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Stop Letting Poor Scheduling Bleed Hospital Payrolls

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, November 10, 2011

Just-in-time scheduling can often mandate when employees will work, when they'll work overtime, and when they'll be sent home with little notice for any contingency—all of which is designed to save money by more closely linking labor with immediate demand.

One human resources expert says, however, that a poorly designed just-in-time scheduling system will do exactly the opposite and will end up costing healthcare providers more money in higher absenteeism and turnover.

"I'm not arguing that it should be eliminated. I'm arguing for effective scheduling," says Joan C. Williams, founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law. "Just-in-time scheduling is a fact of life. Designing it efficiently is a business imperative."

Williams says there is "a big difference" between flexible scheduling and just-in-time scheduling, and to a degree it is dependent on the class of workers. "Flexible scheduling is generally used to refer to professionals and indicates that they are allowed to do something more flexible than just come to work and stay until the work is done, which is often more than eight hours a day," she says.

"Just-in-time scheduling refers to hourly workers, most often low-income workers. That refers to a scheduling system that attempts to control labor costs by achieving a tight fit between labor supply and demand. To do that, the employees typically have schedules that change from day to day and week to week. Often, they have no guarantee of any given number of hours."

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