When To Get Your Flu Shot

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The Center for Disease Control (CDC) encourages people to get vaccinated throughout the flu season, which can begin as early as October and last as late as May.  For a typical flu season, vaccination should begin in mid-October, assuring strong immunity throughout the season.

Vaccination before December is best since this timing ensures that protective antibodies are in place before flu activity is typically at its highest. Over the course of the flu season, many different influenza viruses can circulate at different times and in different places. As long as flu viruses are still spreading in the community, vaccination can provide protective benefit.

In addition, there are other people who may benefit from seasonal flu vaccination as late as April or May, even if influenza viruses are no longer circulating in the United States. This includes:

  1. Persons likely to be traveling to the Southern Hemisphere where influenza may be circulating and
  2. Children younger than 9 being vaccinated for the first time who still have not received their second recommended dose of vaccine. Studies have shown that two doses are needed in children younger than 9 the first year they are vaccinated in order to maximize the protective benefit from vaccination.

For more information, please contact Gary Walker
Phone: 216-767-8985
Email: gary.walker@uhhospitals.org
Website: UHhospitals.org/EmployerSolutions, University Hospitals is a preferred partner of ERC.

Professional Services Employers Tend to Pay Higher Increases

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According to the 2011 NorthCoast 99 Winners Report, pay increases vary considerably by industry, as does the amount in which those increases are differentiated by performance.

The report shows that winners in professional services industries reported higher increases for 2010 than those in manufacturing, distribution, transportation, health care, and non-profit industries.

Specifically, winners in marketing, technology, and architectural services industries reported providing average increases of 7.8% to top performers – the highest increase reported of all of the industries. Winners in finance, legal, and management services industries also reported above average increases for top performers of 7.3%. These industries also reported higher pay increases across all of their employees as well as for average performers.

Winners in professional services industries also reported more differentiation of pay increases across performance levels. Winners in marketing, technology, and architectural services industries reported an average difference of 4% between top and average performers’ pay increases and 6% between top and bottom performers’ pay increases.

Similarly, winners in finance, legal, and management services industries reported an average difference of 3% between top and average performers’ pay increases and 6% between top and bottom performers’ pay increases. Winners in non-profit and health and human services industries reported the lowest differences in pay increases across performance levels, suggesting that they are less likely to significantly differentiate compensation increases by performance.

View ERC's Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey Results

The survey reports data from Northeast Ohio organizations regarding their actual and projected wage and salary adjustments.

View the Results

5 Pay Trends You Need to Know

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If your organization is in the process of determining compensation for the rest of 2011 and budgeting for 2012, here are 5 important pay trends that you should know related to salary increases and bonuses.

1. Employers are planning salary increases.

The percentage of employers planning salary freezes continues to decrease from 2009, and the number of organizations projecting salary increases continues to rise. In fact, research shows that 82% of employers are providing increases in 2011 and 89% are projecting increases for 2012. This compares to only 55% in 2009 and 59% in 2010 and is approaching 2008 levels when 90% of employers gave increases. These findings are consistent with other national studies which suggest that salary freezes are on the decline.

2. Average salary increases continue to be modest.

Although more employers are planning increases than in the past, they will be modest, hovering around 2.8%-2.9%, which are the average projected increases for 2011 and 2012 cited by numerous surveys. Nonetheless, increases are approaching 3% and some organizations are even exceeding 3%, although very few organizations are budgeting more than 4%. Most compensation experts, however, believe that 3% will be the new 4%. These projections and insights are common across not only our local findings, but also those of WorldatWork, Aon Hewitt, and Towers Watson.

3. Few organizations are recovering pay.

Another trend that has been consistent across numerous compensation budget studies is that few employers are reporting high recovery increases to boost employees’ pay to market levels in spite of their pay freezes over the past few years. Because of this trend, employers may be faced with challenges in retaining employees and especially top talent. This year, studies have shown an uptick in employees dissatisfied with their organization’s compensation practices, especially among those organizations that have not provided increases over the past few years.

4. Merit increases remain the most common.

Merit increases continue to be the most common type of increase provided by organizations, according to most compensation studies, and are differentiated by performance level (by approximately 1.5-2%). Top performers can typically expect increases of 4-5% on average; however, this varies widely by industry. Cost-of-living and across-the-board adjustments are less common, but still used by some employers.

5. There is a positive outlook for bonuses.

Not only are employers continuing to offer bonuses, but they also are more able to fund them. A study conducted by Towers Watson shows that many organizations are experiencing stronger performance in terms of profits and as a result, they expect that annual bonuses will be fully funded in 2011. Bonus trends for 2011 seem to be more positive for many organizations compared to the preceding years. Additionally, other pay for performance trends remain strong including differentiation of merit increases. 

