Proposed Changes to FMLA

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In 2012, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced proposed changes to Military FMLA and changes which would affect Airline Flight Crew Employees.   Secretary Solis discussed the amendments at Joining Forces for Caregivers, an event held Monday January 30th, 2012 in Washington, D.C.  

“Keeping the basic promise of America alive means ensuring that workers, from our servicemen and servicewomen who keep us safe at home to the flight crews who keep us safe in the skies, have the resources, support and opportunities they need and have rightfully earned,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis in a press release. “The proposed revisions… are an important step toward keeping that promise.”

Changes to Military FMLA

Changes proposed would permit an employee to take leave during or following an immediate family member’s deployment for matters related to the person’s service (e.g., military briefings, financial or legal arrangements).  The 26-workweek option would be extended to care for family members who are veterans with an illness or injury that occurred in the line of duty, including conditions that have arisen only after the veteran had left the service.   The five days a family member can spend with a military member while on rest or recuperation is likely going to increase up to 15 days.   The FMLA coverage, which only covered the National Guard for qualification of exigency leave in 2012, would also extend to family members serving in the armed forces.

Airline Flight Crew Changes

Due to the way crew members currently work, the hours are difficult to track.   The proposed changes are intended to create a more accurate and simple way to account for the hours.   The proposed revision for airline flight crew employees would add a special hours of service eligibility requirement and specific alterations for calculating the amount of FMLA leave.

For more information, contact Scott Vaka at CareWorks USA at 614-760-3536 or scott.vaka@careworks.com.

Congress Passes Payroll Tax Cut Extension

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Congress had approved an extension of the payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits from February 29th, 2012 to 2013. The extension was passed by both the House of Representatives and Senate, and President Obama has signed the legislation into law.

The extension of the tax cuts will reduce payroll tax by 2% to 4.2%. It will also extend federal unemployment benefits. 

Survey Highlights Common FMLA Administration Practices

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A 2011 survey conducted by ERC and CareWorks USA highlights common Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) administration practices pertaining to tracking, calculating, and managing leave.

Most Northeast Ohio organizations are tracking FMLA using manual methods. The most common way organizations track FMLA is using timesheets and attendance cards (52%). Over 30% of organizations also track FMLA using Excel (36%) and/or through payroll (35%).

The survey also sheds light on how organizations administer other facets of FMLA, including how FMLA is calculated and whether it is run concurrently with other benefits. The survey found that few employers are using the calendar method to calculate FMLA and instead, using rolling 12 month periods. Specifically, 59% of employers reported using a rolling 12 month period measured backwards to calculate FMLA. Conversely, 34% of respondents use a rolling 12 month period measured forward.

In addition, many employers run FMLA concurrently with other benefits. The graph below highlights the most common benefits run concurrently with FMLA by employers.

"Running benefits concurrently helps eliminate benefit 'stacking.' While an employer wants to ensure employees are afforded the time off they need under FMLA, it is essential that they run FMLA concurrent with STD, WC and other medical leaves as appropriate to avoid any prolonged absences beyond the protected leave," explains Holly Moyer, Sr. Disability Management Consultant at CareWorks.

To download the full results of the survey, please click here. Or, to learn more about CareWorks and the services they can provide for ERC members as a Preferred Partner, please click here.

OSHA Summary Must be Posted By February 1

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As a reminder, OSHA rules require employers to post the OSHA 300 summary form of occupational injuries and illnesses occurring between January 1 and December 31, 2011 by no later than February 1. Employers, however, do not need to post the full log of workplace-related occupational injuries and illnesses.

Please note that the summary form needs to be completed even if no work-related injuries or illnesses were recorded and requires the certified signature of a company executive. Employers must keep the summary posted through April 30.

