By hrsynergy

Can Your Company Survive a DOL Audit?

 

A Department of Labor audit can have a significant impact on your organization, costing your company anywhere from $500-$5,000,000 in fines and penalties. The first step to surviving an audit is knowing what to expect and being prepared.

The Department of Labor is looking more closely than ever before for potential employers who are not following the rules. Some of the main reasons for the Department of Labor to conduct an audit are employee complaints and, in some cases, just plain bad luck.

Schedule your Mock DOL Audit before it’s too late!

By conducting a mock DOL audit, we can gather information about your company’s employment practices throughout the employee life cycle. This information helps to determine your potential exposure in the event of a real audit. We identify areas of improvement, create an action plan to improve compliance and help you put systems into place.

We recently conducted a mock DOL audit for a client and we uncovered some main areas to focus on in case of a real DOL audit. Some of the items our audit uncovered included:

  • Outdated federal and state labor laws posters.
  • Risk of HIPPA and Personal information for possible identity theft with employee file practices.
  • I-9 form non-compliance and confidentiality exposure.
  • Inaccurate time keeping records.
  • Inconsistent pay practices.

Potential fines for this small company were approximately 3.2 million dollars if the Department of Labor was conducting an audit.

Are you 100% confident that your business would ace a DOL audit? Not sure, call HR Synergy at (603) 261-2402 to schedule a mock audit to help you identify your compliance exposure. We recommend conducting a mock audit annually.

 

 

Written By: Michelle Gray and Kayla Hines, HR Synergy, LLC
Image rights: Boris Dzhingarov https://www.flickr.com/photos/81894496@N06/15896297412

summer dress code policy

Why You Need a Summer Dress Code Policy

During the summer months, many of your employees may begin to dress down.  Some may even cross the line in terms of what is appropriate for the workplace. In this month’s HR Synergy blog, we discuss why you need a summer dress code policy and offer guidelines on developing one for your workplace.

Presenting a Positive Image for Your Company

Of course, you want all of your employees to present a positive image for your company. Inappropriate workplace attireespecially that which is offensive or distracting—reflects poorly on your brand. But what you consider inappropriate may seem quite acceptable to someone else. By developing a summer dress code policy, you will set clear expectations for both employees and management, and help keep things cool as the temperatures rise.

But before you can set expectations on appropriate workplace attire, you need to decide on the formality of your workplace dress code, based on the standards of your industry. Is it formal/professional, business casual, or casual?  “At many companies, this will also vary according to the amount of interaction employees have with customers,” notes HR Synergy President Michelle Gray.

Guidelines for Developing a Summer Dress Code Policy:

  1. Put Your Summer Dress Code Policy in Writing

Your summer dress code policy should be a formal document that is included in your employee handbook. Copies of the policy should be easily seen in heavily-trafficked areas, including hallways, meeting rooms, break rooms, and restrooms. “We encourage our clients to review the policy at the start of the summer season during staff meetings,” Gray notes. This ensures there is no confusion about the policy.

  1. Apply Your Summer Dress Code Equally

When writing your workplace dress code policy, be careful not to focus more on one gender than the other. “I often find that businesses tend to focus on more on female dress attire,” Gray says. To be effective, your workplace dress code policy needs to be applied equally to all employees, regardless of gender, age, or level.

  1. Be Specific

As noted, the purpose of your summer dress code policy is to set clear expectations for both employees and management. Thus, you should provide specific examples of what attire is not acceptable for your type of business. Here are some considerations and questions to get you started:

  • Parameters for dress and skirt hemlines (e.g. no more than 2 inches above the knee)
  • Pant length requirements (i.e. Are capris or shorts allowed?)
  • Attire that is not permitted, such as T-shirts, tank tops, low-cut shirts, halter tops, crop tops, sweatpants, sweatshirts, athletic wear, logo wear, jeans, or leggings
  • Reminders that all clothing should be ironed, clean, and free of holes and stains
  • Should men’s shirts be tucked in and must they have collars?
  • Are sleeveless tops allowed? Is there a minimum strap width requirement?
  • What about footwear? Are sandals and flip-flops allowed?
  • Is there a Friday “jean day” and are there any restrictions (e.g. rips and holes, color/fading, etc.)?
  • Summertime is also a good time to restate any policies your company may have around the visibility of tattoos.
  1. Explain the Consequences

Your summer dress code policy needs to state the consequences for failing to comply with it. Also, any special events or circumstances that can alter the dress code should be outlined in your policy and communicated to your employees.

