A member of Parliament in the UK is pushing for employers to be more proactive in clarifying their parental leave policies to their current and prospective employees, introducing a bill that would require many organizations to publish their policies online, the BBC reported on Wednesday:
Jo Swinson, a Lib Dem MP, said this was “a simple and practically effortless change” that would improve transparency and encourage more competition on pay. It would help firms “better attract and retain talent”, she added. Human resources trade body the CIPD said publication could help tackle discrimination.
Ms Swinson said more than 54,000 women a year lose their jobs because of pregnancy and maternity discrimination, while fathers were worried about taking shared parental leave because of the negative effect on their careers. … The MP has tabled a bill in the Commons that would require firms with more than 250 employees to publish those policies. Prospective employees would have a clearer idea of parental leave policies without having to ask at interview, she said.
In arguing for her bill, Swinson noted that “the very act of asking” about parental leave “suggests to the employer that the candidate may be considering having a child.” A recent survey of UK employers found that most expected women candidates to disclose if they were pregnant or planning to become pregnant, and many managers would decline to hire a woman of childbearing age on that basis. Publishing these policies would enable candidates and employees to find out about them without having to reveal their intent to have children to a manager who might penalize them for it.
There is really no good reason for employers not to advertise their parental leave policies, as these and other family benefits are highly attractive to many candidates—particularly, but by no means exclusively, women. Our research at CEB, now Gartner, has found that the availability of parental leave has a significant positive impact on employees’ perceptions of their overall benefits package. A lack of family-friendly policies is often a key factor in driving women out of the workforce. (CEB Total Rewards Leadership Council members can view our data on parental leave and rewards perceptions here.)
New research released by a UK healthcare provider finds that over one third of managers would have difficulty identifying mental health problems among their staff, People Management’s Emily Burt reported on Thursday:
The report from Bupa also found that a similar proportion (30 per cent) of those with line manager duties would not know what to do if somebody in their team did have issues with mental health. … Research published this week by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development revealed that people in the UK are among the most depressed in the developed world, thanks in part to job dissatisfaction. According to the data, 10 per cent of 25 to 64-year-olds in the UK are suffering from depression, ranking the UK in joint seventh place out of 25 European and Scandinavian countries.
Mental health concerns are also having a growing impact on the British workforce: A study published this month by NHS Digital showed that the number of UK employees who had taken sick leave or been put on restricted duties due to mental and behavioral health problems had increased substantially in the past two years, with these issues accounting for nearly a third of all fit notes issued since late 2014.
Over the past few years, we have seen a growing number of organizations in the US and around the world introduce or expand parental leave benefits for new fathers in their workforce, as well as new mothers, in response to increasing demand for paternity leave and greater work-life balance for working parents in general, particularly among millennials who are starting families. Recent court cases both in the US and in the UK have advanced the argument that granting more parental leave to mothers than to fathers (beyond the additional medical leave to which women who have just given birth are entitled) constitutes gender discrimination.
These lawsuits point to the increasing importance of paternity leave in employee perceptions of their total rewards packages. Our research at CEB (now Gartner) shows that employees are sensitive to changes in both maternity and paternity leave. However, increasing paternity leave actually has a slightly greater impact on employee perceptions of rewards than increasing maternity leave, likely because paternity leave is rarer and more variable across companies.
As a forthcoming benchmark report on employee rewards preferences will show, employees globally also tend to get more utility out of lower levels of paternity leave than maternity leave. That is, employees are more sensitive to an additional two weeks of paternity leave than they are to the same additional amount of maternity leave.
Yet this does not mean that maternity leave is not valuable or important!
In one of the worst natural disasters in US history, Hurricane Harvey has dumped more than 11 trillion gallons of rain on the Houston metro area and other parts of southeast Texas, leading to catastrophic flooding throughout the region. While the city of Houston was not ordered to evacuate, most organizations in the city, including major employers like NASA’s Johnson Space Center, ConocoPhillips, and Waste Management, Inc., were closed on Monday and instructed employees to stay home, according to the Wall Street Journal. Some encouraged employees who were safe to work remotely from home. Many local businesses and national firms with a presence in the region, including major retail chains like Target and Walmart have closed their stores in the area and are participating in relief efforts by donating money or emergency supplies.
