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Unpredictable Schedules Burden Direct-Care Workers, Researchers Say

October 28, 2014

Low-wage workers, including certified nursing assistants, are burdened by having to work unpredictable part-time hours, a new book argues.

In Unequal Time: Gender, Class, and Family in Employment Schedules, Dan Clawson and Naomi Gerstel, sociology professors at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, argue that work schedules have become “chronically unpredictable” for millions of Americans.

This unpredictability is particularly pronounced among low-wage workers. It can have an adverse effect on these workers’ wages, work-family balance, and mental health, Clawson and Gerstel argue.

The health care sector is particularly susceptible to unpredictable scheduling. At one “high-end nursing home,” one out of every three shifts did not play out according to the schedule, the authors found.

The part-time nature of low-wage jobs, such as direct-care work, also burdens workers, the authors wrote. “In interviews for our book, over and over we heard $10-an-hour nursing assistants say they wanted extra hours,” Clawson and Gerstel wrote in an October 10 American Prospect article.

The unwanted part-time nature of direct-care jobs is frequently cited as a barrier to recruitment, as well as a reason for high turnover within the field.

Unfortunately, “unpredictability [is] the new normal” for many workers in the U.S., Clawson and Gerstel write — “especially among those who earn low wages, especially women and especially women of color.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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