We’re living in unprecedented times, and it’s often in unprecedented times that our biggest flaws are on display for all to see. When it comes to workers around the world, there’s one major flaw that has been exposed by this global pandemic – and it’s the fact that far too many workers rely on overtime pay to cover their bills, payments, and debts.
Sure, we’re all well aware that the global economy has essentially come to a standstill, and only now, months after the first reported cases began to emerge outside of Wuhan, China, has the economy begin to show some signs of recovery. But with that said, it isn’t necessarily the loss of wages that have hurt workers, it’s something else. Now, this isn’t to say that the loss of wages hasn’t been detrimental for those around the world because it has. However, many governments have put in place some emergency safeguards to ensure that their citizens, who have been forced into a position without some (or all) of their pay, have the financial resources necessary to continue paying their bills.
But the real issue lies within the pay structure, specifically, in overtime pay. In fact, there are a number of professions out there who rely on overtime pay and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, workers simply aren’t able to take advantage of the massive and profitable overtime incentives that they’d normally be banking on as a significant portion of their income. In this article, we’re going to take a look at the different ways in which this problem is being addressed or precipitated throughout the world.
Struggles In The US
While most businesses have been forced to close, there are a number of businesses and organizations that have been deemed “essential.” In other words, these businesses must remain open because they provide essential services like food or medical care. With that said, for those employees who simply aren’t considered “essential workers,” they might simply have to wait it out in terms of overtime pay.
But for those essential workers like food delivery drivers and homecare workers, there are some questions surrounding their ability to access the overtime pay that they depend on. However, the rules in the US regarding overtime pay are quite simple. For food delivery drivers and other delivery workers, they should be entitled to overtime pay in most instances. In other words, as long as they’re working more than 40 hours per week, they’re entitled to overtime pay (time and one half) under state and federal guidelines.
For homecare workers, it’s much the same, provided they work for an agency and are able to adequately prove that they’ve worked more than 40 hours in a given workweek.
It Isn’t Always That Simple
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has disrupted virtually every aspect of the economy, and now, in the US, access to overtime pay during these unprecedented times simply isn’t that simple. In June, the New York State Department of Labor, the Department of Health, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and a number of other state agencies received a formal grievance filed against them for their failure to pay their workers for overtime hours worked during the pandemic.
Not only were workers either not paid overtime at all, or received a lower overtime wage than usually received, “workers claim to have been told on short notice to adjust their schedules to avoid overtime pay.” And while it’s safe to say that New York State – along with a number of other US states – are on the brink of economic collapse due to the pandemic, it seems like these department agencies were doing everything in their power to avoid paying their workers overtime. Not to mention, many of these workers were forced to continue working since they’ve been deemed “essential.” And yet, apparently they aren’t essential enough to receive their due overtime protections and benefits.
Elsewhere In The US
Outside of New York, even though the pandemic may not be as widespread in some of the rural farmland that makes up much of the mid-western states in the US, workers are still struggling tremendously. For instance, this month, farmers and farm workers in the state of Washington have formally requested that the State Supreme Court grant them access to overtime pay.
According to this article from NPR, “coronavirus cases in farm country have focused new attention on essential workers there, as well as the food supply chain. One issue is overtime. In most states, farm owners don’t have to pay overtime to their employees. Now, a case before the Washington State Supreme Court could change that.”
The argument to be made here is that farm workers are working longer and more strenuous hours than prior to the pandemic simply because of the massive worry surrounding the global supply chain of food. It’s important to remember that it isn’t just the US that benefits from the rich farmland in the country – the rest of the world does too. And with that in mind, these workers believe they should be entitled to overtime pay, since they are considered “essential,” and are working extra hours to meet the current demand.
This is certainly an interesting predicament, and one that will likely come up in other nations around the world. It’s clear to see that workers are struggling, and they’re certainly seeking the overtime wages that they deserve. However, is it fair to place all the blame on the businesses that are also struggling to make ends meet without much in the way of federal support?
It’s an important question to contemplate, and something to consider as the rest of the world continues to emerge from the pandemic. The US continues to lag behind the rest of the world in terms of its recovery, and it’ll be critical to see what happens to its workers.
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