business news, trends and industry insights

January 2017

RISK MANAGEMENT UPDATE!
New OSHA Rule Effective January 2017 -  General Industry Surfaces & Fall Protection

 
Falls from heights and on the same level are among the leading causes of serious work-related injuries and deaths. OSHA has issued a final rule on Walking-Working surfaces and Personal Fall Protection Systems to better protect workers from these hazards by updating and clarifying standards and adding training and inspection requirements. The rule affects a wide range of workers, from painters to warehouse workers. It does not change construction or agricultural standards.
The rule updates standards addressing slip, trip, and fall hazards and adds requirements for personal fall protection systems. OSHA estimates that these changes will prevent 29 fatalities and 5,842 lost-workday injuries every year. The rule becomes effective on Jan. 17, 2017 and affects approximately 112 million workers.
Most of the rule will become effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, but some provisions have delayed effective dates, including training for six months. Please refer to the OSHA Fact Sheet for details on this important final rule.
 
October 2016

MAKE HALLOWEEN SAFE AND FUN IN YOUR WORKPLACE!

If executed properly, Halloween festivities provide a great team building opportunity by encouraging management and staff interaction, and promoting workplace engagement. Plan ahead and communicate what is acceptable and unacceptable in order to avoid potential problems such as sexual harassment, hostile work environments, liability and safety.
Although it's a festive day for all, some may not be interested in celebrating.   Employees should never feel compelled to participate! Events should be should be optional, not compulsory.
Bibbidi HR recommends keeping the following in mind when planning your workplace Halloween events:
  • Decorations using candles such as pumpkins may be a fire hazard - Plan placement of decor objects carefully and keep worksite walking areas and stairs well-lit and free of obstacles, which can potentially result in falls.
  • Capes, gowns and other long garments also pose trip and fall hazards.
  • Dangling pieces of jewelry can get caught in machinery and doors.
  • Revealing costumes may offend co-workers and lead to a complaint.
  • Snacks are an integral part of probably every workplace - Be aware of peanut and other allergies.
  • A company policy on alcohol is always recommended.
Be Safe and Enjoy!
Bibbidi HR Halloween Workplace Tips
September 2016

EEOC: Guidance on Retaliation and Related Matters - Final Enforcement Issued 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published its recently issued final Enforcement Guidance on Retaliation and Related Issues. This new guidance replaces the 1998 Compliance Manual section on retaliation. The guidance specifically addresses retaliation under each of the statutes enforced by EEOC including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).
Topics explained in the new guidance include:
* The scope of employee activity protected by the law.
* Legal analysis to be used to determine if evidence supports a claim of retaliation.
* Remedies available for retaliation.
* Rules against interference with the exercise of rights under the ADA.
* Detailed examples of employer actions that may constitute retaliation.

Additional details, and a shorter Small Business Fact Sheet that condenses the major points in the guidance in non-legal language are available from the EEOC here.

CONNECTING WITH YOUR MILLENNIAL WORKFORCE:  3 HELPFUL HINTS!

Why single out and target Millennials? As of 2015, these 18-34 year-olds became America's most numerous workforce demographic. Company leaders who have not adjusted their strategies to accommodate the rise of this new generation are not keeping up! Now more than ever it's essential to understand what Millennials value and how technology intersects with their experience. Workplace fundamentals have shifted - It's time to catch up and evolve your messaging to get their attention!


1- Embrace Digital and Make it Mobile!

Uniquely web-savvy, these "digital natives" grew up with the internet. The youngest of them have never known a world without it. Millennials are more prepared than most to contend with the ways technology can transform business operations including a remote workforce. It's good business to... (con't here) make these resources available with more tasks and projects doable online. Consider phasing out most informational print materials, migrate processes such as open enrollment online; and promote and archive relevant content on your company intranet. These highly tech-knowledgeable employees are used to staying connected via social media, centered on teamwork, and adept at handling multiple tasks. Given these circumstances, Millennials expect the opportunity to handle many tasks remotely. Optimize for mobile/remote access as much as possible.

