By hrsynergy

Preparing for Adverse Weather Conditions

Let it Snow! Is your Company Prepared for the Winter Season?

New England is heading into the winter season as evidenced by the recent snowfall.  In New Hampshire, if you close your facility early and send your employees home because of bad weather, lack of power, heat or water, you must pay your non-exempt employees a minimum of two hours or all hours worked up to the time of the closure, whichever is greater.   If a facility is closed for an entire day or more due to severe weather conditions, it is important that there is a written inclement weather policy documented in the Employee Handbook. Employees should be well informed of the policy and know exactly what protocol to follow.

The Adverse Weather Policy in your Employee Handbook should address the following issues:

  1. Who is responsible for making the decision to close your facility?
  2. How will employees be notified – by phone, text, e-mail or local radio/TV announcement?
  3. When will employees be notified (how soon before their shift begins)?
  4. What is the procedure for employees who travel through an area that has been declared a state of emergency?
  5. Will both exempt and non-exempt employees be allowed to work from home or be offered other options to make up for the time lost?
  6. How will employees be compensated for lost wages? Will they have to use their accrued paid time off?
  7. What actions will take place after the adverse weather is over? Will employees be required to report to work outside of their normal scheduled hours? How will production be scheduled to make up for the missed time?

A few decades ago, a company had two options for notifying employees about a weather-related closure;  a telephone tree or a radio/TV announcement.  Some companies and professional organizations would use – and still use – school closings as their barometer. If the local school district is closed or is delayed, then the company is closed or delayed.

Now, however, technology has created many more options for communicating a closure, including automated mass e-mails, texts or phone calls.  There is a service called dialmycalls.com that will quickly send a mass text message, email or phone call to any group of contacts, for a fee.  The company has control over the contact list, the timing of the call and the content.  The trick is to make sure employees know where, when and how to expect a message.

For assistance with writing or editing your employee handbook to include an Adverse Weather Policy, please contact the professionals at HR Synergy at (603) 261-2402 we can help you with all your Human Resource needs.

 

Pre-Employment Drug Testing

One of the most important aspects of running a successful business is operational efficiency, and that extends through every level of a company’s infrastructure, from the way the computer network is maintained to the system of management used to organize employees. But there’s one area that has, in recent years, grown in importance, and that is hiring. After all, the hiring process is an extremely critical component of a workplace that can potentially affect every level of a company. When there’s an absence in an important position, work suffers. When a new person is hired, resources must be diverted for orientation or training, if it’s required. And if an employee resigns or is dismissed, this creates another hole that makes work challenging for everyone.

This is why now, more than ever, hiring the right person is an incredibly important aspect of management. And therefore, pre-employment drug testing can play a vital role in making sure that not only does the right person get the job, but no time, money or other resources are wasted on the wrong people holding onto the job for some critical period, only to create more problems with their inevitable dismissal. Often when hiring a liability, you end up owning that liability.

A person’s private life is their own affair, there’s no argument about that. However, when private activities begin to interfere with professional obligations, then it becomes a problem not just for the individual but for the organization that individual is affiliated with. Pre-employment drug testing is one of the best ways to keep problems from even occurring in the first place, and is an effective, front-line defensive and preventive measure to ensure that a working, efficient, established system in a workplace continues to operate that way without disruption.

An established, scrupulously applied pre-employment drug testing program can help a company hire the right candidate for that job!

To set up your pre-employment drug testing program call Lynn at 603-974-1030 or email lynn.snhdrugtesting@gmail.com. 

 

Southern New Hampshire,
LLC, 24 Stickney Terr Unit 5,
Hampton, NH 03842 

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

How to Recognize it, Establishing Procedures to Report it and How to Prevent it

With the rise in recent high profile sexual harassment cases, including Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and Gretchen Carlson it is time to stop shying away from the uncomfortable topic and start bringing the reality of the situation to light.  To avoid costly litigation and lawsuits, companies must protect themselves and their employees by having policies and procedures in place and making sure their managers, supervisors and employees are properly trained.

