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On-Call Work Affecting Children

September 18, 2016
Plain English Version

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Thank computers. They make it easy for companies to change work shifts. Now employers use on-call programs. It means workers can be told to come to work on very short notice. Companies do this to save money. It reduces the amount of time that workers may spend on the job when the company thinks they are not needed. Often workers will be told to go home after just a few hours of work.

Advocates and researchers are sharing information about how on-call affects parenting. Mostly, it makes it hard to use babysitters. Parents may not know when their workday will start or when it will end.

Observers say on-call scheduling can be hard on children. Parents may not be able to spend quality time, such as meals, homework, and bedtime, with their kids. They may have to use neighbors, friends, and relatives to help with the tasks.

The government is starting to notice. It is asking companies to review their practices. Many firms say they are moving away from on-call. Companies are being encouraged to give workers their schedules two weeks in advance.

Some companies say they have few parents in on-call jobs. Advocates say that is because it is too hard for parents to fill on-call jobs.

There is a lot known about how night-shift jobs impact families. Children suffer. Research has shown that children whose parents hold night-shift jobs do not do as well in school. They are more likely to start drinking and smoking at an earlier age.

Researchers think new studies will show that on-call schedules are even harder on children. For example, on-call work makes it harder for parents to keep their children in regular day care programs.

Congress and some states on working on bills to reform the practice of on-call work schedules.

Source: The New York Times August 12, 2015

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