2- Personalize and Recognize:

While establishing a strong company culture and gaining employee buy-in is important. It's essential to recognize your employees as human beings with full lives outside the workplace. Refrain from addressing your employees in the third person when possible. When sending communications, remember, your message is being read by one person at a time- Create first name salutations for emails and intranet portals. For tools you'd like more engagement with, consider asking employees who already take advantage of them to share testimonials - Spotlight employee reviews with quotes and videos on your social media and intranet.


3- Entertain, Post and Share!

HR topics may be old hat to your senior employees, but when it comes time for Benefits, Insurance Options, and Open Enrollment especially, many of your Millennial employees, might be more lost than you know. Post as much documentation online as possible and link directly to topics you want to highlight via short entertaining graphics, images and videos posted on your social sites and e-newsletters. Think of your HR information as a product and market it to your audience a.k.a your employees! Infographics with FAQ's and Links to a glossary of terminology they may not yet be familiar with will work wonders with your younger staff. Millennials are visual learners who love Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube; they're also used to reading content on white space and image-heavy webpages. So as you create communications big and small, remember to be brief, think about visuals as much as you think about text and infuse company personality and humor to your messaging. Keep an eye out for business communications YOU find engaging, but not inappropriate, and follow their lead.
Using job descriptions is part of good management - Updating and maintaining accurate descriptions is a job worth doing!
BibbidiHR is here to help!

JOB DESCRIPTIONS - WHY THEY MATTER!

A well-written job description creates the framework in building positive employer-employee relationships. From recruitment to retirement, job descriptions provide information about the knowledge, training, education, and skills needed for each job. They prevent misunderstandings by clearly outlining relationships between individuals and departments, as well as responsibilities. Job descriptions help both sides share a common understanding... They benefit employees and employers!
Once a job description is prepared, it can serve a basis for interviewing candidates, orienting a new employee and in the evaluation of job performance. A job description describes the job, not the people who hold that job. They provide a basis for job evaluation, wage and salary comparisons, and fair compensation structures. Descriptions usually include duties, skills, effort, responsibilities of the job, environmental and working conditions specific to the job, as well as the education and experience required for performing the job.It may also list information on tools and equipment used and relationships with other employees and departments.
While the ADA doesn't require job descriptions, it does require that applicants and employees are able to perform the "essential functions" of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has said that one of the things the agency will look at when determining essential functions are job descriptions written before an employer advertises to fill an opening. Therefore most companies, whether they are rewriting old descriptions or developing them for the first time, want them to reflect essential functions - a generic description is not the best way to do that.
Why Are Job Descriptions Important?
• Assist job applicants, employees, supervisors, and human resources professionals at every stage in the employment relationship.
• Improve the company's structure, and lay the foundation for sound documentation to comply with Company Policies, ADA and EEOC guidelines by identifying and analyzing the essential functions.
• Minimize conflicts, improve communications, and prevent misunderstandings/settle grievances by clearly defining relationships between individuals and departments. Job descriptions help set expectations for employers and employees.



FINAL OVERTIME RULES: Big Changes Announced by DOL!
IS YOUR BUSINESS READY?

