Parental leave, increased wages hot-button hotel workforce issues

The U.S. closed out 2015 with positive job creation numbers, generating 2.65 million new positions last year, according to a report released by Marcus & Millichap. This is slightly higher than the 2.5 million forecasted earlier in the year, and is the second-highest annual total in the current expansion cycle for job growth.

Service providers created the bulk of the new positions in December, adding 73,000 workers during the month, and trade employers added 31,000 positions during the same period.

These numbers make sense from the perspective of an industry that is only building more and more hotels. However, changes are not only coming to the size of the workforce but also to the policies that affect it.

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Hilton Worldwide started 2016 off with a new parental leave policy for all hourly and salaried team members at the company's owned and managed properties, as well as its corporate offices. Team members who have clocked in at least one year of service are subject to the new policy, which gives all new parents – including fathers and adoptive parents – two weeks of fully paid parental leave. In addition, new mothers who give birth receive an additional eight weeks of maternity leave.

This is a forward-thinking move from Hilton that is following national trends. An article by Fast Company highlighted a similar decision by New York City to give all city employees paid parental leave (sans 300,000 unionized workers who have to win arrangements of their own through collective bargaining). Washington, D.C. will enact a similar plan later this year, alongside Chicago, Boston, San Francisco and three other cities.

Marcus & Millichap's final look at 2015 also noted that the underemployment rate managed to stay just below 10 percent for the third consecutive month at 9.9 percent, the first time this has occurred since 2008. With more full-time workers in the industry and continued payroll increases, the debate on increased wages is expected to continue throughout this year. 

Santa Monica, Calif., however, is not waiting for further discussion. This week the city approved a wage increase to $15.37 per hour by 2017 for all city hotels. According to The Los Angeles Times, union employees under collective bargaining agreements are exempted from the increase, possibly to encourage employers to take on more unions. The new ordinance also requires employees at businesses with 26 or more workers to be able to accrue nine days of paid leave, while employees at smaller businesses can accrue five days, up from the state's mandatory three.