Hot Topics in Total Rewards

  • 29 Jul 2021 8:15 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Chef wearing protective face mask preparing a dish in restaurant kitchen

    by Greg Iacurci | PUBLISHED TUE, JUL 27 20211:30 PM EDT, UPDATED TUE, JUL 27 20216:37 PM EDT

    Workers saw their hourly pay in June jump at the fastest clip in more than a decade. Yet some of them saw those gains erased by high levels of inflation.

    “Real wages” — a measure of income after accounting for the cost of goods and services people buy — fell by almost 2%, on average, last month compared with 2020. Senate Republicans said Wednesday that Americans were getting a pay cut as a result.

    “The staples of American life are increasing exponentially,” according to Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who cited examples like higher prices for gas, laundry, airfare, moving costs, hotels, bacon and TVs.

    The thrust of the argument — that inflation eats into rising wages — is true, according to economists. Still, there are many nuances, they said.

    For one, whether a consumer got a pay cut or not depends on their individual earnings and the things they buy.

    “If prices are growing faster than wages, then people are getting inflation-adjusted pay cuts,” according to Michael Strain, director of economic policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-leaning think tank. “Ultimately, this varies dramatically for every individual.”

    Plus, inflation has been volatile and may prove temporary — meaning a reduction in buying power could be short-lived, economists said.

    Inflation and wage growth

    Average hourly earnings rose 3.6%, to $30.40, in June compared with the same month in 2020. That’s the biggest spike since January 2009, according to data compiled by the Economic Policy Institute.

    Meanwhile, the consumer price index, a measure of inflation, jumped 5.4% over the same period — the most since August 2008.

    Together, this amounts to a 1.7% loss in buying power, on average, when factoring in seasonal adjustments, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

    “Inflation is a tax,” said William Foster, a vice president at Moody’s Investors Service. “That’s the best way to think about it.”

    Inflation most impacts lower earners, who spend more of their average dollar on gas, food and other items that may be rising in price, Foster said. Wealthier individuals, who tend to hold more financial assets like stocks or homes, may be better able to offset the impact of inflation, he added.

    But not everyone necessarily got a pay cut as a result. The 5.4% jump in annual inflation is an average of many items — and households aren’t necessarily buying the ones that are getting much costlier.

    For example, the metric includes prices for used cars and trucks, which are up about 45% from June 2020 — their largest change on record. That price shock wouldn’t hit someone’s wallet unless they bought a used car.

    Similarly, gasoline prices are up 45%. That extra cost would be borne by drivers, though perhaps not city residents who ride public transit.

    By comparison, food prices are up just 2.4% over the same time, lower than the broader inflation measure.

    Consumer behavior

    The consumer price index also doesn’t account for shifts in the behavior of consumers, who may change what they buy to avoid these higher costs.

    For example, one might switch to chicken from beef to save money, or delay buying a car until prices fall.

    “People respond to price changes by shifting their consumption,” according to Noah Williams, an economics professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

    The personal consumption expenditures price index, another measure of inflation, accounts for these shifts. The Bureau of Economic Analysis hasn’t yet issued the figure for June. But in May, the PCE index was 1.1 percentage points lower than the consumer price index annual reading (3.9% versus 5%) — which indicates consumers bought lower-cost goods.

    However, these shifts still impose a cost on consumers, if not an explicit one, according to Casey Mulligan, an economics professor at the University of Chicago.

    “They’re trying to minimize the evils, but they’re both evils,” said Mulligan, who served as chief economist of the White House Council of Economic Advisers during the Trump administration.


    There’s also reason to be wary of overinterpreting inflation and wage figures as the U.S. economy rebounds from the Covid-19 pandemic, according to economists.

    That’s due to economic distortions caused by the virus. For example, consumer prices fell early in the pandemic. Comparing prices today to lower prices a year ago will naturally cause inflation readings to seem high.

    Similarly, wage data may be skewed by a disproportionate number of layoffs among low-wage workers during the pandemic. In April 2020, for example, average hourly earnings jumped 8% (the highest on record) even amid mass layoffs, since more high earners remained in the workforce.

    The same may be happening now, but in reverse. As the economy rebounds and lower-wage workers are rehired, average earnings may appear suppressed.

    “It could be a little misleading” to suggest workers are getting a pay cut, according to Susan Houseman, research director at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

    ″[The composition of the workforce] is especially changing during downturns and recoveries, so one has to be careful about interpreting these data,” she said.

    Temporary or not?

    It’s unclear whether higher consumer prices and wages are temporary or longer-lasting, according to economists.

    However, at least some of the inflation can be explained by likely short-term dynamics, like supply constraints and a surge in demand as consumers emerge from a pandemic-induced hibernation, they said.

    For example, high recent gas prices were caused partly because major oil-producing nations couldn’t reach agreement to raise oil supply in early July, according to AAA. And a shortage of microchips has led to a spike in car prices.

    Some expect inflation to persist, though.

    “Inflation is not going to be transitory,” Mohammed El-Erian, the chief economic adviser at Allianz SE, told Bloomberg TV on Friday. “I have a whole list of companies that have announced price increases, that have told us they expect further price increases, and that they expect them to stick,” he added.

    Wages seem to have increased in recent months amid rising demand for workers, according to the Labor Department. Increased pay may be longer-lasting than high inflation, since businesses often don’t cut pay after raising it, Houseman said.

