8 things every working mom needs to know about working shifts

Susanna Kahr

Across the country, more than 38 million women are currently working in hourly shift jobs. Despite the fact that the unemployment rate has gone down, the US Federal Reserve says that the number of Americans involuntarily working part time (also called “part-time for economic reasons”) remains “unusually high” nearly five years after the financial crisis. So, if you’re a working mom trying to make ends meet with shift work here are 8 things you need to know. 

Over two thirds of working women nationwide work part-time

Nationwide, more than 38 million women (61% of all women in the workforce) are employed in part-time jobs. Many work part-time to juggle paychecks and financial security along with family responsibilities and career advancement. However, despite the flexibility that’s been promised, it can actually be more difficult for working moms to organize childcare and earn a good salary thanks to crazy scheduling and the fact that they’re expected to offer full-time availability for part-time hours. 

“The managers are very caring, and work with you on your schedule if you have kids.” – anonymous employer review at Akron

Of women workers classified as part-time, 83% are paid hourly

Right now in the U.S. labor market, 75 million workers – 3 out of 5 of all workers are earning wages or salaries – paid by the hour. Women are disproportionately represented in the hourly workforce, with 61% holding hourly jobs, compared to 56% of men. Hourly workers are most likely to have a monthly income that changes regularly because of the fact that their work schedules are so erratic. In fact, in two leading industries — retailing and hospitality — the number of part-timers who would prefer to work full-time has jumped to 3.1 million, or two-and-a-half times the 2006 level, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Technology is making it easier for companies to hire part-timers

One big reason why so many employees have switched from being employed full-time to being paid part-time or hourly is the advance in shift-allocating technology. In the past, part-timers might work the same schedule of four- or five-hour shifts every week. But today, workers’ schedules have become far less predictable and stable as many employers now use sophisticated software that tracks the flow of customers, allowing managers to assign the exact number of employees to handle the anticipated demand at any one time. 

“The managers really work with you with work schedule/family life.” – anonymous employer review at Driscoll Children

Part-time moms feel pressured into working crazy shifts

The hours for part-time workers fluctuate wildly – and can be posted as little as an hour before a shift starts, upending family routines and leaving moms and their kids with the stress of figuring out who’s going to be able to pick up the kids when the school bell rings. Some employers even ask workers to come in at the last minute, and the workers risk losing their jobs or being assigned fewer hours in the future if they are unavailable.

Part-time moms are missing out on basic benefits

While there have always been part-time workers, especially at restaurants and retailers, employers today rely on them far more than before as they seek to cut costs and align staffing to customer traffic. This trend has frustrated millions of Americans, and especially working moms who want to work full-time because they’re seeing big reductions in their pay and benefits. In fact, it’s now well-known that part-time workers aren’t getting basic benefits like earned sick time, vacation days, health insurance or retirement. Benefit costs are far lower for part-timers because, for example, just 21% of them are in employer-backed retirement plans, compared with 65% of full-timers. 

“There is a sick clinic for employees with kids that their children can go to for the day while they work.” – anonymous employer review at Akron

Part-time moms are being paid less

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, part-time workers in service jobs received average compensation of $10.92 an hour in June, which includes $8.90 in wages plus benefits of $2.02. Full-time workers in that sector averaged 57% more in total compensation — $17.18 an hour, made up of $12.25 in wages and $4.93 in benefits. And, if that wasn’t bad enough, erratic part-time hours are exacerbating the gender pay gap by holding women back from promotions and full-time work – and even leading them to drop out of the labor force completely because of childcare issues.

Many moms aren’t working part-time by choice

Even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics says they are moms who want to work full-time but end up working part-time because of “childcare problems” are labeled as “voluntary” part-time workers, which means it can be more difficult for them to change things. 

You are looking for a full-time, family-friendly job in healthcare? Check out our list!

It’s time to speak up

When working moms speak up about it, great things can happen. Cities like Seattle and Washington, D.C., have proposed laws to stabilize work hours. And in San Jose, California, a ballot measure would give part-time workers the opportunity to work more hours. These new policies ensure more predictable hours, give employees a voice in their schedules and grant access to full-time work that will improve the lives of working people, especially working women and mothers. But these things don’t happen without everyone speaking up! A national grassroots campaign called Our Time Counts is bringing attention to the need for all of us to have more of a voice in how much and when we work (and when we don’t).



What are the shifts like in your company? Do you feel like you can schedule shifts around your childcare or do you feel like you have to be available 24/7 and have to work crazy hours at a moment’s notice? Let us know in a review on kununu and help other working moms find the right jobs for them.