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| Restoring a Fair Workweek

Gap Says It Will Phase Out On-Call Scheduling of Employees

Facing increasing pressure to curb erratic scheduling practices, Gap announced that it would stop requiring employees to make themselves available for last-minute shifts.

The move makes Gap the latest retailer to move away from “on-call scheduling,” which regulators, workers’ rights groups and some academics say is detrimental to employees and their families.

“At Gap Inc., we also believe that work-life integration enables all employees to reach their full potential and thrive both personally and professionally,” the company said in a statement on its blog announcing the change on Wednesday. “We recognize that flexibility, inclusive of consistent and reliable scheduling, is important to all of our employees.”

On-call scheduling requires employees to call ahead before a specific shift to see if they will be needed, a practice that gives workers little predictability in scheduling. Facing public and regulatory pressure, some retailers, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Starbucks and Victoria’s Secret, have already begun phasing out the practice.

Gap said its five brands — Athleta, Banana Republic, Gap, Intermix and Old Navy — had agreed to stop on-call scheduling by the end of next month and have committed to providing employees with at least 10 to 14 days’ notice, according to Wednesday’s announcement.

In April, the New York attorney general, Eric T. Schneiderman, sent a letter to more than a dozen retailers, including Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, J. C. Penney and Victoria’s Secret, requesting more information about on-call scheduling and questioning whether such practices were legal. In the months since, Abercrombie & Fitch and Victoria’s Secret both announced they would discontinue it.

Mr. Schneiderman praised Gap’s decision in a statement on Wednesday.

“Workers deserve stable and reliable work schedules, and I commend Gap for taking an important step to make their employees’ schedules fairer and more predictable,” he said.

Gap had already begun scaling back the use of on-call shifts after starting a pilot program last year to test alternative scheduling practices. Mr. Schneiderman’s office told Gap last week that it would consider legal action if the retailer did not take steps to end on-call scheduling, according to Eric Soufer, a spokesman for the attorney general’s office.

A recent study by the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal advocacy group, found that the children of parents who worked unpredictable schedules could have inferior cognitive abilities, in areas like verbal communication, and struggle with anxiety and depression.

“Parents’ variable schedules require irregular family mealtimes and child bedtimes that interfere with children’s healthy development,” the study said.

Correction: August 28, 2015 

An article on Thursday about an agreement by five Gap apparel store brands to stop requiring employees to make themselves available for last-minute shifts misstated when the policy change will become effective. It is the end of next month, not the beginning of next year.

Source: New York Times