Survey Says: HR Managers Take Varied Approach to COVID-19

Survey Says: HR Managers Take Varied Approach to COVID-19

June 16, 2020 by Angela Splinter

Every employer across the country is feeling the impact of COVID-19 in its own unique way. But for HR professionals at truck fleets and logistics companies, they all have one challenge in common: making sure workers and especially truck drivers feel safe and secure in their jobs.

Trucking HR recently surveyed carriers, 3PLs, and freight brokers about the measures they have taken since the pandemic came to Canada and what they plan to do in the next three to six months. Let’s take a look:

Layoffs

Seventy-six percent of the employers we surveyed said they have laid off workers due to COVID-19, with 83% of those layoffs categorized as temporary. Layoffs of truck drivers were more prevalent in the short-haul segment and among employed drivers than contractors or owner-operators.

Dispatchers and mechanics were also affected, with 10% of employees laid off in each occupation.

Notably, employers that have already laid off workers said they are more likely to continue doing so over the next three to six months.

Employee-initiated departures

According to our survey, the most common reasons for leaves of absence and other types of employee-initiated departures were self-quarantine; the employee or a member of the household is at a high risk of contracting COVID-19; and family caregiving. Each reason was evenly cited among employers.

The combination of layoffs and employee-initiated departures reduced total truck driver employment across our sample by 11.4%.

Of particular concern to HR professionals is whether these employees have left temporarily or if we have lost them for good.

Reduced compensation

Not surprisingly, many employers have cut worker pay due to declining revenue. Roughly one in four employers in our survey have frozen salaries or wages for truck drivers. This measure was more common among companies transporting non-essential goods (31%) than those transporting essential items (15%).

Pay increases have been rare—13% of survey respondents said they are paying workers a premium due to COVID-19. Others are offering non-monetary rewards including flextime, child-care, and time off.

Another 15% of employers said they have provided truck drivers with monetary rewards such as gift cards.

Improving the image

The million-dollar question for our industry is this: has COVID-19 changed the stigma around working in the trucking and logistics sector?

The views are mixed.

On one hand, employers are divided about whether COVID-19 has made the job of truck driving more or less appealing.

While 35% of employers expect truck driving to be more attractive to prospective employees relative to pre-COVID, 23% believe the job will be less attractive, citing the attention brought to dismal working conditions and wages.

On the other hand, 29% of employers believe that COVID-19 has made trucking and logistics somewhat or much more attractive to other types of prospective employees (excluding truck drivers). This compares to only 4% who believe the attractiveness of the sector has declined for these potential employees.

Challenges ahead

It is interesting to compare these finding to another Trucking HR Canada study done in partnership with Abacus data where 54% of Canadians overall had a positive impression of trucking companies.

The Abacus study also showed that 85% of Canadians think a strong trucking sector is necessary for the economy to be healthy.

Yet barriers remain.

Despite the recognition brought to truck drivers for their essential role in keeping supply chains moving, people are still not rushing to join the industry. Just 35% of Canadians between the ages of 18 and 35 said they would consider a job in trucking and logistics.

And when we look at the huge government relief programs available, namely the Canadian emergency wage subsidy (CEWS), our survey of employers showed that among employers that have not applied for CEWS, the vast majority (85%) have not experienced the eligible revenue reduction to qualify for the subsidy.

At a time when trucking and logistics companies are working hard to survive, they are also essential to the survival of their customers. We cannot lose sight of the fact that our industry needs a level playing field when it comes to accessing government programs and initiatives for employees.

We have seen what supply chains look like when Canada is in the middle of a health crisis. We need a financially strong and resilient transportation industry so HR professionals can keep their truck drivers safe and prepared for the challenges ahead.

 

Dollars and Sense

October 22, 2019 by Angela Splinter

Everyone wants to be paid well and paid fairly. And employers want to be competitive with their compensation. It’s good business to make sure what you’re offering is up to date, on trend, and able to both meet the needs of your workers and attract your next generation of employees.

Let’s look at three things to consider:

Hourly pay

Last year the demand for freight services significantly outpaced the supply of qualified drivers, which in turn put strong pressure on wages. Our latest labour market information research shows significant changes in compensation for truck drivers in 2018, often involving double-digit percentage increases.

To attract prospective drivers, there seems to be a shift away from mileage pay toward hourly pay, especially in the long-haul segment. While this approach would require some operational changes, employers are noting that hourly pay is easier for younger workers to understand and makes it simpler to calculate overtime pay for truck drivers.

Total compensation

Total compensation refers to the overall value of what you are offering your employees in both direct and indirect benefits. Direct benefits include wages or salary, while indirect benefits include bonuses, vacation days, allowances for tuition and training, uniform allowances, and other items not reflected on a paycheque.

