Precarious Work Schedules Could Jeopardize Access to Safety Net Programs Targeted by Work Requirements

Brief

Precarious Work Schedules Could Jeopardize Access to Safety Net Programs Targeted by Work Requirements

Abstract

Since 2017, policymakers have sought to establish or expand work requirements for participants in federal safety net programs. These policies generally require non-disabled adults to work or participate in work-related activities for a minimum number of hours per week or month to continue receiving benefits. Program participants must navigate these requirements within a low-wage job market in which just-in-time scheduling practices have resulted in unstable and unpredictable work hours for many employees.

Using data from the December 2018 Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey, we examined the prevalence of precarious work schedules among working adults whose families participate in federal safety net programs in the past year, focusing on four key areas: nonstandard work shift schedules, fluctuation in weekly hours worked, advance notice of work schedules, and control over work schedules. We find that safety net program participants’ work schedules are structured in ways that would place these workers at risk of transitioning in and out of compliance with work requirements week to week for reasons beyond their control.

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