Google has released a series of updates to improve its Google for Jobs search offering in the US, the most notable of which is the addition of estimated salary range information using data from sites such as Glassdoor, Payscale, Paysa, and LinkedIn, based on job titles, location, and employer. Google for Jobs is also now available on tablets, after launching on desktop and mobile only, and job searchers are able to filter opportunities based on distance within 200 miles of a location, as well as apply for any jobs they find using the platform of their choice, when the listing appears on more than one. In addition, Google says users will soon be able to save job listings to view later and/or sync across their devices.
Google for Jobs launched for in late June, getting the search giant into the business of matching employers with prospective employees. The company said that it did not intend to compete with existing job boards, but rather serve as an aggregator of listings and establish itself as the first place someone would go to look for a job. To that end, according to Google, job listings from almost two-thirds of US employers have now appeared in search results since the service launched, and with this week’s improvements, their piece of the job-search pie is likely to grow, and Google for Jobs is still only available in the US.
The company has had a busy year in the job search space. Google launched the recruitment app Hire in July, and has also begun beta testing a cloud-based, AI-powered job discovery platform that supports over 100 languages. That product, called Cloud Job Discovery, is designed to help staffing agencies, job boards, career sites, and applicant-tracking systems link together to fill positions. Google says that the candidate-experience platform Jibe was able to use the service to increase high-quality job applicants for roles at Johnson & Johnson by 41 percent, as well as increase career-site clickthroughs by 45 percent.
The possibility of employees missing work because of natural disasters has come into stark focus this year, with the massive workforce disruptions caused in the US by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, and the more than a billion dollars in damage done to the US economy by these and other weather-related disasters. There are definitely ways that HR can help when extreme weather strikes, but support for employees is typically handled in an ad hoc manner, and employment laws, like those relating to pay, don’t typically account for natural disasters. In the meantime, one US software company, Fog Creek, has announced that it is getting ahead of the problem and officially offering “climate leave” to its employees.
As CEO Anil Dash spelled out in a LinkedIn post last week, the decision was in part based on the New York company’s experience dealing with Hurricane Sandy back in 2011. The storm displaced most of Fog Creek’s staff and cut off power to its data center in lower Manhattan, and employees were only able to keep their collaboration-platform services online by running a bucket brigade of fuel to keep the generator running. The firm’s workforce is now much more remote, and this year, one of its employees was again forced from their home during Hurricane Irma. Though the company has continued to pay its employees during such events, Dash explains that they decided it was time to formalize the benefit:
[T]hese situations of being displaced by weather or environmental conditions are only going to become more common. As a company, we’re already 17 years old, and we want to be around for many, many years to come, so we look carefully at official reports that explain we’ll see increasingly violent storms and increasingly destructive wildfires. The simple conclusion is that if we’re not committing to taking care of our employees during extreme weather events, we’re not fulfilling our responsibilities to our team. Our past policy of “trust us, we’ll take care of you” needs to be formalized for the same reasons that any other HR policy gets formalized: having it in writing protects workers.
The new policy will offer employees up to five days of paid leave on account of extreme weather every year, and longer leaves will be allowed provided there is a state of emergency declared where the employee lives. (Dash also notes that they will have to track the leave manually, since they could find no payroll or compensation platforms that yet offered the classification.)
Domestic violence in an employee’s home life is the sort of situation HR hasn’t traditionally had to deal with. Most companies—65 percent, according to SHRM—don’t have a formal workplace domestic violence prevention policy, but Fortune’s Ellen McGirt argues that this is a tremendous oversight:
The total costs to the US economy of intimate violence – including medical care, mental health services, and time away from work exceed $8 billion a year. The figure for lost productivity alone is some $727.8 million. That’s 8 million paid work days lost each year. …
Victims have a wide variety of practical needs. They may need time away from work for legal, financial or psychological counseling – which they may not be able to afford. They may need time for court dates, and for meetings with teachers or other caregivers. They may be injured or traumatized and need time to recover. They may be having trouble focusing at work, particularly on stretch assignments. And because domestic violence can be deeply humiliating, it may be difficult for them to tell people around them what they need. They may not even know themselves. And the perpetrators often harass them at work.
“If intimate partner violence is not currently part of your inclusion plans,” McGirt asserts, “it needs to be.”
A British employment tribunal has rejected Uber’s appeal on a case involving the employment status of its drivers. While the popular ride-hailing app believes drivers should be considered self-employed, and insists the vast majority of them prefer it that way, the tribunal has ruled that the drivers are employees and thus entitled to minimum wage, overtime/holiday pay, and other protected benefits.
