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.”
Several new surveys from the UK illustrate the importance of managing against the pressure and stress employees experience at work. In one study, Marianne Calnan writes at People Management, 20 percent of employees said they had taken time off work to cope with excessive pressure:
A further 18 per cent of the 2,000 employees surveyed by the Chartered Accountants’ Benevolent Association (CABA) said they had cried at least once every fortnight because of their job. More than a third (34 per cent) said they didn’t like their job, citing problems such as not being paid enough (9 per cent) and a lack of development opportunities (8 per cent).
The research, released to mark Stress Awareness Day today (1 November), also found that 35 per cent of workers regularly considered leaving their job. The same proportion also said they often missed family occasions or personal engagements because of work commitments. …
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:
Earlier this year, the UK’s gender pay gap reporting mandate came into force, obligating organizations with 250 staff or more to publish gender discrepancies in their payrolls by April 4 of next year. Some employers oppose the mandate because they say it will paint an unfair picture of their pay practices by not differentiating between group-to-group and role-to-role gaps, or between legitimate and discriminatory pay differentiation.
Few employers have reported their pay gaps yet, but already, the few revelations that have come out have led to headlines like “Financial services suffer from widest gender pay gap in UK“—not good news, but also, not exactly news. As such, British employers are concerned about the impact of this reporting on their reputations, particularly among those that do have large gender pay gaps. Personnel Today’s Adam McCulloch flags a new survey of senior professionals finding that 84 percent believed the requirements would damage organizations’ reputations and that 73 percent thought companies with large gaps would have more trouble recruiting:
The new research from public relations firm Golin also found that just over three-quarters (76%) of professionals agreed that organisations should be named and shamed for their gender pay gap and 77% felt that companies were likely to lose staff once the pay data was published. More than a third of respondents said that the issue was more toxic for companies than corporate tax avoidance and, perhaps most seriously, 39% of female respondents said they would consider leaving if their company reported a significant pay gap.
These findings are no surprise to us at CEB (now Gartner), as our latest research into pay equity finds that perceptions of pay inequality can be just as harmful to employee retention as pay inequities in fact—and the perceptions tend to be even worse than the facts.
For the first time since it began keeping records in 2006, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report registered a decline this year in gender parity around the globe. The report, which uses data from the WEF’s own surveys and from other major global organizations, measures parity along a series of metrics including political empowerment, economic participation, education, and health. Last year’s report warned that the economic gap between men and women was widening, even as overall parity was improving. This year, it finds, the economic gap is even worse, and at the current rate of progress is projected to persist for another two centuries:
At the current rate of progress, the global gender gap will take 100 years to close, compared to 83 last year. The workplace gender gap will now not be closed for 217 years, the report estimates. But with various studies linking gender parity to better economic performance, a number of countries are bucking the dismal global trend: over one-half of all 144 countries measured this year have seen their score improve in the past 12 months.
“We are moving from the era of capitalism into the era of talentism. Competitiveness on a national and on a business level will be decided more than ever before by the innovative capacity of a country or a company. Those will succeed best, who understand to integrate women as an important force into their talent pool,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum.
The top-scoring countries for gender parity across all measures are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Rwanda, and Sweden. Canada is ranked at #16 and the US at #49, a four-place decline from last year. The WEF highlights Canada and France (#11 as among the countries that have made significant gains in gender parity in the past year. However, a high place on the list doesn’t mean that a country is closing all of its gender gaps, and the economic one is proving the most stubbornly difficult to close.
The number of companies handing out holiday bonuses has taken a dive this year, Stephen Miller reports at SHRM, citing a new report:
The latest annual Holiday Bonus and Hiring Survey by Accounting Principals, a nationwide staffing firm for finance professionals, polled more than 500 HR or hiring managers across a range of industries about their holiday rewards. The survey, conducted from Aug. 25 through Sept. 6, showed that for the 2017 holiday season:
- 63 percent of companies plan to give their employees a monetary holiday bonus—smaller amounts may be put on a gift card—which is down from 75 percent in 2016.
- Those receiving a holiday bonus will see the average dollar amount rise by 66 percent to $1,797, up from $1,081 in 2016. The average holiday bonus in 2015 was $858.
- 38 percent of companies are giving donations to charities selected by employees in lieu of an end-of-year bonus.
This is a notable reversal from last year’s trend, when the percentage of companies giving out monetary holiday bonuses grew from 67 to 75 percent and the growth in dollar amount was more modest. Miller interprets this year’s change as reflecting the impact of more companies shifting to variable pay plans, in which bonuses are based on individual as well as organizational performance and are usually paid out in the first quarter of the year rather than in December.