While major combat in Iraq has ended, U.S. employers still are affected by the
large numbers of their employees who have been called to active duty as National
Guard members and Reservists. A new survey from Mercer Human Resource Consulting
looks at the impact of these call-ups on employers, as well as employer practices
regarding compensation and benefits for these members of the military.
Mercer's web-based survey, conducted in late March and early April, includes
responses from 201 employers across the country. The survey found considerable
variation in military leave and pay policies, beyond what is mandated by the
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA).
Findings of Mercer's survey include the following:
- The military call-ups have had virtually no effect on the executive ranks
of the responding companies and minimal effect on management employees. The
employee group most affected was professional/technical employees, followed
by nonexempt clerical/technician and nonunion hourly employees.
- In light of the current situation in Iraq, more than one-third of the companies
surveyed (37 percent) changed their pay practice for military leave by increasing
pay provided under current military leave plans for those called to active
duty. The majority of companies (62 percent) made no recent changes to their
military pay practices.
- Most of the companies surveyed (68 percent) pay reservists the difference
between their civilian and military pay while on active duty status. However,
23 percent provide no pay to reservists on active duty. A small minority (8
percent) provides full civilian pay in addition to any military pay.
- Of the companies surveyed, one-fifth (21 percent) provide eight weeks or
less of pay for military leave. At the other extreme, 46 percent provide pay
for a year or more, including 27 percent who provide military leave pay for
an unlimited amount of time.
- Employers take many different approaches to providing medical benefits coverage
for reservists and their families. The most popular approach, used by 40 percent
of the respondents, is to continue the employer-sponsored coverage at existing
levels/contributions indefinitely. About one-quarter (27 percent) allow reservists
to maintain existing coverage through COBRA, and 5 percent terminate employer
coverage upon the reservist's eligibility for TRICARE, the health benefits
program provided by the US government to military members and their families.
The remainder (27 percent) take other approaches, such as allowing the continuation
of employer-sponsored coverage for a limited amount of time (e.g., 180 days)
before switching to COBRA or TRICARE coverage.
- Military call-ups have created many staffing vacancies and shortages among
US employers. Most (69 percent) have responded by increasing overtime for
remaining workers or redistributing the workloads of absent employees, while
others (21 percent) are hiring temporary workers to fill the vacancies. The
remainder (10 percent) say they are using a combination of these approaches.
- Employers are providing a range of special support services to families
and work groups affected by the military call-ups. Common actions include
information hotlines (an action taken by 19 percent of the responding companies),
loans to Reservists' families (11 percent), and transportation, education,
and housing assistance (6 percent). Other actions include support groups,
care packages, and special efforts by company-sponsored employee assistance
programs (EAPs) to serve the needs of military families.