    “We typically don’t give people wage cuts,” she said. “Employers typically don’t do that.

    “So in that sense, they’re stickier.”

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    Source: MSNBC

  • 27 Jul 2021 8:40 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Chipotle, Chobani, Verizon Among Companies Committing to Financial Health of US Workforce - Sustainable Brands

    PUBLISHED July 2021

    Member companies will assess the financial security and health of their employees as part of a new effort to address the economic hardships of workers.

    ChipotleChobaniEvenPrudential FinancialVerizon and other leading companies have joined PayPal and JUST Capital in the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative — a coalition aimed at making workers’ financial security and health a C-suite and investor priority. The initiative elevates worker financial wellbeing to a top priority as business leaders consider solutions to shape a sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and take action for racial equity.

    Research shows that improving workers’ financial wellness benefits not only workers themselves, but also business outcomes including productivity, innovation, customer satisfaction, and employee turnover and engagement. The Worker Financial Wellness Initiative joins those from a growing number of corporate heavyweights (including AppleStarbucksEVERFILinkedInMicrosoftMastercard and Visa, to name a few) that have turned their attention to improving worker inclusivity and wellbeing — particularly for minorities and women, who have been disproportionately impacted during the pandemic.

    PayPal and JUST Capital launched the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative in October 2020, in collaboration with Financial Health Network and Good Jobs Institute. Companies joining the initiative commit to conducting a financial wellness assessment of their workforce to understand their financial vulnerability and identify opportunities to improve their resilience over the long term. Specifically, these companies will complete at least one assessment within a 12-month period, such as an employer-provided benefits assessment, an employee survey, or a living wage assessment.

    “If we are going to deliver on the promise of stakeholder capitalism, we need to help more corporate leaders and investors understand that employees are a company’s most valuable asset, and that investing in their well-being will drive long-term financial success,” said JUST Capital CEO Martin Whittaker. “Through the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative, we’ll continue to build the growing body of evidence demonstrating the connection between the financial security of a company’s workforce and their overall business performance, and refute the anachronistic Wall Street narrative that raising wages destroys value.”

    PayPal conducted an assessment on the financial wellness of its hourly and entry-level workforce in 2018 and found that many employees were struggling to pay their bills each month despite market pay alignment. The findings propelled the company to institute several changes to improve its employees’ financial well-being, including lowering the cost of healthcare benefits, making every employee a stockholder, raising wages where appropriate, and offering new financial coaching programs. Since implementing these changes, the company has helped raise the minimum PayPal-defined estimated net disposable income for hourly and entry-level workers in the U.S. to at least 18 percent, making significant progress to reaching its target of 20 percent for all employees globally.

    “At Chipotle, we believe in investing in the overall wellness of our employees by offering robust benefits that address physical, mental and financial health,” said chairman and CEO Brian Niccol. “Being a founding company in the Worker Financial Wellness Initiative demonstrates our commitment to being an industry leader and ensuring that we’re truly assessing the comprehensive needs of our workforce. Joining forces with other leading organizations and using our collective voices will shed greater visibility on this important matter — impacting not only our individual companies, but potentially the economy as a whole.”

    Participants in the initiative will have access to a wealth of resources — including quarterly webinars highlighting company best practices, and guidance on developing and deploying financial wellness assessments. Companies interested in more specialized tools and resources can receive tailored recommendations from initiative partners based on their assessment results, as well as enhanced peer learning workshops for HR teams. The partner organizations will also continue to share case studies, business case analysis and best-practice insights to help educate, inform and catalyze the wider business community.

    With the first cohort representing approximately 260,000 US workers across a range of industries, the program presents a unique opportunity to demonstrate what companies can accomplish when they come together with a shared goal of improving the financial health and resilience of workers across the nation.

    "It's no secret that it is getting harder to recruit and retain talent at all levels, especially with hourly employees," said Jon Schlossberg, co-founder and executive chairman with on-demand pay platform Even — which PayPal recently enlisted to help it improve the financial health of its own workforce. “During a time where keeping a productive and loyal workforce is crucial, Even provides employees with the tools they need to improve their financial health; and in return employers are rewarded with a more productive, engaged and loyal workforce. We're proud to be part of this initiative and look forward to partnering with this coalition to raise the importance for all employers to play an active role in the financial health of their workforce."

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    Source: Sustainable Brands

  • 27 Jul 2021 8:36 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    The move has paid off in staffing retention that's "as good or better" than it was before the pandemic.

    Published July 26, 2021 | Jane Thier 

    Commodity shortages and price increases will mostly cancel out a 3.5% to 4% menu price hike Chipotle Mexican Grill announced in May to pay for higher employee wages, the company's CFO, Jack Hartung, told analysts this week. 

    Even with the price of ingredients rising, the company stands by its decision to raise the average wage to $15 by June, which Hartung called "a very bold move" that has paid off in staffing retention that's "as good or better" than it was before the pandemic. 

    Chipotle reported $188 million in quarterly net income, compared with $8.2 million the same quarter last year, and a 24.5% operating margin, a twofold year-over-year jump, and its highest quarterly gain since 2015.

    "There is so much going on right now with inflation, and the question about whether inflation is transitory or permanent," Hartung said. "And now [with] the Delta variant, there's a lot of unknowns, so we don’t want to declare, with certainty, what we’ll do between now and the end of the year."