Employers can download these forms at the link below:
http://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/RKforms.html

Compliance and Tracking are Key FMLA Challenges

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According to the 2012 ERC/CareWorks FMLA Practices Survey, Northeast Ohio employers face numerous challenges associated with administering employee leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The survey cites that the biggest challenges employers face when administering leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are tracking leave, determining the overall costs associated with FMLA absences, and overall legal compliance. Determining what constitutes a serious health condition and meeting paperwork deadlines designated by the Department of Labor (DOL) were also cited as challenges, but were less common.

Additionally, 56% of respondents said they believe they are capturing all situations at their organization which should be designated as FMLA, further suggesting that several employers are experiencing challenges with tracking and administering the law.

"Employers spend a significant amount of time administering FMLA, but continue to struggle with compliance.  Every step of the FMLA administration process requires a substantial amount of detail, so an employer needs someone who is highly trained on the FMLA regulations and can stay on top of each claim on a daily basis," says Holly Moyer, Senior Disability Management Consultant at CareWorks. Holly adds, "The legal exposure for FMLA is on the rise, therefore it is critical for employers to have a well governed FMLA Administration program in place that focuses on compliance and consistent claim handling."

To download the full results of the survey, please click here. Or, to learn more about CareWorks and the services they can provide for ERC members as a Preferred Partner, please click here.

ERC Preferred Partner CareWorks provides Absence Management and FMLA Administration. ERC Members save 5% off per EE per month fee or a $500 discount off Initial Set-up Fee

Affirmative Action Planning Reminder

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Affirmative Action Plans (AAPs) are required of federal contractors annually if they have over 50 employees and have a federal contract of $50K or more.  AAPs can be complex and tedious. Many employers find that outsourcing their annual AAP is time saving and reduces a heck of a lot of headaches. If you are interested in outsourcing your AAP work, give ERC a call at 440-947-1278 or email us at hrhelp@yourerc.com.

Survey Shows Trends in FMLA Usage

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The ERC/CareWorks FMLA Practices Survey shows trends in FMLA usage. The majority of employers (71%) cite that between 1 and 10% of employees took FMLA in the last 12 months. Ninety percent of organizations reported that 20% or fewer employees took FMLA in the last 12 months.

The most common reasons in which employees take FMLA are due to pregnancy/maternity leave or an acute/chronic serious health condition. Fewer employees take FMLA to care for a family member or deal with a catastrophic event.

The survey also indicates that few FMLA claims are typically denied by employers. Sixty-nine percent of employers report that they did not deny any claims in the last 12 months and only 26% say they denied fewer than 10% of claims.

To download the full results of the survey, please click here and for a short summary of the results, please click here. Or, to learn more about CareWorks and the services they can provide for ERC members as a Preferred Partner, please click here.

2012 Compliance Guide

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We’ve developed an easy guide summarizing what your organization needs to know to stay compliant in 2012. The guide includes a summary of several regulations that take effect as well as important legal issues on the horizon.

Regulations that Take Effect

Below are several major regulations and initiatives will took effect during the first few months of 2012.

Legal/HR Issue

Description of Regulation

Effective Date

2012 Income Tax Withholding Tables

Provides income tax withholding tables for 2012 here.

Immediately

Unemployment Benefits

Extends unemployment benefits temporarily through February 29, 2012.

Immediately

Tax Cuts

Extends current tax cuts temporarily through February 29, 2012.

Payroll system changes must be made by January 31, 2012

Social Security Withholding

Continues reduction in withholding rate to 4.2% (from 6.2%) temporarily through February 29, 2012. If an employer over-withholds in January, they need to make offsetting adjustments to employees’ pay by March 31, 2012.

January 1, 2012

 

Social Security Wage Base

Increases the Social Security Old Age Survivor's and Disability Insurance (OASDI) taxable wage base for 2012 from $106,800 to $110,100.

January 1, 2012

Minimum Wage

 

Raises minimum wage in Ohio to $7.70 per hour for non-tipped employees and $3.85 per hour for tipped employees.

January 1, 2012

Mileage Rates

Continues standard mileage rate of 55.5 cents per mile for business miles driven and 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations. Raises standard mileage rate to 23 cents per mile for medical or moving purposes.

