Monthly Archives: February 2013

Minimum wage on the climb!

Exciting news for all of you struggling to make ends meet – the government has proudly announced an increase in the minimum wage is set to take place from April 1st.  Woohoo! 25 cents more an hour!  This takes our minimum wage from $13.50 to $13.75 an hour.  That’s a $2 increase per day, and workers will earn around $10 more a week.  This is before tax.  Can our lowest paid workers afford to live off an income of $550 (pre-tax) a week?

There are thousands of real people, doing real work with real responsibilities in our communities such as caregivers, security guards and cleaners to name a few.  These people have families to feed and bills to pay, purely for survival.  But what if they wish to go on a holiday, pay for a child’s school camp or dabble in a bit of Wellington’s culture? Maybe for people in minimum responsibility jobs, some might view $13.75 as a fair representation of their efforts.  When making a comparison to the UK minimum wage of £6.19, our $13.75 doesn’t look so bad. But Australia dishes out a grand $15.95, or a minimum of $606.40 per week.  No wonder so many young Kiwis are heading over the ditch.

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And the governments excuse for this pitiful increase? Labour Minister Simon Bridges claims our wage rates represent “a careful balance between protecting low paid workers and ensuring jobs are not lost as the economic recovery gains pace.”  Thus, we must consider reality. In a utopian world all employers would have the funds to comply with minimum wage requirements, no matter the economic situation. This seems to be the belief of writers of an independent report prepared for Service and Food workers union.  This report published two weeks ago identified $18.40 as a suitable ‘living wage’.  Wouldn’t this be amazing!  That’s an extra $186 per week – now that would be something to get excited about!  But in this economy, with job losses being a regular occurrence, this prospect is unfortunately out of reach.  Still, workers and employers need to stay positive.  25cents is better than nothing. And if recent trends are anything to go by, the minimum wage should continue its climb, taking you along for the ride.

And for all you employees on minimum wage, remember:

  • The harder you work, no matter what the pay, the more respect you will gain in and around the workplace;
  • A positive attitude goes a long way; and
  • Keep communication lines open between you and your employer.  If you are struggling to make ends meet, discuss your options openly.

Employers paying minimum wages, take note:

  • Most employees on minimum wage live from payday to payday.  If you want your employees to feel valued, offer them something special like concert tickets or a voucher for excellent performance.  Take a little time to show interest in your employees and keep them motivated.
  • If money is tight, simply praising employees on their performance creates a positive work environment.  
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Mmmmmmmmm

Mmmmmmmmm

Just another day at the office battling Valentines Day eager beavers to bring BuckettLaw chocolates to you. Lovers of all things chocolatey watch this space.

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Are We Killing Our Workers?

During one of the many, many, “How was your Christmas/ New Years/ isn’t this weather fantastic” chats that are par for the course in January, a friend muttered that she had the sneaky suspicion that work was getting in the way of her real life. I thought, you’ve got a point there, Sheryl*. Sadly, the New Zealand Government doesn’t agree with me.

Kiwis.. we think of ourselves as No. 8 wire innovators, Everest conquerers. We pride ourselves on our open-mindedness, our relaxed approach to life. Yet, in reality, we are dragging the chain behind the rest of the world when it comes to our work/life balance and the cracks are starting to show.

Everyone's favourite  Everest conqueror. Sir Edmund Hillary

Everyone’s favourite Everest conqueror. Sir Edmund Hillary

Despite advice from the powers that be (Aunty Helen and the UN), the New Zealand Government is sticking to its guns, refusing to introduce legislation to limit the number of hours the humble Kiwi can work per week. In doing so, we’re falling behind the rest of the world with workplaces that are stuck in the dark ages of arbitrary hours, set days and places, while others move towards flex-time (or less time) and a results-based approach.

On average we Kiwis work bloody hard, 1724 hours a year according to OECD figures. That’s 175 more hours than the Danes, 86 more than those in the UK and a whopping 380 than the Germans. While no one could accuse the Germans of being lazy, they’re sitting pretty with around 9 weeks more holiday than your average Kiwi.

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So what’s it all in aid of? Health? Wealth? Happiness? There’s evidence a plenty to show that this isn’t the case. In fact, that ‘work hard play hard’ attitude can get us into hot water and we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to research to back it up.

You wouldn’t think it if you wandered onto New Zealand immigrations website. It lures off-shorers to our land of ‘easy living’ with “If you’re looking for a more balanced lifestyle, you’ll find New Zealand’s got the recipe just right.” Do we.. really?

A recent study in the journal PLoS ONE shows that people that work more than 11 hours a day have a more-than-doubled risk of a major depressive episode, compared with people who work the more-standard seven to eight hours a day.

drunk worker

Another from Otago University links long hours to alcohol addiction. The study found that those who worked a 50+ hour work week were three times more likely to take to the bottle.

The daily (and nightly) grind is taking a toll. A survey of nearly 1500 kiwis, released by Hudson Recruitment this week, showed that 41.6% of employees were feeling more stressed than a year ago and 77% were shouldering more responsibility and working longer hours.

And those findings join a host of others suggesting a link between clocking serious hours and heart disease, heart attacks, higher blood pressure, lower life expectancy.

sleep-deprivation_main

If that wasn’t enough reason for you to rethink burning the midnight oil at the office consider the added extras- sitting all day is linked to a higher likelihood of developing a chronic disease such as diabetes.

Lack of sleep is also a kicker and can lead (to name but a few) to decreased memory, increased weight gain, a higher chance of having a car accident, diabetes, irritability, serious cardiovascular health problems, and possibly cancer (no  biggy). According to The National Sleep Foundation we should be shooting for at least 7-9 hours. So get home, keep work out of the bedroom and get some decent shuteye.

We’re burning out our employees, the long hours+ill-health combination also means lost labour in the long-term and higher medical costs for employers, the government and you ( the tax-payer).

man-sleeping

But doesn’t working harder make you richer? Nope.. it turns out productivity fuels wealth, not hours worked. Hence why so many companies overseas are turning to flexible approaches (more on that next week).

While the hours=results mentality works for robots in a production line, surely we’ve moved on. Germany (the powerhouse of the EU) and their extra 9 weeks holiday proves this if nothing else.

In the corporate world, staying at work late amongst the underlings is almost a competitive sport; does it change the work output? Invariably, no. people can only pump out so much good work a day, outside of this is when mistakes occur. These mistakes can be dangerous. A recent study of hospital interns found that young doctors who worked longer shifts made almost 36 percent more serious mistakes, like giving the wrong dose or the wrong medicine altogether to patients.

businessman_on_the_beachBut why not just work hard, play hard? (Says the Government) To that I say, what use is the working if you don’t have the time or energy to do the playing? And where’s this work-life balance recipe you speak of?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating the life of a sloth, but ask yourself.. is work getting in the way of your life?

10 hours plus.. it’s not healthy, it’s not making us wealthy.. go on workaholics, go home, have dinner with your family, sleep for eight hours, take that holiday… maybe one day we will be as powerful as the Germans.

** names have been changed to protect anonymity

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