The world has been living with COVID-19 for around a year and employees have adapted to new working practices. While some are coming to terms with the realization that long-term job security might be a thing of the past, others enjoy the freedom and flexibility that comes with breaking from the norm.
We’ve explored some of the measures that governments and employers worldwide are taking to ensure workforces are supported throughout this challenging time.
The US Furthers Support For Those In Need Under the Biden Administration
The US economy was among those hit hardest by the global pandemic. Unemployment is predicted to reach an eye-watering 16%, marking the worst economic downturn since the country’s Great Depression of the 1930s. Consequently, the COVID-19 pandemic has refocused attention on the debate around a minimum wage, with calls for it to be raised to $15/hour.
After dispensing a single payment of $1,200 to most Americans early in the pandemic, the Trump administration pushed through a COVID-19 relief bill worth $900 billion toward the end of 2020, including another payment of $600. However, the bill was contentious, as it did not provide adequate financial support for small businesses or workers. President Joe Biden’s proposed COVID relief bill includes a provision for a $1,400 stimulus check for single citizens earning $75,000 or less a year, and $2,800 to couples with a combined income of $150,000 or less.
Big Business is also stepping in to combat the wide-ranging effects of the pandemic. Companies in the service or retail industries are rewarding front-line workers for their work through these challenging times. For example, retailer Target gave its employees a $500 bonus early this year in addition to the higher wages it offered its hourly employees in the height of the pandemic.
Others are hoping to boost immunity rates in the US by incentivizing employees to get the vaccine. McDonald’s announced it would give each employee, at company-owned locations, four hours of pay if they choose to receive the vaccine. While the program isn’t mandatory, management hopes it will increase the number of vaccinated employees, in turn making the workplace safer for employees and customers alike.
Minimum Wage Hike in Australia
While Australia has been lauded for bringing relative normality to its shores, the pandemic has impacted workers across most sectors, particularly those in retail, fast food and warehouses. Many companies have cut their workers’ hours or let them go altogether, as retail stores were forced to close or operate under restricted hours.
These low-income workers will benefit from the minimum wage increase introduced on February 1st. The increase was delayed by seven months after Australia’s Fair Work Commission chose to stagger the 1.75% rise in response to the nation’s first recession in 30 years. The new rate covers retail, fast food and warehouse workers, but it also affects workers in arts and recreation, aviation and tourism—all industries hit hard by the pandemic. Hourly pay will increase to A$14.20 (US$10.90) for full-time workers.
Thailand Provides Pandemic Relief Package For Those in Need
Thailand has already provided economic relief to public sector employees; however, those working for private companies received no additional government help throughout the pandemic. To rectify that, Thailand’s Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has given the green light to an initiative that will provide 40 million baht ($1.3 million) to employees who were not covered in the previous programs. This will benefit nine million employees of private companies covered by Section 33 of the Social Security Act. Each employee will receive 1,000 baht (US$33) per week, capped at 3,500-4,500 baht (US$116-150), clearly indicating the country’s intent to aid those in need as a result of the pandemic.
The UK’s Furlough Scheme
The UK contended with not only the pandemic in 2020, but also the last chapter of its departure from the European Union. While both have been fraught with setbacks, the government’s furlough program, introduced specifically to help workers through the pandemic, is one of the best responses globally.
The government-funded program, which applies to employees, agency workers, those on zero-hours contracts and apprentices, allowed employers to offer their employees 80% of their salary, with the goal of eliminating as many job cuts as possible. The scheme was recently extended through April 2021.
In addition, the government mounted a monumental effort to vaccinate the most vulnerable people. More than 15 million people in the top four priority groups have received the vaccine as of February 15, just 10 weeks after vaccinations began. The UK has the third-highest rate of COVID-19 vaccination per capita globally after the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
While measures like these only scratch the surface of alleviating the financial and emotional pain borne out of the pandemic, they are a welcome development. One tough year later, we may be finally edging closer to normality.
About Elements Global Services:
Elements Global Services is an award-winning HR technology & services company. Elements provides employment solutions in over 160 countries – covering everything from payroll, benefits, HR, local compliance to visa & mobility. Headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, Elements has a global network of offices and employees delivering innovative solutions to its growing customer base. Elements’ Direct Employer of Record model helps companies expand, onboard, manage & pay employees worldwide. Visit elementsgs.com or LinkedIn for more information.