Walmart to raise starting wage, expand maternity and parental leave
Walmart is raising its starting wage for all hourly associates in the United States, handing out bonuses and expanding maternity and parental leave benefits — including providing financial assistance for adoption.
The nation’s largest private employer will increase the starting wage rate for its more than one million hourly associates in the United States to $11, and provide a one-time cash bonus for eligible associates ranging from $200 to up to $1,000. (Rival Target raised its minimum wage to $11 last fall.) The company said the changes partially motivated by anticipated savings from the new tax plan, which provides deep tax cuts to corporations.
The pay increase, which takes effect in the Feb. 17, 2018, pay cycle, is in addition to wage increases Walmart has already planned for many U.S. markets in the coming fiscal year.
The cash bonus will be provided to all eligible full and part-time hourly associates. The amount will be based on length of service. Associates with at least 20 years will qualify for $1,000.
This increase in wages will be approximately $300 million incremental to what was already included in next fiscal year’s plan. The one-time bonus represents an additional payment to associates of approximately $400 million in the current fiscal year, which ends Jan. 31, 2018. Walmart said a “discrete” one-time charge will be taken in the fourth quarter of the current year to account for the bonus.
Walmart is also expanding its parental and maternity leave policy, providing full-time hourly associates in the U.S. with 10 weeks of paid maternity leave and six weeks of paid parental leave. Salaried associates will also receive six weeks of paid parental leave.
The retailer will also provide financial assistance to associates adopting a child. The adoption benefit, available to both full-time hourly and salaried associates, will total $5,000 per child and may be used for expenses such as adoption agency fees, translation fees and legal or court costs.
“Today, we are building on investments we’ve been making in associates, in their wages and skills development,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO. “We are early in the stages of assessing the opportunities tax reform creates for us to invest in our customers and associates and to further strengthen our business, all of which should benefit our shareholders. However, some guiding themes are clear and consistent with how we’ve been investing — lower prices for customers, better wages and training for associates and investments in the future of our company, including in technology. Tax reform gives us the opportunity to be more competitive globally and to accelerate plans for the U.S.”
Walmart said it is early in the process of assessing potential additional investments.
“That assessment will be done not only through the lens of associates, customers and shareholders, but also within Walmart’s financial framework of strong, efficient growth, consistent operating discipline and strategic capital allocation,” the company stated.
Randy Noel elected NAHB chairman
Orlando — Randy Noel, a Louisiana-based custom home builder with more than 30 years of experience in the home building industry, has been elected as the 2018 chairman of the National Association of Home Association.
Noel founded Reve Inc., a custom home building firm in LaPlace, La., in 1985. His firm has developed more than 1,000 custom homes in the greater New Orleans area.
"This year, we will work with policymakers to reduce burdensome regulations that are holding back a more robust housing recovery and urge Congress to make comprehensive housing finance reform a top priority," Noel said. "We will also seek to build our membership and assure that NAHB remains the preeminent voice for housing on Capitol Hill."
Noel has been active in the NAHB leadership structure at the local, state and national levels throughout his career. A senior life director, he has served on the NAHB board of directors for more than 20 years and is a member of the NAHB executive board.
Noel served as president of the Home Builders Association of Greater New Orleans and the Louisiana Home Builders Association. He was named Builder of the Year by the HBA of Greater New Orleans in 1997 and was inducted into the Louisiana Builders Hall of Fame in 2008.
Availability, affordability sidelines potential homebuyers
Orlando — A lack of affordable, buildable lots and the scarcity of labor affected home production in 2017.
While starts increased by 9% compared to 2016, the characteristics of these new homes stayed largely the same, according to survey results from the National Association of Home Builders released at the International Builders' Show.
The average home size, at 2,622 sq. ft. in 2016, was essentially unchanged in 2017, averaging 2,627 sq. ft.
But housing availability and affordability remain a serious issue, and it's reflected in these findings, said Rose Quint, assistant VP of survey research for NAHB.
About 65% of those surveyed don't believe it's going to get any easier in 2018 while 79% of prospective buyers can only afford half the homes in their markets, Quint said.
“These potential buyers see a problem with housing availability," Quint said. "They know it's a tough nut to crack, but they are not deterred. They are still planning to buy a house in the next 12 months."
Homeowners are also staying in their homes longer than they used to — about 12 to 13 years, on average — and they are anxious to make changes, the NAHB said.
Mainstream buyers are much more likely to tackle do-it-yourself projects and make compromises, such as choosing cost over quality, to get results: brightly painted kitchen cabinets and big-box lighting solutions rather than custom installations. They place a premium on energy-efficiency improvements, likely because they live in older homes with outdated heating systems.
The "luxury" owner is looking at high-end outdoor fireplaces and furniture, a bathroom renovation that includes a spa shower or expansive, free-standing bathtub and a kitchen with all the bells and whistles, like built-in wine coolers and warming ovens.
Meanwhile, there is a potential market for "tiny houses." The NAHB survey found that 53% of respondents might consider purchasing a home of 600 sq. ft. or less in size — at some point in their lifetimes. More GenXers and millennials are open to the idea than baby boomers and seniors, NAHB said.