    Consumers have been "really, really good" with the elevated menu prices, Hartung said. "We’re really seeing no resistance whatsoever." As for pricing decisions going forward, "let's see what happens to inflation and the economy over the next several months, and we'll make the appropriate decisions at the appropriate time."

    The brand maintains pricing power and significant upward mobility on its margins, Hartung added. "Now, it's just a matter of how and when we decide to use that pricing power to either protect margins or to invest in our people, like we just did with the wages." 

    Digital sales, which account for nearly 50% of Chipotle’s business, grew 10.5% even as dining rooms reopened, and it opened 56 new restaurants, 45 of which include a Chipotlane drive-thru. Locations with Chipotlanes have 20% higher sales than those without, Hartung said. 

    "What we had hoped would happen is happening—we’re holding onto these digital transactions while people’s previous habits are returning when they feel comfortable going out and about," he said.

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    Source: HR Dive

  • 09 Jul 2021 2:47 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Workers are trading jobs, enticed by the guarantee of flexible schedules and continued work from home

    By Chip Cutter  and Kathryn Dill | Updated June 26, 2021 12:01 am ET

    After almost a year and a half of working from home, many white-collar employees say they are not willing to return to corporate offices full-time. Even whispers of returning have been enough to send some professionals searching for an exit—and plenty of bosses are welcoming them to new jobs with the promise they can work remotely, at least most of the time.

    The push for flexibility is adding to the wave of resignations rippling through the U.S., recruiters say, and motivating many employers to re-evaluate their work-from-home policies. Canadian video-software firm Vidyard says it has seen a steep increase in job applications in recent months after emphasizing that roles can be performed mostly at home. And at Allstate Corp. , conversations about every new position now begin with the question: “Why can’t this be done remotely?” says Carrie Blair, the insurance giant’s chief human-resources officer. “It’s a big workforce shift for us.”

    Hardly anyone will return to Allstate’s offices full time, Ms. Blair says, after employees expressed in surveys that they didn’t want to and the company found most functions don’t require an office setting. Allstate recently decided 75% of roles can be performed remotely, and another 24% can be done on a hybrid basis, with workers splitting time between home and the office. The 1% who will go back to a pre-Covid-style office setting include some top executives and certain people in field offices with customer-facing roles.

    “Remote is going to be the new signing bonus,” he says. “Instead of dangling, ‘We’ll give you $10,000 if you sign for this job,’ it’ll be: ‘Instead of having to commute 35 minutes every day, go to work, and get in your car and drive 35 minutes home, you can work from your home office all the time.’ ”

    Matt Croak, a 27-year-old software engineer in New York City, wasn’t actively looking for a new job earlier this year, but believed his consulting-firm employer could begin reopening its offices this summer in a hybrid capacity. So, when a recruiter reached out in April about an engineering role at an e-commerce company that would allow him to continue working fully from home, he pursued it. The job comes with higher pay and the chance to learn new skills, but it will also allow him to spend mornings reading in his living room in Brooklyn, instead of hunched over a subway seat while commuting 45 minutes into Manhattan. Mr. Croak says that, over the past 16 months, he has had more personal time for meditation and other self care—activities he wasn’t ready to give up in order to rush back and forth to and from an office again.

    “I do really want to work from home permanently,” he says.

    Minaya, a 26-year-old tech-company employee, calls remote work ‘the arrangement that I want to keep.’PHOTO: JOVELLE TAMAYO FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

    Marc Cenedella, founder and chief executive of Ladders, a job-search site for roles that pay north of $100,000 a year, says greater flexibility is shaping up as a perk that companies can wield to poach talented people.

    “Remote is going to be the new signing bonus,” he says. “Instead of dangling, ‘We’ll give you $10,000 if you sign for this job,’ it’ll be: ‘Instead of having to commute 35 minutes every day, go to work, and get in your car and drive 35 minutes home, you can work from your home office all the time.’ ”

    Matt Croak, a 27-year-old software engineer in New York City, wasn’t actively looking for a new job earlier this year, but believed his consulting-firm employer could begin reopening its offices this summer in a hybrid capacity. So, when a recruiter reached out in April about an engineering role at an e-commerce company that would allow him to continue working fully from home, he pursued it. The job comes with higher pay and the chance to learn new skills, but it will also allow him to spend mornings reading in his living room in Brooklyn, instead of hunched over a subway seat while commuting 45 minutes into Manhattan. Mr. Croak says that, over the past 16 months, he has had more personal time for meditation and other self care—activities he wasn’t ready to give up in order to rush back and forth to and from an office again.

    “I do really want to work from home permanently,” he says.

    More American workers are quitting their jobs than at any time in at least 20 years, according to the Labor Department. One factor behind the trend, executives say, is that more employers are outlining their return-to-office plans in detail, giving employees a clearer sense of what to expect next. Apple Inc. recently said it wants most office workers to show up Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays. Other companies, such as Pontiac, Mich.-based United Wholesale Mortgage, are recalling thousands of employees to a corporate campus in the coming weeks, with a goal of getting close to 100% of workers back and resuming a traditional five-day workweek, according to the company’s chief executive, Mat Ishbia.