Uber’s appeal came in response to a tribunal ruling last year which reached the same conclusion. Following this rejection, the company says it will take the opportunity to elevate its case to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. Uber is embroiled in other legal battles in the UK, as the company is also in the process of appealing a ban issued by London authorities, who deemed the service unfit due to “public safety and security implications.”
This case has major implications for the gig economy, the long-term viability of which may be called in question due to the potential closing of this employment loophole. Deliveroo and Addison Lee are appealing similar decisions at the moment in the UK, and a similar case is underway in California involving the food-delivery app GrubHub. Additionally, Uber has settled class-action lawsuits on drivers’ employment status in California and Massachusetts, and other states are following suit. Not being on the hook for benefits and regular wages has helped gig economy companies grow at scale while keeping labor costs low and making it easier to deal with fluctuating demand for their services.
The 2017 United Benefit Advisors Health Plan Survey, an annual benchmarking report on US employer-sponsored health insurance plans, shows premium renewal rates (the comparison of similar plan rates year over year) for employer plans rising 6.6 percent over last year, significantly above the five-year average increase of 5.6 percent. The highest premium increases were seen in Connecticut (24 percent) and New York (14 percent), but some states actually saw premiums fall, such as Washington state, where they dropped by 10 percent.
Overall, the survey points to a spike in employee health insurance costs throughout the country, while employees are bearing a larger share of the costs:
Average employee premiums for all employer-sponsored plans rose from $509 in 2016 for single coverage to $532 in 2017 and from $1,236 to $1,272 for family coverage (a 4.5% and 3% increase respectively). Average annual total costs per employee increased from $9,727 to $9,935. However, the employee share of total costs rose 5% from $3,378 to $3,550, while the employer’s share rose less than 1%, from $6,350 to $6,401.
The survey, which focuses on small and mid-size employers, also registered a notable increase in the number of these companies pursuing self-funded health care. UBA President Peter Weber comments on the reason for this:
In a San Francisco courthouse, US Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley recently heard closing arguments in a case brought against GrubHub by former food delivery driver Raef Lawson, challenging the platform’s gig economy business model and claiming protections for drivers as employees under California law. Corley’s ruling in this case is highly anticipated, as she will be the first US judge to weigh in on whether gig economy workers like Lawson have a right to those protections—while Uber and Lyft have both faced similar lawsuits, both of the ride-sharing platforms settled these disputes out of court.
Lawson is represented by Shannon Liss-Riordan, the same Boston-based attorney who pressed the cases of the Uber and Lyft drivers and is also challenging the independent contractor status of gig economy workers at other platforms. SF Gate’s Joel Rosenblatt looked in on the GrubHub case last week:
As the first case of its kind in the U.S., the GrubHub trial “will inevitably be treated as a bellwether,” said Charlotte Garden, an associate law professor at Seattle University. “That’s especially true because the lawyers in this case are also involved in other larger and higher profile misclassification cases, including the Uber case,” said Garden, who has followed the Uber litigation closely.
It has been a rough year for Uber on the talent front, where it has faced a reckoning over an organizational culture that stands accused of enabling rampant gender discrimination and sexual harassment. The scandal led to the firing of 20 employees, including executives, as well as the ouster of founder Travis Kalanick from the CEO position in June, while former US Attorney General Eric Holder was hired to lead an independent investigation into what went wrong. It also sent Uber directors scrambling to explain to investors and the public what they were doing to detoxify the ridesharing company’s culture, such as hiring Harvard business professor Frances Frei as senior vice president of leadership and strategy.
Dara Khosrowshahi, the former CEO of Expedia who took up the helm of Uber in August, has moved quickly to assure employees and investors that he is taking the culture clean-up seriously and that the kind of behavior that was allowed to slide under Kalanick would no longer be tolerated. In a LinkedIn blog post published on Tuesday, Khosrowshahi laid out a new set of cultural norms for Uber that includes a sharper focus on inclusion and ethics:
We celebrate differences. We stand apart from the average. We ensure people of diverse backgrounds feel welcome. We encourage different opinions and approaches to be heard, and then we come together and build.
We do the right thing. Period.
In keeping with best practices for culture change management (including what we have found in our own research at CEB, now Gartner), Khosrowshahi said this new set of values was developed through a bottom-up process that engaged employees directly in making decisions about how the culture needs to change: