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Meta gets tough on working in the office; autoworkers poised to strike over pay

In this week's round-up of top HR news stories: Employees at Meta face the sack if they don't work in the office three days a week; while pay remains a big concern for healthcare and autoworkers.

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Aug 24, 2023
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Meta’s head of people ‘reminds’ staff of imminent in-office mandate

A non-nonsense email has been sent to staff at Meta Platforms (the company previously known as Facebook), reminding them of the organization’s imminent move to working three days a week in the office (starting 5 September). Last week, Lori Goler, head of human resources at Meta, reportedly sent an email to staff telling them that employees assigned to be working at the office must report there at least three days a week, and to ensure compliance with the policy, managers would be charged monitoring attendance of team members on a monthly basis. She said: “Managers will review badge and Status Tool information and follow up with those who did not meet the requirement, subject to local law and works council requirements.” She added: “As with other company policies, repeated violations may result in disciplinary actions, up to and including a performance rating drop, and ultimately, termination, if not addressed.”

Autoworkers say they’ll strike if pay demands aren’t met…

Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) union say they’ll strike unless bosses of the country’s biggest carmakers [who have themselves enjoyed an average 40% pay rise in the last four years], don’t improve pay and conditions. Newly elected UAW president, Shawn Fain, has outlined a number of key measures he wants ahead of contract renegotiations, including eliminating a two-tiered wage system in which new hires have been paid significantly lower wages for doing the same work, and significant wage increases. In a long list of demands, the union has also called for restoring a cost-of-living pay adjustment, linking wages to inflation, medical benefits for retirees, a defined pension for all workers rather than 401(k) plans, increases to retiree pay, more paid time off, giving workers the right to strike to workers over plant closures, enacting a program to protect and support workers who lose their jobs due to plant shutdowns, and strong job security protections amid a transition to electric vehicle production. According to the UAW, the big three automakers have reported collective profits of nearly $250bn between 2013 and 2022 and a combined profit of $21bn in the first six months of 2023. The union also cited recent salaries of GM CEO Mary Barra of $29 million in 2022 and Ford CEO Jim Farley of $21 million.

…as more than half of healthcare workers claim they are inadequately paid

New data reveals more than half of healthcare employees believe they receive inadequate pay for their work, with 53% of those reporting that their wages were below industry averages. The research, from benefits company, Purchasing Power, finds almost half of healthcare workers said they had less than $1,000 in savings and 47% reported an inability to manage monthly expenses and cash flow. Of the employees that considered themselves fairly compensated, 47.7% cited their employers’ comprehensive healthcare benefits as a reason. Among the voluntary benefits respondents said would increase their likelihood of staying with their employer, 31.34% cited medical deductible financing with the same proportion also citing an employee purchase program. However, the report comes after a survey from Medscape last year, which actually found that wages for physicians were beginning to rise after stagnating and declining during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Court rules Catholic charity can exclude gay man’s husband from staff health insurance

The Supreme Court of Maryland has ruled that Catholic Relief Services (CRS) – does not have to extend health insurance to the same-sex husband of one of its employees. The employee – a data analyst – argued that denying insurance coverage to his husband constituted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, which is against the law in Maryland. However, with a 4-3 verdict, the court disagreed, and said CRS was exempt from the anti-discrimination statutes because the statute contains an exemption for religious organisations, reflecting the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. The decision overturns a lower court decision in favor the employee’s claim that his husband was entitled to the health benefits under the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act (MFEPA). The Maryland Supreme Court also ruled that the MFEPA’s prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sex “does not itself also prohibit” on the basis of “sexual orientation”. A later statute does bar discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but it contains the exemption for religious organisations.

US Open named ‘safe place’ for employees by Stonewall Inn

In the week that sees the start of the 2021 US Open tennis tournament, the venue has been certified by New York City’s historic Stonewall Inn – the birthplace of the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the US – as a safe space for employees and the LGBTQ+ community. In the months leading up to the US Open, the US Tennis Association (USTA) partnered with SIGBI to complete a 10-step certification process to ensure the tournament is advocating for equality and creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ employees, players, coaches, officials, fans and other attendees. US Open employees also completed training to ensure they would be working to embrace an inclusive environment. Commenting on the accreditation, Stacy Lenz, CEO, SIGBI said: “Safe Spaces are vital in order to uplift LGBTQ+ people and provide places to celebrate, educate, thrive, work, shop, relax and live freely.” Marisa Grimes Galiber, the USTA’s chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer added: “The USTA believes tennis thrives when the sport embraces inclusion. For that reason, we strive to create an environment where people of all ages, ethnicities, religious backgrounds, abilities, sexual orientations and gender identities feel welcome and accepted.”

Bosses were right – working from home sucks in terms of productivity

New research out this week seems to confirm what bosses have long known – that working from home really ‘doesn’t’ improve productivity. According to data released by Stanford University, full-time working from home lowers productivity by around 10%. But, they also suggest productivity could actually fall by as much as 20% in worst-case scenarios. This new data seems to corroborate earlier research by the non-profit National Bureau of Economic Research, which found an 18% lag in productivity. Both of these productivity findings will likely be welcomed by many employers, many of whom have grown impatient with employees’ insistence on continuing to work from home. However, it’s worth noting that Stanford’s researchers also recognized that some employers may conclude that even productivity losses on this scale are worth it, especially when balanced against the cost savings from cutting back on office space.

Employer healthcare costs to increase by 8.5% next year

The average cost US employers will have to pay for their employees’ healthcare will break the $15,000 barrier for the first time next year – representing a rise of 8.5% – according to figures published by Aon. The projected increase, which assumes employers do not implement employee cost sharing increases and other cost saving strategies, is nearly double the 4.5% increase in healthcare costs that employers experienced from 2022-2023. This year budgeted healthcare cost employers $13,906 per employee. Said Debbie Ashford, North America chief actuary for Health Solutions at Aon: “Even though inflation is subsiding, the health care trend is growing as medical providers push insurers for larger cost increases to cover the higher costs of wages and supplies that they endured during the last couple years but were unable to pass on to payers.” She added: “Other contributing factors adding pressure on health care cost trends are the proliferation of newly indicated weight loss drugs, new technologies, severity of catastrophic claims and increasing share of specialty drugs.”

This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.
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