By definition, “Sexual harassment” is any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that is sufficiently persistent or offensive to unreasonably interfere with an employee’s job performance or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.” In the past year, the EEOC received approximately 27,000 charges of sexual harassment. However, on average, approximately 30% of sexual harassment complaints go unreported.

The first step in preventing harassment is establishing a zero-tolerance policy that:

  • Explains what harassment is
  • Provides examples of such behavior
  • States who to report harassment claims to
  • Explanation of complaint procedures
  • Assures confidentiality and no retaliation

The second step, after the policy is finalized and approved, is to provide harassment training for your managers and supervisors.  It is strongly recommended that supervisors and managers have separate training sessions from employees that teaches them what to do if they receive a complaint or observe inappropriate behavior.  Supervisors and managers also have a legal liability to ensure a workplace free from harassment.

The third step would be to conduct training for all employees.  Explain the company’s zero-tolerance policy using examples and activities of various types of harassment, discuss the complaint procedures, and encourage employees to speak up without the fear of retaliation.

Do not hesitate to properly investigate the alleged conduct.  Be proactive, even if you do not have an official complaint, pay attention to office gossip, comments made outside the office and messages on social media.  Failing to prevent an issue or ignoring an existing problem can have a negative effect that includes significant financial consequences. If the victim complains to the EEOC, the company will be the subject of an investigation, and possibly a lawsuit.

Depending on the facts of a case, actual out-of-pocket costs for a company can range anywhere from $100,000 to millions of dollars. Not including damaged reputation, loss of clients, customers and investors, as well as decreased employee morale and an inability to attract and retain talent.

If you have questions, need assistance writing your Sexual Harassment policy, would like to schedule Harassment Training or are looking for some guidance, contact the professional at HR Synergy today!

Does Your Company Have an Emergency Response Plan?

This feels like good timing, while Harvey & Irma are major news items. Irma caused some minor screen damage to an employee’s home in Florida, but the neighborhood was blessed for the most part. Others in the paths were not so lucky. A sharp reminder to look at your own Emergency Response Plan for your employees.

An Emergency Response plan is part of OSHA’s 1910 Standard and is required for all employers. If you have fewer than ten employees, you can communicate your Emergency Response plan orally. This means you must have a written plan in place that can be communicated. These plans have 8 elements and must be reviewed annually with all employees, as well as included in your new hire training. The elements include the purpose, preferred means for reporting, escape, accounting, and shutdown procedures, along with rescue & medical duties and contact information. We can help customize an Emergency Response Plan for you that will help bring you into compliance with that regulation.

The N.H. Department of Safety put out an Emergency Preparedness & Action Wheel® in 2002. The information on it is excellent. For those of you still in Irma or Jose’s path, here are their steps to prepare and act now.

Prepare Now:

  • Buy battery-powered weather radio and learn local emergency stations.
  • Learn the meaning of watch-warning.
  • If in a flood zone, purchase flood insurance.
  • Plan to secure/evacuate mobile home for adequate shelter.
  • Install storm shutters or use plywood to cover all windows.
  • Remove branches, tall trees that may fall on house or other buildings.
  • Prepare for storm season, stock extra food, batteries and jugs of drinking water.

Act Now:

  • Listen to designated radio/TV, Emergency Alert System for emergency information and instructions.
  • Move valuables to upper floors in case of flood.
  • Secure or bring outdoor furniture inside.
  • Close permanent shutters or cover all windows with plywood (taping windows does not prevent breakage).

If you choose to stay:

  • Keep away from windows, doors, outside walls, do not open windows.
  • Keep pets inside.

If you evacuate:

  • Turn off water and electricity at main stations and unplug appliances (do not touch if wet).
  • Do not leave pet(s) behind, take them with you to a pre-planned, safe location.
  • Avoid downed wires. Do not try to walk or drive over them.
  • Moor boat away from other boats in protected area.

They also define an auto disaster supply kit (maintained regularly) to include:

  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Flares and/or triangles
  • Jumper cables
  • Shovel
  • Rock salt and sand (if applicable)
  • Tire repair and replacement supplies
  • Map(s)

If an emergency of any kind takes place at your business or after you conduct your required annual fire drill, do a de-briefing to see what was learned. You may also have to engage in recovery activities such as medical issues, psychological issues, infrastructure issues, insurance, etc.

