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Written by Kieran Delamont, Associate Editor, London Inc.


Are you working for free this Thursday?

February 29 only comes once every four years, but a 366-day work year probably isn’t bringing you extra cash

ONCE EVERY FOUR years, a special day rolls around, maybe even putting a big grin on your boss’ face: February 29th, the leap year day when salaried employees are working for free. And it’s coming on Thursday.


We’re all familiar with the leap year, but few have stopped to think about what it means for their salary calculations. Best not to, really, because you won’t like the answer: “Salaried workers generally get paid a fixed amount per year, and are not entitled to extra pay when the year has 366 days rather than 365, unless their employment contract states otherwise,” explained the Toronto Star. (Hourly workers, on the other hand, get a day’s worth of extra hours this year.)


The effect is felt most by salaried employees who are paid on fixed dates every month ― say, the 15th and the 30th ― although bi-weekly pay cycles will also see the lost day effectively spread out across the full year.


When you run the numbers, the average salaried worker will lose out on around $319, while corporations across the country will collectively save around $2 billion. “While businesses might perceive the leap year as a neutral event financially, its implications on payroll can lead to inadvertent corporate savings at the expense of salaried workers’ fairness,” wrote payroll software company PaymentEvolution.


It all begs the question: should employment contracts compensate for the day of lost compensation? Work performed is work that should be paid, after all, so should a leap year entitle a salaried worker to an extra paid day of leave, for instance, or an extremely slight increase in pay for leap years? Some see it as a good idea, but it is not one that is widely practiced. (The Public Service Alliance of Canada, for one, is an example of an organization that does average salary out over four years.)


“It is important for everyone to consider this,” suggested employment lawyer Travis Carpenter. “Many people are currently struggling financially. In reality, there are no laws or regulations that account for leap years and extra pay.”


But more realistically, experts say this is one area where most employees are just going to have to suck it up. Consider it paying the piper for those days you cut out early to pick up the kids or strolled in 30 minutes late without catching flack from your boss. Or take solace in the sympathetic words of Alan Price of BrightHR: “tough luck.” At the very least, you don’t have to do it for four more years. 


Skills-based hiring is great, and mostly failing

To get a job in most industries, it’s still in your best interest to give it the old college try

ONE OF THE topics we’ve touched upon previously in Worklife is the rising phenomenon of “skills-based hiring” ― an approach to talent recruitment that looks beyond things like post-secondary degrees to the actual skills a potential employee can demonstrate.


Much has been made of this philosophy over the last few years, spurred by a talent shortage in many industries. A few big companies, like Bank of America and Lockheed Martin, made splashy announcements that they would no longer require degrees.


But has it actually changed the way companies are hiring? Seems not, according to a new study by ​​Harvard Business School and the labour-focused non-profit Burning Glass Institute.


“Many companies have announced dropping degree requirements, but sustained hiring changes remain elusive,” they stated. “Overall, by our estimates, [skills-based hiring] has translated to new opportunity for only approximately 97,000 workers annually, out of 77 million yearly hires. For all its fanfare, the increased opportunity promised by skills-based hiring has borne out not even 1 in 700 hires last year.”


Some companies, like Delta Airlines, initially held to their commitments, but have slipped back into old patterns since. “No one doubts the sincerity of the commitments being made, but there is a big gap between what is being said in the C-suite and what is getting executed by hiring managers around the country,” the Burning Glass Institute’s Matt Sidelman told Bloomberg. “For a lot of hiring managers, skills-based hiring can feel like an unnatural act. It feels very risky.”


To some, it’s not much of a surprise, as many HR professionals were skeptical of the big claims being made by companies. “I think it’s a lot of noise,” said former Google recruiter Ginny Davis in an interview last year, when asked if the shift to skills-based hiring was really catching on. “As it stands today, we would need to overhaul the whole recruitment system to get there.”


Still, the Burning Glass Institute believes in the concept. “If the arc of corporate practice bends towards profitability, the win-win that skills-based hiring represents is an opportunity firms are remiss to ignore,” they concluded in their report. “Stripping out the artificial constraints of gratuitous requirements both eases recruitment burdens in a tight labour market, and substantially increases worker retention ― all while creating substantial opportunity and mobility for workers.”

Terry Talks: Are HR chatbots ready for the spotlight?

Artificial intelligence and tools such as chatbots are getting more and more mentions in today’s news cycles. However, a recent court decision on Air Canada’s liability for what its chatbot said is a reminder that HR firms ― and companies of all stripes ― need to be cautious when relying on artificial intelligence and related technologies. 



Separation anxiety

Workers earn less after a divorce and researchers arent sure why

WITH VALENTINE’S DAY in the rearview mirror, perhaps some out there are turning their thoughts to less romantic topics. Like divorce. If that’s you, then maybe consider recent data analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis: getting divorced is probably one of the worst things you can do for your income.


“The income loss is on average nine per cent for women…and 17 per cent for men,” the analysis revealed. “This difference between men and women is most visible in their 30s, during which men lose close to 40 per cent of their income following a divorce, while women lose noticeably less.”


What’s interesting, too, is that the researchers couldn’t quite give a concrete reason as to why this was the case. The data do not pertain to expenditures or wealth; they pertain to income. So why do recently divorced workers earn less than others?


“One possibility is these individuals change their work patterns,” they hypothesized. “Either they work fewer hours, or they work different, lower-paying jobs. The data…do not answer this question.”


They also couldn’t really explain why the data suggests that men experience a sharper decrease in income than women. It hasn’t always been that way: a 2008 study found that “results revealed a dramatic drop in women’s income and a slight drop in men’s income during the dissolution year,” and that this effect was “statistically significant for up to three years post dissolution.”


But the new data inverts that, suggesting that presently, it is men who fare worse from divorce.


“Why are recently divorced workers earning less than the rest of the employed population? Why is the income loss of women less than that of men after a divorce? Are these losses permanent or does the income of newly divorced workers recover?” they asked. “These questions cannot be answered with the data displayed here, but they are worth pondering in future research.”


Should your company hire an onsite therapist?

Some companies are choosing to bring mental healthcare onsite, but not everyone agrees that work is the right venue for therapy

WITH THE INCREASED proliferation of mental health benefits and the focus on wellness in the workplace, some workplaces have begun experimenting with offering on-site therapy in their corporate offices and worksites.


But is it a good idea? That’s where experts are split. While the most obvious benefit is that access becomes less of a problem, new issues are created that give HR experts pause. “People might not feel super comfortable going to therapy at work,” noted Robert Gill, HR partner at Square.


Many of the early-adopter companies experimenting with on-site therapy, like Google and AT&T, tend to do it on a contract model ― that is, the therapists aren’t employees, but independent contractors to the company. That is something that corporate therapists suggest helps avoid ethics issues.


But at the end of the day, the company still signs their cheques, which is why the concept has its fair share of critics. Better for companies and their employees to keep the two worlds completely separate, said mental health platform The Mind Clan. “Having the therapist be a full-time team member at your organization implies that they’ll also be part of the day-to-day affairs of the organization, either actively or passively,” they wrote. “This can make it hard for the therapist to have an unbiased stance when it comes to supporting themselves and your employees.”


But there are champions of the concept, too, especially in an environment where mental healthcare can be hard to access. “Our employees, just like everybody else…are struggling to get access to providers, so we are making it as easy as possible,” said a company executive with Comcast. “There’s still a little bit of stigma surrounding mental health, but that breaks down the barriers.” 


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