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The Rising Costs Of Inflation: Can Employers Become Superheroes To Help Employees Combat Ever-Increasing Prices?

In February 2018, Marvel Studios’ Black Panther, starring the late, great Chadwick Boseman, grossed approximately $1.344 billion at the worldwide box office, making it one of the highest-grossing superhero films of all time. It was recently announced that the sequel, Black Panther:  Wakanda Forever, will be released next month on November 11, 2022.

employees inflation
A scene from Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Courtesy of Marvel Studios)

Tickets went on sale starting October 3, which is also the same day Marvel released the official trailer.  The new trailer is spectacular, and offers an intriguing insight into the film.

As Marvel confirmed that the role of T’Challa, the king of Wakanda (a.k.a. “Black Panther”) who was played by Boseman, would not be recast, the trailer gives insight into how Wakanda will prepare to face a world without their beloved king. I am thrilled about the film’s upcoming release, and I, for one, will certainly be purchasing my tickets early. 

Indeed, there’s nothing like a great superhero film. I have 3 kiddos, 15-year-old twin boys and a 9-year-old daughter. It’s not hard to imagine that at times, we all have very different preferences when it comes to picking a movie for our Friday family movie nights. However, a classic superhero movie is something we all tend to agree upon. Why is that?

Is it because after my teenage twin boys, who love action-packed films, have debated with my mermaid- and unicorn-loving daughter for 10 minutes, they all realize that their pizzas are getting cold and their drinks are getting warm and they’re all too exhausted to debate any longer? Or is there more?

What is it about superhero movies that is so appealing? Perhaps part of the appeal is our innate attraction for strong figures who help those in need. The Cambridge Dictionary defines a superhero as “someone who has done something very brave to help someone else.” In these uncertain economic times, perhaps employees could use a “superhero” in a sense.

Let’s face it: The cost of everything seems to be ever increasing, while the size of items seems to be ever decreasing. In fact, this has become known colloquially as “shrinkflation,” and if you’ve noticed that your portion sizes at restaurants or the packaging in grocery stores appears to be getting smaller while the prices are getting higher, you’re not alone. Even gas prices, which are, on average, less than they were last month, are still higher than they were this time last year. 

So what can employers do?  There may be some simple ways employers can help employees tackle ever-rising costs.

Flexible Work Schedules

Flexible work schedules permit employees to have a certain degree of control over their day-to-day schedule, allowing them to choose the working hours that best suit their needs. For example, employers may offer employees the ability to choose their working hours in a given day or provide employees with a range of hours from which they can choose. Offering flexible work schedules may save employees money in child care and transportation while decreasing turnover rates for employers.

Hybrid or Remote Work Options

Offering hybrid or remote work options is another way employers can help employees save money.  Similar to flexible work schedules, hybrid or remote work potentially saves employees money in childcare and transportation, along with clothing expenses and decreased spending on food. 

Financial Wellness Programs

Financial wellness programs are designed to help employees better manage their finances and reduce financial worries. There are a variety of options, and companies can offer tools designed to improve personal and household budgeting, short-term savings, and financial goals. 

Emergency Savings Accounts

Employer-sponsored emergency savings accounts (ESAs) can help employees save money that can be used for unexpected, short-term expenses. ESAs are accounts that can be funded through automatic deductions from each paycheck. Unlike 401(k) contributions, the money deducted from employees’ paychecks is taxed as income and is available for their immediate use. 

Of course, employers should always begin by assessing their own needs to determine which option(s) would work best for the company. After all, even superheroes have some limitations.

Erica Johnson is an Associate in FordHarrison. Her legal practice is focused on the defense and counsel of management clients in matters related to labor and employment law. Prior to pursuing her legal career, Erica earned a master’s degree in Human Resources Management and has over 13 years of experience in human resources specializing in Affirmative Action and OFCCP compliance. She can be reached at ejohnson@fordharrison.com.