Jan. 01--To describe one of the biggest workplace trends for 2013, a tweet might suffice.
Twitter in 2013 cemented its role as the place to get a first glance at business news or other workplace developments. From CEOs to sports stars to everyday folk, if it happened, it usually was found on Twitter first.
Like pointing your smartphone to a QR code, clicking on many tweets gave links to more useful information, whether it was a corporate regime change, an award announcement or simply insight -- wanted or not -- into someone's thoughts.
The message maelstrom also brewed more business for attorneys, human resource and marketing leaders, and anyone else concerned with online reputations in the wild, wild west of cyberspace.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, employee health insurance plans grabbed a major share of attention. Insurance companies, brokers, business owners and executives, along with employees themselves, wrestled with the changing environment.
The Jan. 1, 2014, effective date for the biggest component of the Affordable Care Act (the individual coverage mandate) caused even more jockeying than usual during annual review and renewal of employee health plans.
A decade-old trend -- shifting more of the insurance cost to employees in the form of higher deductibles, higher premiums and higher copays -- continued. And employers continued to cite fear of rising health costs as a reason to hold the line on hiring.
The stutter-stepping startup of Obamacare brought about a delay, to 2015, for an employer responsibility. The Obama administration authorized a one-year moratorium on the requirement that employers with more than 50 employees offer a health insurance plan to all full-time employees, defined as those who work at least 30 hours a week.
Health insurance also factored into workplace-related news for many retirees. More big companies, such as Time Warner and IBM, acted on the trend to move retirees off their company health plans.
For many workers, especially those employed by the federal government and government contractors, a 21-day period in September and October was the biggest workplace event of the year. Congressional failure to agree on a federal budget caused a partial government shutdown that furloughed "non-essential" employees.
Eventual resolution of the budget impasse gave furloughed employees their retroactive pay. But Standard & Poor's estimated the shutdown cost at $25 billion in lost economic activity, including suspended travel plans by national park visitors.
For many low-wage workers, especially those in the fast-food industry and those employed at Wal-Mart, 2013 was marked by protest. Walkouts and wage-related lawsuits occurred around the country.
In Kansas City and elsewhere, worker advocacy and economic justice organizations joined fast-food workers to rally for higher wages and the right to unionize. Nationally, the call for $15 an hour didn't resonate in many lower cost-of-living locations, but participating employees made it clear that they weren't getting enough hours or enough hourly pay for a living wage.
Overall, the slowly improving national economy caused the unemployment rate to slip about a full percentage point, from 7.9 percent in January to 7 percent in November, seasonally adjusted. The year-end and December data will be out later in January.
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