Need help developing your organization’s safety policies and procedures? Contact the professionals at HR Synergy at (603) 261-2402. We provide outsourced HR Solutions—from policy development, to risk assessment, to labor law compliance and more—for NH businesses and nonprofits.

©1995 – 2002, EHMI, All Rights Reserved. With support from the Emergency Action Coalition, the Emergency Action Wheel®

Top 5 HR Headaches to Avoid

Minimize HR Headaches and Avoid Costly Litigation

Human Resources is an important part of the functionality of any company. If it is not managed properly it can create a lot of headaches and cost employers thousands in legal fees and fines. Business owners need to have the proper policies and procedures in place, and they must manage and enforce those policies accordingly.

In order to minimize HR headaches and avoid litigation, it’s important to avoid these common HR mistakes. The legal problems most business owners encounter tend to fit into the following areas:

Employee Misclassification: Employers who improperly classify workers can run into serious penalties with regards to taxes, withholdings and overtime wages. The federal government has set national standards, and some of the key factors to consider are whether the employer has control over the individual’s work and provides him or her with the materials or tools needed to complete that work. If so, the worker will likely be deemed an employee, rather than a contractor. Full-time employees are eligible for overtime pay. Overtime pay varies from state-to-state, in some states employees must receive overtime pay if they work more than 8 hours a day when most states set their limits solely on how many hours they work in a week.

Lunch and Break Time: Employers can run into trouble if employees choose to stick around the workplace during their breaks. The same rule applies to workers who prefer to eat lunch at their desks. Conservative solutions to the problem include creating break rooms where no work is allowed, requiring employees to leave the premises for their entire break and recording the time accurately on their time card.

Employee Handbook: All employers, regardless of size, should have an employee handbook to help ensure that employees receive important information about company guidelines, procedures, and benefits. A well-written employee handbook can set expectations with regards to performance and conduct, address routine employee questions and satisfy various legal and regulatory requirements by communicating certain information to employees.

Discrimination and Harassment: Discrimination and harassment complaints are on the rise and they can spring up in just about any workplace. Employers need to familiarize themselves with which classes of individuals have certain discrimination protections under the law. It’s vital that business owners prepare for such situations before they happen. With the proper training, employers can ensure that decision-makers prohibit workplace harassment and discrimination and shield against a hostile work environment.

Exiting Procedures: Many companies have firing procedures in place but not all companies follow them. Employers can make firing decisions based on gut reactions or emotions but employment lawyers can look back to see whether policies that business owners themselves put in place were carried out appropriately before a firing was executed. The employer is expected to follow the evaluation and review process rather than just fire someone despite the fact the employee has exceptional performance reviews. Employers should document all employment decisions to show that the employer had a legitimate, nondiscriminatory business reason for a possible adverse action and to prove that the individual was given the opportunity to correct his/her performance violations.

Don’t wait until a serious accusation has been made. Seek outside help from HR professionals before it’s too late. HR Synergy, LLC provides outsourced HR Solutions for businesses and nonprofits across the US, from policy development, to risk assessment, to labor law compliance and more. Contact us today for more information.

Recent Updates to the I9 Form

Are You Using the Most Recent Version of the I9 Form?

vUSCIS released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, on July 17. Employers can use this revised version or continue using Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 through Sept. 17.

On Sept. 18, employers must use the revised form with a revision date of 07/17/17 N. Employers must continue following existing storage and retention rules for any previously completed Form I-9.

Revisions to the Form I-9 instructions:

  • The name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices changed its new name, Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.
  • Removed “the end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment.”

Revisions related to the List of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9:

  • We Added the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Section 2 and Section 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.
  • Combined all the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350 and Form FS-240) into selection C#2 in List C.
  • Renumbered all List C documents except the Social Security card. For example, the employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security on List C will change from List C #8 to List C #7.

If you need assistance in understanding the procedures for completing the I-9 forms and your responsibilities to ensure compliance, give us a call at (603) 261-2402.