It’s important to identify everything you offer and to communicate them to your staff, especially your drivers. In a market where drivers frequently compare pay packages, your ability to clearly explain the total compensation you offer will help them make informed decisions before jumping ship – and to accurately explain their pay and benefits to drivers in their “grapevine.”

Our website has templates that can assist here. If you are not currently providing total rewards statements to your employees, this is something you may want to look at.

It’s important to identify everything you offer and to communicate them to your staff, especially your drivers.

Tailored benefits

There are numerous ways you can shape your benefits package to the needs of your workers. The most important step is to engage employees in this conversation so you can identify things that matter most to them and incorporate them into a tailored pay package.

One example is a focus on financial wellness. With a large percentage of the trucking workforce nearing retirement, this is a real concern for a lot of workers. A recent survey by the Canadian Payroll Association shows that 43% of workers are so financially stressed that their performance suffers.

Including financial wellness in an overall benefits plan can not only make your offering more competitive, it will genuinely help employees’ peace of mind while also improving productivity.

Communication

Your employees need to know – and understand – their compensation package. Through effective onboarding, regular staff meetings, or through the various channels you use to communicate with your employees, make sure your employees are informed.

Clearly articulating and explaining in detail the total value of employment to employees could be a deciding factor in whether they stay with you or leave. And in a labour market where employees are focused on their bottom dollar, it just makes sense that you do everything you can to make them stay.

TOOL: Template for an Employee ‘Total Rewards’ Statement

What You Should Know about the New Federal and Provincial Labour Standards

Posted on June 12, 2018 by Shelley Brown

Within the last year there have been significant initiatives involving federal and provincial employment standards legislation. As a reminder, in July 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada finally resolved the controversy over termination without cause under the Canada Labour Code.

The trucking industry must take note of these changes as they provide protections against discipline or termination in retribution against employees who exercise these rights. Failure to implement these changes will inevitably result in legal and monetary consequences.

Here’s what you should know:

Federal Level

In 2017 the government passed Bill C-44 which amended the Employment Insurance (EI) scheme to allow parents of newborns to elect payment of their EI benefits over the course of an 18-month parental leave of absence. In Budget 2018, the government also announced the impending introduction of a “lose it or leave it” approach to parental leave for the second parent of a child. This is likely to have significant impact on the trucking and logistics industry as more employees may take additional leave.

Also, in Wilson v. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the Supreme Court definitively held that after 12 months of employment an employee can only be terminated for cause. Employees who believe they have been fired without cause can file a complaint under the Canada Labour Code within 90 days to review the dismissal.

Provincial Level

Several new provincial initiatives, in particular, directly affect scheduling and staffing in the trucking industry:

Ontario: Last year the province passed Bill 148 which, in addition to increasing the minimum wage, introduced important changes in three areas: equal pay for equal work, on-call entitlements and leaves of absence.

The new rules state that compensation must reflect the work being done and not the status of the employee. In other words, subject to certain exceptions, part-time workers, seasonal workers or casual workers must be paid at the same level as full-time workers for the same work. On-call workers who are not called to work under certain conditions are entitled to a minimum of three hours of pay.

Bill 148 also introduced enhancements to Maternity/Paternity leave, Family Medical Leave, Personal Emergency Leave and Crime-Related Death of a Child. In addition, an employer can request, but not insist upon, a doctor’s note.

Alberta: Bill 17, which came into effect on Jan. 1, reduces the eligibility time for unpaid leaves from one year to three months and extends Compassionate Care Leave from eight weeks to 27. It also introduced new leaves of absence, such as: Personal and Family Responsibility (five days); Long Term Illness (16 weeks); Bereavement (three days); Domestic Violence (10 days); and Child’s Critical Illness (36 weeks).

British Columbia: On April 9, British Columbia tabled legislation that would allow for 18 months of maternity leave, in harmony with federal provisions. It also introduced the following leaves of absence: Compassionate Care Leave for terminally ill family members (27 weeks); Death of a Child (104 weeks); and Child Missing as a Result of Crime (52 weeks).

Finding and retaining good employees is a constant challenge, but HR managers also have the task of making sure their companies adhere to the standards for managing the people you employ. Breaking the rules can have financial and legal consequences but also hurt your reputation as a good, fair employer. Be sure to watch this space for further updates.

Disclaimer: This post is informational and does not constitute legal advice. A lawyer should always be consulted.
By Shelley Brian Brown B.C.L., LL.B., LL.M. Employment Lawyer, Steinberg, Title, Hope and Israel LLP
[email protected]