Workplace Flexibility Trends

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At the Executive HR Women's Network event on March 20th, 2013, Staffing Solutions Enterprises and ERC teamed up to provide participants with information from the Alfred P. Sloan and NorthCoast 99 programs.

 

SueAnn Naso, President of Staffing Solutions (establishing company of the Women's Network), presented data from the Alfred P. Sloan Award for Excellence in Workplace Effectiveness and Flexibility. Having been a winner of the prestigious national award in 2012, SueAnn explained some of the WorkFlex options Staffing Solutions offers its employees.
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A Complete Guide to Workplace Flexibility

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Flexibility has grown to be more commonplace in the workplace in recent years; however, managing flexibility remains a challenge, as evidenced by the 2013 decisions by Yahoo and Best Buy to overhaul their flexibility programs.

To help your organization with similar challenges, we've developed a short guide to instituting and managing flexibility in the workplace.

Step 1: Create a business case for workplace flexibility.

Many HR professionals have to "sell" the concept of flexible work to their leadership team. In doing so, we recommend gathering reliable benchmark data related to how common flexible work options are in your industry and size, and among your competitors.
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Important Legal Updates: I-9, FMLA, HIPAA, & H-1B Petitions

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New I-9 Form

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a revised Employment Eligibility Verification I-9 Form which contains many improvements including new fields, reformatting, and clearer instructions for 2013. Employers should begin using this I-9 form (effective date: March 8, 2013), however previous versions of the form may be used until May 7, 2013.

I-9 Form
Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9

FMLA Changes

Important updates to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) went into effect on March 8, 2013. These updates included expanded protections for veterans and exigency leave as well as modified rules for airline personnel and flight crews.
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Healthy Snacks to Eat on the Run

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If you are always eating on the go, carrying healthy snacks can be beneficial. Healthy snacks should include something that will give you energy, as well as sustain the energy. Snacks should be consumed between meals when you need an energy boost. Remember energy from snacks may only last a few hours. Consuming a snack for a meal may not give you the energy you need to carry you to the next meal.
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How Healthcare Reform Will Affect Your Wellness Program

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Healthcare reform is bringing several changes to how employers administer healthcare benefits as well as their wellness programs in 2013. Here are a couple key items you need to know about how healthcare reform affects your wellness program.

Larger wellness incentives

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) creates new incentives for employers to build wellness programs in their workplace and encourage healthier habits.

The Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Labor, and the Treasury Department released proposed rules for employer-based wellness program incentives, which apply to plan years beginning on or after January 1, 2014.
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Employee Wellness Programs Flourish in Northeast Ohio

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With the start of a new year often comes many health related resolutions and a chance for employees and employers alike to take a fresh look at their wellness both in and out of the workplace. Perhaps most common among these resolutions are those related to weight-loss and exercise, particularly in a workplace more and more focused on relatively sedentary “desk-jobs”. Conventional wisdom would suggest that when it comes to weight management, it is these employees that would struggle most to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. However, a recent article published in the Plain Dealer, reports that employers may actually need to be more concerned about the wellness of a very different group of employees.


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Five Steps to Prioritizing Your Health in 2013

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Tips provided by ERC Partner University Hospitals

1. Schedule time for exercise

And stick to it! Half the battle of getting fit is getting the motivation to do it. However, if it's scheduled in your phone or notebook like your other appointments, it's practically written in stone. You don't have to work out every day, but setting a reminder for at least three days a week will lead you on the road to a happier, healthier and fitter life.
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6 Q&As: Managing Flu Season in the Workplace

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6 Q&As: Managing Flu Season in the Workplace

With flu season in our midst, many employers face challenges in managing sickness in the workplace. These challenges can include managing absenteeism, reducing or managing the prevalence of sickness in the workplace, supporting employees who must care for sick children, and in more rare cases, dealing with longer-term medical issues. Here is a Q&A guide on some of your most frequently asked questions related to these topics.

Q: How many sick days do employers typically provide?

