Free Community College: What's all the Buzz?

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The average American is carrying around $27,000 in student-load debt in 2015. American's are either not going to school for the first time or not furthering their education because they can't afford it or don't want the debt.

In the January 2015 State of the Union Address, President Obama introduced many proposals, but one in particular stood out in the education field: Free community college tuition for everyone.
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4 Compensation Topics You Can't Afford to Overlook

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4 Compensation Topics You Can't Afford to Overlook

When the word "compensation" is brought up in conversation, most people assume it just refers to what a person is paid. However, to the Human Resource community, the word compensation is a much more complex topic.

We spoke with Sue Bailey, ERC’s Senior Consultant, Compensation & Benefits, about what HR professionals should look at when it comes to the top compensation topics.
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The State of the Union: 5 Proposals Every Employer Should Know About

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The State of the Union: 5 Proposals Every Employer Should Know About

The State of the Union address is widely viewed as a platform merely for a display of pomp and circumstance. There is an understanding that most of the topics addressed won’t come to fruition based on political pressures and divisions that will make implementation nearly impossible.

While the policy agenda outlined in President Obama’s speech in January of 2015 is likely to follow this same pattern, a mention during the State of the Union does bring additional attention to issues and policies that would otherwise go largely overlooked. For employers, this year’s speech contained a number of bullet points that while they may not become the law of the land, are definitely worth noting.
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Should You Be Performing Facebook Background Checks?

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performing background checks Should You Be Performing Facebook Background Checks?

When it comes to recruiting potential employees, social media has become a popular resource for finding candidates that will fit the required job skills and become a top-performing employee. But is using information from social media profiles a legal and reliable part of the recruiting process?

As reported in the 2013 Hiring Trends and Practice Survey, roughly 8% of HR specialists are using social media to pre-interview a candidate. Another 8% are also using social media for the post-offer and post-interview of a potential candidate.
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Pay Period Leap Year: Handling 27 Pay Periods

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Pay Period Leap Year: Handling 27 Pay Periods

If the question of, “How will you handle 27 pay periods,” doesn’t sound familiar to you, don’t panic. It may not apply to your organization, or if it does, you still have options. 

If your pay cycle is either weekly or bi-weekly, there is a good chance that some years will include an extra payday, although there is some variation to this rule based on the way the calendar falls and the day on which your organization pays employees.

It is also important to note that the extra payday only creates issues for exempt employees who, unlike their non-exempt counterparts who are paid based on hours worked, receive an equal portion of their annual salary each paycheck.

Finally, before agonizing over how to manage an extra pay period, employers should review any and all documents related to the terms of employment that are currently in place, e.g. offer letters or collective bargaining agreements. Specific wording or clauses in these types of documents may actually be the determining factor for which methods remain on the table.

How to handle the "pay period leap year"

Interestingly, despite the variation in the parameters listed above, one area where there is more consistency among local employers is in how they choose to address the pay period leap year.

When asked specifically how they handle years that have 27 versus 26 payrolls for exempt employees, 81% of respondents to 2014 ERC’s Payroll Practices Survey indicate that they “pay as usual.” This overwhelming response of essentially doing nothing has remained true since 2011 when the survey was first administered. Figure 1 below illustrates the other options employers may turn to:

The “other” category elicited several interesting responses, with more than one employer explaining that while in the past they had chosen to divide pay by 27 and adjust benefit deductions, moving forward they would not be making that same choice. They noted that although logistically this change worked smoothly, employees were displeased with a smaller bi-weekly paycheck and overall morale was negatively impacted.

Other considerations

Although these particular employers did not experience any compliance related issues, employers who choose to divide paychecks by 27 should be aware of any lower wage workers on an annual salary. If the new math puts their pay below the FLSA threshold, this would in fact alter their FLSA exempt status and require the employer to pay overtime, etc to these employees for one year.

Another alternative option, although not at all common, was to simply reduce the final paycheck of the year.

As legal experts point out, this final option can also be dangerous in terms of FLSA as well as state minimum wage laws for any salaried non-exempt employees that might fall under the minimum hourly wage during the final reduced pay period—not to mention the likely backlash and drop in employee morale that could accompany a significantly reduced final holiday paycheck.

Ultimately, no matter which option an organization selects to accommodate a 27 pay period schedule, the key is communication with employees. Clearly if any paycheck along the way is going to be smaller, employees will need to know in advance, but even for employers that do nothing this year, communication is still important. For these employees, an extra paycheck could mean as much as a 4% raise, a raise that will be confined only to that year. So whether your payroll budget is staying the same or hitting an all time high with 4% raises, making sure everyone is on the same page will allow for a much smoother and easier transition into the years beyond.

View ERC's Pay Differential Survey Survey Results

This survey reports on common pay differentials from Northeast Ohio employers for hourly employees, including shift differentials, lead premiums, overtime, and on-call pay practices.

