Most interesting HR stories of the week

City lowers minimum employment age for employees

Administrators in the city of Effingham, Illinois, really do believe you’re never too young to start work. Councilors there have unanimously voted to lower the minimum age that seasonal workers are allowed to start work at – from 18 to 16. Speaking to Yahoo! News, deputy city administrator, Dennis Presley, said the move is intended to help expand the city’s worker pool as well as provide students with much-needed work experience as they progress into their careers. Full-time jobs are unaffected by the vote; with the minimum age remaining at 18 years old. The only exception to this rule is with police and fire employees, where individuals still need to be 21 in order to be hired.

Amazon launches support program for refugee workers

While it may not be famed for having the best labor relations, the world’s largest company, Amazon, is doing its bit to support refugee workers, with the announcement of a program that will provide refugee and humanitarian-based immigrant employees with a range of additional resources. Called ‘Welcome Door’, humanitarian-based immigrant employees will be able to access a new Citizenship Assistance Portal. The portal will fully support U.S. citizenship applications for all eligible employees; help staff get access to free legal resources; offer them free college tuition and English as a Second Language (ESL) proficiency (through Amazon’s Career Choice program), and offer customized mentorship. The resources will begin to be offered to U.S. employees from May, and there are plans to expand the program globally by the end of 2022.

Firms ordered to pay back $1.9 million in underpaid wages

Three customs warehouses near the San Diego-Tijuana border have been ordered to pay more than $1.9 million in back wages and fines after officials from the U.S. Department of Labor found it paid employees who crossed from Mexico in pesos and at rates as low as the equivalent of $2.50 (US) per hour. Speaking to the San Diego Union Tribune Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda said: “These employers have come to realize they cannot avoid federal labor protections simply because their employees return home across the border at the end of the workday.” A.G.A. Investments II Inc., operating as Columbia Export Group, will now be required to pay $267,408 in minimum wages and $648,269 in overtime to 60 employees as well as $34,958 in penalties. OMG Freight Forwarders, OMG Global Logistics and owner Oscar Mayer will have to pay $233,141 in minimum wages and $588,932 in overtime to 31 employees. They will also pay $10,921 in penalties. Atlas Freight Forwarding Inc. was ordered to pay $111,584 in minimum and overtime back wages to 13 employees and $10,790 in penalties.

Vaccine mandate reinstated after US government wins challenge

Government workers in Texas must now be fully vaccinated to continue working, after the Biden administration won an appeal allowing it to reinstate a mandate stating that all federal employees should be double jabbed. The President signed an executive order last September, requiring all 3.5 million federal staff to be vaccinated, but in January the Texas district court challenged this, causing a pause to the ruling. But a US Court of Appeals of the Fifth Circuit panel dismissed the injunction against the mandate. Charles Scarborough, the Justice Department attorney arguing on behalf of the government said the President is the CEO of the executive branch and therefore has the authority to issue mandates for its workforce. Said a spokesperson from the White House’s Office of Management and Budget: “The court’s decision is good news…we know vaccination requirements save lives, protect our workforce, and strengthen our ability to serve the American people.”

Covid-19 caused largest unemployment since WWII

Analysis of unemployment data during the coronavirus pandemic has revealed that Covid-19 saw unemployment rise to at least 14.7% (and possibly nudged closer to 16%). This is some 7% higher than during the Second World War. The analysis, by BanklessTimes.com, found unemployment this high was last seen during The Great Depression, with around 21 million American left unemployed. BanklessTimes’ analysis also shows the worst affected sectors. Topping the list was Leisure and Hospitality. Here unemployment peaked at 39.3% in April 2020, later recovering to 9%. Retail and wholesale followed with highs of 23% in April 2020. These would drop to 4.9% in July 2021. Likewise, construction had highs of 16.6% that have since fallen to 6.1%. The pandemic affected women more than men too, with the number of jobless women growing by 14.3% (2.4% more women than men lost their jobs).

Workers want bigger pay rises

With inflation now nudging 8.5%, it’s not surprising that employees are now demanding larger pay rises. Data published by SHRM reveals 40% of Americans now want a pay rise greater than 6% this year. Some 31% want one of more than 8% while 21% are even wanting double-digit rises of 10%. This compares to payroll budgets expected to rise by just 4%. But could employers be forced to show their hand? The research also revealed that amongst those who quit their jobs recently, 40% did-so to join a company that gave them a 10% pay rise. Within that group, 13% received a salary increase of 20% or more. “American workers have found their voice during the pandemic, and they are perhaps keener than ever to ask for what they want—or find it elsewhere,” said Tim Glowa, a principal and leader of Grant Thornton’s employee listening and human capital services offerings.

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Tackling employment inequality would boost the economy, finds report

The annual Economic Report, prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers, has concluded that boosting enforcement of anti discrimination and anti trust laws, raising the federal minimum wage and having higher unionization rates could substantially boost U.S. economic growth. According to the report, “the cost of ignoring these structural forces are increased inequality and reduced economic growth and output,” citing inefficient labor market outcomes, mis-allocated talent, suppressed innovation and reduced incentives for investment in human capital. It noted that nearly 20% of U.S. workers reported being bound by no-compete agreements that limited their ability to join or start up a competing firm. It also and said employer market power was responsible for keeping wages 15% below where they would be in a perfectly competitive market.

 

 

Peter Crush is the interim editor of TLNT. He’s an award-winning journalist based in London, and he writes exclusively about the ever-changing world of work.

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