January 1, 2012

Retirement Plan Limits

Raises the 2012 limit on the exclusion for elective deferrals in 401(k), 403(b), and 457(e) plans to $17,000, up from $16,500. For changes to other pension plan limits, click here.

January 1, 2012

W-2 Benefits Reporting

 

Requires employers who have an employer-sponsored group health plan to report the cost of coverage under their plan. This requirement goes into effect for some employers this year.

January 1, 2012

Health Benefits Summaries

Requires group health plan sponsors to create and distribute a Uniform Summary of Benefits and Coverage and Uniform Glossary.

Extended from March 23, 2012; pending notice of new effective date

NLRB Posting Notice

Extends deadline for posting notice regarding employees rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

April 30, 2012

 

Legal Issues on the Horizon

The following table summarizes several major legal issues that could lead to greater scrutiny and more regulations for employers in 2012.

Legal/HR Issue

Description of Issue

Tax cuts and job creation

Congress will determine whether to extend tax cuts through the rest of 2012 by late February. These cuts, along with the Jobs Bill which has been proposed, will aim to expand job creation and support businesses.

Constitutionality of health care reform

In 2012, the Supreme Court will be ruling on whether the health care reform law is constitutional due to conflicting rulings from lower courts, which could affect a number of provisions that take effect in 2013 and 2014.

Protection of unemployed individuals

Bills have been proposed at both state and federal levels to protect unemployed individuals from discrimination in the hiring process, and may gain ground in 2012.

Protection from retaliation

There has been notable interest in ensuring that employees are protected from employer retaliation when they file a complaint or cooperate with an investigation under federal law.

Improving hiring of disabled workers

The government will continue proactive efforts and attempts to improve the hiring of disabled workers and reduce discrimination against the disabled.

Clarification on FLSA and classification

The government will seek revisions to the FLSA for certain jobs, most notably workers who provide in-home services to the elderly and infirm. It will also continue to regulate misclassification of employees.

Retirement plan reform

The government is interested in ensuring that employees are saving adequately for their retirement and are exploring a number of options including additional disclosures, making investment advice more available, implementing automatic contributions, and restructuring tax deductions.

Regulating use of cell phone while driving

This past fall, OSHA and the Department of Transportation began an initiative to combat the leading cause of worker fatalities – motor vehicle crashes – and reduce distracted driving. Condoning/incenting texting while driving is in violation of OSHA, and use of a cell phone while driving may soon be as well.

User-friendly applications

The Department of Labor is leading a number of efforts to create user-friendly applications, interfaces, and tools for employers, job seekers, and other users to more easily use the information it provides.

E-Verify

In 2012, more states will likely require the use of E-Verify to determine employment eligibility.

If your organization needs more assistance, guidance, or detail with regard to these or other compliance-related issues, here are several additional resources and services, provided by ERC, which you can consult:

  • HR University: A series of workshops for HR professionals which includes a session on Employment Law Fundamentals and compliance best practices.
  • Supervisory Series: A series of workshops for supervisors which includes a session on Employment Law that provides supervisors with tools to help them maintain compliance.
  • HR Help Desk: Contact hrhelp@yourerc.com to ask any HR or compliance-related question and receive answers, guidance, and research. Service offered to ERC members only.

Payroll Tax Cut Temporarily Extended

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In 2011, Obama signed The Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011, which temporarily extended the payroll tax cut of 2% and the Social Security tax withholding rate reduction from 6.2% to 4.2% through February 29, 2012.

The new payroll tax rate was to be implemented by employers no later than January 31, 2012. If employers over-withheld any Social Security during January, they needed to make an offsetting adjustment to employees’ pay by no later than March 31, 2012.

Source: CNN

12 Tips for the 2012 Workplace

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The new year is just a few short days away, and it brings with it a number of challenges and opportunities to enhance your workplace. Here are 12 things to consider as your business heads into 2012.

