U.S. BENEFITS COSTS STAGGERING
— American employers paid an average of (CDN) $7,400 per covered employee for health care insurance benefits in 2001, a more than 10 per cent increase from the year before according to the Employment Policy Foundation. It was the first time in more than a decade that increases were in the double digits, and it may become too much for employers to sustain. Health-care insurance benefits made up six per cent of total employee compensation last year, but represent 19 per cent of the total increase in compensation costs for private-sector employers.
EMPLOYER TAKES BIG HIT FOR STRESS
— New Zealand employers are being warned to take serious steps to reduce stress in the workplace after a landmark legal decision. A former probation officer was awarded $444,000 for having to retire 14 years early because of heart problems caused by work-related stress. New laws are expected to reinforce the court’s position that stress is a hazard employers must recognize.
AGE DISCRIMINATION LEGAL
— Employers can discriminate against older workers when it comes to some benefits, according to a recent decision by the California Surpreme Court. Age can’t be a factor in hiring or firing decisions, but state law allows employers to consider age when giving benefits. A 56-year old employee of Union Oil Co., was told he was too old for the company to invest in when they refused to pay for his master’s degree tuition, although the firm subsidizes the tuition of younger workers.
JAPANESE UNIONS ON DEFENSIVE
— Japanese unions are abandoning their usual demands for an across-the-board basic wage increase. The move reflects a prolonged recession and record high unemployment of five per cent. The historic move could have wide-ranging effects on Japan’s wage system. Some unions have asked for job-security arrangements in exchange for a freeze on basic wages, but Japanese management is cool to the idea.