Overall, many studies indicate that the outlook for pay is moving in a positive direction with fewer salary freezes, slightly higher pay increases, and more funding for bonuses. Nonetheless, market adjustments continue to be an area where many employers are lagging and should keep in mind the possible detrimental effects of not recovering pay from salary freezes.

View ERC's Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey Results

The survey reports data from Northeast Ohio organizations regarding their actual and projected wage and salary adjustments.

View the Results

Employers Project Pay Increases of 2.8% for 2012

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The results of the ERC Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey show that Northeast Ohio employers had projected pay increases of 2.8% for 2012. The survey also reports that employers provided actual pay increases of 2.8% in 2011.

Despite no change in the projected average pay increase from 2011, the results of the survey found that more local employers were projecting wage and salary increases than in the years following 2007. Specifically, 89% of the 129 employers surveyed reported projecting pay increases to at least one employee group, up from 55% in 2009 and 82% in 2011.

More employers also projected increases of 3.0% or higher in 2012 when compared to 2011. In the survey, 57% of organizations reported projecting increases of 3.0% or higher in 2012 for clerical, technical, supervisory, management, and professional employees compared to 50% of organizations in 2011. Non-manufacturing employers, in particular, were more likely to project increases of 3.0% or higher for 2012.

View ERC's Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey Results

The survey reports data from Northeast Ohio organizations regarding their actual and projected wage and salary adjustments.

View the Results

Steps for plan sponsors in anticipation of 408(b)(2)

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Aiming to curb confusion, misunderstandings and lack of disclosure related to the fees associated with retirement plans, the Department of Labor has enacted a new regulation, Section 408(b)(2), effective Jan. 1, 2012.

To maintain compliance with this new regulation, there are several steps for sponsors to take:

  • Document your review and decision-making process.
  • Assess service providers’ competence by reviewing their references and credentials.
  • Compare providers’ services and compensation with offerings made to plans comparable to yours in terms of size and other characteristics.
  • Analyze vendors’ conflicts of interest.
  • Document the basis for the selection of the service providers.
  • Monitor the service providers.

Information provided by Oswald Financial.

 

5 Things that Top Workplaces Do Differently

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Over the years, we’ve found a few simple, but consistent practices that differentiate average employers from top workplaces. Here are 5 things top workplaces do differently than other organizations to attract and retain the best talent.

They make investments where it matters most.

Like many businesses, top workplaces are forced to make tradeoffs in offerings and programs, but keep investing in the things that are most meaningful to their top performers. They don’t just throw money at programs with little value – they know what matters most to their top people and put cash where it counts. For example, they invest wisely in strategic development programs, aimed at advancing their top performers into future leadership roles and growing talent pipelines; reserve funds for meaningful rewards to show appreciation to their top people for jobs well done; keep their compensation practices updated and competitive; and also don’t skimp on basic benefits.

They keep their people passionate and engaged in their work.

Top workplaces keep their top performers motivated on the job and passionate about their work, and for these reasons, it’s no wonder that these organizations employ individuals that are more engaged, innovative, and successful than other employers. The best places to work have found simple, but creative ways to engage their top performers through the work itself – spending plenty of time on job design, getting employees involved in brainstorming and implementing ideas, encouraging and coordinating personal development, moving employees into new jobs and roles, and giving employees the autonomy they need to do their best work. Instead of spending time rolling out elaborate motivational tools and programs, they focus on keeping the work fresh and exciting.

They talk to and interact with their employees.

Take a walk through any top workplace and you’ll notice a different climate than other organizations, specifically leaders and managers talking to their employees and engaging with top performers and not huddled in meetings all day with their management teams. You may even notice leaders mentoring employees, recognizing them on the spot, working side-by-side with staff, or participating in an on-boarding event. They aren’t leading from the corner office, but rather from their daily examples. The best places to work simply talk to and interact with their top talent more often than other employers, request their feedback and involvement in the business, and as a result understand what makes them tick. Consequently, their top people feel more valued by the highest levels of the organization, and develop strong relationships with their managers.

They respect and support employees’ personal time.

In an age where businesses and employees are faced with greater challenges, demands, and stressors and fewer resources, top workplaces are realizing that employees have greater needs for support in their work/life – whether those are balancing family responsibilities, pursuing personal goals, improving their well-being, or dealing with losses and other personal circumstances. These organizations take steps to ensure that their top people are able to balance their personal and work lives by addressing workload issues, offering flexible scheduling, providing support services and generous leave, and using a supportive approach in the workplace.

They build and sustain a great culture and work environment.

