Documenting the Harmful Effects of On-Call and Irregular Work Scheduling

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Millions of workers in the US wake up every morning not knowing what time they will start work, how many hours they will be working, or if they will be working at all. On-call scheduling has always been a part of certain occupations, including firefighters and some doctors. In the past, higher salaries partly compensated for the uncertainties of being on-call. However, as Lonnie Golden reports, in recent years on-call scheduling has spread to jobs such as retail sales, a fast-growing occupation for which there is little or no extra compensation. The practice ultimately stems from employers that have adopted software that allows them to predict with greater precision how many shoppers will be in the store at a given time. Then managers can lower daily labor costs by monitoring in real-time whether they need more employees, calling them to work with less than 24-hour notice. Recent research shows about ten percent of the workforce is assigned to irregular shifts or on-call work. The nation’s lowest paid workers (those who earn less than $22,500 a year) are more likely to face irregular work schedules. Golden reports that many states and cities, including Minnesota and San Francisco, have adapted public policy measures like those implemented by the New York attorney general, with the aim of preventing some of the most negative impacts of on-call and irregular scheduling on workers.

Source: Lonnie Golden, “How On-Call and Irregular Scheduling Harm the American Workforce,” The Conversation, September 5, 2015,

Student Researcher: Hayden Cronenbold (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Mike Nackord (Sonoma state University)