Work Schedules: Everything You Need to Know

There are several work schedules that you could use for the employees in your business. The most common type of work schedule is known as a fixed work schedule, which is a timetable that has the same number of days and hours per week. After an employer and employee have agreed on days and hours to be worked, a fixed work schedule will stay fairly consistent. A typical fixed work schedule is Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Other types of work schedules include:

  • Flexible
  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • Rotating
  • Unpredictable or Irregular

Flexible Work Schedule

Some businesses choose to give their employees flexible work schedules. These schedules are much less strict than fixed work schedules and are determined by the number of hours and days that an employee is able to commit to working.

With flexible schedules, it's common for an employer to require either that their employee work a minimum number of hours or that they work during a specific time block. However, flexible schedules often allow employees to switch shifts when necessary.

There are almost unlimited variations of flexible work schedules, but an example could be an employee that works from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Mondays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, and 12 p.m. to close on Saturdays and Sundays.

Full-Time Work Schedule

When a person works a full-time work schedule, they will usually be required to work between 37 and 40 hours a week. Most people working a full-time schedule will be able to receive benefits on top of their regular salary. These benefits can include vacation and sick leave, retirement plans, and health insurance.

Employees on a full-time work schedule will usually work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday, totaling 40 hours. If a full-time worker is non-exempt, they will be entitled to overtime pay once they've worked more than the standard 40 hours. Overtime pay is calculated as a person's normal hourly wage plus half for every extra hour worked.

The majority of full-time workers will have the same shift every day unless they work in retail or a similar profession. However, a full-time schedule will almost always add up to 40 hours a week. Employees who receive a salary are also considered full time, but they generally receive higher pay and are not able to receive overtime.

Part-Time Work Schedule

Any work schedule that is less than full time is considered a part-time schedule. While people who work part-time schedules typically earn less than full-time workers, these schedules provide a great deal of flexibility, which is beneficial to people with responsibilities outside of work.

Part-time work will almost never include benefits. Also, part-time schedules can be extremely erratic, with an employee's schedule differing from week to week. A part-time schedule example could be 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. from Tuesday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Rotating Work Schedule

With a rotating work schedule, an employee's schedule will shift between day, night, and swing shifts. Workplaces institute rotating work schedules so that no employee is forced to continually work an unfavorable shift.

Rotating work schedules are very uncommon and are usually reserved for careers in construction, health care, the military, road work, and power plants. Depending on the job site, work shifts can cycle quarterly or weekly.

The benefit of a rotating work schedule is that employees have more personal time than those working a traditional schedule, allowing them to complete errands and spend time with their loved ones.

Hardship of Unpredictable Work Schedules

Having an unpredictable work schedule can be extremely hard on employees. Some workplaces use something called "on-call scheduling," which is a scheduling practice that requires employees to report to work whenever they are called in. However, it can also leave an employee lacking a shift. This practice has recently come under fire from the New York attorney general.

Employees who are subject to on-call scheduling frequently spend time and money commuting to their workplaces only to be told that they are no longer needed or that they should leave earlier than expected. On-call scheduling can also cause employees with children to miss hours if they are unable to secure child care.

When a person's work schedule is constantly in flux, it can wreak havoc on their income due to inconsistent hours and earnings. Students who work a part-time job are often left to choose between working their shift and attending their classes.

A part-time worker is twice as likely to have inconsistent or unpredictable hours as someone who works a full-time schedule. It's very common for part-time workers to receive less than a week's notice of their upcoming work schedule.

The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine published a study that connected unpredictable work hours to negative consequences such as lowered physical and mental health and even reduced reasoning and recall skills.

In some workplaces, differing schedules can indicate employer flexibility. However, this usually isn't true for part-time workers with low incomes. Some studies have found that eligibility for child-care subsidies is directly linked to how many hours a person works.

Certain states have right-to-request laws which allow part time workers to request schedule changes. Other policies meant to help workers with unpredictable schedules include the ability for caregivers to request flexible schedules and for non-exempt employees to receive at least one hour's pay if they show up for a shift and then aren't needed.

Irregular Scheduling

It has been estimated that as much as 10 percent of workers have on-call or irregular schedules. Hourly workers, salaried workers, and other types of workers may work on-call and irregular shifts.

Workers with low incomes are the most likely to work irregular hours, with the most at-risk being workers that make under $22,500 per year. Fifteen percent of employees in sales and similar professions have irregular work schedules. Other industries where irregular schedules are common include agriculture, business repair services, entertainment, and transportation communications.

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