Ask any top performer: a major reason they love their organization is the work culture. It’s the unique work environment and the people inside the organization that keep many top performers happy and satisfied. In fact, culture is perhaps the most frequently cited “reason for staying” at their organizations. Top workplaces are able to create cultures and work environments that their top people grow to cherish and don’t want to leave. Described as positive, fun, supportive, flexible, collaborative, open, and performance-based, top workplaces have cultures that attract the very best talent. These organizations have a knack for sustaining these cultures through the many ups and downs of business and as their workforce changes.

Many employers believe that creating a top workplace means offering all the bells and whistles, and that their quest is out of reach. Yet our research continues to show that these simple strategies can make all the difference when building a great workplace to attract and retain the very best talent.

For more information about Northeast Ohio’s top workplaces, the 2011 NorthCoast 99 winners, please visit www.northcoast99.com. In addition, for more information about the NorthCoast 99 winners’ best practices, please click here

Employers Continue to Be Challenged with Attracting & Retaining Employees

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According to the results of the 2011 ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey, hiring and retaining employees is the most prominent challenge faced by Northeast Ohio organizations. 

Results of the survey, conducted by ERC in collaboration with Smart Business Magazine, show a trend regarding the recruitment, hiring, and retention of qualified candidates as the top organizational challenge faced by organizations for nearly a decade.  While the poor economy was cited as a primary challenge for employers the from 2009, hiring and retention has emerged once again as the top challenge for local businesses.

Additionally, the survey results show that organizations are investing more in hiring and retaining talent, as a result of this challenge. Specifically, employers reported spending a higher percentage of their recruiting budget on online advertisements (33.7%) and are increasingly using internet job boards to find candidates (77.8%). Also, more employers are providing financial assistance for training and development (90.7%) than in past years.

In recent years ERC has seen an increase in both the use of our member-based resources and our fee-for-service areas related to hiring and retaining employees.  Despite the economy, employers continue to be focused on retention-boosting programs like training, employee development, and employee engagement initiatives.

To access more information about the ERC/Smart Business Workplace Practices Survey, please click here.

3 Tips to Help Workers Beat the Heat

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The August heat presents challenges for employees who don’t have the luxury of working in comfortable office settings – such as manufacturing workers and outdoor employees. Specifically, heat can impair mental alertness, physical performance, and safety, and may also lead to more conflict. Here are three ways you can help employees “beat the heat” to stay productive and safe.

Break up the day.

Breaks are one of the best ways to help employees beat the heat. Offer employees a few extra breaks during extreme heat conditions and allow them to take a break whenever they feel extremely overheated. Additionally, use earlier or later shifts (if possible) to minimize working during the heat of mid-day.

While employees are on breaks, consider finding useful opportunities for them. For example, some local companies set up learning opportunities for employees to access when they are on break, or when they get too fatigued or hot to work. Organizations create learning rooms where employees can access self-directed learning on topics that would be useful for them – either work-related or pertaining to stress management, fatigue, and wellness. These breaks are an ideal time for employees to train.

Help them stay cool.

Consider providing water and other cold beverages to help your workforce cool off during their breaks. Many employers stock coolers or refrigerators with water, Gatorade (or drinks with electrolytes), and other fluids for employees to freely access. This ensures that workers stay hydrated, thereby minimizing their risk of illness or injury on the job. Some employers also offer “cool treats” on occasion to employees. This can be a great morale booster and shows special appreciation for employees working amidst hot conditions. 

There are several other ways to help employees stay cool. Use recovery areas, such as air-conditioned rooms and enclosures. Add as much ventilation, air-cooling, and insulation as possible to the work environment. Additionally, invest in thermally conditioned clothing for employees such as ice vests, water-cooled garments, and apparel with self-contained air-conditioning.

Be aware that you may also have to help employees “cool off” not only physically, but also in an emotional sense. The discomfort heat causes can enhance irritability and anger, creating more conflict. Employees may fight more with their coworkers or lose patience easily, as a result of the intense physical conditions in which they are working. 

Minimize heat risks.

Educate employees on the signs of heat exhaustion and other heat related injuries and illnesses.  Make them aware of the symptoms to look for when on the job during hot conditions. Additionally, be aware of any employees that are more at risk of heat related issues (i.e. employees with health issues, older employees, pregnant women, etc.) and monitor them a bit more closely on the job or make special arrangements to reduce risks. Also, consider assigning more workers or using relief staff to help reduce heat stress.

Additionally, be aware of potential safety issues that arise during hot weather. Safety procedures have a tendency to be overlooked when heat persists. Personal protective equipment may become uncomfortable to wear; sweat may cause hands to slip; among other issues.  Find ways to maintain safety and reduce risks of work injuries.

