Urban Outfitters ends on-call shifts at all stores
Urban Outfitters Wednesday said that it will end on-call scheduling in all of its North America stores, including at its Urban Outfitters, Free People, and Anthropolgie brands.
The move comes three weeks after its announcement that the practice would end in New York, in response to a warning from the state attorney general’s office that it would face a challenge under the state’s labor laws.
Also earlier this month, the retailer came under a fair bit of ridicule for an internal memo asking its salaried workers to “volunteer" at the retailer’s fulfillment facility, apparently suggesting that working for free would be a chance to bond with co-workers.
Urban Outfitters is among the apparel retailers struggling to find a consistent hold on shoppers’ hearts and wallets. But the retailer says that, rather than being reluctant to sacrifice any kind of money-saving that on-call scheduling provides, it was actually planning to end the practice all along.
Algorithms in software have helped retailers cut costs through efficient staffing — a practice known as “just-in-time” or “on-call” scheduling. But the practice also makes life difficult for workers who are trying to manage their households, attend school, work additional jobs, or earn enough money to get by.
Regardless of whether the retailer was planning the move, perhaps it will find that providing its store employees with better jobs will actually help improve the bottom line. According to some retail experts, grueling, hard-to-handle part-time work schedules are creating an unproductive workforce. As with a higher minimum wage, more flexible scheduling could help both workers and the retailers employing them, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology retail researcher and expert Zeynep Ton.
"We don’t have to pay our employees a lot for them to want to work for us," Ton told the PBS Newshour. "We don’t have to offer them good schedules. But if we do — if we pay them decent wages and if we offer them better schedules — then they will contribute a lot more than what we invest in them."
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