A: On average, organizations usually provide 6-8 paid sick days annually, though many employers incorporate sick time into a paid time off bank.

Some industries tend to provide more sick time, particularly healthcare and non-profit organizations, which typically offer double the amount of sick time that other organizations provide.

Q: How should we handle pay for exempt employees who are sick?

A: Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), if an exempt employee misses less than one full day of work due to illness, you may not deduct his or her pay for the absence. This means, if they go home early or come in late due to illness, you may not dock their pay. Conversely, with hourly employees, your organization may deduct pay for any hours not worked due to illness, including a full day or less than full day.

Also, under FLSA, your organization is not obligated to provide pay for vacation or sick days (unless other state laws mandate this). Nonetheless, many employers provide these benefits to help handle pay situations when employees are sick.

Q: How can we prevent sickness from spreading in the workplace?

A: The workplace can be fertile ground for sickness to spread with employees working in close proximity to one another, especially common colds and flus. Here are a couple common ways to reduce the likelihood of this happening:

  • Provide flu shots once a year
  • Encourage sickness prevention via hand sanitizers and office cleanliness
  • Offer the ability for sick employees to work from home
  • Allow sick employees to stay at home and use their sick time if they are ill or contagious
  • Support employees' well-being by providing wellness resources/education and work-life balance

Q: What should we do when employees need to care for sick children?

A: Missing work to care for sick children is a challenge facing many working adults, who often feel they don't have enough paid sick time or flexible work arrangements to cover the days they need to take care of them.

There are a number of options you can offer in these circumstances. First, you can allow them to work at home, if possible, to care for their child. Second, you can provide a back-up/sick child care option or resource for employees to use. Third, you can allow them to use paid time off, make up work hours, work a flexible schedule, or provide family leave. Finally, if the situation warrants a serious health condition, providing FMLA leave may be advisable.

Q: What should we do about excessive absenteeism?

A: As a business, you need to institute and enforce acceptable boundaries for absenteeism in order to run your business smoothly via internal policies and procedures, such as an attendance policy.

But excessive absenteeism due to illness may actually be due to a legitimate medical condition which is covered by federal and state laws. In these cases, employers are obligated to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and must pursue the appropriate course of action.

For other more common illnesses and issues that are acute in nature, if an employee is not complying with your policy or if you have a legitimate reason to believe that abuse is taking place, you may pursue whatever disciplinary action is necessary, so long as it's consistent with past precedents and documented policy.

Q: How should we handle issues of work coverage when an employee is sick?

A: Make sure your organization has the appropriate back-up coverage for when an employee is out of the office ill. Succession and workforce planning of this nature is essential to the ongoing productivity in your organization.

Q: How should we manage a longer-term illness?

A: Unfortunately, sometimes illnesses that affect the workplace are not just common flus and colds. Prolonged illness brings many unanticipated challenges to the workplace: arranging for medical leave (short term disability, FMLA, personal leave, etc.) preparing for return to work, dealing with short or long-term accommodations, and handling staffing or work coverage issues.

These situations can often be stressful and difficult for the employer and employee alike, so it's important to approach them with as much patience and support as possible. Usually, when employers make collaborative arrangements with employees to help them in these situations, to the extent that it business operations are not significantly affected, they tend to be effective.

Employee illness is one of the most common issues employers face in the workplace, and in our experience, one of the most difficult ones to manage. Approaching this flu season and employee illness in general in a supportive but tactical manner can help you better manage your employees, their needs, and those of your business.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

View ERC's Absence Management Practices Survey Results

This report summarizes the results of ERC’s survey of organizations in Northeast Ohio on practices related to attendance and unscheduled absence.

View the Results

Health Care Reform's Employer Mandate: 3 Things You Need to Know

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In 2013, the IRS has proposed regulations which further clarify employer shared responsibility, specifically the requirement of employers with at least 50 full-time and/or full-time equivalent employees to offer affordable healthcare coverage with a minimum level of coverage or pay a penalty.

