Tuesday, November 19, 2013
The Thirty Hour Solution
Wise and worldly readers, what do you think? Is there some major obstacle I’m not seeing, or is this a potential growth area?
This thirty hour proposition is fine for people for whom money is not an issue, either because their spouse has a great job or because they're independently wealthy. For everybody else, the pay is a problem. We have lots of adjuncts who work 30 hours a week, and for whom institutions will soon be needing to provide benefits (the IRS 30-hours rule). But they get paid less than your typical Walmart employee and end up needing to pick up second/third jobs to make ends meet. That is no way to live.
So, yeah, underemployment and the commensurate hit to earnings, are downsides.
Now posit an employer with 400 hours of work to be done in a week. He can hire 10 people at 40 hours each, and pay for 10 benefits packages ($150,000 if they are $15,000 each), or hire 13 at 30 hours each and pay an extra $45,000 in benefits (and have 10 less hours of work done to boot). Not to mention the other management overhead of a higher head count. Unless the salary is very high compared to the benefits, this is not going to happen. It's why large overtime is often preferable to increasing staff.
Unfortunately, the economic pressure is all going the other way, to make the definition of "full time" be 29 hours, to get out from under the benefits morass. Soon a family will need 4 such jobs to make ends meet. This is an awful development.
None of which will prevent ambitious high-achievers from being rate-busters.
When my position came open, there was some trouble filling it (we drew from inside staff) - none of the full-timers wanted to cut hours, none of the part-timers wanted more hours.
I also adjunct for my same institution in another department for 2 classes a semester, so basically I end up making full-time wages, although I don't get any additional leave.
(a) my pension is based on my last five years income, so cutting hours before retirement has a big cost, and
(b) my new chair tends to hand out loads based on perceived spare time: those with children get multiple sections of a single course at convenient times, those without kids and part-timers get single-section courses and the awkward hours*.
So for me, the costs of doing that would be too high: not only monetary but also I suspect I wouldn't get the 'free' time off: it would just be sucked into the invisible overhead of teaching when my course load was adjusted.
*We all get paid the same per course. Yes it's inequitable, yes we're free to quit but accumulated pension doesn't transfer and starting at the bottom in your 50s means never retiring.
So if you're getting 3/4 salary and full benefits for way less than 3/4 of the work...yes, of course that's a great offer!
The point is that ANY cap on the number of hours demanded improves your applicant pool. Because that's a benefit that doesn't exist in any other salaried position.