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December 30, 2009

What’s Good for the Signore is Good for the Signora

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , 10:05 am

U.S. workers are well aware of discrimination issues at work.  Since 1964 Title VII has prohibited sex discrimination in the workplace.   Other countries are catching up to U.S. equal employment standards.

A new Italian law has ended retirement age discrimination based on sex.   A good thing you say?  Most Americans would agree with that.

However, apparently not all Italians agree.  Previously, female employees could retire at 60, 5 years earlier than men.  The difference had been justified by crediting women for taking care of the family and housework.

The European Commission found the rule to be illegal, forcing Italy to change the law.   The law applies only to government employees for now but it is likely to be extended to the private workforce as well.


December 23, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Congress Approves COBRA Premium Subsidy Extension

The U.S. government gave thousands of unemployed workers an early Christmas gift when the Senate, in a rare session Saturday, December 19, approved a military spending bill that would extend federal COBRA health insurance premium subsidies for the unemployed.

H.R. 3326, which the House approved this week, cleared the Senate on an 88-10 vote.  President Barack Obama signed the bill Monday, December 21. The bill would extend the nine-month, 65 percent premium federal subsidy by six months. The change would apply to those who are involuntarily terminated through February 28, 2010.

Under current law, employees who lose their jobs after December 31 are ineligible for the subsidy.  The legislation also would provide another six months of subsidized coverage for beneficiaries whose nine-month COBRA premium subsidy has run out.  In addition, the legislation would give beneficiaries whose subsidy expired and who didn’t pay the full premium the opportunity to receive retroactive coverage. For example, a beneficiary whose nine months of subsidized coverage ran out November 30 and who didn’t pay the unsubsidized premium for December could pay his or her 35 percent share in January and receive COBRA coverage for December.

The legislation would require employers to notify current and future COBRA beneficiaries of the new 15-month premium subsidy.

The fate of the legislation has been followed closely by terminated workers—eager to know whether the subsidy will be extended—as well as employers who need to tell beneficiaries the COBRA premium they should pay.

The legislation makes clear that employers can offset future COBRA premiums or issue refund checks for beneficiaries who overpaid their COBRA premium. That could happen if a beneficiary whose subsidy ran out in November paid the full premium rather than the 35 percent share in December.

Source:, Jerry Geisel

p.s. Yes I know today is not Friday . . . because Christmas Day is on Friday I am posting this a bit early. Merry Christmas! PH


December 22, 2009

2010 HR Predictions From the HR Bartender

Filed under: General HR Buzz7:22 am
  1. Outsourcing and contract work will gain momentum.  Before companies make commitments to hiring more staff, they’ll use external resources for projects. This means management teams need to understand the principles of vendor and project management.  And, they need to be prepared to hold an external consultant accountable for results.
  2. Professional development is going to look different.  We need conferences to stimulate business travel as part of our economic recovery.  But what events will people attend?  I believe it will be the ones that figure out how to balance the traditional conference structure with the topic timeliness of unconferences.
  3. Corporate training will change in the upcoming year as well.  Participants will want to talk about their issues on their time.  This means training agendas will need to include some free flowing discussion time.  And, trainers will need to not only have good training platform-vs-training skills that target platform skills, but be savvy in the art of facilitation as well.
  4. Time will trump money.  If employees can’t have money, then the perk they will want is time.  Look for this to take shape in terms of telecommuting, flextime, and possibly job sharing.  Managers will need to get educated on managing a virtual workforce and building virtual teams.
  5. Management coaching will become a key retention tool.  When the mass exodus starts (and it will), companies will have to figure out a way to show key employees they care.  Giving them a coach will send a positive message to the employee regarding their future and yield significant results for the company.
  6. And the buzzword word for 2010 will be ‘trust.’  We all know that people buy from individuals and companies they trust.  Companies will develop marketing strategies around building customer trust.  Human resources will develop programs to create employee trust.

Source: Sharlyn Lauby-The HR Bartender


December 18, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Social Media Challenging for Employers

A recent survey is the latest reminder that companies are struggling to balance the benefits and risks of letting workers roam online realms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Half of companies have not set out a specific policy for workers’ online social networking activities, according to the report from two professional groups, the Health Care Compliance Association and the Society of Corporate Compliance and Ethics.

Although many organizations lack social networking policies, one-quarter of the nearly 800 compliance and ethics professionals surveyed said their organization has had to discipline an employee for activities on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

Social networking sites pose risks such as employee disclosures of confidential information, exposure to computer viruses and postings that can damage a firm’s reputation. On the other hand, some experts say social networking can help firms in ways including viral marketing.

The social networking field has exploded. Facebook, for example, now claims more than 350 million active users, up from some 150 million in January.

Half of Facebook’s active users log on to the site in any given day, and more than 35 million users update their status daily. Quite often this access occurs from the workplace.

Companies, though, are in the dark about much of this activity, according to the September report from the professional groups. Mirroring the lack of a usage policy, roughly half the respondents reported that their companies do not have an active monitoring system for checking employee activity on social networking sites.

