The United States Senate has passed a bill that would prohibit, on a national basis, workplace discrimination against persons based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. However, leaders in the House of Representatives have indicated that the bill will not be approved there, so it is unlikely to become law. Nevertheless, this is the first time a body of Congress has approved such a bill, so it may well become law someday soon. About half the states already prohibit such discrimination. Utah, though not one of them, has over a dozen local governments (cities and counties) that have passed ordinances prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Many employers already also prohibit such discrimination by company policy.
December 6, 2013
December 4, 2013
One thing leads to another. It is true – winter, holidays, parties! It is that time of year when HR professionals get nervous! They realize that holiday office parties are common and that they can improve morale, employee communication, and show that an organization cares about its people. As we all know, nothing in HR is simple and without consequence.
Mark Toth, Chief Legal Officer at Manpower Group NA and author of The Employment Blawg, reported that 83 percent of employers plan holiday celebrations this year, which is higher than last year’s 68 percent, but still below 90 percent in 2007. Other statistics he shared indicate that 54 percent of employers are having employee-only parties without guests and only 48 percent plan to serve alcohol.
Here are some tips for the ever vigilant HR pros:
- Be inclusive. Make sure that company gatherings don’t intentionally (or more likely unintentionally) exclude individuals within your organization. Your employees may differ greatly in terms of religion, age, ethnicity, marital status, background, and interests, so be sensitive to those differences. Make all feel welcome, but do not make attendance mandatory or give it the appearance of being mandatory.
- Invite guests. Encourage employees to bring spouses or significant others. This may help to discourage bad behavior by employees.
- Inform employees. Besides giving the time and place, employees should be reminded that company behavior standards are just as applicable off site as on site. Employees should understand that corrective action will follow for those “behaving badly” and who say or do things that are inappropriate.
- To serve or not to serve. Soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages should be plentiful as should food. If serving alcohol, hire a professional bartender that will help prevent underage drinking and will know when someone has had enough. Try drink tickets, limiting individuals to a certain number of alcoholic beverages.
- Managers are managers. While managers are employees too, and they should be able to enjoy themselves, it is important to make known the expectations for them while at the party. They should be setting a good example, they should support the bartender, and they remain responsible for their employees even though it is a party.
Mixing and interacting in a more relaxed environment with employees can go a long way in building trust and loyalty and can make a good impression on their guests. Using these reminders, you can have a great party and a fun experience, with no regrets or legal action!
Source: Toth, Mark. Manpower Group. “How to Have a Holiday Party without Going to Jail.” Available here.
November 27, 2013
Recruiters know how exhausting it is to read through hundreds of resumes to find the right candidate. Poring over paper resumes with only facts (we hope!) and statistics, void of much personality is difficult for HR professionals, not to mention how the hiring managers must feel. It can truly be overwhelming! Hiring managers trust recruiters to find the perfect candidate. But, try as they might, the selection of candidates presented to hiring managers can fall flat, even though all the criteria for the desired talent has been met. To a hiring manager, reading through just a fraction of the resumes may be viewed as a waste of their time or is just not their first priority, so decisions for interviewing get delayed, and the best candidates are missed.
What if recruiters could present candidates by means of a short video? Candidates can make a short video, perhaps 90 seconds or so, to introduce themselves and to highlight their talent. It can bring a resume to life, if you will, and help a hiring manager to see who they wish to interview and whose talents they wish to explore further.
The video introduction is not just for candidates though, recruiters and other professionals may find this an easy way to introduce themselves to potential job seekers or business associates, giving viewers a sneak peek of those to whom they may be entrusting their future.
And, of course, a disclaimer for employers to not let appearance dissuade them from interviewing a candidate as that could be discriminatory, which is illegal. By keeping an open mind when interviewing and acknowledging diversity as a way to bring in top talent will enable employers to obtain the best employees to grow the organization into one that will be sustainable come what may.
Read more about the benefits of video interviewing here.
Source: Sackett, Tim. “How You Can Introduce Job Candidates in 90 Seconds.”
