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What the best companies do for their hourly workers

Recently, I met a Miami cafeteria worker, a single mom, who earned an hourly wage. She was ecstatic when her boss let her take an hour off work, with pay, to see her son receive an award at his elementary school. Hourly workers tend to really appreciate any perk they get. Most get no paid time off.

Did you know that about half the workforce are hourly workers? About 75 million people. These workers typically lack the benefits of a salaried worker -- health insurance, sick and vacation pay, tuition assistance.

I love that Working Mother Magazine has devoted an issue to Best Companies for Hourly Workers. The editors set out to recognize companies that set high standards for  how to treat hourly workers. I spoke with Suzanne Riss, editor-in-chief of Working Mother Magazine, about whether companies feel they need to accommodate hourly workers. Riss finds it encouraging that in spite of the bad economy, some companies are committed to serving hourly workers and their families.

Suzanne Riss  
Riss says all of the winning companies all offer flexibility to hourly workers—a family-friendly benefit not commonly offered to lower-level employees and yet incredibly important. The best example, Riss says, is a company that allows employees to work with supervisors and schedule shifts around their needs, or allows them switch shifts when an emergency arises.

"By showing the best practices, we think we are encouraging companies to look at what their competitors are doing and do better," she says.

The winners are detailed Working Mother’s May issue 

Here are what they are doing that landed them on the list:

CCLC – Portland, Ore.

  • This early-learning company operates 112 child-care centers in 25 states.
  • Best Benefits: Rather than cut jobs, CCLC held staff meetings at centers where enrollment declined due to parent job loss and allowed staff to decide how to share available work hours.

Marriott International – Bethesda, Md.

  • With 119,359 employees, this renowned hospitality services company is a major international force.
  • Best Benefits: Marriott waived its 30 weekly hours requirement for health insurance in 2008 and will continue to do so through 2010. As a result, no hourly worker will lose coverage when business is slow.

McDonald’s USA – Oak Brook, Ill.

  • The home to the Golden Arches has 99,987 employees, 90 percent of whom are paid by the hour.
  • Best Benefits: McDonald’s USA launched “McDonald’s Practical Money Skills,” a set of bilingual money management tools, including budget worksheets, Web resources and videos, for hourly restaurant workers.

Sodexo – Gaithersburg, Md.

  • This food services and facilities management giant employs moms at 4,673 locations across the United States, including hospitals, schools, senior centers and military bases.
  • Best Benefits: Hourly workers can trade shift, use floating holidays and take unpaid leaves without penalty, which helps a globally diverse workforce visit home countries.

University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics – Madison, Wis.

  • This 471-bed academic medical center also features 80 outpatient clinics.
  • Best Benefits: The University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics offered free tax prep for low-wage employees in 2009.

UNM Hospitals – Albuquerque, N.M.

  • Hourly workers make up 92 percent of this academic medical center’s 5,561 employees.
  • Best Benefits: UNM Hospitals restructured its own health plan last year to cut premium costs by roughly half for single parents seeking coverage for themselves and their children.

Johnson & Johnson – New Brunswick, N.J.

  • The 124-year-old company makes sure that the nearly 12,000 men and women who fill its non-exempt jobs receive substantial benefits.
  • Best Benefits: Employees are eligible for family health insurance coverage after working just 19 hours a week and can tap free coaching programs that help them quit smoking, lose weight, manage stress and fight disease.


If your company does something worth bragging about, please share. If you believe companies feel no need to provide any perks to hourly workers, weigh in on that, too.