Precarious Work Schedules And Population Health


Policy Brief

Executive Summary

  • Hourly workers in the US—especially those in the retail and food service sectors—have work schedules that are often unstable and unpredictable, with variable work hours, short advance notice of weekly schedules, and frequent last-minute changes to shift timing.
  • Exposure to unstable and unpredictable work schedules increases household economic insecurity and work-life conflict, leading to diminished sleep quality and increased psychological distress in adults.
  • Parental exposure to unstable and unpredictable work schedules is associated with child care complexity and informality and with behavioral problems in young children.
  • Six US cities and one state have passed laws to regulate unstable and unpredictable work scheduling practices, and several firms have announced changes to scheduling practices. More research is needed to assess the degree to which such changes in law and practice improve schedule stability and predictability and, consequently, worker and family health and well-being.