Whether you need help developing employee policies, improving employee communication, or increasing employee morale or productivity, the professionals at HR Synergy are here to help. Contact us today!

Ways Employers are Adapting to the Changing Drug Policies

With marijuana becoming legal in most states, how are employers adapting to the changing drug policies?

Although marijuana is still illegal at the federal level, thirty (30) states have permitted the use of medical marijuana and approximately nine (9) states have permitted the use of marijuana for recreational use.  Many companies have turned away or fired top talent because they tested positive for marijuana on a drug test. Employers and HR professionals are finding it difficult to balance the need to hire good employees with their commitment to maintaining a safe workplace.  What’s more challenging is creating policies and procedures that comply with both federal and state requirements.

Because it’s not easy to detect the timeline of use of marijuana and opioids it’s difficult to determine whether the employee is under the influence during work hours. Some employers are opting to remove marijuana from the test panel altogether. Other employers still opt for a zero-tolerance policy. In either case, it’s important to ensure the drug and alcohol policy is clearly defined.

The policy should include: Statements that prohibit employees from reporting to work under the influence, the use, sale or possession of drugs or alcohol on the premises and the right to conduct drug testing and searches of work-spaces under reasonable suspicion or after an accident. The policy should also explain what disciplinary action may occur if an employee tests positive or refuses to test.

In the wake of the current drug and alcohol epidemic in our country, many employers are opting to promote a recovery-friendly workplace.  These employers choose not to fire a good employee but adopt policies that will promote workplace education and outreach, connect the employee with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), provide confidentiality and refer the employee to peer recovery support programs.

This topic is one that is so important for employers to consider before they receive the “positive” test result and don’t know how they want to handle it. Take the time to discuss with your management team what is the culture you want to instill and what type of drug policy encourages that culture.

Is Telecommuting Right for Your Business?

The Pros and Cons of Telecommuting

Advances in technology such as wireless devices, web applications and internet-based software has created the mobile office, making it easier for employees to virtually work from anywhere.   Research shows that approximately 30 million Americans have the ability to work from home at least one day a week and more and more companies are offering telecommuting and flex-time more than any other workplace benefit.

Even though telecommuting is a convenient cost-effective alternative to the traditional nine to five workweek, you should be aware of the challenges telecommuting poses for employers and co-workers.  What might be good for some may not be good for others.   If you are the social type and enjoy being around people and working as part of a team, full-time telecommuting might not be your best option.  However, if you are an introvert who is independent and disciplined then you might be a great fit.

Also, not all jobs are suitable for telecommuting and require the individual to work at the employer’s location.  Here are some of the pro’s and cons to help you decide if telecommuting is right for you:

Pros

  • Employees can be more productive and less likely to take time off work.
  • It promotes work/life balance and retains employees who may otherwise leave because of personal reasons
  • It’s cost efficient for the employee and the employer eliminating expenses across the board. Saving time and money on commuting costs, office supplies, office space and equipment.
  • There are fewer workplace distractions and employees can work at their own pace.

Cons

  • Employees who work from home often miss out on social activities with colleagues. The lack of employee engagement can make the telecommuter feel isolated and out of the loop.
  • Employers lose control of how workers use their time.
  • Heightened concern with security, employee monitoring and maintaining confidentiality.
  • Less face time with managers and peers can cause problems with communication, creativity and brainstorming. If your boss doesn’t see you regularly, you might wind up getting passed over for major projects or assignments.

To avoid negative impacts from telecommuting, companies must set clear guidelines and policies on productivity, security, and workers’ compensation. If you need assistance updating your policies and procedures, contact the professionals HR Synergy, LLC.

