Employee Compensation: Hazard Pay, Leave and Employee Satisfaction

Lauryn Nosek | | Change Management

employee compensation like hazard pay help improve employee satisfactionWhile many companies are feeling the pinch and letting people go, those in essential industries are feeling the strain in other ways. Employee satisfaction is an area taking a bit of a hit. Several industries have workers striking (or threatening to strike) over working conditions, employee compensation and leave or healthcare benefits. No one can doubt that healthcare workers and those in industries like grocery stores are valued right now, both by their employers and society at large. But facing shortages of protective supplies, extraordinary hours and dangerous conditions, worker satisfaction is understandably low.

Communicate Existing Policies and Plan for Revision

HR and company leadership should always be upfront and honest about employee compensation. There are also areas, like hazard pay, which get relegated to the fine print of hiring contracts. Meanwhile, benefits like family and medical leave are covered during onboarding and annual enrollment. In a lot of cases, workers themselves have long brushed these off as good to know about but unlikely to ever be an issue. And until recent events, they probably were right.

benefits enrollment materials have evolvedBut that was before. Suddenly, those policies have been dusted off and are getting used. Both leaders and workers are examining them more closely. To get ahead of concerns, you should communicate those policies with your workforce. Share associated resources, like application forms or a website with additional information, as well. If you're considering revisions to those policies – or if there are gaps, like missing considerations for hazard pay – communicate those intentions. Offer workers the chance to provide feedback and voice their concerns. It will help ease the strain on employee satisfaction if they feel heard and included in the process as we all adjust to a new normal and the policy changes that go with it.

Make no doubts about it, all companies should be reviewing at least their leave policies with an eye toward revision. Recent legislation is already expanding what's required for many. Current events are highlighting gaps and shortcomings, so now is the ideal time for companies to start acknowledging and addressing them. Maybe you can't implement all the changes you want immediately. But while the health crisis came on suddenly, some of the long-term changes it's forcing can be managed more gradually.

Essential Businesses and Hazard Pay

Businesses need to take the larger economic circumstances into account as far as their revenues are concerned. They also need to address how those circumstances are impacting employees. For workers in essential businesses like grocery stores, many are still receiving paychecks. That doesn't mean their partners are or that they aren't facing other burdens at home. Childcare, homeschooling and caring for elderly or at-risk family members are compounding stress for many right now.

protective equipment is short impacting essential business workersSo consider, does that paycheck reflect the new conditions of their working environment? Beyond adopting new measures to facilitate social distancing and diligent sanitizing, essential workers who interact with the public are still putting themselves at risk. Shortages of personal protective equipment are everywhere. Most of the available resources are (understandably) being sent to hospitals and healthcare facilities. But the cashiers and those stocking the shelves are at risk for exposure too. And they have less chance of knowing if or when that exposure is coming. Those in food service handling pick up orders and deliveries face similar risks. If gloves, masks and other protective equipment isn't available, how are you compensating workers and addressing their concerns?

Look to see what others in your industry are offering for hazard pay and make sure yours is comparable. If you don't currently offer it, take a look at what workers' concerns are and why they're asking for hazard pay or other employee compensation. Everyone knows things are going to be tough for a while. Most essential workers aren't trying to take advantage of the situation. They just need to see their sacrifices, the risks they're taking aren't taken for granted.

Can't Get No Satisfaction

Little of what's happening lends itself to boosting employee satisfaction. Taking steps to protect essential workers from the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is certainly a step in the right direction. Improving employee compensation and leave policies is another. But there are other ways HR can help take care of the little things that are stressing out employees – and many are already doing them.

For instance, many annual benefits enrollments occur in the fall. However, most also include provisions for making changes when there are qualifying life events. Among those life events is when a partner or spouse loses their job. Reach out to your workforce with a reminder of this provision and provide resources for those who may need to sign up for health insurance and other benefits. The fear of the financial burden that comes from falling sick compounds the strain of losing income. Helping workers' families reduce that fear can ease a little bit of the stress they're feeling.

Small measures like this may not have a conscious impact on employee satisfaction immediately. But as we move through these difficult times and emerge on the other side, the experience of having survived it will run deep. Make sure part of that experience for your employees includes having their back. Make sure they remember being listened to and having their fears and concerns addressed.

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