For organizations whose employees are affected by the hurricane, the first priority in the coming days and weeks is to communicate with employees about the status of their workplaces and projects, as well as benefits and resources available to them, as Amanda Eisenberg highlights at Employee Benefit News:
“The most important thing to communicate is what the employers are doing for the employees and the community,” says LuAnn Heinen, vice president of the National Business Group on Health. “First of all, that help is on the way.”
Employers also are going to have to be flexible, she says. Employees need to know if they are expected to come into the workplace, and if they can’t, whether they can work remotely. Schools are likely to be closed, and relatives might have been relocated from nursing homes or hospitals to shelters. Employees might need access to childcare or eldercare, and companies should be in constant communication to relay those benefits, Heinen explains.
It’s time for Siri to get to work. Voice-command technology has already entered the workplace in the form of a benefits assistant, while one major tech company is betting that it can improve enterprise collaboration as well.
Emma is a voice-command app built by healthcare provider Alegeus which helps employees with their benefit plans. The service will take the place of a call center or help desk and is programmed to answer 100 questions on topics such as flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, and other tax-advantaged benefits.
“There’s such a glaring obvious need for people to get easy and accurate information when they need it in a convenient way,” John Young, Alegeus’ senior vice president, consumerism and strategy, told Amanda Eisenberg of Employee Benefit News last week. “Consumers have questions but people don’t often seek the answers because they’re not easily available… what Emma solves is that instant resource for normal people.”
For those concerned with the privacy issues that may arise, the app will have a multi-layered authentication and authorization framework to maintain high levels of data security. Alegeus will not disclose how many clients are using Emma, but claims there was “considerable interest” before it launched.
Amazon, best known as an online retailer, also happens to be the largest cloud services provider in the world, and is looking to tweak its Alexa technology to speed up communication and information sharing in the office. Though the Seattle-based giant has been tight-lipped about the details of its plans, it has posted job listings around a “New AWS/Alexa Service” that offer some clues:
Fidelity Investment’s first ever Retirement IQ Survey shows that most US employees misunderstand basic concepts around retirement and financial planning, with two-thirds of respondents underestimating how much money they need to save for retirement Bruce Shutan reports at Employee Benefit News:
Many people surveyed, including those age 55 and older, gave wrong answers to questions in nearly every category, even though it was a multiple-choice format, according to [Ken Hevert, SVP of retirement at Fidelity Investments]. He says the average grade was 30% (the equivalent of an F), no one answered all 14 questions correctly and 1% got all of the questions wrong. Fewer than 0.5% of respondents received a 79% (C+), which was the highest grade.
The question most people answered correctly concerned the age of Medicare eligibility (77% got it right), while there was a three-way tie for toughest question, which only 14% answered correctly. Those results included:
- Number of years out of the past 35 with a positive market return (about 60% thought it was half the time or less, whereas the correct answer was 80% of the time).
- Future value of $50 a month earning market average return (half underestimated it).
- Largest expense for most retirees (most wrongly guessed healthcare, whereas the correct answer is housing).
Building employee knowledge about the importance of saving for retirement is critical to driving usage of retirement benefits. CEB (now Gartner) research finds that employees who believe they have high future financial risk if they do not save for retirement now, and who believe they can save adequately for retirement using a 401(k) plan, are much more likely to make the maximum contribution to their retirement plans as compared to the average.
Over the past year, many organizations have overhauled their paid leave offerings for parents and other caregivers in their workforces, as well as providing them with greater flexibility, amid a growing understanding that these benefits can pay for themselves in the long-term by improving retention, particularly of women. But even when these options are available to employees, they may not always feel comfortable using them, out of fear that it will put their jobs in jeopardy or cost them promotions or raises down the line.
To address that challenge, Rebecca Greenfield reports at Bloomberg, Adobe has taken an innovative approach to making sure that employees who return from leave are aware of the flexible work options available to them and feel invited to take advantage of them. The company’s new pilot program allows employees returning from at least three months of leave to work a non-traditional schedule for at least four months—and most importantly, requires all returnees to meet with their manager and HR to discuss this option, sparing employees the worry of having to ask for it proactively:
Adobe’s program to ease that transition officially launched in February and, coupled with its generous parental leave policy, could help it retain employees—especially women. The company says that after it expanded paid parental leave in 2015 (to 26 weeks for new birth mothers and four weeks for secondary caregivers) its attrition rate for women went from a little above the industry average to below it. Adobe declined to share the numbers.