Source:, Ed Frauenheim


December 15, 2009

Tight Economy Sparks Creativity

Filed under: General HR Buzz8:35 am

For employers hit hard by the recession, year-end bonuses, incentive pay and expensive holiday parties are probably out of the question. But more and more companies are finding creative, fun and cost-effective ways to reward employees and keep morale high.

Flexible scheduling, in-house pizza and ice cream parties and community volunteerism are just a few of the ways employers are recognizing contributions and maintaining positive, engaged employees.

Read the full article here.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal


December 14, 2009

Would Most Employees Want to Be Managers?

Filed under: General HR Buzz2:57 pm

No, according to a survey conducted by Randstad, an employment services company.  Fifty one percent indicated they weren’t interested in becoming managers, with potential stress being the primary reason.

Older workers (64 and over) were the least interested while younger ones (18-29) were the most, with 58% percent wanting to take it on.

Those wanting to be managers cited the ability to share knowledge, to influence decisions, and being responsible for organizational success as the reasons to pursue a managerial career.


IRS Mileage Rate Takes a Dip January 1

Filed under: General HR Buzz12:07 pm

Employers that reimburse employees for business use of a personal automobile should be aware that the IRS mileage rate will drop from 55 cents/mile to 50 cents/mile on January 1, 2010.  The mileage rate for 2010 reflects lower transportation costs compared to a year ago.  The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile.

It’s important to note that if employers continue reimbursing employees at 2009’s 55 cents/mile, they will have to warn employees that they’re receiving five cents/mile in taxable income – this could mean they could end up owing more in taxes on April 15th the following year.

Whatever your company decides, it’s important to inform employees about the new rate and the company policy for mileage reimbursement.



December 11, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Offer Benefits? Don’t Forget Wellness

Filed under: Benefits — Tags: , , , , , , , 8:41 am

For each of the last 7 years, MetLife has conducted a huge employee benefits trends study, and data from 2008, including responses from over 1,500 benefits decision makers and 1,300 employees, have just been released. The global company, which provides insurance, employee benefits, and financial services, stressed wellness programs in its report on the study results.

Financial and physical health intertwined. Some of the statistics offered are surprising and disturbing:

  • 59% of people who assess their medical health as fair or poor say they live paycheck to paycheck, compared to 34% of people in very good or excellent health.
  • 70% of people who rate their health as fair or poor are very concerned about making ends meet, compared to 52% of people whose health is very good or excellent.
  • 76% of people who see their health as fair or poor are very concerned about affording health care in retirement, compared to 57% of those in very good or excellent health.

Interestingly, however, the employees who assess their health as fair or poor have healthcare coverage through their employers at nearly the same rate as those who say their health is very good or excellent. So the connection between poor health and tight finances is in no way limited to people without healthcare insurance.

How well are wellness programs? Given that 94% of surveyed employers agree that wellness programs can be at least somewhat effective in reducing medical costs, MetLife researchers expressed some disappointment that the number of employers offering such programs is growing so slowly. Only one-third (33%) of respondents offered wellness programs in late 2008, up from about one-fourth (27%) in late 2005. And, even among organizations employing more than 500 people, the portion offering such programs is only 57%, up from 46% in 2005.

The MetLife study showed that nearly half of employees participate in programs offered by their employers. But here’s the payoff: They don’t do so primarily to earn incentives or avoid penalties but simply to maintain good health. The older they are, the more likely they value the health benefits, while incentives are more important to the youngest workers.

Source: (12/10/2009)


December 9, 2009

GINA and Poster: No It’s Not the Latest Crime Scene TV Series

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: 2:18 pm

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) becomes effective on November 21, 2009.  The Act protects applicants and employees from discrimination based on genetic information.

Employers not only should be familiar with GINA’s requirements, they will also need to make some changes.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has revised its “Equal Employment Opportunity is the Law” poster to incorporate GINA’s requirements.

You’ll also want to make sure that your HR policies and employee handbook appropriately reference genetic protections.

You can review the July 2008 HR Note for more information on GINA.  Suggested HR Suite policy changes were made in the 2nd Update of 2008 and incorporated into the HR Suite master policy manual and handbook.

You can comply with the new poster requirements by:

  1. Printing a poster supplement at
  2. And posting it next to the EEOC’s 2002 “EEO is the Law” poster,or
  3. Posting the current version of the “EEO is the Law” posteror
  4. Ordering a new poster.

The new poster is also available in Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese.


1st Quarter Jobs Expected to Stay Steady

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Hiring & Jobs10:01 am

According to Manpower Inc., U.S. employers indicate the first quarter of 2010 will be a break-even quarter on jobs gained and lost.

Manpower surveyed 28,000 employers. Twelve percent indicated they would add jobs in the first quarter and 12 percent indicated they would reduce staff, Manpower said.

The good news is that the bulk of employers, 73 percent, indicated they would keep staff levels the same.

“A record number of employers plan to keep staff levels stable, which is good for the employed, and an overall positive outlook means expanding opportunities for job seekers,” said Manpower President Jonas Prising.  “Employer uncertainty around hiring is shifting from whether to consider adding staff, to when — and at what rate — to make the investment.”

The survey included employers in a mix of U.S. industries and carried a margin of error of plus and minus 0.49 percentage points, Manpower said.


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