Recently, OSHA created an application for SmartPhones which allows employees and supervisors to monitor the heat index at their work sites to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries.  The application provides users with information about specific precautions they can take to reduce their risks. This application is part of OSHA’s on-going efforts to deal with the dangers of extreme heat, and can be downloaded here.

While all of these precautions and actions are beneficial to help employees “beat the heat,” most importantly, be sympathetic and understanding with employees who work in uncomfortable conditions. Make sure to ask them how they are doing throughout the day and express consideration for the challenges they are experiencing. Do everything you can as an HR professional or manager to support these employees on the job.

Additional Resources

Preferred Partners ERC partners with a number of organizations that can provide support to employers in the areas of OSHA safety training and compliance, health and safety training, workers compensation, and even workplace water solutions. 

e-Learning Center
ERC’s e-Learning Center provides thousands of self-directed courses for employees to access at an affordable cost. These courses are ideal for employers looking to provide learning opportunities for employees to access on breaks. In addition, to learn more about other training and learning opportunities offered by ERC, please click here.

Workers Compensation and FMLA - Are You Confused?

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FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 provides job protection benefits to eligible employees who need time away from work for their own serious health condition or to care for covered family members with a serious health condition. The law applies to employers with 50 or more employees and allows an eligible employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12 month period of time.

WORKERS COMPENSATION

Almost every state has a workers compensation law which guarantees income or wage replacement to an employee who is injured on the job.  In Ohio lost wages can come from a self insured employer, or the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.  Ohio is monopolistic state fund which provides the injured worker who has lost eight or more days of work to be compensated for their lost wages as a percentage of their actual wages with limitations.

The Relationship between the Two… 

So how does workers compensation interact with FMLA, since workers’ compensation is not necessarily considered a leave law?    For FMLA purposes employers must remember injuries occurring on the job or which are considered ‘workers compensation claims’ are not precluded as being serious health conditions under FMLA.  On the job injuries requiring inpatient or ongoing treatment and/or determined to be a “serious health condition” under the DOL FMLA regulations should be considered as FMLA.   The circumstances and medical information for each case must be carefully reviewed to determine if the definition of serious health condition is met under the DOL guidelines. 

If the definition of serious health condition is met, it is imperative the employer check the employee’s eligibility for FMLA.  To be eligible for FMLA, the employee must have worked 1250 hours in the 12 months from the date preceding the leave; AND worked at least 12 months with the employer in past 7 years; AND have available FMLA hours.  If the employee meets the eligibility criteria the employer is required to notify the employee in writing the leave will be designated as FMLA and will be counted toward the employee’s 12 week FMLA entitlement.

One of the most common mistakes employers make is failing to run the workers’ compensation and FMLA concurrently. 

Visit http://www.careworksabsence.com/ for questions or additional information.

Is Your FMLA Program putting you at Risk?

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Employers are increasingly faced with significant challenges in effectively managing FML and state leave related absences. Inappropriate administration and mismanagement of absences can cost an employer millions of dollars in revenue, production and legal fees. Today’s employees are becoming more knowledgeable on the use of FML and state leave benefits. As their knowledge and use of these benefits increase, so too will your associated administrative and personnel costs. To combat increasing costs associated with employee absences, it is both financially and administratively critical to have a solid, well governed absence management program in place.

FMLA Non-Compliance Costs of 2011

  • According to the Society for Human Resource Management, the average cost to defend a FMLA lawsuit is $78,000 , regardless of the outcome.
  • Employees who successfully sued for wrongful termination based on FMLA Absence received on average between $87,500 - $450,000 in damages (Source: EEOC.)
  • According to the U.S. Department of Labor, managers and supervisors can be sued directly and held personally liable for paying damages (Shultz v. Advocate Health & Hospitals Corp.)

Are you in Violation?

Among the most frequent FMLA violations is the failure on the part of the employer to notify the employee of his or her FMLA rights.  Failure to notify the employee that the leave counted toward the employee’s 12-week entitlement is the second most common violation.   Violations like these can be cost employers significant dollars in litigation alone. Other common violations include:

  • Taking disciplinary action against an employee for using FMLA
  • Failure to grant leave to provide physical care or psychological comfort to a seriously ill parent or child
  • Failure to reinstate employees to the same or an equivalent position, including same shift
  • Terminating an employee during or at the conclusion of FMLA leave
  • Failure to grant FMLA leave because of misunderstanding of what qualifies as a serious health condition
  • Failure to request medical certification in writing and not giving an employee at least 15 days to obtain medical certification

(Source: United States Department of Labor)

Contact CareWorks USA at myfmla@careworks.com for assistance with FMLA or visit http://www.careworksabsence.com/.