1. Proactively manage the legal landscape

The legal landscape is becoming more complicated to navigate and employers are increasingly being hit hard with expensive fines and discrimination charges, per a recent report which noted a record number of discrimination charges and fines filed by the EEOC. Discrimination against the unemployed and disabled as well age discrimination are just a few pressing issues the government will be targeting in 2012 that employers should note.

2. Change your hiring strategies

Can’t find the talent you need? The current skills shortage is not expected to change anytime soon, so consider rethinking how you’re hiring. Perhaps your skill and experience requirements may be inadvertently screening out potentially great top performers that fit your culture and have growth potential. Or, you may need to explore different sourcing and branding tactics to attract the talent you need.

3. Focus on top performance

Make creating a better performance management system and approach one of your strategic priorities in 2012. Additionally, build your managers’ abilities to execute results and manage/support employees’ performance. A solid approach to performance management will increase the likelihood that your organization has a successful year.

4. Develop leaders

2011 was a year in which many organizations focused their efforts on leadership and management development and 2012 will be no exception. Organizations are increasingly growing their internal talent, preparing them for their next roles, and ensuring that their businesses have appropriate succession in place.

5. Keep a watchful eye on employee benefits

Employee benefits regulations are changing – and not just surrounding health insurance. Changes to retirement plans, family leave, and sick time are all issues the government has explored in the past year and will continue to target in 2012. Make sure your organization is prepared for the trends that will affect employee benefits in the coming year.

6. Create a long-term wellness strategy

Health care costs will remain a major challenge for employers in 2012. One-off wellness initiatives or activities will not suffice in managing costs effectively, so it’s advisable to create a long-term wellness strategy, based on the needs of your workforce, that will help your organization better manage health care costs and usage for years down the road.

7. Leverage social media

In 2011, the use of social media rapidly rose in the workplace. If your HR department hasn’t started to leverage the power of social media tools yet, it may be missing out on opportunities to find exceptional talent and boost learning and development – not to mention help your own career. Mastery of social media is, without question, an HR competency you’ll need for future success.

8. Manage the effects of change

During the past few years, many organizations have moved towards leaner workforces and processes, but few have managed how those changes have adversely affected employees and their cultures. Use 2012 to deal with the effects that these changes have caused on the workforce, redefine your culture, and re-establish your organization’s direction.

9. Use HR analytics and technology

HR metrics, analytics, and technology have become the gateways to creating a more efficient and effective HR department. Relook at what your department is tracking and the systems it is using. Chances are that you can leverage open-source systems, cloud technology, and other tools to automate processes and improve internal customer service.

10. Enhance global competencies

Global competencies are a sought-after skill by employers as they expand their markets globally. Whether its managing expatriates and bilingual employees, identifying legal risks abroad, or determining what to pay your global employees, as your organization expands globally, it will be critical for HR to enhance its organization’s capacity to manage global talent in 2012.

11. Make retention and engagement of top people a priority

Hopefully your organization emerged from 2011 with its top talent intact and engaged. If not, use the beginning of 2012 to create a strategy to retain your workforce and ignite engagement. Nip the problem in the bud quickly, otherwise, you could face unintended consequences of disengaged employees and high turnover throughout the next year.

12. Do your part for the region

Whether it’s hiring an intern or a recent college grad from a local university, providing an opportunity to an unemployed individual, or giving back to one of our community’s non-profits, do your part to improve economic development in our region and support our local communities.

 

Additional Resources

Leadership & Management Development Training
ERC offers a variety of training programs for leaders at all levels of the organization, from executive to mid-level manager to first time managers and supervisors. Our leadership development programs help move leaders from the traditional command and control role of judging and evaluating, to one of ensuring accountability through creating a supportive and motivating work environment.

HR Consulting
For assistance with various HR projects in 2012, including but not limited to, performance management system design, organizational design and development, HR metrics, employee engagement surveys, succession planning, and more, please contact consulting@yourerc.com.