Tuesday, 25 July 2017 22:47

Disruptive New Labor Laws: Coming Soon To A Contact Center Near You?

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In November of 2016, voters in Arizona approved Proposition 206 to boost the state’s minimum wage and require employers to provide paid sick time.  Called the Healthy Working Family Initiative, the proposition calls for the minimum wage to gradually grow from the minimum wage in 2016 to $12 per hour by 2020.  In addition, employers with fewer than 15 employees must provide each employee 24 hours of paid sick time each year.  Employers with 15 or more employees must provide each employee 40 hours of paid sick time each year.

At first glance, this does not sound unreasonable but the catch comes with how the sick time can be used by employees. Proposition 206 defines the conditions under which this sick time can be used to include physical or mental illness, family member illness, a public health emergency, domestic violence, sexual violence or stalking.

So why is this new labor law and others like it potentially disruptive? The problem is, the employer can’t question, challenge or take any performance action on any employee for absenteeism until those 24 or 40 hours of paid sick time have been used. And since employees can use sick leave for any number of reasons, there is the possibility of abuse. For example, an employee could call in sick every Monday for five weeks and the employer cannot question the employee’s motives or take any corrective action on behalf of the contact center. It is only after these 40 hours are used can an employer take any action regarding questionable absenteeism.

Similarly, an employee who might be running late or maybe just overslept can simply call in and use an hour or two of sick time to avoid corrective or punitive action. Management can’t act in any way against this employee.

In a production environment, such as a contact center, this new law is a concern for obvious reasons. This is not to suggest that most contact center employees are out to game the system. Just the opposite, in fact. I still believe that most employees want to do a good job and take advantage of the careers that the customer service profession offers. But there will always be those who will take unfair advantage of well-intentioned aspects of labor laws such as Arizona Proposition 206. This is where the challenge may lie. Making it easy for an agent to be absent for any period of time will make it difficult to schedule adequate coverage for workforce management analysts.

I could be completely wrong about this, but I believe it’s worth carefully watching the impact of Proposition 206 on the Arizona contact center industry. In the meantime, it might be a good idea for contact center executives in other states to start considering management strategies should a similar labor law pass in own their state.

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