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What Can Employers Do When Employees Do Not Want to Return to Work?

While the pandemic slows and the country and state begin to return to normal operations, some companies are finding it difficult to hire enough workers. The United States added 850,000 jobs in June, per the latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As more jobs continue to be added, the worker shortage becomes more apparent. Some companies are having difficulty finding workers to fill all the vacant positions and to bring their businesses back to full operation. The hardest-hit industry seems to be hospitality, leaving many unfilled positions in restaurants, hotels, and other key places.

Why are Employees Unwilling to Return to Work?

There are likely many complex reasons that employees are hesitant to return to work. Some workers may be concerned about possible exposure to the virus, particularly those who are at high risk for complications or are unable to get the vaccine. Other workers are finding they have enough money with their unemployment or other benefits to continue to stay home. Some have found other work while others may find that the wages are not enough to convince them to return to work. Some workers who were unhappy with their jobs before the pandemic may be searching for different opportunities.

Employment at Will

It is helpful to understand that generally, Wisconsin provides for employment at-will. This means that either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time without having a reason. An employment contract is an exception, however. Therefore, if you have a contract with an employee, both you and the employee have obligations and requirements that should be clearly stated as part of the agreement. Other exceptions include termination on the basis of discrimination and due to whistleblowing actions. While you may not be able to force a worker to return, you may be able to hire new workers as replacements.

What Can Employers Do About a Lack of Workers?

A lack of workers can make it difficult or impossible to achieve business success. There are several things you can do to entice workers to join your team. Make sure that you have a safe workplace and that you have precautions in place to protect employees such as PPE and distancing guidelines. You can also encourage workers to get vaccinated. Offer some additional benefits to workers, such as additional vacation time or paid time off. Increase wages where possible. Some employers are offering sign-on bonuses for new employees.

Protect Your Company

A fluid workforce can make it more difficult to operate your business. Consider putting employment contracts in place that will ensure that new employees stay on board. Improve workplace human resource practices by utilizing strategies and programs that will help to stabilize the workforce. Offer bonuses or salary increases based on length of employment. Add perks that can be helpful to employees without causing too much stress to the bottom line. For example, restaurants may provide employees with free meals as an incentive in addition to their regular pay.

The rules regulating the workplace can be complex, and employers may want to seek legal guidance regarding their employment practices. To learn more, contact our legal team at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. online or by phone at (608) 784-8310 for a consultation.

Published July 16, 2021
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