Indeed to support staff whose kids want to change sex; 13-year pay dispute finally ends

Sex-change employee benefits; proposed new overtime extensions; pay disputes; AI and wasted office costs. Just some of the HR stories that caught our eye this week:

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Sep 7, 2023

Indeed pledges $10,000 to staff if their kids want to change gender

Online job site, Indeed, is offering all of its US staff (and their immediate family), $10,000 relocation expenses if they want to leave a state that has restrictions on transgender medical services. The payment also extends to helping staff who want to leave states that restrict support for children who identify as transgender or non-binary. In a statement, Misty Gaither, vice president of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at Indeed said: “Our transgender, non-binary, and gender non-conforming colleagues are integral to our business and culture at Indeed. We know employees thrive and do their best work when they can bring their authentic selves to work.” She added: “We also believe that everyone has the right to make the healthcare decisions that they feel are right for themselves and their families.” Currently, around 20 states prevent doctors from prescribing puberty blockers to children, while other states prevent surgeries that remove a child’s genitals or reconstruct his or her genitals to resemble the genitals of the opposite sex. These surgeries generally sterilize the child. But Jay Richards, the director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Life, Religion, and Family at the Heritage Foundation, criticized Indeed’s move. “Plenty of American corporations think that the benefits of woke policies exceed the costs, and this policy by Indeed is surely an example of this.”

13-year pay dispute finally ends

One of the longest pay disputes in US history has ended after Staten Island ferry captains, mates and engineers finally struck a deal with New York City. Workers on the famous ferries last signed a union contract in 2010. Since then, crew members working the distinctive orange ferry service between Staten Island and Manhattan have claimed low pay and low morale has left them without enough staff to keep the ferries operating on schedule. This week however, some 95% of members of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA), which represents roughly 150 Staten Island ferry workers, voted for the new deal – which now sees them have a new contract, retroactive to November 7, 2010, and which will run through January 4, 2027. Union members will receive back pay reflecting the terms of the new contract, which offers raises to captains, assistant captains, and mates consistent with civilian union patterns. Marine engineers and chief marine engineers will also get retroactive raises in line with the wage determination issued by the city’s comptroller months ago. The contract also establishes new salary rates and a 40-hour workweek, taking effect next month. Work will now be divided into four 10-hour workdays, and will replace the current 32-hour workweek. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, prior to the deal Staten Island ferry captains earned $20,000 a year less than the state average for water transportation workers.

AI could improve HR efficiency by 30%

A “balanced human and AI strategy” could improve HR’s productivity by up to 30%. This is according to a new report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The BCG report, How Generative AI Will Transform HR, noted that AI will be a “vital resource to upskill team members and unlock value as the function expands its influence across the organisation.” It found AI could see content creation occur up to three times faster than traditional methods and argues AI already has the potential to automate 50% of tasks in the onboarding process. Other benefits identified included AI being used by HR to develop talent assessments, develop better career pathways, and create what it calls a “skills-based ecosystem.” It claims automating these more routine tasks frees up HR’s time to concentrate on “higher value” activities – such as leading business transformation. Rather than replacing HR, it claims AI should become a “copilot” to the profession. The report said: “Humans remain critical to these advances. GenAI will be able to identify insights and summarize data, but HR will need to ensure humans make business decisions that are sound, just and well documented.”

Non US-born workforce grew by nearly 700,000 last month

New figures reveal 1.2 million US-born workers lost their jobs last month, while the foreign-born workforce grew by nearly 700,000 in the same period. The data, from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, reveals levels of native-born Americans in the workforce has dropped to around the same level as it was at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, the growth in workers not originally born in the US is at its highest level for the past ten years. It’s not clear whether the growth in jobs to non native citizens reflect a take up of more menial, and low skilled jobs that US-born Americans don’t want, or whether they those born outside America are hoovering up high skill roles. But the upward trend is seen by commentators as being significant. Between July and August 2021, the number of foreign-born workers increased by far less – some 237,000, while in 2022, there was no increase. The 668,000 increase in foreign-born people working in the US this summer is the highest July-to-August jump in a decade, and the only July-to-August period that has come close to this was during the height of the pandemic in 2020, at 605,000. Political commentators argue the Biden administration has been far more sympathetic to migrants. During Trump’s presidency, between July and August of 2017, foreign-born employment rose by just 82,000.

Department of Labor announces proposal to extend overtime to millions

An estimated 3.6 million salaried workers could now become eligible for overtime, thanks to a notice of proposed rulemaking by the US Department of Labor. The proposed rule seeks to guarantee overtime pay for most salaried workers earning less than $1,059 per week, or about $55,000 per year. “For over 80 years, a cornerstone of workers’ rights in this country is the right to a 40-hour workweek, the promise that you get to go home after 40 hours or you get higher pay for each extra hour that you spend laboring away from your loved ones,” said acting secretary Julie Su. “I’ve heard from workers again and again about working long hours, for no extra pay, all while earning low salaries that don’t come anywhere close to compensating them for their sacrifices.” She added: “Today, the Biden-Harris administration is proposing a rule that would help restore workers’ economic security by giving millions more salaried workers the right to overtime protections. Workers deserve to continue to share in the economic prosperity of Bidenomics.” The notice of proposed rulemaking will be open for public comment for 60 days, after which the department will consider all comments received before publishing a final rule. Added principal deputy wage and hour division administrator, Jessica Looman: “For too long, many low-paid salaried workers have been denied overtime pay, even though they often work long hours and perform much of the same work as their hourly counterparts. This proposed rule would ensure that more workers receive extra pay when they work long hours.”

Return to the office – or risk your bonus…

Bosses at US bank, Citi, have extended a stick to ensure workers return to the office: by threatening to strip them of their bonuses if they fail to comply. The unusual move – which follows recent degrees by the likes of Amazon and Meta – intends to hit bankers where it hurts the most – their coveted bonuses. The policy is now being rolled out globally having already been the case in the US. The company says it has “firm expectations for office attendance,” and employees have been formally told they are being monitored and informed that ‘one swipe, per person, per location will be captured’, according to Bloomberg. Acceptable reasons for not coming to the office include limited site capacity, business travel, annual leave, sick leave, medical reasons, and those who have official flexible working arrangements or part-time employment. Wall Street banks are increasingly demanding office attendance. JPMorgan, the largest bank in the US, set the tone on flexible working arrangements in April when CEO Jamie Dimon required managers to return to the office five days a week.

 …as billions of dollars “wasted” on running empty federal buildings

Republicans have accused the Biden administration of wasting billions of dollars of taxpayer’s money paying for empty federal buildings – while staff simply work from home. The accusations follow a new report by the Government Accountability Office which found 75% of the available office space at 17 different federal agencies was still empty – three years on since the Covid-19 pandemic. It is reported that around $2 billion is spent every year to operate and maintain federal office buildings, while more than $5 billion is spent annually on leases. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, told that Biden must hold a “clearance sale on unused office space” – which could help pay off the $32.9 trillion in US national debt. After one Department of Veterans employee was recently vilified after posting an Instagram picture of themselves working in a bath filled with bubbles with the caption “My office for the next hour,” Ernst said the ‘impact of telework’ on meeting an agency’s mission must be “evaluated.” She added: ‘Many civil servants, like meat inspectors or airport security screeners, do not have the luxury of working from home, much less a bubble bath.’

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