    “You see tons of bold statements. Companies saying, ‘No remote work.’ Some companies are saying, ‘We’re getting rid of all of our offices,’ ” says Bret Taylor, president and chief operating officer of Inc. In many cases, it is the employees who are primarily calling the shots. “There’s like a free market of the future of work and employees are choosing which path that they want to go on.”

    In a recent survey of 2,000 workers commissioned by Prudential Financial Inc., a quarter of respondents said they planned to look for a new job post-pandemic, with many of those planning to leave citing work-life balance issues as among their top concerns. Half of respondents reported feeling that the pandemic had given them more control in deciding the direction of their careers.

    Jeff Simonds, a 38-year-old who lives in Burlington, Vt., began a new remote job this past week as a search-engine optimization manager at Updater Inc., a New York-based tech company that makes software designed to help with logistical challenges when people relocate. Before the pandemic, Mr. Simonds worked in an office and says he never would have considered doing otherwise.

    Over the past year, he says he appreciated being able to throw in a load of laundry during the workday, or to begin his day from home earlier so that he could squeeze in a round of golf in the late afternoon, with his work completed. The new role came with a raise, and he says he considers the ability to work remotely as a kind of bonus. “It’s the freedom to kind of define my own workday,” he says.

    His prior company, which provides marketing services and tools for auto dealers, had tentatively discussed returning to the office in September, Mr. Simonds says.

    “Knowing that there was somewhat of a looming deadline of life back in the office” helped to inform the career move, Mr. Simonds says, adding that he was primarily drawn to his new employer’s growth prospects and the chance to help shape a new team. “I didn’t hate the office life, but I’m very accustomed to this now.”

    Though a number of companies are still calling workers back to offices, some bosses realize policies must shift to remain competitive. At First Advantage Corp. , an Atlanta technology company that employs more than 3,500 people and had its initial public offering this week, CEO Scott Staples says the company plans to reopen its offices in phases over the coming months. Some employees, particularly those in technology roles, will likely be able to spend more time working remotely.

    “I think CEOs of the future just have to have a lot more flexibility on policies and procedures. It’s the only way you’re going to grow and survive,” Mr. Staples says. “There are certain roles where if a person doesn’t want to come back in for a variety of reasons, we can accommodate that, and I think that will make us an attractive employer.”

    Technology giant Adobe Inc. said this week that its roughly 23,000 employees could spend 50% of their time at home once U.S. offices begin reopening in July, but also said that remote-work arrangements would expand for those who desire them.

    “Our default work arrangement going forward for employees is to be flexible,” says Gloria Chen, the company’s head of human resources. Adobe won’t mandate which days employees go into offices or track how much time they spend in them. “Flexibility means flexibility,” she says.

    Last fall, as Amy Culver’s employer began discussing plans to eventually return to the office, she found herself filled with dread. Without her typical 40-to-60-minute commute, Ms. Culver, a marketing copywriter, had more time to spend with her daughters, 11 and 16. She was able to continue horseback riding, her postwork outlet, even as the winter sun set earlier. Previously, she and her husband, who works irregular hours, might go several days each week without seeing each other. Working from home outside Richmond, Va., eliminated that issue, she says, and made it easier to spend time together as a family.

    “I felt like I had a handle on everything for the first time in a long time,” says Ms. Culver, who is 43.

    Though her manager told her she could continue to work from home even after the office in Richmond reopened, Ms. Culver worried about scrutiny and whether she’d be treated as a second-class citizen in the company, losing out on opportunities if she stayed in her basement workspace while co-workers returned. She began applying for jobs at companies that allow most employees to work remotely, and quickly had an offer that appealed to her. In November she started at When I Work, an employee-scheduling software company.

    Today Ms. Culver typically works from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., but says she has the autonomy to take her daughter to driver’s ed class in the middle of the day or return to a project later in the evening when she feels creative.

    “Now that I work for a remote-first company, we’re all in the same boat. I’m not concerned that’s going to hold me back at all,” she said. “I’m on a team, but I still get to work from home, and I feel like that’s the best of both worlds.”

    Other employees have chosen companies with defined remote-work cultures. Pallavi Daliparthi, a 36-year-old who lives outside Austin, Texas, took a job in May with GitLab Inc., a fully remote company that sells tools for software developers. Ms. Daliparthi, now a senior manager on GitLab’s sales team, had previously worked remotely at a large enterprise-technology company, and knew that in a hybrid environment, decisions could be made over coffee in the office that she may have missed while at home. “Whereas here, everybody really is remote,” Ms. Daliparthi says. “You know there’s nothing happening in the background, in-person somewhere.”

    A lot of people say they hope to stay remote for years to come. Brandon Minaya, a 26-year-old tech-company employee, moved to a neighborhood in Seattle late last year that has few links to public transportation, anticipating that he would no longer be commuting to an office in future roles. In March, he took a fully remote client-facing position with Intellum, an Atlanta-based company that makes education software.

    Instead of taking an hourlong bus ride each way to a WeWork location, as he did in a previous role, Mr. Minaya says he often starts his mornings walking to a nearby beach, where he looks for seals and birds. Most mornings, he takes the time to brew himself a pour-over coffee, something he once reserved for weekends.

