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North American Edition
25th January 2023
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Long COVID has taken a heavy toll on the U.S. workforce, report says
Long COVID has sidelined many American workers, according to The New York State Insurance Fund's analysis of workers' compensation claims, which found that the condition was preventing workers from returning to their jobs, or else they were going back but with symptoms that might affect their performance. Seventy-one per cent of claims for people with long COVID during the first two years of the pandemic stated they needed continuing medical treatment or were unable to work for at least six months. "Long COVID has harmed the workforce," the report's authors wrote. The findings "highlight long COVID as an under-appreciated yet important reason for the many unfilled jobs and declining labor participation rate in the economy, and they presage a possible reduction in productivity as employers feel the strains of an increasingly sick workforce."
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Tech layoffs hit DEI jobs hard
Bloomberg reports that big layoffs in the tech sector are hitting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) jobs hard, as employers that made promises to hire more underrepresented groups are reducing headcount in departments designed to achieve those goals. DEI professionals have lost their jobs in recent weeks at companies including Amazon, Meta, Twitter and Redfin, according to Bloomberg. Many said they expect their responsibilities will go to former colleagues who remain or to employee resource groups, which often don’t get compensated for that work. “I’m cautiously concerned — not that these roles will go to zero but that there will be a spike in ‘Swiss army knife’ type roles,” meaning more DEI professionals will be spread thinly as they assume additional job functions, said Textio CEO Kieran Snyder.
Will Ardern’s decision move the needle on workplace mental health?
The BBC’s Josie Cox wonders whether Jacinda Ardern’s announcement that she would stand down as New Zealand’s Prime Minister could encourage more action by employers on workplace mental health. Ardern on January 19th said that she no longer had enough “in the tank” to do her job justice after more than five years in office. She didn’t explicitly refer to burnout as the reason for her decision to quit politics, but the public and media have widely interpreted her resignation speech as a reference to it. “I believe her transparency and authenticity in communicating her decision to resign moves the discourse towards normalizing being human at work – at any level,” says Natasha Velikoselskiy, executive coach, organizational psychologist and adjunct assistant professor of business at Columbia Business School. But others don’t think that Ardern’s resignation will precipitate positive change. “[Arden speaking out] opens the conversation, but it won’t change the root cause of the issue,” explains Adela Hussain, a London-based management consultant and entrepreneur. “Most people overwork because they are influenced by their culture, social policy or poorly defined roles.”
U.S. corporate fraud may be greater than thought, study suggests
A study, led by Alexander Dyck, a finance professor at the University of Toronto, suggests U.S. corporate fraud, “like an iceberg,” may be greater than thought. The research found that only about a third of frauds in public companies are ever identified, and that fraudulent activity is more common than previously assumed. About 40% of companies are committing accounting violations and 10% are committing securities fraud, destroying 1.6% of equity value each year — equivalent to about $830bn in 2021. “Fraud is indeed like an iceberg, with significant undetected fraud beneath the surface,” the study says. Reuters notes that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has stepped up its enforcement of fraudulent activity. In the agency's 2022 report on enforcement actions, the regulator filed 760 enforcement actions and recovered a record $6.4bn in penalties and disgorgement, a 9% increase over the prior year, and included 462 new, or “stand alone,” enforcement actions, a 6.5% increase over fiscal year 2021. “The SEC’s stand-alone enforcement actions in fiscal year 2022 ran the gamut of conduct, from ‘first-of-their-kind’ actions to cases charging traditional securities law violations,” the agency said.
Walmart raises starting pay for hourly workers
Walmart is raising its starting wages for store workers to a range of $14-$19 an hour, up from $12-$18 an hour, at a time when the market remains tight for frontline retail staff. Rivals, including Amazon and Target, have a $15 hourly minimum wage, while Costco’s minimum is even higher. Walmart’s changes, the latest in a series of increases by the company to close the gap with rivals, will push its average hourly wages to over $17.50. In a memo to staff, John Furner, Walmart's chief executive of U.S. operations, said the increase was meant “to ensure we have attractive pay in the markets we operate”. The move would immediately affect about 340,000 of the company’s 1.3m frontline hourly workers in stores across the United States. Mr Furner also said Walmart is creating new, higher-paying team lead jobs at its automobile-care centers. The company is elevating tech positions at the centers to a higher pay scale “that reflects the special skills needed for the role and its importance to our business".
Dollar Tree to be led by former Dollar General CEO
Dollar Tree is replacing chief executive Michael Witynski, who has helmed the company since July 2020, with executive chairman Richard Dreiling, who served as CEO of rival Dollar General from 2008 to 2015. Dollar Tree has shaken up its executive ranks in recent times, with activist investor Mantle Ridge pushing the retailer to make improvements to its Family Dollar chain and its pricing strategy. 
