Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about a new workplace benefit – student loan debt relief.  Now, it seems employers are again thinking outside the box with respect to employee benefits.  The latest workplace benefits employers are offering include onsite meditation, yoga and other programs that help workers de-stress.  Other unique benefits are cooking classes, standing desks, bringing a pet to work, and free snacks or meals.  All these benefits are in addition to the more traditional benefits of medical and dental insurance, paid vacation, sick time, and retirement accounts.

A recent news article discussed a research study conducted by Glassdoor.com which found 57% of people said benefits and perks were among their top considerations when accepting a job.  Also, four out of five employees indicated they would like additional benefits over a pay raise.

These new and unique job perks are structured to help employees with work/life balance.  A challenge for employers is finding benefits their employees are interested in.  Older workers or working parents are going to be interested in different benefits than  younger millennials.  As long as employers keep all employees in mind when deciding what benefits to offer, I think they will definitely increase employee job satisfaction.

Last Friday, the Minneapolis City Council passed a new ordinance requiring employers who employ six (6) or more employees to provide a maximum of forty-eight (48) hours of paid sick and safe time.  Under the ordinance, employees accrue a minimum of one hour of sick and safe time for every thirty (30) hours worked.  Additionally, employers must permit an employee to carry-over up to eighty (80) hours of accrued but unused sick and safe time to the following calendar year.  Employers with less than six (6) employees are required to provide unpaid sick and safe time.

This ordinance not only affects Minneapolis businesses, but also any business who has employees working within the geographic boundaries of the City for at least eight (80) hours in a calendar year.  For example, my husband works for a large engineering firm in St. Paul, which routinely has projects in Minneapolis, including the new Vikings Stadium currently under construction. According to the new ordinance temporary employees who work with my husband, and are assigned to work on projects in Minneapolis for more than 80 hours will accrue paid sick/safe leave, even though the other temporary employees who do not work in Minneapolis will not accrue paid leave.  This sounds like an administrative headache to track and document.  Additionally, it results in employees not being treated equally.

The ordinance also states that employers who provide an employee handbook to its employees must include in the handbook notices of an employee’s rights and remedies under the ordinance.  If your company is located in Minneapolis or does significant work in Minneapolis, you may need to update your employee handbook.

It is too soon to know the impact this ordinance will have on businesses in Minneapolis or companies who routinely do business in Minneapolis.  The ordinance is scheduled to go into effect July 1, 2017.  Violations during the twelve months following the effective date will be mediated, and employers issued warnings or notices to correct any problems.  After July 1, 2018, monetary penalties and other relief may be imposed for violations.

I agree providing paid time off for sick employees is an important workplace benefit.  However, this is not something that should be dictated by City government.  Businesses should be free to determine employee benefits in line with their business model and the market.  The new ordinance smells like an anti-business move by a local City government.  Paid time off is something Unions typically work to negotiate for their membership.  Isn’t that what union organizing is all about?  

US%20Department%20of%20Labor%20logoThe final overtime regulations on exempt employees were issued by the Department of Labor last week, raising the salary test from $23,660 annually to $47,476.  It is estimated this will result in an additional 4.2 million more employees qualifying for overtime.

The new salary threshold has sparked controversy and claims by both labor and management suggesting the sky was falling.  Others have predicted the true impact has yet to be determined.  No one seems to dispute the changes were long overdue.  The previous salary test has not changed in over 10 years.  The good news is they built in an automatic update to occur every three years based on wage growth in the lowest-income census region, which is currently in the south.

The DOL has provided guidance for non-profits, public sector, and private sector employers to assist in applying the new salary test.  In general the DOL suggested options for addressing the new regulation including: 1) limit exempt employee hours to 40 hours per week, 2) pay the employees time and one half for work over 40 hours, or 3) raise the employee’s salary to exceed the new salary threshold..

All employers should review the salaries of their exempt employees and determine the impact of the new DOL regulations now, so they can be ready for implementation December 1, 2016.  

Employees can be very creative when it comes to reasons to take time off of work.  Of course, there are always legitimate reasons for time off of work, such as a family emergency, illness, family vacation, etc…  But occasionally, the reason an employees gives can make an employer pause and wonder just how legitimate is this request.  For example, today is the first beautiful day of warm spring weather in Minnesota, and suddenly several employees are calling in  with reasons they can’t come to work like, food poisoning, their child is sick, their car won’t start, or is it just spring fever?

Last week, Sammy Schmitz from Wisconsin had the very best reason ever to take time-off of work.  Last weekend was the Masters at Augusta National in Georgia.  My husband is a huge golfer and golf fan, so we are always in tune to what is going on.  Every year the Masters invites a select number of amateur golfers to come and play at the Masters.  Last week, one of those lucky amateurs was Sammy Schmitz.  Mr. Schmitz is a regular guy, with a regular job and a family.  He loves golf and plays when he is able.  Last fall, he qualified to play in the U.S. Mid-Amateur in Florida, with the winner being invited to play at the Masters.  Well, Sammy won!  Not long after he won a trip to the Masters, Mr. Schmitz called his boss to request the week of April 4-8 off because he would be playing at Augusta National.  Not too many employees are able to use playing in the Masters as their reason for taking time off work.  Of course, Mr. Schmitz was approved for his time off, and his boss and his boss’s boss both came to Augusta to cheer him on.

