I find myself usually marching in the same direction as Rex W. Huppke, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, who tackles workplace issues of the day. Mr. Huppke’s latest submission printed in Section 2 this past Monday, May 7th, 2012, titled, “No Question New Parents Should Get Paid Leave”, is not an exception. With a bit of his typical cynicism, Huppke contrasts our commonly held value of family being a keystone of a stable and successful civilization with the fact that America is virtually alone in its aversion to paid work leave for new mothers.
It is striking that some organizations out there have funded research at Rutgers University to collect even more overwhelming evidence of the benefits of giving new parents paid time off. Their recent research concluded that paid parental leave makes for healthier babies, more workers returning to the job after maternity leave, and stronger families. I guess that the research sponsors felt a need to hit some people over the head with these moot observations. What caught me off guard is the relative lack of company backing of paid family leave programs.
Mr. Huppke references Bureau of Labor statistics showing that only 11% of private-sector workers and only 17% of public-sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employer. What does this say about American business leaders? Simple, we are hypocrites. Huppke points out, “we all seem to agree on the importance of families, yet America – unlike more than 170 other countries – doesn’t guarantee paid work leave for new mothers.”
It’s a better business decision to give new parents access to paid leave. Fact. Businesses increase the probability of retaining good employees, building loyalty and avoiding the costs of replacement and training. It also helps those who are most affected by the lack of paid leave; low income parents who have no choice but to continue working in those brief, but vitally important initial weeks of a newborns development to support themselves.
If we business (HRInsights included) owners and leaders value “family” as much as we say we do, then maybe we should have a paid leave policy that reflects it.
I am almost finished. Wait! First, I need to respond to this e-mail.
Following my recent blogs/posts about meeting inefficiency and smartphone over-use, I read a related Harvard Business Review blog posted by Tony Schwartz, President & CEO of The Energy Project, titled “The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time”. Mr. Schwartz’ point? 25% to 50% of employees report feeling burned out at work not only because of working too many hours, but also because of working too many continuous hours. Because of all of this great new technology, our lives are interrupted frequently enough to the point that we take longer to finish anything. Mr. Schwartz writes, “Wherever we go, our work follows us, on our digital devices, ever insistent and intrusive. It’s like an itch we can’t resist scratching, even though scratching invariably makes it worse”. Makes sense, and it is time to adjust. Mr. Schwartz recommends:
For the Manager:
- Maintain meeting discipline
- Stop demanding instant responses at every moment of the day (see “Predictable Time Off” or PTO from my post Employees Happier with Less Smartphone Activity)
- Encourage regular breaks
For the Individual:
- Do the most important daily task first
- Set aside time to think
- (Really) Disconnect on vacations (regularly)
The downside of not making adjustments is reduced productivity (up to 25% less) and increased burn out. But this is easier said than done. Even the HRInsights team remains glued to their smartphones, but at least now we’re cognizant of its impact on job performance, and plan on making small, baby steps going forward.
We all know the term and we even hear the term thrown around facetiously from time to time. But the entire working spectrum from owners to management to employees needs to understand what sexual harassment is and why it’s a problem. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
This definition seems to draw a fine line that, hopefully, none of us have to worry about crossing. But, there are a few misconceptions that don’t make the matter as black and white as it may initially sound. A few rules that we should all know about are:
- The victim as well as the harasser may be either a woman or a man.
- The victim of sexual harassment does not have to be of the opposite sex of the harasser.
- The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
- The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but could be anyone adversely affected by the offensive conduct.
- Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
- The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome in order to constitute sexual harassment.
To prepare you and your organization proactively, make sure that you have clearly stated your policies on sexual harassment in the workplace. Overstate it if you have to, just make sure to cover all the angles.
Don’t know if you’ve covered it all or if you need to be more specific? HRInsights can help… join our webinar to find out if you have everything in your sexual harassment policy that you need.
This Week’s HRI “Lightbulb” – Employee Happiness: Thanksgiving
Fact: Thanksgiving is the busiest travel holiday. Makes sense when you think about how everybody needs to cram the travel itineraries of the crazy sister-in-law (with a Kardashian-fixation), the somewhat snobbish aunt and uncle, and the kleptomaniac cousin (who definitely has your iTouch!) into one short 4-day period. For those owners of small businesses not dependent on holiday sales, think about making the Wednesday before Thanksgiving a half-day for your employees! Or, if you are a scrooge, have employees contribute an extra hour per week for four weeks to make up the difference. Needless to say, a small gesture of flexibility on your part goes a long way to building employee satisfaction . . . and loyalty.
Regardless of who said this, who said that, the truth, the history and the outcome of the Herman Cain scandal in the daily news! Politics again brings up the very serious topic of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Does your company have a well-communicated process to handle sexual harassment complaints? If not, your business is potentially facing a costly liability. Take the case of …
Sheriff v. Midwest Health Partners, P.C., 8th Circuit Court No. 09-3367, August 30, 2010
“An employer’s failure to keep a female employee apprised of its response to her complaints of sexual harassment, and its further failure to follow through on remedial actions could lead a reasonable jury to find that the employer did not take the complaints seriously. Such failures form the basis of a recent decision by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in which the Court denied an employer’s post-trial motion regarding a $100,000 jury verdict.”
A Sexual Harassment Policy should be stated clearly in company’s Employee Handbook. And, there should be a signed document from each employee acknowledging that they have read AND understood the policy. No excuses!
“In the workplace, sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual or sex-based conduct – such as unwanted touching, pressure for dates, or offensive remarks – that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment and interfere with the victim’s ability to perform her job. Sexual harassment can also include conditioning an employment or educational opportunity on the victim’s submission to requests for sexual favors.”
Provide a work environment that fosters teamwork and where everyone can reach their full potential, and also be prepared to protect that environment!
This Week’s HRI “Lightbulb” – Tattoos in the Workplace
I hear a bunch about tattoos in the workplace; are they appropriate? If you think they aren’t, I can guarantee that you will not find the best people for those open positions. I do not have a tattoo, thank you. However, there is a new social code of conduct out there folks! And, I think it is refreshing to focus on someone’s true capabilities, which we all know are more than skin deep.