Are Employers Competing with Government Enhanced Benefits

The hardest work in the world is being out of work.  

So said Whitney M. Young, the civil rights leader who fought to end employment inequity.  Today, 10.7 million Americans are experiencing this hard work because of COVID shutdowns and the slow economy. 

Fortunately, last year jobless workers received much-needed economic relief through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act.  This Act enhanced and extended unemployment compensation to $600, then $300 extra per week so families could stay safe at home.  This month, the Biden administration is working on a $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” that will extend these unemployment benefits to $400 weekly payments through September.  Good news for furloughed workers, but what does it mean for employers trying to ramp back up?  

With vaccinations, re-opening states, and the Congressional Budget Office forecasting an optimistic 4.6% growth in 2021, many business owners plan to expand their skeleton crews.  But a University of Chicago study showed that for two-thirds of workers, bailouts plus unemployment exceeded regular wages, providing some with little incentive to get back to work.  As one worker said,  “Why should I go back to work when I’m making more by staying home?” It’s not surprising that hiring managers are nervous about how to entice people back to the office.  As one business owner tweeted:

Enhanced unemployment may have been reasonable when we wanted workers to stay home, but it’s catastrophic when we want them to go back to work.

Employers will need to jump two hurdles when hiring this spring if they wish to win back top talent:  wages and workplace safety.  

Your competition – the U.S. government

While no one is arguing about unemployment insurance’s importance, continually re-upping the bailout may pose problems on the employment supply side.  If the economy warms up – and hiring looks positive for 2021 – fewer willing workers could mean inflated offers for cash-strapped employers, which means less for investment.  Plus, rightsizing artificially inflated income after the lockdowns may result in an unstable and inequitable job market and rising inflation. 

So, what are some options to entice people off unemployment and back to work?  

First, employers can contact furloughed employees and make them a written offer to come back to work.  If rejected, employers should document it and contact the state unemployment office.  However, be aware that along with the enhanced unemployment payments in President Biden’s plan, workers have a “federally guaranteed right to refuse employment that will jeopardize their health and if they do so, they will still qualify for unemployment insurance.”  Therefore, be certain that your work environment meets CDC, updated OSHA workplace safety regulations, and state mandates.  Except under certain circumstances, an employee cannot refuse work if an employer is following all COVID safety regulations.  

Next, hiring managers can get help from an expert staffing agency like Partnership Employment to temporarily or permanently fill critical labor needs.  For example, hiring a temp allows a grace period for a valued employee with kids at home who might need a little more time until schools re-open. 

A longer-term solution that you have the most control over is to be the company that people cannot wait to return to!  Remember that for most, a terrific job is not about the money.  People really do love to work at companies where they are appreciated and empowered to do their best work.  

Where everyone feels that their efforts are essential to the team. 

Where best practices are front and center.  

Where learning is supported, input is valued, and opportunity is fair and equitable.

Where work, wherever and however it takes place, is a valued part of life.

Add a safe and healthy workplace with a remote work option, and you are in the running for hiring only the best candidates!

Therefore, take a moment and assess your leadership and culture.  If your people are not champing at the bit to come back because showing up each day is a drag, then you have some work to do.  Make it a privilege to work at your company.  Then you will have something to offer that is better than a day on the couch streaming Netflix!

Need help communicating how great your organization is to exceptional candidates?  Give Partnership Employment a call.  If you are struggling to rehire, Partnership Employment has decades of staffing experience and can provide you with creative ideas that can help you attract and retain only the best.  While you work on a recruiting strategy with a great pitch and tempting offer, let Partnership Employment source only those motivated to invest their skills and abilities in your company!  

*As of January 31, the American Rescue Plan has not been approved by Congress.