Article main image
May 13, 2022
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Microsoft announces it will also help pay employees’ abortion costs

Hot on the heels of Amazon announcing that it would reimburse travel costs for employees seeking an abortion, technology company, Microsoft, has pledged to pay the travel expense for US employees needing an abortion and/or gender affirming care services. Microsoft said it will: “continue to do everything we can under the law to protect our employees’ rights and support employees” in accessing critical healthcare, which includes services like abortion and gender-affirming care. the Microsoft spokesperson added: “This support is being extended to include travel expense assistance for these and other medical services where access to care is limited in availability in an employee’s home geographic region.” Microsoft joins the likes of Yelp Inc, Citigroup, Levi Strauss & Co, and Inc in agreeing to meet the costs of out-of-state abortions.

Musk praise for workers ‘burning the midnight oil’ draws criticism

The world’s richest man has come under fire for comments he made praising Chinese workers for “not just burning the midnight oil, but burning the 3am oil” while also branding US workers as “trying to avoid going to work at all.” According to The Guardian, Elon Musk’s comments come as Tesla’s Shanghai Giga-factory ‘pushes its workers to the limit’ to meet production targets amid an ongoing pandemic lockdown. Last month the newspaper also reported how Chinese Tesla workers were made to work 12-hour shifts, six days in a row. The tech billionaire has history showing disregard for normal working hours. He previously declared “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week”. He has also bragged about making Tesla’s US employees work 100-hour weeks, while he himself claims to work 120-hour weeks.

Casino employees hit the jackpot

Long hours, unsociable shifts, not much daylight, aggressive customers – these are just some of the trials that casino workers have to put up with. But for one group of workers at least – those at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas – it was they who hit the jackpot, after staff were surprised with a one-off $5,000 bonus. News of the windfall came during an event celebrating private equity firm’s Blackstone’s nearly decade-long ownership of the property, which is being sold to MGM Resorts International and a real estate firm. Tyler Henritze, head of strategic investments for Blackstone Real Estate said: “We know that none of our success would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the resort’s amazing employees, and we are thrilled to recognize those contributions.” More than 5,000 staff will now receive the bonus.

Returning employees say things haven’t improved in the workplace…

New data from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reveals a mixed bag of experiences amongst employees who have returned to the office, post-Covid. According to the April poll, 16% of employees said they work completely remotely, while 13% work both remotely and in-person and 72% say they work only in-person. But when asked how the return to the office had been, a significant 23% of respondents felt things had gotten worse. When asked to elaborate, 41% of returned workers said the stress they experienced had worsened Just 22% said things had got better while 37% said it hadn’t changed. At least half of in-person workers said balancing responsibilities, potential Covid exposure at work, their commute and social interaction are now major sources of stress. Talking to US News, Jessica Edwards, national director of strategic alliances and development at the National Alliance on Mental Illness said: “A lot of people have gotten accustomed to working from home. It’s been two years…[companies] should not be afraid of asking their employees how they are really doing.

…as data shows low office return rates

Workplace booking platform, Robin, has revealed US employees worked from the office for an average of just 4.9 days per month during Q1 2022, with office capacity sitting at just 25% percent. Although it’s up from 3.7 days per month in Q4 2021, return rates are significantly lower than those in Europe, where occupancy rates are regularly hitting 35%. Robin finds slow return rates could be the reason behind a recent furry of mandatory calls to return. But it also suggests the tactic could be seen as a ‘slap in the face’ to those staff who diligently did the best thing during the height of the pandemic. “When businesses needed their people to go home and work their butts amid a pandemic, they did precisely that,” the report said. It argued employers “must create an open dialogue with their people to refine their office experience based on real-world feedback.”

Nearly half a million jobs added in April

Official figures show America added 428,000 jobs in the month of April – a hiring streak that has continued despite employers battling with talent shortages and wage inflation. The jobs report, released last Friday, by the US Labor Department, showed last month’s hiring means the jobless rate is 3.6% – barely above the lowest rate in a half-century. To ensure jobs could be filled, the data revealed hourly wages rose 0.3% from March to April – making them 5.5% higher compared to a year ago. Factories added 55,000 jobs, the most since last July. Warehouses and transportation companies added 52,000; restaurants and bars 44,000; healthcare 41,000; finance 35,000; retailers 29,000 and hotels 22,000. Construction firms, which have been slowed by shortages of labor and supplies, added just 2,000. Overall the nation remains 1.2 million jobs shy of the record number in work in early 2020, just before the Coronavirus pandemic.

Vaccine mandates justified by minute attrition rates

Controversial legislation mandating health care workers be jabbed against Covid-19 has been exonerated, claim commentators, after data revealed healthcare organizations lost less than 1% of the workforce through non-vaccination. Some 25 states were affected by the legislation, but amongst the organizations that filed their employee headcount numbers, were Advocate Aurora Health – which terminated just 440 staff who were not vaccinated (out of 75,000); Albany Med (it fired 240 or 11,000 staff) and Baystate Health (it lost 90 people out of 12,000). Last September American Hospital Association President, Rick Pollack, warned the vaccine mandate would result in “exacerbating the severe workforce shortage problems that currently exist.” But according to Ezekiel J. Emanuel, vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania: “If you look at healthcare systems that have actually mandated this, they’ve retained over 99% of their workforce.”


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