Some companies have reportedly decided to foot the bill for their employees’ gas expenses as prices at the pump have surged to all-time highs in recent weeks.
Companies are implementing gasoline stipends or passing out gift cards in a bid to keep their workers happy in what remains an extremely tight labor market, the Wall Street Journal reported. The national unemployment rate is just 3.6% and millions of Americans are still quitting their jobs in search of better opportunities.
One such company, the retailer Driftwood Garden Center in Florida, started doling out $30 gas stipends for part-time workers and $50 stipends for full-time workers this year, CEO Craig Hazelett told the Wall Street Journal in a report published Friday.
The company also provided 20% to 30% raises for its workforce in April.
“We almost had to do it or we risk losing a lot of very good employees,” Hazelett told the outlet.
The national average price of gas is hovering near $5 per gallon – adding a major expense for commuters just as many employers are pushing their “return to office” plans following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prices are even higher in some states, such as California, where the statewide average has exploded north of $6.30 per gallon.
Chase Griffin, a commuter and employee at National Life Group in Dallas, Texas, told the Wall Street Journal that his company recently announced plans to provide workers with a $300 gas station gift card to help offset their expenses.
“Even though there were grumblings about having to go back to the office three days a week, it definitely lets me know they care about their employees,” Griffin told the outlet.
Companies are also adopting methods such as debit cards with preloaded monthly balances and partial coverage of the cost of work-related driving, according to the report. Others, such as Cosmetic Specialty Labs in Oklahoma, has told commuters that live a certain distance away that they can work from home an extra day per week.
The steep price of gasoline was a key driver of inflation that climbed 8.6% in May – the sharpest rate since 1981. The cost of gasoline climbed 48.7% in May compared to the same month one year earlier.
Gas prices are one of many considerations for employers facing the possibility of cutbacks in the event of a recession.
The Federal Reserve’s move to hike interest rates has prompted increased fears of a slowdown – with firms in the cryptocurrency and real estate sectors already slashing jobs to account for the difficult conditions.
Several banks, including Citigroup, have warned of a heightened risk of recession.
Evan Cohen, an executive at Quality Marble & Granite in Ontario, California told the Journal that his company has held off on providing gas benefits with the long-term goal of avoiding layoffs in mind.
“I’d love to give out money and bonuses all the time,” Cohen said. “More importantly, I want to make sure people have a job to come to.”