 

You Can Teach Skills, Not Speed

A Message From Our Guest Blogger:

As a young athlete, I remember a coach saying this at an event and it stuck with me.  Luckily for me, I had speed – but my skills were lacking.  I was chosen by a coach that knew how to teach skill and was looking for someone with speed.  We made a perfect pair and the year was a great success for both of us!

The same theory applies to applicants.  If you have a candidate that has all the soft skills, culture and work ethic but is inexperienced in a few of the job requirements – you should hire and ‘coach’ them as they have the “speed”.    Soft skills, culture and work ethic are instilled when we are in our formative years and is part of our being.  It’s a much longer and painful road to instill those skills than it is to teach a ‘function’ of the position.

Accurate Staffing, LLC is all about matching the best candidate to your company’s culture, job description and the personality fit for the team.  We place temporary, temp-to-perm and direct hires in the Manufacturing, Engineering and Information Technology sectors.   Locally owned and operated, our process is stellar and our placements are guaranteed.  Contact us today!

 

 

 

 

Angela Roussel-Roberge, President
(603) 321-1596
angela@accuratenh.com

 

The Importance of Employee Onboarding

 

An Onboarding Program Helps Prepare Employees for Success!

Employee Scenario: “A few years ago I started a new job at a well-known organization. Although I was very excited about the opportunity and new experiences, in the first few weeks my excitement started to decline once I realized that the company wasn’t all they made it out to be in the interview process. On my first day, I sat alone at an empty desk with a packet of new hire paperwork to fill out. There was no new hire orientation, no one showed me around the office, I was not introduced to my coworkers and my manager was not available that week to fill me in on my responsibilities. It wasn’t a very welcoming environment. When my manager returned, I met with him briefly and he rattled off several projects he wanted me to work on with minimal instruction. I left the meeting feeling overwhelmed, unprepared and unmotivated. It took me twice as long to complete projects because of the lack of training and having to figure everything out for myself. Ultimately I was unable to meet the productivity demands of my position and the expectations of my manager. I felt like the company was setting me up for failure.  I questioned whether I made the right decision and began preparing to seek out other options.”

New employees usually decided to stay or leave the company within the first six months.

It’s common to hear employers say they want new hires to ‘hit the ground running.’ But in reality, even the most experienced employees need some guidance in the first few months on the job. They may have the right skills to make an immediate impact, but won’t be familiar with the new employers’ way of doing business.  

Without an onboarding program, new hires not only struggle during their initial weeks on the job, but they also won’t have the tools necessary to succeed. Employer focus on being prepared, welcoming, and helping new employees increases the opportunity for new hires to want to impress their new employer and fellow teammates.  Effective onboarding programs help to make a smooth transition for all!

Onboarding vs. Orientation

Organizations often confuse the onboarding program with the new hire orientation.  New hire orientation is the first introduction the candidate transitioning to an employee has to the company.  This is when the employee fills out all the necessary paperwork, reviews the company’s policies and procedures, and discusses the benefits program.   

The onboarding program is in addition to the new hire orientation and is a plan that is put together by the manager and peers before the employee begins. This program introduces the mission, vision, and values of the company and usually lasts for the first six months to a year to ensure the ongoing success of the employee.

The onboarding program includes: 

  • Preparing a job description that outlines the essential and non-essential responsibilities of the position as well as the skills and experience needed.  Job descriptions are valuable not only during the interview process but are also used to set expectations for employees and helps manage their performance. 
  • Sending out an announcement to all staff introducing the new employee including their role, the skills they bring to the organization, and their start date.
  • Ensuring the employee has the tools and access they need to do their job successfully (desk, computer, phone, training, etc.). Being prepared for the employees first day will help make them feel welcome.
  • Scheduling one-on-one meetings with their manager to discuss the responsibilities and expectations of their role. 
  • An introduction to the team; consider a team luncheon to welcome the newest member. 
  • Assigning a mentor to assist them with training and direction in the initial phase of their employment.    

