Employee Financial Stress Can Impact Job Performance

Employees stressed out by financial problems could be suffering from lack of sleep and are more prone to depression, heart issues and substance abuse than those with low levels of stress, according to a new study. This anxiety can also impact the workplace in the form of lost productivity, heightened risk of on-the-job accidents and absenteeism.

Most employees worry about their personal finances, with 25% of those surveyed indicating high or overwhelming financial stress. About one-third were assessed as vulnerable to living beyond their means and having serious debt, according to this year’s Stress in America survey, commissioned by the American Psychological Association.

The survey found that:

  • Nine percent of millennial women under age 30 reported overwhelming financial stress compared to 5% of their male counterparts.
  • Lower-income males (making under $60,000 a year) were more likely than lower-income females to report no financial stress, at 13% versus 9%.
  • Women’s stress levels seem to be impacted by the presence of minor children in the household, with 11% of women with minor children reporting overwhelming levels of stress, compared to only 6% without children. Men’s stress levels seem to not be significantly impacted by the presence of minor children, as only 6% of men with children in their household reported overwhelming levels of financial stress, compared to 4% of men without children.

Treatment for financial stress is becoming more common in the workplace. According to a report by Aon Hewitt, 89% of employers are very or moderately likely to implement or expand programs to help employees better manage their money as part of their overall benefits package. The report finds that sleep programs, financial counseling and personal coaching can help stressed employees.

Issues resulting from financial stress include:
Infographic_StressReport

The Riskiest States for Employee Lawsuits

In 2014, U.S. companies had at least an 11.7% chance of having an employment charge filed against them, according to the new 2015 Hiscox Guide to Employee Lawsuits. The firm’s review of data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and its state counterparts found that the risk also varied notably by state, as local laws creating additional obligations—and risks—for employers led to charge rates up to 66% above average.

STATES WITH THE HIGHEST EMPLOYEE LAWSUIT RISK

State laws that are driving some of this increased employee charge activity include heightened anti-discrimination/fair employment practices, the use of E-Verify in the private sector, pregnancy accommodation, prohibitions on credit checks, and restrictions on inquiring about or requiring background checks.

Key state laws driving increased employee charge activity

These cases can be especially damaging for small- and mid-sized enterprises, with 19% of employment charges among SMEs resulting and defense and settlement costs averaging $125,000 and taking about 275 days to resolve. The average self-insured retention for these charges was $35,000, Hiscox found, and without employment practices liability insurance, these companies would have been out of pocket an extra $90,000. What’s more, 81% resulted in no insurance payout, giving even nuisance charges the potential to be a serious financial hit. While the majority do not end up in court, when they do, the median judgment is about $200,000, not including defense costs, and 25% of cases result in a judgment of $500,000 or more.

During the hiring process, written procedures that outline and comply with federal and state laws can help minimize risk, as can maintaining a customized employee handbook that all staff acknowledge in writing they have reviewed. In addition to risk transfer, such as an employment liability insurance policy, Hiscox offered several tips to best mitigate the risk of employment charges, including:

Independent contractors

Be careful when designating independent contractors. There are variations among states and areas of law as to the test for an independent contractor. It is possible for a worker to be considered an independent contractor for some purposes and an employee for others.

Leaves of absence and accommodation for disabilities

A medical condition can trigger federal and state leave and disability laws, which vary, as well as workers compensation laws. Make it a policy to recognize events or discussions that create an obligation to discuss accommodations or a possible leave of absence.

Employee performance

Ensure that all supervisors and managers are aware of the procedure for addressing unacceptable employee performance. Communicate to the employee about what they are doing (or not doing) that is unacceptable, and make sure they understand what constitutes acceptable performance. Document all communications. Conduct factual, honest performance evaluations. Develop and maintain a procedure for corrective action plans.

Termination

To minimize litigation around termination, avoid surprises. Make sure that all guidelines have been followed for addressing unsatisfactory performance, particularly the corrective action plan. Prior to termination, assess the risk for litigation: is the employee a member of a protected class, involved in protected labor activities, or a potential whistleblower? Is the employee under an express or implied-in-face employment contract? Gather and review the documentation that supports the termination and interview relevant players.

Lack of Skilled Workers a Challenge Facing Construction Industry

NASHVILLE—While a number of issues face the booming construction industry, one concern that has been discussed throughout the IRMI Construction Risk Conference here is the shortage of skilled workers. Projects are larger than ever, with technology and the global supply chain only adding to their complexity, making it even more difficult to find talent.

“The construction industry is absolutely in a war for talent,” said keynote speaker Dominic Casserley, chief executive officer of Willis Group Holdings. He cited a 2013 Willis survey that found 93% of respondents listed a “lack of skilled workers” as their biggest concern. He noted that many workers who left the construction industry during the financial crisis have since gained new skills in other areas and are not coming back.

An example, he said, is in his home, the United Kingdom, which decided in the last two years to return to building nuclear power stations. They had not done this for a number of decades and “quickly found that there were no engineers left. There was nobody capable of building a nuclear power station in the United Kingdom, so our new power station is being built by our great friends, the French. That’s what happens if you lose talent in an area of construction.”

Organizations are putting programs in place in the emerging markets to train talented resources “close to where the action is,” he said. Going forward, however, “We don’t see this challenge getting any easier.” Looking at millennials as a potential workforce, which represent 27% of the U.S. population, “you will see that they have some pretty interesting attitudes about work.”

Casserley noted that of millennials:

● four out of five feel they need to be recognized for their work and want regular feedback

● 72% would like to be their own boss

● 79% would like to have their boss serve as a coach or mentor

● 88% prefer a collaborative to a competitive work culture

● 88% want to integrate work and home life

● 74% want flexible work schedules

Asked how firms can bring millennials into their workforce and be flexible while still getting the job done, he said he views this as an opportunity for companies. “I think this is a very talented, aspirational, exciting generation. They are highly tech-savvy and have grown up in a global world.”

What employers will need to do, he said, is to “get their minds around how to harness that asset.” An interesting aspect about millennials, he noted, is their belief in having social value in what they do. “I can tell you, that for the generation entering the workforce today, that really matters. They want to work for a firm that means something to them so they can go home and feel proud of what they do.”

While all generations may feel this way, millennials are expressing it more openly. “And until you can get your mind around describing what [your industry] does and why it is important to the way the world goes around, I think we will struggle to attract and attain people, particularly that generation,” Casserley said, adding that if members of the industry don’t do this, “you are going to constantly lose people.”

Jack Gibson, president and CEO of the International Risk Management Institute (IRMI), agreed, noting that the construction industry is often viewed as a workplace where people are injured and the insurance industry is seen as a life insurance sales force. “Both industries do so much good, but we have not done a very good job of delivering that message,” he said. Gibson encouraged contractors to get involved in mentoring programs as well as the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF), which has contributed more than $18 million in local community grants and more than 155,000 hours of volunteer service.