Make sure employees’ online shopping is safe; US workers have fewer guaranteed benefits

By Tali Arbel, AP
Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Secure Web shopping; US trails in worker benefits

ONLINE SHOPPING SAFETY: Whether businesses like it or not, online shopping is increasingly prevalent at work, surveys show, and comprise a growing chunk of American retailers’ sales. So experts say businesses need to protect their computers from viruses, spam and other problems associated with e-commerce.

Surveys by the National Retail Federation, CareerBuilder and Accountemps suggest anywhere from one-fifth to one-half of U.S. office workers will be browsing retail Web sites this holiday season.

How can businesses protect their computers from viruses and “phishing” that can destroy corporate data and result in hours of productive time lost as problems are fixed? The Better Business Bureau, National Cyber Security Alliance and information-technology trade group ISACA have some tips:

— Computer users need to have the most recent antivirus, anti-spyware and spam filters installed. Update the programs before beginning to shop.

— Make sure employees know how to verify the authenticity and safety of a retailer’s Web site. The browser’s status bar should show a closed padlock, and the beginning of the site’s address should switch from “http” to “shttp” or “https” when the site asks a shopper to provide credit-card information upon checkout.

— Make sure employees use desktop computers, not work-issued smart phones, to shop. The computers are likelier to be more secure.

US WORKERS GUARANTEED LESS: Workers in many of the world’s countries have government-guaranteed paid sick leave, family leave and other benefits U.S. workers don’t, a recent study says.

The report by McGill University and Harvard University researchers looked at family friendly policies in 190 countries that belong to the United Nations. Of the countries analyzed, 163 guaranteed paid sick leave, 177 paid maternity leave and 74 paid paternity leave. More than half the countries provide between 75 to 100 percent of normal wages for employees on sick and maternity leaves — for at least the initial part of the time off.

The U.S. federal government doesn’t guarantee those benefits for employees, the study says, and the entitlements are not universal. According to the National Partnership for Women & Families, 57 million U.S. workers have no paid sick leave, for example, and New Jersey, Washington and California are the only states where paid maternity or paternity leave are offered.

Meanwhile, a focus on 15 of the most “competitive” countries as determined by the World Economic Forum found that ensuring comprehensive benefits such as paid sick days and paid maternity and paternity leave didn’t hinder economic competitiveness in those countries.

Of the 15 “highly competitive” countries, the U.S. is the only one that doesn’t require paid sick leave for employees. The other countries include Australia, Austria, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.

Meanwhile, 13 of those countries guaranteed paid maternity leave — the U.S. and Australia did not; and 12 provided paid paternity leave — the U.S., Australia and Switzerland did not.

Jody Heymann and Alison Earle, the authors, said that more than two-thirds of the world’s 30 richest countries with the lowest unemployment rates have pushed through legislation ensuring paid leave and other wellness benefits.

“The argument has been made that the U.S. can’t afford to do this,” Heymann said. “These data should really lay to rest this question of whether (paid leave) is affordable.”

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