Fewer Employers Plan to Offer Workers Fuel-Price Relief

Employees shouldn't expect employers to help out with gas-price spike.

Employers won't be as generous as they were the last time gas prices reached $4 a gallon, predicts John Challenger, CEO of consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

When gas prices peaked at a national average of $4.12 a gallon in 2008, many employers helped workers offset higher commuting costs through shorter work weeks, increased telecommuting and transportation subsidies.

But companies are now focused on rebuilding efforts in the post-recession economy, Challenger said.

During the 2008 price surge, 57% of human resource executives surveyed by Challenger, Gray & Christmas said their companies offer some type of program designed to alleviate increased commuting costs. The most common incentive was shortening the work week into four 10-hour days.

Although no new survey data is available, Challenger says he believes employers are less likely at this stage of the recovery to do anything that would increase their costs or possibly disrupt fragile customer relationships.

"In this environment, employers would be reluctant to cut a day from the work schedule," Challenger said. "Even if the hours are the same by condensing 40-hours over four days, the loss of a day when customers and prospective customers might need service is too much to risk at this point in the recovery. Telecommuting is also less likely to be increased in this environment. Despite data showing that telecommuters are just as if not more productive, many companies are in an 'all-hands-on-deck' mode and want their employees on site to handle fires as they arise."

Workers might adjust by taking public transportation or biking to work, Challenger said. But few people will leave their jobs for employment closer to home because they're just happy to be employed, Challenger said.

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