An estimated 4.6 million people were employed as retail salespersons in 2015, making it the largest occupation in the US. According to national data, a large proportion of retail workers have precarious work schedules characterized by unstable (87%) and unpredictable (50%) weekly hours and little control over when they work (44%). Lack of control, in the context of fluctuating and unpredictable hours, can be particularly challenging for the estimated 37% of retail workers who have caregiving responsibilities for children. Current research, however, provides limited insight into which aspects of schedule control are most important in explaining caregiving conflicts among parents working in retail.
To help fill this gap, we address the following question: Which aspects of work schedule control matter most for parental caregiving responsibilities?
Data are drawn from surveys administrated in 2015 and 2016 to hourly employees working at 31 Gap, Inc stores located in San Francisco and Chicago. About 17% of respondents (N=130) reported living with at least one child 18 years or younger. We use descriptive and logistic analyses to examine how different aspects of schedule input (i.e., input into when shifts start and end, days of work, etc.) are related to parents’ ability to arrange childcare and attend child appointments and/or events and to interferences in family routines.
Over a third of the parents surveyed report little to no input into when they start (37%) or end work (38%) or the days they work (34%). This lack of input is taking place in the context of fluctuating hours: over a third report inconsistent start times (34%), end times (42%), or days of work (40%). A substantial proportion of parents report caregiving interferences. About a third report that their schedule at the Gap has resulted in their child staying overnight with friends and/or relatives (32%) or interfered with their childcare arrangements (30%) or being able to attend an appointment or event for their child (34%).
Multivariate logistic results help identify which aspects of schedule input are most strongly related to parental caregiving conflicts. For example, input into when shifts end is more strongly associated with caregiving conflicts and family interferences than input into the time the shift starts. Notably, parents who lack input into when their shift ends are at particularly high risk of reporting that they had their child stay overnight with a friend or family member in the past three months due to their schedule.
We find evidence that different aspects of schedule control matter for specific parent caregiving responsibilities. This nuanced information is useful for targeting improvements in employers’ scheduling practices to those that can make a meaningful difference to hourly workers in retail and related industries. As more cities and states are considering laws and ordinances to regulate work schedules, it will be important to keep in mind the importance of schedule input for workers with children.