1. Employers must determine if they need to offer a minimum level of healthcare coverage.

According to the regulations, each year, employers will need to determine if they must offer healthcare coverage with a minimum level of coverage or pay a penalty by averaging the number of employees they employ across months in the year, which accounts for fluctuations in the workforce. If the average is 50 or more full-time equivalent or full-time employees, the employer must offer healthcare coverage or pay a penalty.

There is a $2,000 penalty for each full-time employee not covered by the plan beyond the first 30 full-time employees. There are additional large penalties for coverage that is not deemed to be "affordable."

2. Employers must use a specific calculation method to determine how many full-time/full-time equivalent employees it has.

The proposed regulations also offer a calculation method for determining how many full-time and full-time equivalent employees an organization has.

  1. Employers need to calculate the total number of hours of service per month for all employees who were not employed an average of 30 hours of service per week for that month.
  2. Employers should divide the total hours of service by 120 to yield the number of full-time equivalent employees employed in a given month.
  3. Employers should add the number of full-time employees (those working 30 hours or more each week) to the number of full-time equivalent employees.

*If employees in excess of 50 FTEs were seasonal workers for a period of no more than 120 days, an employer is not subject to the shared responsibility requirement.

3. A calculator will be provided for employers to use to determine if they meet affordable healthcare coverage requirements.

In addition, the regulations state that the IRS and Department of Health and Human Services will provide a calculator for employers to use to determine if they meet the “affordable healthcare coverage” requirements.

Health coverage is considered affordable if the plan has a single employee premium no more than 9.5% of the employee's household income. Additionally, a healthcare plan must meet the requirement of minimum essential coverage when the policy pays out at least 60% of the actuarial value of the covered benefits (Source: Buckingham, Doolittle & Burroughs, LLP).

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

 

2013 HR Compliance Timeline

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Due Date Compliance Requirement
January 1, 2013 New tax provisions in fiscal cliff deal take effect
January 1, 2013 Ohio Minimum Wage change takes effect
January 1, 2013 Social Security and Medicare changes take effect
January 1, 2013 New Fair Credit Reporting Act forms for background checks take effect
January 1, 2013 New Medicare tax under health care reform takes effect
January 1, 2013 New defined benefit/contribution plan limits take effect
January 1, 2013 New limits on employees’ flexible spending accounts (FSA) take effect
January 31, 2013 W-2s need to be issued to employees by this date; W-2s need to include cost of employer-sponsored group health care coverage for employers required to issue 250 or more W-2s
January 31, 2013 Form 940 due and Federal Unemployment Tax Rate (FUTA) needs to be deposited if owed
February 1, 2013 OSHA 300 Log (Forms 300 & 300A) needs to be posted on February 1st through April 30th
February 10, 2013 Form 940 due if FUTA deposits have been made on time
February 15, 2013 W-4 changes must be made for employees claiming no exemptions last year
March 1, 2013 Employers must provide written notice to new-hires and current employees about health insurance exchanges under health care reform law
July 31, 2013 Form 5500 due for calendar year defined contribution and benefit plans; Form 5500 due by the last day of the 7th month following end of the plan year for non-calendar year plans; Insured and self-insured healthcare plans must pay $1 per member (applicable to 2012 plan year) to fund comparative effectiveness research of medical treatments. This payment increases to $2 per member for 2013 plan year.
September 30, 2013 EE0-1 reporting deadline
September 30, 2013 VETS-100/100A Form filing deadline
December 31, 2013 Group health plans must certify that they are compliant with HHS rules on electronic transactions between health providers and health plans.

Note: This chart is subject to change and more filing deadlines may apply for your specific organization than those listed in the chart. By providing you with research information that may be contained in this chart, the Employers Resource Council (ERC) is not providing a qualified legal opinion concerning any particular human resource issue. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application. We also recommend that you consult your legal counsel regarding workplace matters when and if appropriate.