Strong onboarding programs build strong foundations.  It introduces the employee to the company culture and creates relationships with their manager and peers. It helps them become more confident in their role, increases motivation and productivity and boosts performance.  Onboarding shows new and existing employees they are valued, increasing job satisfaction, improving employee retention and reducing turnover.

 

 

OSHA’s Top 10 List

NCS President and CEO Deborah A. P. Hersman said, “OSHA’s Top 10 List is more than just a list, it is a blueprint for keeping workers safe.”  Since the top five on the list is identical to the top five in the fiscal year 2016, it’s easy to see that most of the violations remain the same.

The list for the fiscal year 2017:

  1. Fall protection – General Requirements, 6,072 violations
  2. Hazard Communication, 4,176
  3. Scaffolding, 3,288
  4. Respiratory Protection, 3,097
  5. Lockout/Tagout, 2,877
  6. Ladders, 2,241
  7. Powered Industrial Trucks, 2,162
  8. Machine Guarding, 1,933
  9. Fall Protection – Training Requirements, 1, 523
  10. Electrical – Wiring Methods, 1,405

Number two on the list, Hazard Communication is one that applies to most businesses, regardless of their size, if their employees work with any type of chemicals.  Employers are required to define a chemical as any product having a warning label on it and used by your employees.  If you wouldn’t want your three-year-old to get their hands on the chemical and your employees use it at work, make sure you get an SDS (Safety Data Sheet).

A fairly recent (2012) change to the Standard caused the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) to be renamed Safety Data Sheets.  This change also required all Safety Data Sheets to consist of 16 sections, specifically defined in the standard.

If you bought your product at Walmart, you should be able to go on the website (normally on all labels) and find the SDS on the product which then can be printed and added to your binder.  These SDS binders must be available to your employees and are normally kept near most of the chemicals.  If you have been maintaining an MSDS/SDS binder all along, we recommend a review of your SDS to ensure they meet the new GHS requirements.  Rule of thumb is that if an SDS is more than five years old, it is worth verifying that it is the latest version.

Businesses must also have a written Hazard Communication Program and have documentation of annual refresher training for all active employees.

To comply with this requirement the program must:

  • Contain language regarding the policy to comply with the revised OSHA standard which has been aligned with the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).
  • Contain language about who maintains the Hazardous Chemicals list.
  • Identify who is responsible for the annual refresher training.
  • Identify who is responsible for an annual review of the program.

In New Hampshire, for businesses of over 15 employees, this is typically your JLMC (Joint Loss Management Committee).  For companies whose employees don’t normally come into contact with blood or other body fluids, it is best practice to include language in this program about the potential of bloodborne pathogen exposure.

Violations for powered industrial trucks are further down on the list, but the fines can be substantial for non-compliance.   If you’re not sure of your status, call us at (603) 261-2402 to schedule a mock audit before the real inspectors show up on your doorstep.

 

When is Action Required?

Your Compliance is Important To Us!

Regulatory compliance is particularly challenging when the regulations themselves are in the process of change.  Ensuring our clients are in compliance is an entirely separate challenge.  Seth Godin says, “The creation of worthwhile work is a duet. The creator has to do her part, but so does the consumer.”

One of our primary functions is to keep our clients out of trouble with OSHA and the Department of Labor, in addition to keeping them out of trouble with their employees.   We do our best by providing educational materials to our clients and our networking partners in the forms of blogs, quarterly newsletters, and even specific e-mails.  Hopefully, you are treating our communications at the same level as those from your lawyer, accountant, or financial advisor so that you are taking the best advantage of our services.

We received some excellent advice from one of our clients about the new OSHA requirement for filing electronically. The client’s valid argument was that he gets 100s of e-mail a day and didn’t recognize the importance of the communication, believing that it didn’t apply to his company.  “If it wasn’t for having that item on the 4th quarter JLMC agenda, we might not have known that the company hadn’t submitted their OSHA 300A form electronically.”  He suggested that when action should be taken by our clients, we should put ACTION REQUIRED in the subject line.  This is an excellent suggestion and one that we’ll try to follow.