May 23,2016 -Last week the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) announced final rules updating the conditions employees must meet to qualify for exemptions from overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”). This final rule reflects considerations of concerns raised by the business community in response to the proposed rules issued in June 2015. Most notably, the new salary level of $47,476 was imposed over the proposed $50,440; and the implementation period was lengthened from 60 days to six months. There were no changes to the “duties” test for employees to qualify for the EAP exemptions.
New regulations go into effect December 1, 2016. Employers will have to raise the salaries of exempt employees to meet the new salary level, or re-classify exempt salaried employees to non-exempt hourly and manage the overtime they work. The current rule requiring employees to be paid a minimum salary of $455 per week ($23,600 annually) to qualify for the “EAP” – executive, administrative, professional – exemptions from overtime has remained unchanged since 2004; until now. Under the new final rule, the salary level increases to $913 per week ($47,476 annually). The final rule also updates the total annual compensation level above which Highly Compensated Employees (HCE) are ineligible for overtime. The new level is $134,004 per year, which is up from the current $100,000 per year.
All employers will have to comply with the changes made to the overtime regulations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by Dec. 1, 2016.
New Regulation Highlights:
• The rule extends overtime protections to over 4 million workers who are not currently eligible under federal law.
• Workers who earn as much as $47,476 a year ($913 a week) will have to be paid overtime, even if they're classified as a manager or professional.
• No changes to the duties tests
• Triennial rather than annual increases in the minimum standard salary level for exempt employees.
• A 200-day rather than 60-day implementation window.
In anticipation of these changes, The HR Team at Bibbidi HR has been proactive in assisting clients with self-auditing their workforce. If your business has not yet determined if any action needs to be taken with some employees, please contact us today! It is important to remember - job titles DO NOT determine exempt status. For an exemption to apply, an employee's specific job duties and salary must meet all of the applicable requirements provided in the Department's regulations. We’re here to help!

RISK MANAGEMENT & WORKPLACE VIOLENCE

Workplace violence is a growing concern for employers and employees nationwide. Millions of American workers report experiencing some form of workplace violence or threat of violence each year. Workplace violence incidents, ranging from threats and verbal abuse to sabotage, physical assaults or even homicide, can happen anytime from co-workers, customers and even strangers. Sadly, violence in the workplace is no longer uncommon.
What are some warning signs and causes?
- Loss of or fear of losing a job
- A warning or other discipline from a supervisor
- Unresolved problems with co-workers or supervisors
- Upset over recent events at work or home
- Recent change in behavior and has withdrawn from normal activities
- Intimidates, harasses or mistreats others
- Challenges authority and blames others for problems
- Uses and abuses drugs and/or alcohol
- Makes threatening references to other incidents of violence
- Makes threats to harm self and others and may have a fascination with weapons
- Angry outbursts, feels wronged, humiliated and wants revenge
What can employers do to help protect employees?
A workplace violence prevention program should be established. It is important that employees know the policy and understand that all claims of workplace violence will be addressed promptly. The best protection employers can offer is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence. Workplace violence risks can be reduced by good communication and procedures for airing and resolving problems. OSHA offers a sample prevention plan that can be tailored to your workplace here.
Steps employees can take to help protect themselves?
- Report any work-related threatening or violent behavior
- Know the building's exits
- Alert security or management of strangers or former employees who should not be in the building
- Leave the workplace with co-workers
Being proactive about workplace violence prevention, preparation and response requires a multi-disciplinary approach involving management, law enforcement and all employees.

PAY RATES, EXEMPTIONS AND EMPLOYEE
CLASSIFICATIONS - ARE YOU COMPLIANT?

The Department of Labor ("DOL") plans to increase the minimum annual salary necessary for FLSA exemptions - currently $455 per week($23,660 annually) up to over to $50,000. The DOL final rule is due later this year. Proposed changes will inevitably affect companies' operations; and employers that are historically more susceptible to risks associated with employee mis-classification such as those in manufacturing, non-profit, education, home health, restaurant, hospitality, and retail industries, should prepare now. Employee mis-classifications can have costly consequences.
Unless exempt, employees covered by the The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must receive overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate not less than one and one-half times their regular rates of pay. FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments. It is legally perilous to classify and pay employees based upon "common practices" and beliefs within your industry instead of following the legal requirements and limitations under the FLSA - Especially now! With the proposed rule changes, lawsuits and DOL audits are expected to increase. Make it a top priority to review job classifications, pay rates and how many truly exempt employees you have within your organization.

