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16th June 2021
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PwC to invest $12bn on hiring spree
PwC has announced it is planning to invest $12bn and hire 100,000 new employees in areas including artificial intelligence and cybersecurity by 2026. The new appointments will see the Big Four accounting firm increase its global workforce of currently 284,000 by more than one third. PwC expects its staff count to exceed 384,000 five years from now, making up for any attrition with additional hiring. Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner at PwC, said the investments are aimed at better advising companies that face increasing scrutiny from investors on issues such as data privacy, diversity and sustainability. In 2019, PwC said it would invest $3bn on technology and employee training over four years, part of which is being rolled into the new plan. Mr. Ryan said the firm intends to hire more experienced personnel in areas such as environmental, social and governance issues and offer new products that feature artificial intelligence and machine learning. PwC also is considering acquiring other companies to expand certain capabilities, for example climate-risk assessments, Mr. Ryan added.

The Elephant in the Room - Firing an Employee
Very often, firing is the last resort in dealing with a problem employee. When you've exhausted other approaches or they've done something for which there's no turning back, you're left with no other choice. It's not easy or fun, but it's a necessary part of business. In this guide written by employment attorney Kate Bischoff, UKG and The Human Times share tips on how to appropriately handle termination so you can avoid a legal fallout or a negative impact to team morale. 
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Office workers slow to return to the workplace
Despite people returning to restaurants, stores and hotels, office employees have yet to return to the workplace. According to Kastle Systems, which monitors access-card swipes in more than 2,500 office buildings in cities across the U.S., fewer than three out of 10 white-collar employees were working at the office on average in 10 major U.S. cities, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Kastle said that as of last week, an average of 31% of office workers had returned to the workspaces they occupied before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wall Street Journal notes that the  number of employees who are back in the office has been inching up since vaccines began rolling out in the U.S. but in some cases, employees have pushed back on their employers’ requests to return. In others, companies are waiting until the fall—when vaccinations will be even more widespread and schools will be in session—to more widely reopen offices.
Shuttered factories receive second life
The New York Times considers whether a second life could be on the horizon for North Carolina's shuttered factories. Former cotton mills, which provide hundreds of jobs for locals, are being redeveloped into vibrant mixed-use complexes for work and play. The projects have been designed to connect struggling regions to a new economy based on technology, information and innovation. Now, with the rise of remote work, developers are betting that the factories’ beauty and sense of history, packaged with a roster of community activities, will give them a way to lure young talent. Christopher Chung, the chief executive of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, said: "A lot of these communities have the best chance they’ve had in a while to recruit individuals to take advantage of much more affordable housing prices and the other amenities that are there. This seems like a unique moment to realize the gains.”
Bill to ban employer vaccine mandates inches ahead
Pennsylvania's state House saw a ban on employers mandating vaccines for their workers inch ahead Tuesday with a committee vote supported by all Republicans and opposed by every Democrat. The main sponsor, Rep. Russ Diamond, R-Lebanon, called it “a very simple question of workers' rights.” Labor and Industry Committee Chairman Jim Cox, R-Berks, said lawmakers were responding to increasing reports that employers are requiring vaccines, forcing some workers to choose between the vaccine or losing a job. The bill would let workers or prospective workers avoid workplace mandated vaccinations by putting into writing that their doctor has concerns it might harm their health; that they have religious or “strong moral or ethical” convictions against a vaccine; that they already had COVID-19; or that they are concerned because it has not been fully approved by federal regulators. “At the end of the day you cannot force an individual to take an experimental vaccine,” said Rep. Barb Gleim, R-Cumberland. Pennsylvanians with religious and medical concerns can opt out of vaccinations, said Rep. Pam Snyder, D-Washington, noting that hospital and business groups oppose the bill.
Rise in impersonal online interviews
The Chicago Tribune looks at how an increasing number of job-seekers may soon have to accept impersonal online interviews where they never talk to another human being, or know if behind-the-scenes artificial-intelligence systems are influencing hiring decisions. During the COVID-19 pandemic demand for online hiring services, which interview job applicants remotely via laptop or phone, mushroomed and remains high amid a perceived worker shortage as the economy opens back up. However, experts are questioning whether  machines can accurately and fairly judge a person’s character traits and emotional signals. It is thought that algorithms tasked to learn who’s the best fit for a job can entrench bias if they’re taking cues from industries where racial and gender disparities are already prevalent. Furthermore, when a computer screens out some candidates and elevates others without explanation, it’s harder to know if it’s making fair assessments. 
U.S. military look to expand diversity in the ranks
U.S. Naval Special Warfare Command leaders are developing programs to seek out recruits from more diverse regions of the country. Army leaders have been doing some of the same things. Lt. Gen. Fran Beaudette, head of Army Special Operations Command, said they have loosened some restrictions on who can try out for special forces units — which included requirements on the amount of time in the service or in rank a soldier had done. And the Army has created new, specialized teams to better reach out to more diverse populations.
Starbucks names company veteran as new COO
Starbucks has named company veteran John Culver as its new chief operating officer and North American group president. Mr Culver, who has been with the company since 2002, succeeds Roz Brewer, who left earlier this year to become chief executive of Walgreens Boots Alliance. Prior to his new role, Mr Culver served as Starbucks’ group president of international, channel development and global coffee, tea and cocoa. In that role, he oversaw Starbucks’ cafes across 58 international markets and its consumer packaged goods products.
NBA star takes stake, board seat in Saks
Three-time NBA scoring champion James Harden is a new investor in luxury retailer Saks. The Brooklyn Nets guard has purchased a minority stake and will become a member of the Saks’ board, where he’ll advise on growing “high-potential consumer brands” and help expand its e-commerce platform. Mr. Harden has previously made investments in beverage company BodyArmor, personal hygiene company Art of Sport, and Major League Soccer’s and the National Women’s Soccer League’s Houston franchises.
Ikea fined by French court over spy campaign
Ikea has been ordered by a French court to pay more than €1m in fines and damages over a campaign to spy on union representatives, employees and some unhappy customers in France. Two former Ikea France executives were convicted and fined over the scheme and given suspended prison sentences. Among the other 13 defendants in the high-profile trial, some were acquitted and others given suspended sentences. The panel of judges found that Ikea's French subsidiary used espionage to sift out trouble-makers in the ranks and profile squabbling customers between 2009 and 2012. Trade unions accused Ikea France of collecting personal data by fraudulent means, notably via illegally obtained police files, and illicitly disclosing personal information. Lawyers for Ikea France denied that the company had any strategy of “generalised espionage.” Jean-François Paris, the executive who was in charge of risk management at the time of the spying, acknowledged to French judges that €530,000 to €630,000 a year were earmarked for such investigations. Paris – the only official to have admitted to the alleged illegal sleuthing – said his department was responsible for handling the operation on orders from former Ikea France CEO Jean-Louis Baillot.
U.K. Chancellor not expected to alter furlough scheme
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is not expected to alter or extend the wage subsidy furlough programme, despite the end date of lockdown being pushed back. From 1 July employers will have to contribute 10% of a furloughed employee’s wages, while the taxpayer picks up the other 70%. Nigel Morris, employment tax director at MHA MacIntyre Hudson, comments: “The Chancellor ought to adapt the wind-down of the furlough scheme in light of the delay to Freedom Day in order to save jobs and livelihoods”. He suggested Mr Sunak does not need to change the end date of the furlough scheme, but should keep the rate of Government contributions at 80%.

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