’ schedules more predictable and stable,” said Sarah Adler-Milstein, the project manager for the study. The Pilot also will test whether shifting hourly workers to more stable, predictable schedules, and providing them with new opportunities for additional hours, results in cost savings and increased productivity for Gap.

          In the first year of work in 2014-2015 -- also partially funded by a Washington Center for Equitable Growth grant -- Professor Williams and her team piloted and improved upon a set of schedule-stabilizing practices at three Gap stores. Professor Susan Lambert at the University of Chicago is co-Principal Investigator of the study; she brings her deep expertise on scheduling issues faced by hourly workers.

          Gap decided to implement enterprise-wide two new schedules practices tested out in the three Gap stores that participated in the preliminary pilot: the elimination of on-call shifts (where workers do not learn whether they will need to work a scheduled shift until two hours before the shift begins) and two weeks advance notice of schedule.

          The study beginning this fall will test out stable scheduling practices in 15 Bay Area stores and 15 Chicago stores. Managers who volunteer will be randomly assigned to implement a suite of stable scheduling conventions that go beyond what currently exists. “These are a set of interventions designed to allow people to have better work life balance,” said Adler-Milstein. Over the next nine months, the results from the control stores will be compared with the experimental stores. 

          Their priority is to examine how stable scheduling impacts both business outcomes and quality of life for employees; the researchers will also collect qualitative data from managers and they will survey workers extensively before and after the new practices are put into place. “Will these new policies impact the workers’ family lives, or their ability to set up childcare? Will new schedules reduce stress and allow them to be healthier, or allow them the schedule predictability needed to read to their kids or volunteer?” Adler-Milstein asked.

          The recent elimination of on-call shifts by other retailers like Starbucks, Abercrombie & Fitch, Victoria’s Secret, Wal-Mart, and Williams Sonoma seem to indicate that erratic worker schedules are increasingly seen by businesses as negative for the bottom line and for worker well-being. The Center for Worklife Law’s Stable Schedules for Hourly Workers Study will ideally back up this growing perception and pave the way for increased business profitability and increased stability for hourly workers.  

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