    While searching for a new job, he prized companies that seemed committed to remote work. “I wanted to find somewhere where this isn’t something that’s going to be pulled back in six months,” he says. “Like: ‘Just kidding!’ ”

    He has the flexibility to meet with colleagues in person, or to travel to the company’s Atlanta headquarters, he says. But “the fact that it’s not expected of me is kind of the arrangement that I want to keep.”

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    Source: The Wall Street Journal

  • 25 Jun 2021 3:51 PM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Man (early 30s) working in home office

    PUBLISHED FRI, JUN 25 20218:30 AM EDT by Greg Iacurci


    • Workers are increasingly getting enrolled into their company 401(k) plans automatically, often into target-date funds that shift the stock-bond mix over time.
    • About 60% of 401(k) plans used auto-enrollment in 2019, up from 42% a decade earlier, according to the Plan Sponsor Council of America.

    Americans saving in a 401(k) plan may have money stashed in a robo-advisor — and they might not even know it.

    Robo-advice is basically professional money management guided by an algorithm (a robot, so to speak), largely allowing investors to be hands-off.

    Companies offering a retirement benefit are increasingly enrolling employees into 401(k) plans automatically. Most are diverted to some type of robo-advisor.

    About 60% of 401(k) plans used auto-enrollment in 2019, up from 42% a decade earlier, according to the Plan Sponsor Council of America. Doing so helps overcome inertia that may prevent a person from saving.

    “You get the momentum going,” Keith Gredys, chairman and CEO of The Kidder Company in Clive, Iowa, who works with 401(k) plans and investors, said of automatic enrollment. ”[Employees] go in and tend not to come out.”

    TDFs and managed accounts

    About 66% of 401(k) plans guide those automatic savings into target-date funds, according to the Council, a trade group representing businesses that offer retirement plans.

    TDFs are perhaps the simplest version of a robo-advisor — they automatically toggle savings from aggressive (lots of stocks) to conservative (lots of cash and bonds) according to an investor’s planned age of retirement.

    About 5% of 401(k) plans default funds into a “managed account.” In such accounts, algorithms choose one’s asset allocation based on factors beyond just age, such as income, savings rate, employer contributions and amount of non-401(k) savings.

    Employers must notify workers that they are being automatically enrolled in a 401(k). But those who don’t pay close attention may not know part of their paycheck is getting invested a robo-advisor.

    Robo-advisors have come into vogue over the past 15 years or so, leveraging investor demand for ease and lower-cost investing.  

    About 80% of 401(k) plans offer target-date funds, for example, up from 64% a decade ago, according to the Plan Sponsor Council of America.

    “Most people are terrible investors,” said Philip Chao, a certified financial planner and chief investment officer at Experiential Wealth, based in Cabin John, Maryland.

    “They’re diversified [and] professionally managed,” Chao said of target-date funds and managed accounts. “So you don’t have to go find an advisor; it’s done for you.

    “And they’re easy to understand, so they become very popular.”

    There’s also a legal rationale for employers to automatically guide funds into such investments — the Pension Protection Act of 2006 offered additional protections to do so.

    However, Chao doesn’t consider target-date funds to technically be advisors since they only tailor asset allocation (the mix of stocks and bonds) based on the year in which someone plans to retire.

    Managed accounts, on the other hand, are more tailored to the specific individual since their asset allocations are based on other data points.

    But managed accounts are also typically more expensive — and that may pose a problem for investors who are automatically enrolled, according to Chao.

    Managed accounts often rely on investors to input specific data points (like amount of non-401[k] savings) to guide their investment mix. But those inputs are unlikely to occur without investor engagement, as is more apt to occur after automatic enrollment — potentially negating the additional cost.

    “You shouldn’t blindly let your money get defaulted,” Chao said. “You should know the cost.

    “And you should make sure employer has done their job to controlling expenses.”

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    Source: CNBC

  • 23 Jun 2021 9:04 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Confronting Vaccine Misinformation in the Workplace

    By Kelly Anderson, June 23, 2021

    Misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines has proliferated across the Internet in recent months, with false rumors about dangerous side effects, surveillance and other conspiracies.

    The rise in false information about vaccines has had a marked impact on vaccination rates, with 1 in 4 Americans saying they are not planning to get vaccinated.

    Vaccine conspiracies can cause disturbances in the workplace, especially if employees are sharing misinformation or condemning employees who have chosen to get vaccinated.

    "It's distracting to others, and it has a real impact to some on their actions around the vaccines," said Elisabeth Joyce, vice president of advisory in the HR practice of Gartner, a research firm based in Stamford, Conn., that provides human resource consulting.

    Joyce said disputes over vaccines or company policies requiring employees to get vaccinated should be handled like other workplace disagreements, rather than treating them as a health or safety issue. 

    "I would be treating it as a manager like I would treat any other kind of disruption in the workplace in terms of having a conversation around what is appropriate or is not appropriate," Joyce said.

    Below, experts give tips on how to handle these conversations, as well as a script to use with vaccine-hesitant workers.

    Handling Vocal Vaccine Objections

    If an employee is claiming that vaccines contain microchips or cause cancer, or is spreading other false information at work, the best recourse for a manager is often the least confrontational one. 

    Joyce said managers should avoid discussing their own beliefs about vaccines and instead should emphasize that sharing spurious claims with co-workers is disruptive to the professional environment. "This is not work-related, and it's causing people to lose focus on their work," she said. "That's not a way that we want to be engaging in the workplace, regardless of topic." 