Currently, to qualify for exemption, an employee generally must:
- Be salaried, meaning that they are paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed - Currently $455 per week, the equivalent of $23,660 annually for a full-year employee. (Going up to over to $50,000 with new rules proposed for end of 2016).
- Primarily perform executive, administrative, or professional duties, as provided in the Department's regulations "duties test".
Job titles DO NOT determine exempt status. The fact that a white collar employee has the title of "manager" and is paid on a salary basis does not alone provide sufficient ground to exempt that employee from the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime requirements. For an exemption to apply, an employee's specific job duties and salary must meet all of the applicable requirements provided in the Department's regulations.
Why is the Department revising its overtime regulations?
By way of this rulemaking, the Department seeks to re-establish the effectiveness of the salary level test as a ready method of drawing a line separating exempt from nonexempt employees, and to simplify the identification of overtime-eligible employees. The Department last updated the overtime regulations in 2004. Should the Department decide after consideration of comments received, the Department estimates that a 2016 level may be about $970 a week, or $50,440 a year.
Whether or not the proposed new rules will have a big impact on your business, changes are coming, and a thorough review of details now will save you money, time, and potential troubles later. We recommend conducting internal audits and planning ahead to develop strategies for anticipated employee status conversions (nonexempt/exempt) or continued current status. Also, implementing comprehensive policies regarding nonexempt employees' time cards, lunch breaks, PTO, vacation, sick leave, "off the clock" work, and the like if not already established.
For more detailed guidance on current and proposed rules visit the DOL page here.

And as always, our HR Team is here to help! Please contact us with your particular workplace questions.

January 2016


it's your year to shine - top 6 professional RESOLUTIONS FOR 2016!

You’ve likely listed and recently ditched a few personal resolutions for 2016 already- But what about your professional life? For all the business owners, and other professionals responsible for labor and HR issues in the workplace - Here’s your second chance to shine! We’ve compiled a handy list you can resolve to take on and easily handle for 2016!
  1. Update Your Company Handbook
    Often neglected but oh-so important! Review and revise your handbook as necessary this year and every year. Laws, regulations and workplace procedures change. If you find sections that are no longer relevant or unclear, rewrite the sections to clarify or change the policies. Every time your handbook is updated, redistribute copies to employees and require signatures acknowledging the updates.
  2. Schedule Trainings
    What good are policies if managers don’t know how to enforce them? Effective workplace training can help employers avoid employee lawsuits, workplace injuries, and violations of laws and regulations. Provide manager training sessions to review workplace policies and their roles in consistently implementing with employees. Also, an all-employee session to introduce any policy revisions and remind your workers of your rules is highly recommended.
  3. Distribute Policy Reminders
    If handbooks and workplace guidelines are up-to-date, it is still good practice to reinforce the importance of your critical policies by distributing and having all employees sign an acknowledgment of receipt (or demonstrate electronic receipt). Most employers consider their discrimination-harassment-retaliation policies to be of utmost importance, but you can also select any areas that might need emphasis in the New Year.
  4. Audit your Files
    Review all employee personnel files for consistency.  Confirm you have a signed copy of each and every necessary document in each and every file.  Don’t wait until an HR or Compliance issue comes up to learn that the signature on a key document is missing. Ensure you have 100% signature rate now!
    And don’t forget - Make sure that any medical information is kept in a separate file from the personnel file. Under medical privacy law, such documentation can’t be intermixed with standard personnel records. Medical information must be kept in a secure location only accessible on a genuine need to know basis.
  5. Review Independent Contractor Status
    If your business retains any workers as independent contractors, you should review their status to ensure they are truly considered independent contractors in the eyes of the law. This area has evolved in recent years, you should resolve to review these relationships with a fresh eye in 2016.
  6. Examine Exemption Status
    Titles are not everything. It is important to remember that titles are not determinative of whether an employee is exempt from the provisions of the FLSA. Revisit and carefully review the duties and compensation of workers you have classified as exempt from overtime requirements to confirm they still quality for this status.

    Happy New Year!
December 2015


put the happy back into your holiday season!

