Finding employees in a post-pandemic world
By Casey Bowden Ogletree Deakins
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Finding employees in a post-pandemic world

One of the biggest issues facing employers in a post-pandemic world is the battle to find qualified employees. There are many reasons employers are struggling to find employees but there also are many things they can do to fill their open positions and keep employees once they are in the door.

Unemployment benefits. One thing blamed for the struggle to hire new employees is enhanced federal unemployment benefits. In addition to regular state unemployment amounts, unemployed persons are currently eligible to receive an additional $300 per week in unemployment income through Sept. 6, 2021. To combat this issue, 25 states — all lead by Republican governors — have chosen to stop federal enhanced unemployment early. In the 25 states, enhanced unemployment benefits ended between June 12, 2021, and July 10, 2021. Unemployed people in these states are now only eligible for regular state unemployment and only if their individual benefit period has not expired. The goal of ending federal enhanced unemployment early in these states is to encourage unemployed persons to return to the workforce sooner, rather than later.

In addition to stopping enhanced federal unemployment benefits, Arizona, Montana, New Hampshire and Oklahoma will offer additional monetary incentives for individuals to return to work.

  • Arizona will offer eligible full-time workers a “$2,000 Back To Work bonus” to encourage “as many Arizonans as possible to rejoin the workforce by Labor Day, Sept. 6, 2021.” The order also provides a smaller bonus for individuals who get part-time work and “child care support, educational opportunities and rental assistance” to incentivize Arizonans to return to the workforce.
  • Montana offered “a one-time $1,200 bonus payment” to “individuals with an active unemployment claim as of May 4, 2021.” To be eligible, individuals must have done all of the following — discontinued receiving unemployment insurance benefits, accepted an offer of employment in any industry in Montana and completed at least four full weeks of paid employment.
  • New Hampshire has created a $10 million program that will provide a bonus to currently unemployed persons who return to work for at least eight weeks. The bonus, which is immediately available, will provide $1,000 for full-time work and $500 for part-time work “on a first come, first served basis” to those workers who will make $25 per hour or less and complete eight consecutive weeks of employment with the same employer.
  • Oklahoma’s $1,200 “Return to Work Incentive” will be offered to the first 20,000 Oklahomans currently receiving unemployment benefits who return to the workforce.

Employers should be aware of these additional benefits offered to unemployed persons. Employers may use the monetary benefits from the state as part of their recruitment efforts.

Work with your state unemployment department to find employees. Every unemployment agency across the country has a department devoted to reemployment. Employers should ensure their job postings are listed with their unemployment agency. The agency can then assist with matching the unemployed with open positions. Most state agencies also regularly host job fairs to help people get back to work.

Use the ARA Job Board. The American Rental Association (ARA) launched the ARA Job Board in April as a place to drive job seekers the association attracts to its RentalWorks website, ARArentalworks.com, or a future job fair. ARA members have the ability to post five free job postings on the site, which has partnered with CareerBuilder, state and local job boards, and Google and Facebook jobs. All jobs posted also are pushed out to the military.com job board and to schools ARA has developed relationships with. For more about the ARA Job Board and the associations efforts related to workforce development, see the story on Page 28.

Safe workplace. It also is imperative that employers continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) guidelines for a safe workplace. Current and potential employees need to feel safe, generally, and from coronavirus (COVID-19), in order to return to work. If you, as employer, are not transparent regarding your safety protocols, it will be harder to hire in today’s competitive environment.

Competitive salaries, benefits and hiring incentives. A growing number of businesses — large and small — across the country are offering incentives to lure new employees. Many business owners who are trying to hire are finding themselves unsuccessful. As a result, businesses are offering higher wages or hiring incentives. Some owners are offering signing and/or “show up” bonuses for workers who agree to take the job and actually show up for work. In addition, employers are offering incentives to current employees who provide successful referrals that turn into an employee hire.

Industries, like the event rental industry, who were hit hard by the pandemic may wonder how to pay for any such incentive. One option is to consider hiring employees who will allow the company to then collect a tax incentive. The tax credit income could then be used to fund the incentive. For example, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal tax credit available to employers who hire and retain individuals from target groups with significant employment barriers — e.g., veterans, ex-felons, etc. Employers can claim up to $9,600 per employee in tax credits per year under the WOTC program. In addition, there is no set limit to the number of individuals an employer can hire in order to claim the tax credit. While there are criteria that should be understood related to qualifications for the WOTC program, the program targets the hiring of:

  • Veterans
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • (SNAP) recipients
  • Designated community residents living in empowerment zones or rural renewal counties
  • Vocational rehabilitation referrals
  • Ex-felons
  • Supplemental security income recipients
  • Summer youth employees living in empowerment zones.

Employers also are getting creative, offering incentives and benefits that are not just monetary. They include creating pet-friendly environments, collaborating with charities to set up financial assistance and planning for employees, offering childcare or tutoring benefits for children and flexible workhours to name a few. In today’s market, it is all about being a place a person wants to work.

Flexibility and work-life balance. According to recent surveys, one in three U.S. workers does not want to work for an employer that requires them to be on-site full time, even after the pandemic is over. Further, nearly half of current employees say they will likely look for another job if their current employer does not offer a hybrid workplace. The reasons for the demand for flexibility is far-reaching. People learned to work from home during the pandemic and like it better than an office environment. In addition, 18 percent of unemployed persons still cite ongoing childcare issues as a barrier to returning to work. As a result, employers should be open to flexibility and engaging in work-life balance strategies when possible.

The labor market is incredibly tight as we emerge from the pandemic. Labor shortages are expected to continue, at least for the near future. As a result, employers must be creative in their hiring strategies and be open to hiring from pools of candidates not previously considered.

This article is provided by Ogletree Deakins, Atlanta, a legal firm with an HR focus. The American Rental Association (ARA) recently partnered with Ogletree Deakins to provide human resources help and guidance to ARA members. Learn more online at ARArental.org/manage-business/HR.

Casey BowdenCasey Bowden

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