OSHA – Electronic Reporting Compliance

OSHA Delays Date for Electronic Reporting Compliance

On 6/27/17, OSHA announced a delay in the electronic reporting compliance date of the rule. They have postponed the date until 12/1/17.  This requirement for employers is to file their OSHA 300A form online, rather than just posting this form in their businesses for their employees to review.

This gives the new administration a chance to review these new requirements and gives employers a chance to get used to the electronic reporting system, which won’t be available until August 1st.

In all of the documentation that we have seen, it doesn’t indicate if OSHA changed the criteria for reporting requirements.
The current criteria are as follows:

“OSHA’s regulation at 29 CFR part 1904 requires employers with more than 10 employees in most industries to keep records of occupational injuries and illnesses at their establishments. Employers covered by these rules must record each recordable employee injury and illness on an OSHA Form 300, which is the “Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses”, or equivalent. Employers must also prepare a supplementary OSHA Form 301 “Injury and Illness Incident Report” or equivalent that provides additional details about each case recorded on the 300 Log. Finally, at the end of each year, employers are required to prepare a summary report of all injuries and illnesses on the OSHA Form 300A, which is the “Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses”, and post the form in a visible location in the workplace.”*

They very carefully say “in most industries”.  There is a list of those industries that are partially-exempt from this requirement and HR Synergy, LLC will be glad to provide this information upon request.

However, we advise our clients, even if they are exempt, to maintain these records of injuries and illnesses.  We also advise them to post the OSHA 300A form “in a visible location” as a method of educating their employees about the safety of their work environment.  Why shouldn’t your employees know how many accidents or illnesses other employees have experienced? We can also conduct safety audits of your company to help you reduce the cost of your Workers’ Compensation insurance and help you provide a safe & healthy work environment for all your employees.

*Excerpt from www.osha.gov website.

Are your Employment Posters Up-to-Date?

The New Hampshire Department of Labor requires all New Hampshire businesses with employees to display these posters in a prominent location in every place of employment.  This information is important in order to ensure employees are aware of their legal rights and responsibilities. These laws are periodically updated which is why it is important to make sure you have the most recent version of the poster available to your employees. Click the name of the poster below to download a PDF of the most recent updates.

Mandatory NH State Posters Additional NH State Posters
Workers’ Compensation Law (obtain from insurance carrier) Unemployment Notice (1/2012)
Protective Legislation Law (7/2017) NHES Vacation Shutdown (1/2012)
Criteria to Establish an Employee or Independent Contractor (7/2017) Employment Poster
New Hampshire Minimum Wage Law (7/2017) 2240 – Spanish Employment Poster
Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (7/2017) Housing Discrimination Poster
Workers Right to Know (7/2017)
Equal Pay Law (7/2017)

Federal Posters

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) (7/2016)

 Executive Order 11246 (11/2009)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) (7/2016)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) / Section 14(c) (7/2009)

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) (4/2016)

The Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act (4/2015)

The Uniformed Services Employments and Reemployment Rights Act (4/2017)

You can also view these posters at https://www.nh.gov/labor/forms/mandatory-posters.htm.

Inclusion–Workplace Diversity

Inclusion—Diversity in the Workplace

Workplace Diversity card with background

If you’ve ever heard of the phrase, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” then you should also heed the same advice when it comes to the diversity of your workplace.  Put the future of your company in the hands of employees of all different types as companies need a wide array of skills, life experiences, and personality traits in order to succeed.

Work place diversity refers to the variety of differences between people in an organization.  Differences can include: race, gender, ethnicity, age, personality, cognitive style, education, background, etc.

 

Benefits

Diversity has increased significantly over the years so embracing diversity and realizing its benefits can help the success and competitiveness of your business.  Your business can hope to gain increased adaptability, a broader range of services, a variety of viewpoints, and more effective execution of duties.

Individuals perceive things differently from one another, and even more so when they come from different backgrounds and cultures.  When there are comfortable relations, the communication of various points of view provides a larger pool of ideas which your business can draw from to meet business strategy needs, as well as customer needs more efficiently.  Speaking of experiences, when you have a diversified workplace, that gives your company an arsenal of new languages, cultural understanding, and more that will allow your company to expand your services to customers and clients on a global scale.