Sammy Schmitz had the best reason ever to take time off work! 

A coalition of Minnesota DFL legislators is proposing a bill that would ensure all employees in Minnesota have paid family and sick leave.  The DFL proposal would establish a state insurance program which would offer employees in Minnesota up to 80% of their pay for up to 12 weeks a year for pregnancy or medical issues.  It would also apply to employees who need leave to care for a sick family member or newborn child.  Under the proposed plan, employers and employees would share the costs for the program.  The program would be mandatory for employers and employees, however, employers who currently have paid family and sick leave policies that match or surpass the proposed state insurance plan would be exempt from the new law.

According to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota almost 136,000 employees would benefit from the program.  It is estimated over $450 million in benefits would be paid out in one year.  The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce although understanding of the program’s goal, objects to the plan because it would take away the flexibility currently available to employers.

Governor Dayton has already proposed a similar program for Minnesota State employees.  California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island all have similar benefits.

This law would be a huge change for Minnesota employers.  For many small employers it could be a financial hardship to require them to contribute to this type of benefit.  I agree with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, it is a great idea in concept, but I’m not sure it is the best idea for Minnesota’s small entrepreneurial businesses.

NBC_News_Rockefeller_CenterThe recent Brian Williams debacle is the third major employee melt-down for NBC in the last 18 months.  NBC’s talent trouble started with the 2013 Today Show debacle and the bullying of Ann Curry by her fellow Today Show producers and hosts.  Curry left the show in tears amidst allegations of taunting and what she termed “professional torture.”

In 2014, NBC medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman’s ignored an ebola quarantine to go get take-out food, which brings us to Brian Williams recent 6 month suspension over his exaggerating news stories.  It was uncovered that news anchor Brian Williams embellished his involvement in a news report from twelve years ago, where he claimed his helicopter took on gun and missile fire while he was reporting from Iraq.  The media frenzy surrounding this revelation was a lot like piranhas feeding on fresh meat, no doubt influencing NBC’s decision to suspend Williams from the anchor desk.

It goes to show employee misconduct is not restricted by employee education, income, or job visibility.  I was glad to hear NBC conducted an investigation into the Williams matter, before deciding to suspend him for six months.

My question for NBC is why did it take twelve years for the Williams story to surface, and then only because an issue was raised by military personnel who were present?  What about the NBC camera crew and support personnel who were with Williams during the embellished helicopter ride twelve years ago?  Is there a corporate culture at NBC that protects badly behaving talent that should be addressed here as well?

Spin doctors are trying to shift the focus off of troubled NBC, and onto Fox news journalist Bill O’Reilly, alleging he embellished news coverage over the Falkland war.  Unlike Williams however, O’Reilly is holding fast to his journalistic integrity.

The take-aways:  NBC, like any employer dealing with employee misconduct, needs to review its’ corporate culture to get at the heart of why well-educated, highly-paid talent are behaving badly.  That is the only way NBC can truly retool their image and regain market share. I know I am going to be checking out David Muir over on ABC for my evening news, while NBC figures this all out.  I might even tune in to Bill O’Reilly to see why he is viewed as such a threat.

Photo from: FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Panpote

Millenials are the fastest growing group in today’s workforce, and more millenials are seeking alternative work options to the traditional 9 to 5, Monday – Friday job. Millenials (also known as Generation Y) are those born between 1981 and 2002. They like technology/gadgets, they aren’t particularly willing to work overtime, they are big multi-taskers, and are always connected.

This past weekend Adam Belz wrote an interesting article in the Star Tribune and gave several good examples of millenials “thinking outside the cubicle.” Millenials seem to have less interest in money and more interest in freedom, flexibility and personal time. Joe Kessler, with NOISE a consulting business which helps companies market to millenials, stated two out of five millenials want more vacation time vs. a higher salary. Part of the reason for this change in the work habits of millenials is more of them are putting off marriage and having a family.

Millenials aren’t interested in the same kinds of benefits and salary that baby boomers were after in the workplace. Millenials are here to stay, and businesses need to know how to get the best out of their employees. Businesses should see this change in the workforce as an opportunity to offer unique benefit packages that will entice millenials to work for them.

Food for thought: Instead of a raise a millennial employee might find more value in additional time off work, especially since with all the enhancements with technology a millennial employee can still be connected to work without physically being at the workplace.