November 22, 2013
ELIGIBILITY AND RIGHTS/RESPONSIBILITIES NOTICES
Once an employee requests FMLA leave, or an employer becomes aware that an employee’s leave may be covered by the FMLA, the employee must first be told whether or not he/she is eligible for FMLA leave. Absent extenuating circumstances, this must be done within five days. The DOL has provided a form (see below) for employers to use. Giving written eligibility notice is best because it documents the employer’s compliance with the law. An employer must notify the employee of any changes in eligibility status within five days of the change. At the same time the eligibility notice is given, the employer also must notify the employee in writing of his/her rights and responsibilities under the FMLA. DOL’s model eligibility form (see below) includes these requirements. This rights and responsibilities notice must state that the leave may be designated and counted against FMLA entitlement and must identify the 12 month period (e.g. rolling, fixed calendar, etc.) the employer uses for determining the amount of leave available. The employee must also be told at this time what it must pay in premiums to pay for insurance and whether health care provider certification is required to justify the leave (DOL also provides model health care provider certification forms…see below).
November 20, 2013
How often should a manager discuss performance with their employees? It is a good question, and the answer varies depending on who you ask. The recent Pulse of Talent Survey, conducted by Harris/Decima for Ceridian, focused primarily on the generational differences and how they are affected by job rewards, job motivation, and performance feedback. Interestingly, the survey indicated that 59% of those responding reported having a formal meeting with their boss in 2012 to discuss job performance, leaving more than 40% without any formal performance discussion. Gen Y employees reported wanting more performance feedback throughout the year, which has moved to the top as a best practice.
Job rewards are a major engagement driver. The survey found that 47% of those responding ranked job rewards above job recognition (42%) followed by job motivation (11%). It was noted that generational differences and needs must be considered to achieve optimal results when rewarding employees affecting motivation, productivity, and organizational success. Monetary and non-monetary rewards were both indicated as strong engagement tools. Non-monetary rewards that are popular are:
- Paid personal days off
- Flexible hours/schedules
- Work from home option
- Free meals and event tickets
- More training availability and options
- Opportunities for more responsibility and advancement
An employer’s challenge is to make sure they are pairing the most effective driver of motivation and job satisfaction to the appropriate generation for the best results. Employees are also encouraged to perform well if they feel their pay is fair, their work is interesting, and they have a variety of avenues for personal growth from which to choose.
Take an online tour of HRN’s Performance Pro to see how we can help manager/employee communication be regular and often!
November 15, 2013
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) imposes a number of written notice requirements upon an employer. Failure to comply with them could expose an employer to claims that the employer violated the FMLA, interfered with an employee’s FMLA rights or retaliated against an employee. Thus, it is good for HR professionals to review their company’s FMLA practices from time-to-time to ensure they are complying fully with the FMLA notice mandates. Here (below) is a summary of the mandates. They are explained in more detail in the United States Department of Labor (DOL) regulations, found here.
INITIAL NOTICES – Part 1 of 2 – part 2 will be posted next Friday, 11/22
The FMLA requires employers to post a notice (a poster) explaining an employee’s FMLA rights. A copy of the DOL required notice can be found here: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/fmlaen.pdf. An employer that has a written handbook or leave policy must include the general FMLA notice information in the same. Such notices must be given to all employees at least once during employment, typically at the time of hiring. It is probably not a bad idea to give them to an employee again when a leave issue arises. This information can be posted electronically if it is made accessible to all employees and applicants. The paper poster must be posted in a central place, however, if not all employees have access to the electronic notices.
November 13, 2013
November 8, 2013
The Internal Revenue Service is relaxing its use-it-or-lose-it rules for health flexible spending accounts to allow participants for the first time to carry over up to $500 of unused amounts into the following plan year.
The notice goes into effect immediately, so employers can still amend their plans for the 2013 plan year, a senior Treasury official said during a media call Oct. 31.
Participants still can only use their contributions to pay for qualified medical expenses.
Plan sponsors that use the grace period rule, under which reimbursements may be paid up to 2-1/2 months after the close of the plan year, cannot simultaneously use the new carryover rule, according to the IRS guidance, Notice 2013-71, released Oct. 31. A sponsor must amend its plan to use the carryover rule, the notice said.
The $500 carryover will not affect the annual employee maximum contribution amount to health FSAs of $2,500, according to the notice. However, the accounts cannot be used as tax shelters, so no more than $500 can be carried forward from one year to the next, the official said. In other words, the carryover amounts cannot accumulate, the official said.
Health FSA plan sponsors now have three options, the official said: Provide a grace period, a carryover or neither. In addition, employers can set the annual contribution and carryover caps lower than the IRS maximums, the official said.