Is the Spirit of the Season more like the Stress of the Season? As business owners, like you, we can relate - pressures to do more, be cheerful, happy and perfect all at the same time can be overwhelming during the Holidays. We’re all in the final stretch, attempting to squeeze the year end for every last drop. Unfortunately this frantic pace comes at the expense of already overstretched, under-resourced, and mostly burnt out workplaces.
What to put the Happy back into your Holidays? We’ve consulted a merry band of experts and if you’re ready to actually enjoy this holiday season, while still getting the job done, try some of these helpful tips:
1.       Ditch the Guilt:
Guilt can be such a negative emotion and can really affect our behavior. We all struggle to balance work and family life, while worrying that one may be damaged in the pursuit of the other. In our culture we relentlessly emphasize on achievement, productivity and goal attainment. In this strive for perfection and doing it all, we lose perspective on our human limitations, the ability to be present with ourselves, and sacrifice emotional intelligence. No one can do it all!  We are not intended to be perfect and should accept imperfections as natural to the flow of life. Do your best and remind yourself how good you are and how much you do actually get done!  Take a moment and write down all your accomplishments over the last 5 days. See, pretty good! Stop the critical inner voice and give yourself a break – That energy could be spent on positive and productive thoughts instead!
2.       Purge, Categorize and Prioritize
It’s easy to get overwhelmed before you even begin, which can paralyze the best of us - Complete this exercise to ease the load of the world from your shoulders. Take 10 minutes and write down every single thing you need to do between now and the moment you leave the office for your holiday break. Include everything personal and professional. Now go through this list and highlight each item into one of three color categories… Pick three of your favorite colors or use this example: Green: Must be done today; Yellow: Can wait until later in the week/month; Red: Do it in January. Be realistic. Reevaluate if you have more than 5 or 6 items in your Green category. Unless they include small tasks, they won’t all get done and you’ll continue to feel stressed-out.
Review your list at the end of each day.  Assess whether any items should shift in terms of priority or if anything new that needs to be added. Does your Green category have urgent items listed up top for the next day? Include resources you need to line up to ensure the priority items get done and you don’t get over stretched and stressed in the process - Ask for help or delegate anything that seems overwhelming and/or unrealistic. Maintain this list daily and you’ll begin to relax and enjoy yourself knowing everything is in hand.
 3.       Hit Pause and Get Good Sleep:
Stress adrenaline keeps us going but takes a big toll down the line. One way to short-circuit the negative impact of holiday pressures it is to be intentional about your rest. When there’s so much to get done, it doesn’t feel like you have enough time to sleep - but really, you should make that your priority! The quality of your sleep directly affects the quality of your working life. The more sleep you get, the more energy you have and the more productive you are. Just losing one hour of sleep a night diminishes your ability to think properly and quickly. And throughout the day, ‘pause’ and quiet your mind for a few minutes whenever you feel the stress scrooge creeping up - Stop what you’re doing, take a few deep breaths and ‘recalibrate’ your emotional barometer. Make sure you factor a full night’s sleep and schedule breaks on your calendar as a top priority in your Purge then Prioritize schedule.
4.       Be Flexible and Think Outside the (Gift) Box:
Are you the boss? Help reduce your team’s stress and immediately contribute a more relaxed environment – Give the gift of time! Get creative with flex-time, comp-time when possible. If full or half-days aren’t possible, agree that employees can schedule to come in later or leave a little earlier to give them time to get personal things done. Even a free hour to do online shopping helps!
5.       Be Patient, Kind and Express More Gratitude 
When stressed out, it sometimes feels as if the whole world is deliberately blocking our way. Printers jam, vendors don’t deliver on time, other drivers, tourists and shoppers slow us down; and people decide to write checks in the check-out line… What’s up with that in 2015 anyway!?! These little annoyances pile up to become big frustrations that most likely get taken out on friends, family and colleagues, further exacerbating the cycle of stress.
Stop, breathe, and take responsibility for your contribution to this cycle- Be patient, we’re all experiences similar ordeals. Instead, think about whose day you can brighten by taking a moment to appreciate your surroundings - expressing gratitude or just paying a compliment to someone. As research has shown, acts of kindness toward others benefit the giver every bit as much as the person on the receiving end.
6.       Lighten up, Laugh and Have fun!
Playtime isn’t just for kids! Too often, we grown-ups get so caught up in the seriousness of adult life and responsibilities that we forget to have fun. Laughter has been shown to set off neurological and physiological triggers that increase levels of oxygen, slow the heart rate, ease pain and just generally make us feel good - cutting through the tensions that often build in the holiday season. Unless it’s life or death, what does it really matter in the grand scheme of your earthling life if you didn’t complete everything you wanted to in exactly the way you’d hoped before the 24th of December?  Go enjoy some eggnog!
 
