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North American Edition
11th June 2021
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Workplace safety rule on Covid risks is limited to health care
A rule announced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) detailing steps that employers must take to protect workers from the risk of Covid-19 will apply only to the health care sector and not to other high-risk workplaces, as had been originally suggested by the Biden administration. “The science tells us that health care workers, particularly those who come into regular contact with the virus, are most at risk at this point in the pandemic,” Labor Secretary Martin J. Walsh said. “So following an extensive review of the science and data, OSHA determined that a health care specific safety requirement will make the biggest impact.” Health care employers will be required to provide protective equipment, and screen and triage patients for the risk of the contagion, among other measures. Employers will also have to provide adequate paid time off for workers to receive vaccinations and manage any side-effects. Workers who are fully vaccinated will not be required to wear masks and practice social distancing.
Mining companies struggle to hire women
The male-dominated mining industry’s efforts to attract more female workers have fallen flat amid a lack of flexibility and incidents of harassment. Analysis of government and company data by the Wall Street Journal indicates that, over the past decade, increases in female workers have plateaued and even fallen back at some companies. Female workers and recruiters cite little flexibility in a job that can include months away from home at isolated sites, and other deterrents including a perception of a macho culture, and incidents of harassment. “You can’t just say, yes, diversity is good and we will just let it happen organically, because it won’t,” observes Amanda Lacaze, chief executive of Australia-listed Lynas Rare Earths. “We have seen that over many, many years.”
Compliance officers can lead on diversity
Compliance officers can play a leading role in pursuing diversity goals and risk management skills can help create a more inclusive workplace, reports the Wall Street Journal. Kellye Gordon, vice president of ethics and compliance and legal operations at apparel and footwear company VF Corporation, says a drive to increase diversity and inclusion at an organization can benefit from compliance officers’ skills in engaging with company leadership, building teams from the ground up, and establishing training and awareness programs. “It’s so important as a legal team and a compliance team to get involved. People listen to us; we have a voice to be heard on this topic,” said Ms. Gordon, who sponsors VF’s diversity and inclusion efforts in the legal department.

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Unemployment claims fall for sixth straight week
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell for the sixth straight week as the U.S. economy reopens rapidly after being held back for months by the coronavirus pandemic. Claims dropped to 376,000, from 385,000 a week earlier, the Labor Department said Thursday, down to the lowest level since the pandemic hit last spring.  Nearly 3.5m were receiving traditional state unemployment benefits the week of May 29th, down by 258,000 from 3.8m the week before. Last week’s drop in initial claims was led by Pennsylvania and California, which are keeping benefits in place until September.
California regulators withdraw controversial work mask rules
California’s workplace regulators have withdrawn a controversial pending mask protocol while they consider a rule that more closely aligns with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s promise that the state will fully reopen from the pandemic on Tuesday. The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board’s revised rule would have allowed workers to forego masks only if every employee in a room is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 - in contrast with a broader state plan to dispense with virtually all masking requirements for vaccinated people in alignment with the latest recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Withdrawing that worksite rule allows the board to consider changes at its June 17th meeting and potentially have them go into effect by the end of the month.
Goldman bankers ordered to report vaccine status before return to office
Goldman Sachs bankers in the U.S. have been ordered to disclose their Covid vaccine status ahead of a return to the office. While the firm has strongly encouraged employees to get vaccinated, a memo to staff said: "We understand that the choice to get vaccinated is a personal one." The bank went on to say that registering vaccination status would help plan for a safer return to the office.
Chipotle raises menu prices to cover wage increases
Chipotle Mexican Grill has hiked its menu prices by approximately 4% to cover the cost of raising its workers’ wages to an average of $15 per hour. Across the restaurant industry companies have been increasing hourly pay in a bid to attract new workers and retain their current ones. “It feels like the right thing, at the right time, and it feels like the industry is now going to have to either do something similar or play some kind of catch-up,” Chipotle finance chief Jack Hartung said Tuesday. “Otherwise you’ll just lose the staffing gain.” Chief executive Brian Niccol said the company prefers not to raise its prices, but added that the move made sense in this scenario.
Chronic shortage of workers in Eastern Europe
A chronic shortage of workers that pre-dates the coronavirus crisis could stymie future growth in Eastern Europe as a squeeze on labor precipitated by long-term emigration to Western Europe and a regional economic boom push up wages and inflation, reports Reuters. Employers in the manufacturing, information technology and construction sectors are seeking workers as investment and European Union funds flow in to the region. Eurostat methodology indicates three of the European Union's five lowest jobless rates in April, at 3.4% in the Czech Republic, 4.3% in Hungary and 3.1% in Poland. Meanwhile, inflation rates in these countries were three of the EU's four highest, including a 5.2% annual rate in Hungary and 5.1% in Poland. "Temporary demand-supply frictions due to the rapid restart of the domestic economy, (and) renewed tightening of labor market capacities expected in certain sectors combined with dynamic wage growth have increased inflation risks," the National Bank of Hungary observed after its May rate meeting. Andrzej Kaminski, an economist at Bank Millennium in Warsaw, said: "Labor shortages and the very hot labor market despite the pandemic is already reflected in inflation, and in Poland it can be seen in the prices of services. They are growing around 7% year-on-year and the pandemic does not slow it down much . . . Those labor shortages relate mainly to industry, manufacturing especially."
New law allows Saudi women to live alone
A new legislative amendment in Saudi Arabia allows unmarried, divorced or widowed women to reside in their own homes without the consent of their fathers or other male guardians. Paragraph B of article 169 of the ‘Law of Procedure before Sharia Courts,’ which specifies that an adult unmarried, divorced, or widowed woman must be given over to her male guardian, has been struck down by judicial authorities and replaced with a stipulation that “An adult woman has the right to choose where to live. A woman’s guardian can report her only if he has evidence proving she committed a crime.”
AG Garland makes tax leaks to ProPublica 'a priority'
Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Wednesday the investigation of who leaked reams of tax information about wealthy Americans to the ProPublica news organization will be a priority for him, calling the situation “astonishing.” In an appearance before the Senate Appropriations Committee, he described it as "an extremely serious matter," adding "People are entitled, obviously, to great privacy with respect to their tax returns.” ProPublica reported on Tuesday that it had obtained tax information covering more than 15 years that shows the richest Americans - including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, media titan Michael Bloomberg and investor Carl Icahn - paid little or no federal income taxes. The nonprofit news organization said it didn’t know the source of the information and didn’t solicit it.

The Human Times is designed to help you stay ahead, spark ideas and support innovation, learning and development in your organisation. The links under articles indicate original news sources. Some links lead directly to the source material. Others lead to paywalls where you may need a subscription. A third category are restricted by copyright rules. For reaction and insights on any stories covered in the Human Times, join the discussion by becoming a member of our LinkedIn Group or Business Page, or follow us on Twitter.

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