In 2021, Guayakí Yerba Mate continued to create the foundations to make our integrated company more engaging, diverse, and inclusive for our workers in both North and South America. Updated Employee Handbooks for both Guayakí Sustainable Rainforest Products, Inc. and The Yerba Mate Co., LLC were issued to employees. Building upon our established practices of supporting our people’s well-being, updates to the Handbooks included increased Paid Time Off accrual rates, expanded vehicle policies, Paid Sick Leave for part-time employees, and separate Paid Time Off for voting, bereavement, and jury duty.
In addition, in 2021 we started the process of developing new policies to cover employee travel and commuting, transportation, waste management, water conservation and stewardship, workplace code of ethics in meetings, and charitable giving and community service. We look forward to implementing these policies in 2022.
Guayakí’s support for the well-being of all employees is also reflected in our various benefit structures. As an example, all employees for U.S. operations are provided 100% company-paid medical, dental, and vision coverage, the option to utilize Flexible Spending Accounts or Health Savings Accounts, an Employee Assistance Program, and a 401(k) plan with a company matching program. In Argentina, understanding the role that nutrition and whole-food consumption also plays in overall well-being, employees can harvest food from biodynamic gardens at the Reserve to bring home and enjoy with their families.
Guayakí has also continued to hire and retain formerly incarcerated individuals and system-affected individuals, currently maintaining a workforce of 17% formerly incarcerated workers within The Yerba Mate Co., LLC distribution entity. We believe in providing system-affected individuals opportunities to advance and build careers for themselves and we are continuing to review and improve ways to find, train and promote these individuals throughout our business.
In 2021, we engaged a 3rd party consultant to perform a market study compensation review across the U.S. and Canada. As a result of the review, we raised the salaries of 84% of our employees by 3% or more in order to keep pace with the compensation review and to provide appropriate wage standards for our North American employee population.
As part our 2-year objectives, we will continue to implement further compensation reviews and reassess our pay structures to additionally consider living wages, bonuses, cost of living adjustments, and employee benefit programs for our employees in both North and South America.
As part of our 2-year goals we commit to supporting responsible governance and the well-being of our workers by developing an improved employee onboarding process, expanded professional development opportunities, formalized feedback and complaint mechanisms, ongoing training, and a robust Health & Safety program.