    Robert Neiman, a lawyer who specializes in employment litigation at Much Shelist P.C. in Chicago, suggests that managers approach misinformation-spreading employees with patience and respect, rather than condescension.

    "It's an issue of persuasion rather than changing their mind," Neiman said, "because chances are, you're not going to change someone's mind on things like that." 

    Legal Ramifications

    False speech is not protected in private workplaces, which means employees who share misleading information about vaccines cannot argue that their claims are protected under the First Amendment, according to Neiman.

    "Like all employer-employee relations issues, the key is to treat all of your employees the same way," Neiman said. Lawmakers in several states have proposed legislation that would make vaccination status a protected class under anti-discrimination laws, but those efforts have mostly failed.

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued guidance that allows employers to mandate vaccinations. Employees who have valid medical or religious objections, however, must be exempted from vaccine requirements due to statutes in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    Lawsuits against workplace vaccine requirements have been filed in several states. A detention center officer in New Mexico sued his employer over its vaccine mandate, which he says made co-workers hostile toward unvaccinated employees and led to his being demoted unfairly. Similar lawsuits have been filed by public employees in North Carolina and California, and the cases will be the first to test the legality of vaccine mandates.

    The lawsuits use the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) decision to grant emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines as the basis of their legal claims.

    FDA policy states that any person may refuse to take medical products approved under an EUA, and that they are entitled to know the consequences of refusal.

    The EUA lawsuits are unlikely to form the basis of credible complaints against employers that mandate vaccines, said Neiman, who noted that EEOC guidance supersedes other regulatory agencies in the workplace.

    Tips for Managers  

    Establishing trust and providing credible sources of information may help stop the spread of vaccine misinformation. Experts suggest that managers use the following tips when talking with employees who have bought into vaccine misinformation:

    • Ask the employee if she's willing to talk to other employees of the same rank or seniority who have been vaccinated, rather than speaking one-on-one with a manager. Vaccinated employees can share their experiences of receiving the vaccine and how vaccinations have benefited their own lives. While dispelling conspiracy theories can be difficult, hearing about vaccinations from a trusted, respected peer can help the employee become more open-minded about the COVID-19 vaccine.
    • Create video interviews of vaccinated employees of varying seniority and positions to distribute to unvaccinated employees. In the interviews, ask employees about their motivations behind receiving the vaccine and how it has affected their lives. Neiman suggests e-mailing these videos to unvaccinated employees on a regular basis so they have the opportunity to hear testimonials at their convenience without forcing confrontation.
    • Ask if the employee would like to speak with a licensed medical professional to learn more about the vaccine.  
    • Avoid using a rude or condescending tone, which could alienate a vaccine-skeptical employee who is wary of taking advice or considering different viewpoints.

    Jaime Klein, CEO of New York City-based HR consultancy Inspire Human Resources, said offering accommodations for vaccine appointments can also help sway hesitant employees. Klein suggests giving paid time off for employees to receive the vaccine during work hours, as well as giving paid sick days to those who experience vaccine side effects. 

    "It's crucial to lead in a human-centric way and to validate the opinions and feelings both of team members who received the vaccine and of those who do not want to receive a vaccine," Klein said.

    Sample Script

    An employee named Sarah has come to her manager, Kim, with a YouTube video that shows someone who claims to be a doctor discouraging people from receiving vaccines. The "doctor" makes several false claims, arguing that the vaccines alter the DNA of recipients, making them more likely to become infected by the virus. Sarah has e-mailed the same video to several co-workers and was overheard telling employees not to attend their vaccine appointments. Here's a sample template Kim could use to respond to Sarah's concerns:

    "I understand you're concerned about the COVID-19 vaccine. We respect your opinion and will respect your decision about getting vaccinated regardless of which option you choose. We expect that you will also afford the same respect to your co-workers who may make different decisions. Fomenting fear among your peers is unhelpful to creating a productive work environment and can make it harder for others to make informed decisions about the vaccines.

    "Whether or not you get vaccinated is your choice, but we want to make sure you and all of our other employees have the resources to make the best-informed decision. Our company website includes links to information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and state and local guidance on the vaccines and the coronavirus. The consensus of scientific research is that vaccines are completely safe and overwhelmingly effective at stopping infection and the worst effects of contracting COVID-19.

    "More than half of the adults in the U.S. and millions of people across the world have received the vaccines. If you'd like, we can set up a time for you to meet one-on-one with another employee who has been vaccinated to hear about their experience. Your peers who are vaccinated are enjoying the vaccine's benefits: They can now gather indoors with large groups of people, travel with greater ease, and no longer have to wear masks outside and in many indoor spaces. You'll also have much more flexibility at work because you won't have to be tested regularly to work from the office, may not have to quarantine if a member of your household tests positive, and can more freely access common spaces like the lunchroom and conference room.

    "If you'd like to hear a medical opinion, we can help set up a time for you to speak with a health care provider or another licensed medical professional. There is rampant disinformation on the Internet from people who often lack qualifications, but speaking with a reputable doctor can ensure you have the most scientifically accurate information about vaccines.

    "If you're concerned about the logistics of receiving the vaccine, our workplace has ample accommodations to give you flexibility.

    "I understand your worries about the vaccines, and I'm here to enable you to make the best decision for your health. I am happy to have more conversations about vaccines in the future if it would be helpful, but going forward we will not tolerate employees who spread lies about medical issues."

    ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** 

    Source: Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

  • 23 Jun 2021 9:01 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Published June 23, 2021 by Emilie Shumway

    Dive Brief:

    • Employers have instituted more flexible and frequent leave allowances in response to the pandemic, according to Mercer’s Survey on Absence and Disability Management. Among the notable trends, 1 in 10 survey respondents now include Juneteenth as a paid company holiday; 61% of respondents offer paid parental leave for birth parents, up from 40% in 2018, while 60% offered paid leave to non-birth parents, up from 41% in 2018. Twenty-percent of respondents offer unlimited paid time off to at least some employees — mainly exempt workers — compared to 14% in 2018.
    • Respondents also reported that compliance with state and local leave requirements has gotten more challenging during the pandemic; 46% said they hired a third party to monitor and help comply with those rules and 23% established a leave policy expected to exceed state and local laws to reduce the administrative burden. More than half of respondents supported the concept of a voluntary federal minimum standard for paid leave.
    • Mercer engaged more than 400 employers for its survey. It will release the complete results in July. 

    Dive Insight:

    The pandemic has caused a rapid evolution in many workplace policies, from remote and hybrid work to mental health assistance to free training and education benefits. Paid leave is no exception, the Mercer survey results show. Employers have seen that companies can continue to function well — even thrive — when employees have wide latitude to balance their personal lives and better manage their health and wellness. 

    More employers offering paid time off for Juneteenth and for parental care (including adoption leave) also demonstrates employers' increased interest in creating an inclusive workplace. Many companies were ahead of the federal government in making Juneteenth a paid day off, noting the importance of the day to their Black employees and generally as a time of reflection and solidarity for their entire employee base. The past year has also brought attention to workers' struggles with child care, with women bearing the brunt of the burden

    It's likely employers' growing embrace of policies like unlimited paid leave is further prompted by a need to attract and retain talent in a worker's market. Close to 1 in 3 employees who responded to a recent survey by Robert Half said they had experienced a "shift in perspective due to the pandemic," and employees have repeatedly asserted their preference for continued hybrid or remote work in surveys over the past year. Unlimited paid time off is one more policy employers can use to show workers they provide a flexible and competitive work environment.

    ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** 

    Source: HR Dive

  • 23 Jun 2021 8:57 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    New Year, New Vacation Policy? What Colorado Employers Need to Know - KO

    In the wake of the pandemic and the social justice movement, some employers are changing time-off policies – such as providing more leave for new parents, more flexible time-off, and recognizing Juneteenth as a company holiday. Here are a few highlights from Mercer’s 2021 Absence and Disability Management Survey.

    For survey highlights, click here.

  • 23 Jun 2021 8:54 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Published June 21, 2021 by Ryan Golden

    Dive Brief:

    • The U.S. Department of Labor announced Monday a rule withdrawing and re-proposing a portion of a Trump administration 2020 final rule regarding tip pool regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
    • The proposal aims to address situations in which an employee performs both tipped and untipped work, also known as a "dual job." Under the proposed rule, employers would only be able to take a tip credit if their tipped employees performed work that is part of the employees' tipped occupation.
    • Such work would include work that produces tips as well as work that "directly supports" tip-producing work, DOL said, provided the supporting work is not performed for a "substantial amount of time." Work that supports tip-producing work is performed for a substantial amount of time if it either exceeds, in the aggregate, 20% of the employee's hours during the workweek, or is performed for a continuous period of time exceeding 30 minutes.

    Dive Insight:

    Tip regulations have proven to be one of the most active areas for regulatory activity at the federal level, and DOL's announcement this week is the latest in a series of changes and delays.

    When the Trump administration DOL proposed last year an update to the agency's interpretation of the FLSA's tip regs, it addressed the "dual job" issue by stating that employers could take a tip credit for the time a tipped employee spent performing related, non-tipped duties, as long as those duties were performed contemporaneously with, or for a reasonable time immediately before or after, tipped duties.

    The 2020 final rule also implemented guidance from a 2018 opinion letter, in which DOL stated that employers could take a tip credit for an employee's work if the employee's tasks were on the O*NET task list for that tipped job. The O*NET list could be used "as a source of guidance for determining when a tipped employee's non-tipped duties are related to his or her tipped occupation," DOL said in the 2020 rule.

    While the Biden administration subsequently allowed certain components of the 2020 final rule to take effect April 30, it delayed other parts — including the "dual job" component — from taking effect until Dec. 31.

    In order to address the "dual job" issue, DOL's latest proposal marks something of a return to the so-called "80/20" guidance that characterized the agency's approach to tip credits from the late 1980s until 2009, when the administration of former President George W. Bush issued an opinion letter rescinding the 80/20 approach. The Obama administration withdrew the letter and revised the then-existing 80/20 guidance, but the Trump administration re-issued the letter in 2018, effectively withdrawing the 80/20 approach.

    As DOL noted in the proposal to be published June 23, employers and their representatives have criticized the 80/20 guidance for being challenging to administer. For example, the agency cited a comment on a 2019 proposed rulemaking by law firm Littler Mendelson stating that the 80/20 approach "did not include a 'comprehensive list of related duties or even a way to determine which duties were related,'" among other issues.

