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President's Column

Wednesday, November 16

The Value of Part-time Work, Flexible Hours

The holidays are fast approaching and retailers are already far along in their planning. That means trying to predict which items will be popular, what kind of deals will entice shoppers — and how many seasonal workers to hire this year.

Meanwhile, the summer farming season has ended in Eastern Washington, wrapping up another year of seasonal work for thousands of workers.

And college students have long since left their summer job in construction, hospitality, or at a grocery store, coffee shops or at the mall, leaving behind a seasonal job and, in many cases, starting a different, part-time job to get through the school year.

Here in Washington and throughout the nation, part-time and seasonal positions have long played an important role in the economy, providing jobs with flexible schedules that benefit employers and workers alike.

With Seattle’s adoption of new scheduling ordinance that restricts how employers can schedule shifts, employers and employees should keep a close eye on the unintended consequences of the nearly 50-pages of regulations, including a loss of flexibility for part-time workers, and even the loss of some part-time jobs and the benefits that come with them.

Likewise, leaders in other communities would be wise to observe the process given the recent history of a regulation starting in Seattle and spreading elsewhere.

Part-time jobs are critical, often serving as a foot in the door and giving young, inexperienced workers a chance to prove themselves and work their way into a full-time position.

The just-adopted Seattle requirements dictates how much notice employers are required to give workers – a requirement that doesn’t account for a worker requesting a last-minute schedule change. The changes take effect July 2017, a prime work time for high school and college students and a complication for employers and employees heading into holiday season.

It’s true that some employees with part-time jobs would prefer to work a full-time job, but many other workers want and need the flexibility that comes from part-time or seasonal work, including parents who want a job while their children are at school.

A survey conducted recently for the City of Seattle appears to confirm that position. The majority of respondents said they were happy with their work hours and received at least one week’s advance notice for their scheduled shifts.

And, many companies, like home-grown Costco, not only offer opportunities for part-time work, but the average hourly wage is $21.69, not including benefits. With nearly 46 percent of their staff at part-time status, 85 percent are eligible for benefits and 96 percent of those are enrolled.

That’s just one example of an employer that values part-time workers and, based on the numbers, those employees are taking advantage of the flexible schedule and opting into a good benefits package. And many full-time workers, including managers, got their start in part-time positions.

As new restrictions begin to unfold, it’s worth noting that after fair pay and benefits, millennials, now entering the workforce in greater numbers than the baby boomer generation, value workplace flexibility.

Part-time workers play a valuable part of our economy and employers are listening. Making it harder to put young adults to work, bring on seasonal help or add another good-paying, benefit-rich job is not what creates economic opportunity – honoring workers’ choice of hours and flexibility to accommodate them is.

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