jULY 2015

PREVENTING HEAT STROKE THIS SUMMER!

It's summer time and as the temperature rises, so do incidences of heat-related worker illnesses. "Heat-related illnesses can be fatal, and employers are responsible for keeping workers safe," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. "Employers can take a few easy steps to save lives, including scheduling frequent water breaks, providing shade and allowing ample time to rest." Remember these three simple words: Water, Rest, ShadeTaking these precautions can mean the difference between life and death.

CALCULATE THE HEAT INDEX FOR YOUR WORKSITE HERE!

 

UPDATED FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE ACT FORMS

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has issued new FMLA ( Family Medical Leave Act) certification forms. Other than a change to the expiration date, which is now May 31, 2018, the only notable changes are a brief reference to the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) in the WH-380E, 380F, 385, and 385V medical certification forms.
You may access the new FMLA forms here.

irs releases 2016 Deduction Limits for Health savings accounts

The IRS has released the 2016 inflation-adjusted deduction limitations for health savings accounts (HSA’s) under Code Sec. 223. The higher rates released in Revenue Procedure 2015-30 reflect a cost-of-living adjustment for HSA deduction limits, which are updated annually.
For calendar year 2016, the annual limitation on deductions for an individual with self-only coverage under a high deductible health plan is $3,350.  For calendar year 2016, the annual limitation on deductions for an individual with family coverage under a high deductible health plan is $6,750.
Also for 2016, a “high deductible health plan” is defined as a health plan with an annual deductible that is not less than $1,300 for self-only coverage, or $2,600 for family coverage, and the annual out-of-pocket expenses (including deductibles, co-payments and other amounts, but not premiums) do not exceed $6,550 for self-only coverage or $13,100 for family coverage.
Read more about Revenue Procedure 2015-30 here…
SBEA Passage FactSheet - Bibbidi HR.pdf SBEA Passage FactSheet - Bibbidi HR.pdf
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Study Shows Higher Business Survival Rates, Lower Turnover For Businesses That Use PEOs.

Businesses that use professional employer organizations (PEOs) for HR, benefits, and compliance have a significantly higher rate of business survival and a lower rate of employee turnover than businesses that don't use PEOs, according to a new study released today by the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) at its annual conference in Miami.
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WHAT IS A PEO AND HOW CAN IT HELP MY BUSINESS?

PEOs manage thousands of employees and can therefore purchase insurance and benefit plans at a significant savings or allow you to offer higher-quality plans to attract and retain skilled employees.
A PEO will help with employment-related regulatory compliance (ADA, payroll, OSHA, EEOC, etc.), a huge advantage that can be worth more to your business than the money saved on benefits costs... Click here or below to access full article
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peo's fueling small business growth.

PEO clients have higher growth rates than other small businesses. Since 2010, employment growth among PEO clients has been 9 percent higher than other small businesses (based on the Intuit Small Business Employment Index), and 4 percent higher than employment growth in the U.S. economy overall... Click here or below to access full report.
PEO Fueling Small Business Growth.pdf PEO Fueling Small Business Growth.pdf
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