View the Results

13 New Year's Resolutions for HR Professionals

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13 New Year's Resolutions for HR Professionals

A new year brings New Year's Resolutions. The most common personal resolutions are to be more health conscious, work out more, and spend more time with friends and family. But what about your professional life?

As HR professionals, there are many aspects of the workplace that you are responsible for. HR is constantly growing and becoming more important to organizations. In keeping with this growth, the new year creates a great reason to do better this year than the last for not only the HR department, but the organization as a whole. Here are a few practices to consider.
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Is Your Organization Ready for Another Northeast Ohio Winter?

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Is Your Organization Ready for Another Northeast Ohio Winter?

We haven’t even hit the official start of winter and already the region has seen its fair share of snow, ice, and frigid temperatures; not to mention traffic jams, car accidents, power outages, school closings, and of course, frantic phone calls from employees who aren’t going to make it to the office on time (or at all).

Although this week’s milder temperatures make it easy to forget, we still have at least three months of this unpredictable winter weather ahead of us here in Northeast Ohio and it is as important as ever that employers are prepared to handle whatever mother nature throws at them.

Does your organization have a protocol in place for weather related closures or delays?

While ERC’s annual Inclement Weather Survey consistently demonstrates that less than half of employers have formal inclement weather polices on the books, most organizations have some semblance of an informal policy that guides them in cases of emergency.

At the very least, designating one or more people to assess poor weather conditions and make a determination about the safety of the commute for employees is a good start.

A solid policy (formal or not) would then take into consideration how to communicate any change to the normal work day with employees, address how to handle absenteeism & tardiness, potentially include work from home options, and of course, follow fair (and legal) pay practices.

Do your employees know what to expect in case of weather related emergency?

Even if it’s not spelled out in an employee handbook, employees still need to be made aware of the protocol that will go into effect should a weather related emergency arise. Timing as well as the method by which the decision will be communicated are both critical.

At some organizations (usually larger organizations), the responsibility lies with the employee to check a hotline or voicemail.

Increasingly, organizations are turning to higher tech methods of communication, which still rely on the employees to check in, but go directly to each individual employee, i.e. email and text message. Particularly if your organization has employees that may be commuting long distances, the sooner you can inform your employees of any changes to arrival times or general closures, the better.

For safety’s sake, keep in mind how early these employees may need to leave in order to get to work on time—especially if they leave extra early to try to avoid traffic on bad weather days.

Making the decision as early as possible in the morning can also be a huge help for employees who have school age children. If their school district cancels school for the day, they may be faced with the challenge of arranging alternative child care.

Whenever possible, is your inclement weather policy fair (and FLSA compliant)?

Consistency is critical both in terms of employee safety, making sure your employees know what to expect so they can make informed choices about their travel, as well as in terms of equity and employee morale. Although most organizations treat exempt and non-exempt employees very similarly from a disciplinary standpoint when it comes to absences, there are some differences in the pay practices that are implemented.

These differences have legal grounds in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which places many more restrictions on docking pay for exempt employees than for non-exempt employees. Of course, depending on the nature of your business and the nature of the specific job duties that must be performed by certain individual employees within the organization, there are plenty of industries or job titles that are considered “critical” and therefore are left out of any closures or delays.

Helping all types of employees (e.g., exempt vs. non-exempt, critical vs. non-critical, outward facing vs. inward facing) understand these differences can help prevent or smooth over potential conflicts related to pay that might otherwise occur.

Ultimately, the key to any inclement/adverse weather protocol is balance – a balance between clear expectations and flexibility. Expectations need to be clear to maintain fairness, keep employees informed, and depending on the industry keep the business running for the safety of clients or even the general public.

However, on the flip-side, the policy also needs to have enough flexibility to accommodate the extenuating circumstances that undoubtedly accompany extreme weather.

Although the written policy may not address a particularly unique situation, by applying basic logic and keeping employee safety front of mind, any organization can be successful at navigating even the worst Northeast Ohio winter weather.

View ERC's Inclement Weather Practices Survey Results

This survey reports trends among Northeast Ohio employers in terms of how they handle communication, employee absence and tardiness, and pay during inclement weather.

View the Results

The Ultimate 2015 HR Outlook

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The Ultimate 2015 HR Outlook

With 2015 right around the corner, we broke down the most talked about changes and what to expect in the next year for you and your company.

Minimum Wage

Ohio’s minimum wage will automatically increase to $8.10 per hour on Jan. 1, a 15-cent bump over the current pay. For tipped employees, the minimum wage rises to $4.05 per hour, a six-cent increase.

Ohio is one of 23 states that have a minimum wage higher than the $7.25 federal minimum. Washington has the highest rate at $9.32 per hour.

The minimum-wage increases apply to employees of businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $297,000 per year.
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