California lawmaker floats ’right to disconnect’ bill, McKinsey pays employees to look for new jobs

Plus, United asks pilots to take voluntary unpaid leave.

Greetings, comms pros! Let’s take a look at a few news stories from the last week and see what we can learn from them.

1 . California legislator drafts ‘right to disconnect’ law for employees

Ever gotten an email or phone call when you’re off the clock that got on your nerves? If one California lawmaker gets his way, they’ll be a thing of the past in the Golden State. Introduced by Assemblymember Matt Haney, the bill seeks to protect employees from potential consequences if they don’t answer calls or emails after hours.

According to CBS News:

It would require both public and private employers to create a workplace policy that allows employees to ignore employer (sp) during their off time. Non-working hours would need to be established by a written agreement. If there is a violation, employees could file a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner, which would be punishable by a fine.

“They just need to have a policy on it about when people are working and when they are not,” Haney said. “It shouldn’t be that hard and the problem right now is the murkiness and the gray area can lead people to feel that they need to be on 24/7.

Whether or not this bill becomes law, it’s an interesting potential legal precedent for better workplace culture. Allowing people to leave their work at the end of the day is one of the most talked about benefits of proper work-life balance.

Are there times when an emergency pops up and you might have to take a call after hours? Sure. But regulations like this aim to make that the exception, not the rule. If more employers follow this sort of rule, they’re more likely to have employees who want to stay at a given organization.

2. McKinsey offers to pay its employees to find work elsewhere

Everybody knows how stressful the job hunt can be. But what if your current employer helped you find your future one? McKinsey is doing just that for some of its workers, providing certain employees with nine paid months to find a new job, along with career services. The offer is in effect at McKinsey’s UK offices, with a similar program at the company’s American outposts.

According to Quartz:

A McKinsey spokesperson told Quartz that McKinsey’s core mission is to help its employees “grow into leaders, whether they stay at McKinsey or continue their careers elsewhere” and that the actions are part of an “ongoing effort to ensure our performance management and development approach is as effective as possible, and to do so in a caring and supportive way.”

This is an apparent expansion of the firm’s “counseled to leave” approach, a practice reserved for underperforming employees wherein the company keeps the staffer off of client projects and recommends they look for a new employer.

There are far worse ways to let an employee go than this, that’s for sure. The fact that McKinsey aims to not just leave employees in the lurch on the way out the door is something commendable. Looking for a new job is one of the hardest parts of anyone’s career journey, and it’s made doubly stressful if someone is out of work. McKinsey helping people transition into new roles elsewhere while still supporting employees’ overall career journeys, is a reminder that it thinks differently about the employee journey than other firms—and ultimately a win for its employer brand.

3. United asks pilots to take unpaid leave after Boeing upheaval

We’ve written a lot about Boeing’s recent issues in the public sphere — now those problems pose direct impacts on employees at other companies. Due to problems with Boeing deliveries, United pilots were asked to take a voluntary unpaid period this May.

According to CNN:

Because of the delivery delay, “our forecasted block hours for 2024 have been reduced and we are offering our pilots voluntary programs for the month of May to reduce excess staffing,” United Airlines said in a statement Monday. It also comes as the industry warns of a mass pilot shortage, as the workforce begins to age out after widespread furloughs during Covid-19.

The voluntary programs could possibly extend into summer and fall, the memo said. The offer means the company will still pay some benefits while the pilot is out.

Although United does clearly outline the business reasons for this move, it’s ambiguous timeline is less than ideal, as is the message’s lack of clarity on next steps. But it does teach that a crisis for your business  partners  can directly impact on your organization and employees. In our increasingly interconnected world, internal comms should keep up with potential risks from partners on the supply chain, too.

Additionally, asking people to step away from their roles and not paying them to do so cedes the narrative and puts pilots in a position to push back. Sure, the program is voluntary for now, but what happens if not enough people take that unpaid period? How does that change things? There are a lot of unanswered questions here, and they would be best answered through a dedicated, owned FAQ resource page that was also visible to those outside the Air Line Pilots Association union.

4. How about some good news?

Have a great weekend comms all-stars!

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.

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