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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

cost of workplace romance

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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summer dress code policy

Why You Need a Summer Dress Code Policy

Before we know it, summer will be here. And as the weather starts to warm up, 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.

summer dress code policy

 

 

 

Outsourced HR Services for NH Businesses and Non-Profits

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!

 

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Did March Madness Happen at Your Office?

Did March Madness Happen at Your Office?

In light of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) March Madness that just came to pass, basketball fans across the country got excited to find out who would win the tournament and who won the gambling pool at the office.  The March Madness Tournament draws in billions of dollars each year, with last year’s raking in roughly $9 billion.  Some of that money might be changing hands from your office employees who ran a pool of their own.

 

Legality

If you’re wondering whether the office NCAA Tournament pool is just harmless fun or if it’s legal the answer to that question is: no.  In most states, except for Nevada, betting on college sports is illegal. For the state of New Hampshire, wagering on games or sports is illegal, however, some states, like Vermont and Montana, may allow for limited legal betting such as having a winner-take-all format wherein the officiator of the pool receives no cut or profit from the pool.  Check your state’s gambling laws to make sure you and your employees remain compliant with the laws.

Risks and Repercussions

Although your office’s pool may be illegal, the chances of facing any prosecution for participating in a betting pool as an employer or as an employee are slim to none.  Few employers, if any, have gotten in trouble for March Madness pools or other sports wagering in the past.  Unlicensed sports betting, like the inter-office pool that might be going on that your work place, may not necessarily be the main concern of the FBI or police.  However, getting caught in the scheme will land the officiating employee(s) a misdemeanor charge, if you’re lucky, or a one-year stay at the nearest jail.  Trouble might also be brewing for you, the employer, especially if you own the property of your workplace location as you will be subject to the same criminal liability as the organizer.  Any participant, whether he or she is only involved in a single bet will also be liable for these consequences.

Rather than the FBI or the local police, you should be more cautious of an IRS investigation.  Most might forget this step, but if your company policy permits such pools and you or your employees profit from them at all, you must report your winnings when you sit down to do your federal income tax.  If you don’t declare your winnings as an income, there’s a large chance that you will get audited by the IRS.

Dice and Poker Chips on Game Table

Keeping It Under Control

For the benefit of your company and your employees, the safest bet is to prohibit office pools or wagering of any type from being conducted in the workplace.  Describing the type of prohibited and acceptable behaviors in a comprehensive gambling policy will greatly decrease the likelihood of there being any illegal pools or wagering in your workplace.  Some things to considering implementing or updating in your policy can include: establishing work areas such as offices, break rooms, and parking lots as places where gambling is prohibited; indicating that the use of company-owned computers and servers for gambling purposes is restricted; clearly outlining what constitutes as gambling and potential course of action for policy violations.

 

HR Synergy is your outsourced human resources specialists—contact us today and our expert team can help you create and develop policies that will allow you to create better workplace interactions, keeping you and your employees happy.

 

Written by:

Bianca Wee Sit, Public Relations Intern

HR Synergy

 

 

 

Happier Employees, Happier You

As a business owner, you want to retain your employees and have them stay with your company for as long as possible as it can get costly to replace your staff frequently.  Nobody wants to put in money to hire and train employees only to do so again six months later.  Learn how happier employees could lead to a happier you– here are some tips to keep your employees, and yourself, happy and productive.

Why They Leave

Before getting into the tips, we must first get into the reason for why employee retention might be on the decline.  Business can lose employees for a multitude of reasons—whether it’s because of a whole family move, to stay home with the children, or going back to school.  However, most of the reasons why people leave their jobs are under the control of the employer.  Elements such as the company culture and environment, as well as how the employee perceives his or her job and opportunities there can all be influenced by you, the employer.

Communication

One of the best things an employer can do to improve retention rates is to have better communications with their employees.  An employer is too much of an integral part in employees’ daily work life that having a good professional relationship with their boss causes improved morale, productivity, loyalty.  It can also reduce mistakes that happen from lack of communications, and prevent angry employees from disrupting the workflow of your company.

To improve communication with your employees try implementing more of the following:

Having face-to-face conversations:  Interacting with employees personally not only

strengthens the work relationships, but it also helps build trust and respect that emails and text can’t provide.

Being approachable:  Before you can have face-to-face conversations, you need to

be approachable.  Be more engaging and take your employees out to lunch.

Keeping employees informed and up-to-date with company happenings

Listening to them or providing avenues for sounding off:  Communication is a two-way street, and you need to listen as well.  Hear them out by having regular staff meetings, a suggestion box, or have a running employee satisfaction survey.

 

Acting on any complaints:  What use is listening if you don’t do something

about it.  Act on what you hear and provide solutions to your employees’ complaints.

 

Boost Teamwork

Another root cause of employees leaving work is disagreements or discomfort with fellow team member.  Employees spend most of their time at work with co-workers, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that improving the relationships they have with one another will help keep them happy and more likely to enjoy coming into work.

Try these tips with your teams to improve employee relations:

Outlining Clear Roles: Working with members to outline skill sets and deadline

charts before the start of projects helps identify individual roles and reduces stress levels.

Identifying existing problems: Leaving issues to resolve themselves over time may

not be the most optimal solution.  Having group members collectively discuss problems as they arise solves the

risk of the issues growing larger later.

Mediate Disputes: Providing detailed instructions to teams on how to remedy

issues will empower members of the team to solve them efficiently and productively.

Encouraging social activity: When workers know each other well allows them to be

more comfortable with discussing issues, thus increasing team work.

Implementing recognition programs: Rewarding your team for good performance

will encourage them to keep up the work and keep producing quality material.

 

Next Steps

Improving your relationship with your employees as well as their relationships with themselves will get you back on track for a productive year.  If these tips weren’t enough, HR Synergy can help you take care of the most important aspects of your business because we know that employees are everything to your business.

 

Written by:

Bianca Wee Sit, Public Relations Intern

HR Synergy, LLC.