 

Baby Josee (2-6-12)An interesting development is on the horizon regarding new benefits for employees in the private sector workforce. Last week both Facebook and Apple announced it will be providing up to $20,000 in benefits to help employees pay for infertility treatments, sperm donors or to freeze their eggs. Facebook has stated, freezing their eggs gives women an option to focus on their career or education first.

Dr. Nicole Noyes with the New York University Fertility Center shared the number of patients freezing eggs was almost 400 in 2014 compared with just 5 in 2005. In addition to Facebook, some big banks are already providing this benefit to female employees. It is predicted that law firms will start doing this as well. Employers see this benefit as a way to attract and retain top female employees.

In the public sector, employers are doing something different to attract and retain good employees. This summer I blogged about my city, Brooklyn Park, offering paid leave for new parents. Well, now other cities are considering this as well. Recently, Mayor Coleman from the City of St. Paul announced he wants to offer four weeks of paid leave for the birthing mother and two weeks for the other parent. This policy is being introduced to the City Council for consideration and could be adopted in 2015. Mayor Coleman stated, “This policy is good for families, and it’s good for bringing the best and brightest to the City of St. Paul.”

Clearly, employers are starting to realize that just offering competitive wages and health insurance is not enough to attract and retain talented employees. It is nice to see employers trying to help employees balance work and families. Hopefully, this is the start of a new trend.

 

A few years back my oldest son Zach became extremely sick. For weeks he was tired and could barely struggle through a full day of school. All he wanted to do was sleep. After several doctor visits, nothing was clear except we ruled out mono, strep, and the flu.

Then a strange cough developed and again we ran to the doctor. This time the doctor thought he might have whooping cough, and immediately began antibiotic treatment even before the diagnosis was confirmed. Two days later on a Friday evening, the doctor called and confirmed Zach tested positive for whooping cough, and advised me the whole family would have to be quarantined. I was in shock. How could he get whooping cough? He was up to date on all his immunizations and booster shots.

The doctor then asked me how Zach was doing and to be honest, I had let him go to a play with his friends because for the first time in weeks he was actually feeling pretty good. The doctor advised me I would have to go pick him up as his next phone call would be to the County Health Department to report a case of whooping cough, and put our family in quarantine. I had to make arrangements for prophylactic prescription antibiotics for each family member, and notify everyone Zach had been in contact with during the week that he had whooping cough. We all took our antibiotics, watched a lot of movies, and stayed at home for the prescribed period.

What in the world was NBC medical correspondent Dr. Nancy Snyderman thinking, when she recently broke quarantine imposed due to her exposure to ebola?  She had traveled to Liberia to cover the spread of ebola for the evening news.  I had watched her report and wondered whether it was a good idea to send a news crew to cover the story. Within a very short time, news coverage reported one of her camera crew had contracted Ebola and was being treated in Nebraska. Just yesterday, news coverage reported Dr. Snyderman had broken her 21 day quarantine when she went to get take-out food with her camera crew at a New Jersey restaurant.

Irresponsible is the first word that comes to my mind. NBC, as her employer, I hope you are paying attention. As an on-air medical professional, she exercised extremely poor judgment which goes to the very question of her credibility to continue to report medical news. She should have honored the quarantine, reported stories via Skype about being quarantined, and maybe even done a few historical pieces on past quarantines. She would have been entitled to exercise FMLA leave, and could have educated the public about the laws surrounding quarantine. Instead, I predict she may lose her job as a medical correspondent for NBC.

I went to an excellent training yesterday put on by the MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce. Coon Rapids Police Officer Bryan Platz was the speaker presenting on HEARTSafe Communities. The Program helps communities, organizations and businesses educate citizens about sudden cardiac arrest, raise money to place automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in business, schools and other public places, and trains people on how to use an AED and perform CPR.

Cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, anywhere, at anytime, and is almost always fatal. On average the survival rate is around 7% for individuals who have a cardiac arrest and don’t receive immediate life-saving treatment. However, survival rates go up to 85% when individuals receive immediate CPR and defibrillation with an AED. The training was eye-opening for me, and really quite simple. The important steps to take are: 1) Call 911, 2) Start CPR, 3) Use an AED, if one is available. The AED’s are completely automatic with easy to follow step by step verbal instructions, that even my 7 year old could follow.

Don’t let fear hold you back from offering assistance to someone needing immediate medical help. Minnesota has a “Good Samaritan” law which protects a person from liability when “offering emergency care, advice, or assistance at the scene of an emergency…”

Currently, Minnesota has 28 communities/businesses with the HEARTSafe designation. If you are interested in learning more about how to become a Heart Safe Community or business check out the toolkit and application here.

Businesses should train employees on how to administer CPR, and have an AED on site. For a minimal investment of time and money, your employees won’t just be a bystanders waiting for emergency personnel to arrive and take action, they will be heroes, helping save a life. I’m relieved to know that if I encounter a medical situation whether it is a friend, family member, or stranger, I now know how I can help until emergency personnel arrive.