If you believe that you may have missed some of our educational topics, please schedule a mock audit with us.  Hopefully, this audit will reveal any areas of non-compliance so corrective action can be taken. Remember, we will provide as few or as many services as you want or need.  You can do the work or have us do the work for you. The bottom line is that your compliance is important to us and should be equally important to you.

 

Important Dates

 

February 2018:

  • 2/1 – OSHA 300A log posting deadline
  • 2/14 – Valentines Day
  • 2/15 – Request new W-4 Forms from employees
  • 2/16 – Forklift Training Florida
  • 2/19 – Presidents Day
  • 2/27 – Virtual Coaching through Hannah Grimes

 

 

 

 


 

March 2018:

  • 3/2 – Forms 1094C & 1095C due
  • 3/17 – St. Patrick’s Day
  • 3/20 – Spring Begins
  • 3/27 – Virtual Coaching through Hannah Grimes
  • 3/30 – NH annual reports and fee’s due

 

 

 

 


 

April 2018:

  • 4/1 – Easter
  • 4/2 – Submit electronic 1094C & 1095C forms to IRS
  • 4/15 – Tax forms due
  • 4/22 –  Earth Day
  • 4/25 – Administrative Professionals Day
  • 4/30 – NHES Forms Due

2018 The Year of Change for Employers

Your Employees are your Company’s Most Valuable Asset!

Who or what is the most valuable asset (MVA) of your company? Employees should be considered the MVA of every organization. Without MVA’s how will your company meet the needs and demands of your customers?

The importance of retaining your MVA’s and reducing turnover is recommended to be the highest priority for your company this upcoming year. You have most likely experienced throughout 2017, the challenges of finding and retaining top talent within your company. Determining why employees are leaving your company and what attracts employees to your company is important to determine. No different than gearing your marketing towards specific industries or segments.

Some recommendations for uncovering what makes your employees tick or be ticked off:

  1. Employee Onboarding – Evaluate the onboarding process you are currently using. Investing time with a new employee on their first day leaves a lasting impression.
  2. Compensation Analysis – Have a compensation analysis done for all positions within your organization. Due to the recession, many companies put a hold on performance evaluations and increases due to financial restraints. Coming out of the financial stresses, many businesses have reinstated the Performance Appraisal and Salary Increases. The challenge here is, the value of duties and responsibilities has changed since 2008 and offering a minimal increase following years of no increase and no communication about performance may be insulting to employees.
  3. Implement Stay Interviews – The exit interview is not the best time to find out what your company can do to keep employees from leaving, by then, it’s too late.  It’s best to interview employees every 3-6 months to give them the opportunity to discuss what they like and don’t like about their current position, it gives the company time to address change and can help reduce employee turnover.
  4. Employee Surveys – Survey current employees to determine why they stay with your company and what will motivate them to make a move.
  5. Work-Life Balance – Evaluate the programs offered to employees to assist them with balancing work demands and life demands. Considering flexible work schedules and telecommuting are some options to consider.
  6. Culture – Is your work culture adaptable and acceptable to various generations throughout your workforce? Workplace Culture is the character and personality of your organization and is important for the organization as it directly impacts the ability to attract and retain talent.
  7. Diversity in the Workplace – Diversity is important because it introduces new ideas and adds to the workplace culture, it also increases employee morale and causes employees to work more effectively and efficiently.
  8. Mentors for Generational Gaps – In order for baby boomers to retire our millennials need to learn what makes “the other generations” stay with a company for extended periods of time. Who better to learn about work ethic, dedication, and respect from but our existing generation. Developing a mentoring program is a great tool to educate employees about work ethic and responsibilities while providing value to the baby boomers who don’t want to retire because they believe no one will respect the job and/or company like they do.
  9. Management Training – Promoting employees to management positions without providing them with the necessary tools and training is a recipe for disaster. Invest in helping your employees to be successful instead of leading them to think they are just filling a void.