Lego to move from Connecticut to Boston
The Lego Group is to move its North American headquarters from Enfield, Connecticut, to Boston, Massachusetts, by the end of 2026. Skip Kodak, president of the Lego Group in the Americas, said: "Boston is ranked one of the best cities in the world to attract and retain talent . . . This, along with its world-class academic institutions, skilled workforce and great quality of life makes it an ideal location for our U.S. head office." Lego has about 740 full-time employees in the Connecticut office. All of them will have a role at the Boston office and receive help for relocation if they want to make the move, which will happen in phases starting in mid-2025 and be completed by the end of 2026, the company said. Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said she looks forward to supporting the company as it joins "our mission to become the most family-friendly city in the country."
3M to cut 2,500 manufacturing jobs as consumer demand slows
Industrial giant 3M has announced plans to cut 2,500 manufacturing jobs worldwide as it predicts last year’s fourth quarter slowdown will persist through the first half of this year. The company, which has been battling with higher labor and energy costs, said it would continue to adjust its manufacturing levels and maintain spending discipline until sales volumes bounce back following slowing demand for consumer and electronic items.
Hudson's Bay to shed 2% of corporate workforce
Hudson's Bay Co. is laying off 2% of its corporate workforce, estimated to be about 250 employees, largely within Canada. The company says the layoffs will impact corporate roles at The Bay and Hudson's Bay, the retailer's online and brick-and-mortar operations, respectively. Spokesperson Tiffany Bourre said the changes come as the retail sector navigates “significant external pressures", adding that the company is “re-aligning its strategic priorities and increasing efficiencies within its operations".
S.F. middle school faces complaint over 'staffing chaos'
Civil rights law firm Public Advocates has filed a complaint against San Francisco USD over the “staffing chaos” at Marina Middle School, describing the conditions as the worst they’ve seen in over 20 years. A staffing shortage has left the school with several vacancies, including English, Mandarin immersion and special education teachers, according to the complaint, while teachers on long-term leave have left classrooms with a string of substitutes because labor agreements prevent the district from filling the positions with permanent replacements. District officials said they were reviewing the complaint, but noted that the San Francisco public schools see several hundred teacher vacancies every year that must be filled out of about 3,500 teaching positions. “Marina is experiencing staffing vacancies consistent with other schools and we have been actively working to fill vacant positions,” said spokesperson Laura Dudnick. “We have qualified candidates in the pipeline who we hope to hire to fill most of the vacancies at Marina soon.”
Israeli tech workers protest against planned judicial reform
Hundreds of tech workers in Israel held a one-hour strike on Tuesday to protest the government's plans to overhaul the judicial system. Many Israeli companies and organisations gave permission for their employees to attend demonstrations held around the country. “Without democracy, there is no high tech” and “No freedom, no, high tech” read some of the signs held by the striking workers. “It's not every day that we see high-tech men and women, and many more from the private sector, who pause their work to wave a warning flag together because our democracy is in danger. And if democracy is in danger, the economy is in danger,” said Yinon Costica, co-founder of Israeli software giant Wix, who spoke at the protest. “Our concern is the trust of foreign investors, foreign clients and foreign workers,” he said, adding “That same trust that was built with great labor can very easily fade away because of one very bad piece of legislation that overrides the courts.” Companies that allowed their workers to join the protest against the contentious legislative changes advanced by Justice Minister Yariv Levin included Lemonade, Natural Intelligence, Redis, HoneyBook and Forter.
U.K. 'menopause leave' trial is rejected by ministers
U.K. government ministers have rejected a proposal to introduce "menopause leave" pilots in England, arguing it could be "counterproductive," and have also dismissed a recommendation to make menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act. In July 2022, the Women and Equalities Committee published a report which warned that the impact of menopause was causing the U.K. economy to "haemorrhage talent," and said a lack of support was pushing women out of work. In its response to the report, the government rejected outright five of the committee's 12 proposals, including a recommendation for the government to work with a large public sector employer to "develop and pilot a specific menopause leave policy." Conservative lawmaker Caroline Nokes criticized the government response to the Women and Equalities Committee, which she chairs.  “This is a missed opportunity,” said Nokes in a letter to the Minister for Women Maria Caulfield. “The evidence to our inquiry was crystal clear that urgent action was needed across healthcare and work settings to properly address women's needs, yet government progress has been glacial and its response complacent.”
Northern Europeans move to Malaga to work remotely
People are moving from northern Europe to the Spanish city of Malaga and its surrounding area amid a change in lifestyle and working habits since the pandemic, according to Spanish homebuilding companies. Neinor Homes said about 40% of young people taking on long-term rents in the city since they launched a rental division in 2020 were from overseas. That compares with almost no international customers elsewhere in Spain. Property purchases by foreigners increased by 62% from a year earlier in the region of Andalusia, which includes Malaga, in the first half of 2022, according to the Centre for Statistical Information of Notaries. Malaga's town council said a platform launched in February 2021 to help so-called digital nomads had received more than 160,000 visits by the end of 2022.

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