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When we talk about the key issues facing today’s businesses, it’s easy to use traditional work models as a framework to make sense of the trends at play.


But the world of work has changed significantly in recent years, and as HR leaders know, understanding the current landscape is key to building programs that retain employees and build empathetic, profitable businesses.

Hourly workers can be overlooked or seen as less of a priority in that traditional framework, yet this group represents a significant portion of the workforce that deserves attention. Last year in the United States, 81.9 million workers age 16 and older were paid at hourly rates, representing 58.5% of all wage and salary workers. Of this group, 1.7 million workers, or 2.1%, had wages at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.

Examining the reality of the life situations of hourly employees simply helps to strengthen employee-employer relations and demonstrate empathy. Hourly workers are an incredibly diverse group, but a few prevailing trends help give shape to their experiences:

  • A majority of hourly workers are under 30. Today, 71% of hourly workers are under the age of 30. While it seems logical that this proportion is made up of high schoolers with their first jobs, the data says differently. Nearly 40% of hourly workers are underemployed, suggesting that they have the ability to work more—in other words, are not in school—yet don’t have the opportunity to close the gap.
  • Healthcare coverage and availability is limited. In a survey of hourly workers, 20% receive no perks or benefits, compared with 10% of salaried workers. A lack of coverage has been found to drive emergency department usage in place of regular health check-ups to maintain good health—a practice that is a known factor in increasing American health care costs.
  • Lack of workplace flexibility has an impact. With hours tied to compensation, hourly employees can face more issues than salaried employees when it comes to balancing work and additional obligations. For example, finding childcare that is affordable and flexible—for say, when a child is sick, or school is closed—can be a great strain on workers’ ability to show up regularly and in the mindset to do great work.

This complicated environment poses questions to empathetic employers about how to represent these workers fairly in everything from compensation to benefits to workplace culture. Here are strategies to give your hourly workers a sense of financial well-being and overall security:

  • Offer resources based on employee demographics. Understanding the demographics of your hourly workers will help you offer benefits that will be impactful and efficient. For example, knowing that your hourly workers consist largely of recent college grads might suggest the need for programs related to student loan debt, such as financial counseling or structured savings plans.
  • Consider voluntary benefits. The financial realities of offering full healthcare benefits to all employees is daunting for many employers. However, voluntary benefits can provide an optional service without requiring a prohibitive level of investment. Telemedicine services, for example, are a reasonable way to reduce hourly workers’ reliance on emergency departments. Offering employees access to on-demand services for smaller concerns can help save them from untenable hospital bills down the line.
  • Remain committed to transparent scheduling. Posting employees’ schedules in a timely manner can mean the difference between showing empathy and not. We recommend providing employee schedules a month in advance. This practice can help employees to build childcare, doctor visits, and commute time into their schedules and reduce the stress they feel when starting the workday.

Interested in learning more about how you can support employee financial well-being? Understanding their needs is the first step. Learn more below. 

Financial survey guide

View all Posts by Rae Shanahan