HR Hapenings 3.1.15

Tracking Wage Increases by Kathy Coughlin

According to the Workforce Vitality Index, which measures the total wages paid to the U.S. private-sector workforce, growth in wages and employment were up in the fourth quarter of 2014. In 2014, job holders’ hourly wages rose 2.7 percent overall and job switchers’ hourly wages rose 8.2 percent, according to the index report. While job switchers’ wages grew at a much faster pace than job holders’, the gap has closed a bit year over year, possibly fueled by employers attempting to retain talent by offering better wage increases, the report noted. Wages grew by 2.4 percent for full-time workers as opposed to only half a percent for part-time workers.

Growing confidence in the labor market appears to have prompted companies to create and hire for more full-time positions. Wages for those in the under-25 age group grew nearly 6 percent year over year, more than twice as fast as the wages of any other group, the index showed. On the other end of the spectrum, wages for the age 55 and older segment increased by 2.3 percent, which was slightly lower than the wage growth of the two middle tiers. Workers age 55 and older, however, showed stronger employment growth than other age groups.

This may have been driven by a combination of workers crossing the age-55 threshold and older workers delaying retirement, the index report stated. Absence management remains a priority for U.S. companies and employers of all sizes, according to the 2015 Guardian Absence Management Activity Index and Study, released in February along with a summary infographic.

Absence Management
It’s imperative for employers to understand the importance of employee absences and how, if not managed properly, can significantly compromise workplace productivity. Employers of any size can no longer afford to view absence management as optional. Given the availability of resources in technology and expertise, it is easier than ever to start or improve an existing absence management program and manage it effectively. A study by the Guardian Life Insurance Co. of America showed that employers feel better able to overcome absence management obstacles than in the past, due to more resources and expertise available in the marketplace. For instance, just over half (53 percent) of companies reported facing challenges with applying regulations related to the ADA Amendments Act, down from 60 percent in 2012.

But while many companies have made progress in their absence management efforts, there is still a long way to go. Employers indicated that they still:  Have difficulty interpreting federal and state leave laws (58 percent of respondents).  Face challenges ensuring employees will be able to perform their essential duties when they return to work (54 percent).  Lack the staff resources to manage absenteeism (42 percent).

Listed below are steps employers can take to enhance their Absence Management program:

1. Institute a return-to-work program with:  A written return-to-work policy. An interactive process where the employee, manager, HR representative, case manager and/or physician can talk about return-to-work possibilities.  Guidelines for the duration of disability based on diagnosis.  Accommodations to help facilitate employees’ return to work.  Nurse case management.

2. Be able to obtain reports that include:  Disability usage patterns.  Disability claimant status.  Disability cost.  Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) usage patterns (for employers with 50+ employees).  FMLA claimant status.  Integrated disability and FMLA information.

3. Refer employees to health management programs such as:  An employee assistance program.  A disease management program.  A wellness program. 4. Have a contact person (HR) for reporting the following:  Short-term disability and FMLA absences.  Other leaves of absence such as sick/vacation leave or paid time off.

Additional Initiative – Employee Engagement: When asked to name the most critical measures of successful absence management programs, nearly half of employers said employee engagement—by far the top mention. This finding is not surprising given the linkage between employee engagement and productivity, which has been documented in several studies showing that engaged employees miss fewer work days and are more productive. It can improve the bottom line to any organization if some planning and resources are dedicated to managing both scheduled and unscheduled absences.

Kathy Coughlin, President

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