Employers could even “amend out” their grace period and adopt the carryover provision by the end of the 2013 plan year, but the official said the Treasury and the IRS don’t anticipate many employers doing this.
Source: Bloomberg BNA, Sean Forbes (http://www.bna.com/irs-modifies-fsa-n17179879798/)
November 7, 2013
According to last month’s HR Magazine, Millennials will make up 75% of the US labor force by the year 2025. With that in mind, it is crucial that HR has an understanding of what drives this generation.
To understand motivation, it is important to know where this generation is coming from. First and foremost, this is the generation raised with personal computers. Technology has always been the preferred way to get work done, solve life’s problems, and connect with people. This group of workers favors collaboration in teams and is the most connected virtually. However, they have also been the most overprotected – growing up in an “over-adult-supervised” environment. Parents effectively convinced this generation that they were the center of the universe. In addition, they received trophies just for showing up.
The Millennials are coming to a cubicle near you and there is little to be done to stem the tide. How can your organization be prepared for and even embrace this growing population in your workforce? Ideally, you want to be proactive in adjusting your “policies, practices and procedures to leverage this generations strengths and minimize its weaknesses.”
The article focuses on 3 key areas:
FLEXIBILITY: Millennials want flexibility in everything: schedules, locations, and assignments. They place less importance on where the work is done and what time the work occurs. They also like variety in their assignments. The desire for diverse work experiences can be perceived as wanting to move up, when it is often simply a need to do something different.
TRANSPARENCY: This group wants to know the why behind the decisions. They will ask more direct questions and will require greater transparency from the organization. When transparency makes sense, do it. When it doesn’t, be prepared to explain why.
COMMUNITY: Millennials expect work to be social and fun. They like to collaborate and they do their best work in teams. Examine not only your business processes, but your space. Look for ways to encourage employees to gather and collaborate. The article suggests gathering spaces in your work area as well as group onboarding to create camaraderie and loyalty among the new hires.
Examine your business practices and determine how these changes fit into your business model and align with your strategic plan. The point is not to cater to one particular generation, but to recognize and find ways all may benefit by these updated policies. As the article says, “Focus less on the characteristics society has ascribed to the emerging Millennial generation and more on policies and practices that support the changing demands being placed on our workforce.”
SOURCE: HR Magazine, October 2013 Issue, “New Kids on the Block,” article by Kathryn Tyler.
November 6, 2013
Have you ever sat in a meeting or a business lunch where attendees are checking their cell phones, texting, or worse yet, they excuse themselves from the meeting to take a phone call? How do you feel when this happens? Are you irritated or are you accepting?
Research resulting from a collaboration between Howard University and the University of Southern California published in the Business Communication Quarterly, has identified that some of the attitudes toward cell phone use vary in different demographics, such as gender and age, and is perceived to be a matter of civility. The study reported that approximately 85% of American adults own a cellular phone. The concentration of those owning mobile phones in Gen Y (18-29 years old) is 94%, while the study reported that Gen X (30-49 years old) is 90%. Currently, there is very little research available regarding the social norms and acceptable use of cell phones in the workplace, which makes this study a baseline to compare future results. Some of the findings were:
Formal Meetings at the Workplace:
- 87% of respondents agreed that making/answering calls was rarely or never acceptable
- Writing and sending texts or emails was also frowned upon by 84%
- 58% reported distaste for those checking the time with their phone
- 55% thought that it was inappropriate to excuse oneself to answer calls
Informal Offsite Luncheons:
- 66% perceived that writing or sending texts or emails was inappropriate
- Browsing the internet and making calls was equally unacceptable by 61%
- 22% agreed that simply bringing a mobile phone to a meeting was not acceptable
The study found that generational differences do impact the thoughts of young professionals who are more accepting of mobile phone use during meetings and those over the age of 41, who consider such actions inappropriate. Surprisingly, men were more accepting of mobile phone use than women during informal meetings.
Some individuals commented that the use of mobile phones during meetings was “rude, disrespectful, inconsiderate,” and made people “feel less important.” Another interesting consideration is what one commenter said about such individuals, “[they are] missing important information which could affect the overall performance of the company.” So, next time you have a meeting, will your phone be in attendance and if it is, will you answer or ignore?
Time to review your cell phone policy? Contact HRN here.