Back in April of 2013 I wrote about how Obamacare was increasing incentives for offering part-time rather than full-time work. I warned at the time that once employers got used to scheduling based on part-time shifts, they might never want to go back because it could actually be cheaper and easier than using full-time workers
The service industry generally does not operate 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, so its labor needs do not match traditional full-time shifts. Those of us who run service companies already have to piece together multiple employees and shifts to cover our operating hours. In this environment, there is no reason one can’t stitch together employees making 29 hours a week (that don’t have to be given expensive health care policies) nearly as easily as one can stitch together 40 hours a week employees. In fact, it can be easier — a store that needs to cover 10AM to 9PM can cover with two 5.5 hour a day employees. If they work 5 days a week, that is 27.5 hours a week, safely part-time. Three people working such hours with staggered days off can cover the store’s hours for 7 days.
Based on the numbers above, a store might actually prefer to only have sub-30 hour shifts, but may have, until recently, provided full-time 40 hours work because good employees expect it and other employers were offering it. In other words, they had to offer full-time work because competition in the labor market demanded it. But if everyone in the service business stops offering full-time work, the competitive pressure to offer anything but part-time jobs will be gone. The service business may never go back.
The future American service worker will likely be faced with stitching together multiple part-time shifts. Companies may partner to coordinate shifts so that workers split time between the companies, and third-party clearing houses may emerge in a new value-added role of helping employers and employees stitch together part-time shifts.
The worst thing about being on jury duty isn’t actually serving on a jury. It’s having to check in every day -- possibly several times a day, depending on your local system -- to see whether you’ll be needed. You can’t plan either your work or your personal life. Your schedule is unpredictable and completely out of your control.
For many part-time workers in the post-crash economy, life has become like endless jury duty. Scheduling software now lets employers constantly optimize who’s working, better balancing labor costs and likely demand. The process demands enormous flexibilityfrom part-time workers, sometimes requiring them to be on call all the time without knowing when they’ll work or how much they’ll earn. That puts the kibosh on the age-old strategy of working two or more part-time jobs to make ends meet. As my colleague Megan McArdle writes, “No matter how hard you are willing to work, stringing together anything approaching a minimum income becomes impossible.”