Business that employ a diverse workforce are also able to supply a greater variety of solutions to problems as they bring individual talents as well as experiences when suggesting flexible solutions that can adapt to fluctuating markets and customer demands.  All of these things considered, employees will be inspired to perform at a higher degree of ability, thus strategies can be executed resulting in increased productivity, profit, and return on investment.

Challenges

Although workplace diversity comes with many benefits, it is not without its fair share of challenges that complicate the road towards reaping those rewards.  When many different individuals are present, there will almost always be differing and opposing opinions as perceptual, cultural, and language barriers need to be overcome.  The communication hurdle may result in confusion, teamwork, and low morale when key objectives are ineffectively communicated.

Also, a possible resistance to change may occur that can hinder your business progress towards diversifying your workplace.  There might be employees who will refuse to accept a change in the social and cultural makeup of their workplace.  They may be too used to the dynamics and processes that have existed, however, it is that type of mentality that silences new ideas and inhibits progress.

 

Laws

To accompany the trend of increasing diversity in our country, there are a slew of federal laws that are in place to help to ensure possible diversity in workplaces.  Most important are the laws dealing with discrimination such as: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that prohibits most workplace harassment and discrimination; Age Discrimination in Employment Act that governs against age discrimination; Americans with Disabilities Act which prohibits against discriminating against disabled workers or job applicants; ADA Amendments Act etc.

There are also state and local government laws in place that have enacted a variety of equal employment measures, so make sure to check those as well as the plethora of federal laws.

What You Can do to Diversify

By far, the benefits of workplace diversity is greater than the challenges that obstruct the path to it, and it will be worth your while to pursue a very diversified team.  In order to overcome these challenges, it is important to build and implement a customized strategy to maximize the effects of diversity.  Contacts us at HR Synergy, so we can help you develop and implement strategies and policies that will get you on your way to a diversified workplace culture.

 

preventing workplace accidents

10 Tips for Preventing Workplace Accidents and Injuries

Ouch! Going to work can hurt. In fact, every day, more than 30,000 workers are injured at work or develop occupational illnesses. And these injuries come at a high cost. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, our nation’s top 10 workplace injuries cost us an estimated $55.4 billion each year. In this month’s HR Synergy blog, we share 10 tips for preventing workplace accidents and injuries.

Most Workplace Accidents and Injuries are Preventable

Research tells us that most workplace injuries are preventable. In fact, very few injuries are the result of unavoidable accidents caused by technical problems like equipment failure.

Preventing Workplace Accidents and Injuries

Employers can prevent most workplace accidents and injuries by:

  1. Establishing and enforcing safety policies and procedures. This should include all OSHA rules and regulations, as well as any additional safety procedures and precautions appropriate to your specific industry or workplace.
  2. Instructing employees on how to report concerns about unsafe or hazardous conditions.
  3. Developing clear repercussions for supervisors and employees who do not follow established safety policies and procedures.
  4. Providing employees with adequate safety training and equipment. Note that some employee training may need to be ongoing, or require regular updates or “refreshers.”
  5. Ensuring that anyone who is operating power equipment or exposed to hazardous materials has received adequate training on usage and handling.
  6. Following government rules regarding safe usage, storage, and cleanup of hazardous materials.
  7. Prohibiting employees from working if they are tired or in danger of overexertion.
  8. Conducting routine safety inspections.
  9. Training all employees on what to do in an emergency. This may include annual practice drills.
  10. Educating employees on the importance of proper workplace ergonomics.

“Safety policies and procedures should be clearly defined in a safety manual, which should be accessible to all employees. It’s also important to engage your employees in the development and enforcement of your safety policies and procedures,” says HR Synergy President Michelle Gray.

By following the tips outlined above, you will have a healthier, more productive workforce, and may reduce your overall workers’ compensation costs.

preventing workplace accidents

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outsourced HR Solutions for NH Businesses and Nonprofits

Need help developing your organization’s safety policies and procedures? Contact the professionals at HR Synergy. We provide outsourced HR Solutions—from policy development, to risk assessment, to labor law compliance and more—for NH businesses and nonprofits.

 

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