'Just-in-time' staffing at H&M frustrates retail worker

An Ottawa woman is calling out retailer H&M for their practice of hiring "just-in-time" employees; workers who are asked to be available for work, but with little notice of when they might be working.

H&M said it needs to add call-in shifts to keep up with demand

Young worker frustrated at landing job but not getting work. 3:12

An Ottawa woman is calling out retailer H&M for their practice of hiring "just-in-time" employees; workers who are asked to be available for work, but with little notice of when they might be working.

Michelle Linthorne, 19, says she was recently hired by H&M at the Bayshore Shopping Centre in Ottawa and considered it a dream job.

Michelle Linthorne says she wants to work, but didn't want to sit around waiting for her employer to call her. (CBC)

But she says she only worked two shifts and didn't know until 7:30 in the morning if they'll need her that day.

"So far they've put me on on-call shifts and told me that there is pretty much no way that I'm going to get called in, but I still need to be available for them," said Linthorne.

Getting called in on short notice isn't new for part-time or casual workers, but Canadian Labour Congress executive vice-president Barb Byers said keeping part-time employees in a sort of on-call limbo is a regular complaint right across Canada in the retail sector.

"That's absolutely unfair," said Byers. "It's an unstable paycheque, it's an unstable life and furthermore a lot of those part-time workers are young and mostly women."

In a statement, H&M says it aims to provide a fair and respectful workplace where employees can speak to management about their concerns.

Demand requires call-in shifts, H&M says

"As you are aware, Ottawa is a new market for H&M. As customers have embraced us, we have been required to add call-in shifts to keep up with customer demand," the statement read.

"The reality of our business is that we rely on part-time workers to ensure that we are able to mobilize our workforce in line with the business needs of the store."

Ontario Labour Minister YasirNaqvi said he would look into the practice.

"This is the first time I've heard about that kind of employment condition. I will seek advice to what kind of practice this is and what kind of impact it has on employees," said Naqvi.

As for Linthorne, she decided to quit H&M and focus on another job, where she is getting regular work.

"I'm done dealing with retail clothing stores. I don't know why they hire me when they can't use me," she said.

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