    Citing district court rulings, however, DOL said it "believes that 20 percent of an employee's workweek is an appropriate tolerance for non-tipped work that is part of the tipped employee's occupation. The Department seeks comments, however, on whether a different portion of the employee's workweek would be appropriate or if another metric would be more appropriate."

    DOL's proposal also defines "substantial amount of time" as "any continuous period of time that exceeds 30 minutes," which is meant to address concerns that the 80/20 guidance did not adequately address scenarios in which employees perform non-tipped, directly supporting work for extended periods of time.

    "Particularly because the proposed guidance provides examples illustrating the type of work that is part of the tipped occupation, including work that is tip-producing and work that directly supports the tip-producing work, employers should be able to proactively identify work that counts toward the tolerance and assign work to tipped employees accordingly, to avoid going over this tolerance," DOL said. "Similarly, a continuous, uninterrupted block of 30 minutes or more is a significant amount of time, and does not require the minute-by-minute micromanaging with which the 2020 Tip final rule expressed concern."

    Stakeholders will have the opportunity to submit public comments on or before 60 days after the proposal is published in the Federal Register.

    ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

    Source: HR Dive

  • 18 Jun 2021 5:54 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

    Emancipation Day celebration in Richmond, Va., in 1905.

    By Tyler Olson , Morgan Phillips June 17, 2021

    President Biden on Thursday signed the bill making Juneteenth, a day celebrating the freeing of Black slaves after the Civil War, into a national holiday. 

    Biden said the day would now be a "day in which we remember the moral stain and terrible toll slavery took on the country," as he signed the bill surrounded by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and Vice President Harris. 

    He again turned back to new voting reforms put in place by GOP-led states, saying the promise of equality would not be fulfilled "so long as the sacred right to vote remains under attack." The room erupted in applause. 

    "We see this assault from restrictive laws, threats of intimidation, voter purges and more."

    "The promise of equality will not be fulfilled until it becomes real in our schools, on our streets and in our neighborhoods, in the water that comes out of our faucets, the air that we breathe in our communities and in our justice system," the president continued. 

    Biden said the nation would continue to work to root out hate, which he said "never ends" but "only hides." 

    "In short, this day doesn't just celebrate the past, it calls for action today," Biden said. 

    The Juneteenth bill passed the Senate unanimously and saw opposition from 14 House Republican lawmakers when it came for a vote Wednesday evening. 

    "There's nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. And it seems to me that this is the most propitious time for us to recognize our history and to learn from it," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said before the House vote Wednesday. Juneteenth is already a state-designated holiday in Texas. 

    "Slavery was a blemish upon our country from its earliest days, and it is a part of our nation’s history that must not be ignored or swept under the rug," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement after the House quickly passed the Senate's bill. "Juneteenth is an opportunity to remember with solemnity all those who endured enslavement and the trauma still felt by their families and communities to this day, as well as an opportunity to pay tribute to all brave individuals who worked for abolition and emancipation."

    Juneteenth is the anniversary of when Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, arrived in Galveston, Texas, to declare that the Civil War was over and that slaves must be freed. Slavery ended in other southern states before that but because of how far Texas was from the Union's power center around Washington, D.C., and the Northeast, there were not enough Union soldiers to enforce Lincoln's order. 

    Texas first made Juneteenth an official holiday in 1980, and most states eventually followed with at least some form of Juneteenth observance. 

    The House members who voted against the bill are Reps. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.; Mo Brooks, R-Ala.; Andrew Clyde, R-Ga., Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn.; Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; Ronny Jackson, R-Texas; Doug LaMalfa, R-Calif.; Thomas Massie, R-Ky.; Tom McClintock, R-Calif.; Ralph Norman, R-S.C.; Mike Rogers, R-Ala.; Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.; Chip Roy, R-Texas, and Thomas Tiffany, R-Wis.

    Roy, who recently ran for House Republican Conference chair, said his problem with the bill was related to semantics. 

    "Juneteenth should be commemorated as the expression of the realization of the end of slavery in the United States - and I commend those who worked for its passage," Roy said. "I could not vote for this bill, however, because the holiday should not be called 'Juneteenth National Independence Day' but rather, ‘Juneteenth National Emancipation [or Freedom or otherwise] Day.’"

    He continued: "This name needlessly divides our nation on a matter that should instead bring us together by creating a separate Independence Day based on the color of one’s skin."

    Brooks, meanwhile, said that the end of slavery "ought to be celebrated as much as the 4th of July," according to But he said the date should be the anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation or perhaps the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which officially banned slavery, rather than June 19 because of its roots specifically in Texas. 

    Gosar, meanwhile, decried Juneteenth as an effort "to divide this country."

    "Juneteenth is more debunked Critical Race Theory in action. I reject racism. I reject the racial division people are promoting. I voted no because this proposed holiday does not bring us together, it tears us apart," he added. "I cannot support efforts that furthers racial divisions in this country. We have one Independence Day, and it applies equally to all people of all races."

    Rosendale alleged that the bill "is an effort by the Left to create a day out of whole cloth to celebrate identity politics as part of its larger efforts to make Critical Race Theory the reigning ideology of our country."

    "Since I believe in treating everyone equally, regardless of race, and that we should be focused on what unites us rather than our differences, I will vote no," Rosendale added. 

    ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** 

    Source: Fox News 

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