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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Data Points to Growth in Flexible Work Arrangements

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With Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer’s recent decision to eliminate employee’s work-from-home option, has come a firestorm of commentaries and rumors about what her very public decision at a prominent employer means for the future of flexible workplace practices at workplaces across the nation.

Image Source: Adam Tinworth

Locally, in 2013 the Plain Dealer ran an article citing ERC data and giving an inside look at how some of Northeast Ohio’s top workplaces structure highly functional work-from-home options for their employees. Now that the dust has settled following the big Yahoo announcement earlier this month, it appears that Mayer’s decision was largely based on internal issues specific to the tech giant.
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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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New I-9 Form Available

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U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released a 2013 revised Employment Eligibility Verification I-9 Form, in both English and Spanish versions, for employers. The Department of Homeland Security has also issued a Notice about the new I-9 Form in the Federal Register. 

According to USCIS, effective March 8, 2013, employers should begin using the new I-9 Form (Rev. 03/08/13)N for all new-hires and reverifications, however, the previously accepted revisions (Rev.02/02/09)N and (Rev. 08/07/09)Y may continue to be used until May 7, 2013. After May 7, 2013, however, employers must only use Form I-9 (Rev. 03/08/13)N.

The I-9 Form is required to verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States and the 2013 I-9 Form contains many improvements including new fields, reformatting, and clearer instructions.

Download the 2013 I-9 Form

Source: USCIS

Court: Random Alcohol Tests Not in Violation of ADA

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The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) case against U.S. Steel Corp., ruled that random tests for alcohol can be performed on probationary employees who work in safety sensitive positions, and that doing so does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

In the 2013 case, the EEOC argued that the company's policy of conducting breath alcohol testing at random on probationary employees could be considered a medical examination and that ADA restricts employers from requiring such exams unless it meets the standard of being "job related and consistent with business necessity."

Meanwhile, U.S. Steel held that its policy was lawful on several conditions, including that it was job related and consistent with business necessity, that it was part of a voluntary health and safety program negotiated and agreed upon with its union, and necessitated by the company's obligations under federal safety and environmental laws and regulations (Source: SHRM).

The court decision affirms that employers can take reasonable steps, including random alcohol tests, to keep workers safe on the job. Although, employers should proceed cautiously and still heed the EEOC's guidance regarding medical examinations under ADA.

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.

ADA/FMLA Training Course

Top 5 Trends in Training & Developing Talent

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Training and development is a critical aspect of an organization's talent management strategy. Every organization needs to invest in it to attract and retain talent and grow their employees' knowledge base and capabilities. Here are five current trends influencing training and development.

Trend #1: Training is a means of keeping, developing, and rewarding talent.

Training has evolved into not only a means of developing employees’ skills, but also a strategy to retain, develop, and reward key talent. In ERC's 2012 Talent Management Practices Survey, the majority (57%) of organizations say they use training and development opportunities as a strategy to retain top or key talent and 61% use it as a way to reward and recognize employees.
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Telecommuting: Should You Allow It?

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Yahoo's ban on telecommuting and work-from-home arrangements has sparked an interesting debate in the workplace. Should your organization follow suit?

The issue of whether or not to allow telecommuting or work-from-home options in the workplace is hardly a new problem. In fact, organizations have been questioning whether or not to offer it and the pros and cons of such arrangements for the past few years as this flexible work practice has become more common.

Before you change your policy, here are some important considerations.

1. Telecommuting can be attractive and beneficial as a flexible work option.

Offering telecommuting or work-from-home options can help attract talent, especially employees in segments of the workforce that traditionally need or want more flexible arrangements (i.e. women, disabled workers, Millenials, etc.). Allowing telecommuting to be used as an option for the following can be advantageous.
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Compensation Rising for Recent Graduates

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With graduation day only a few months away, the pressure is on for many soon to be college graduates in need of full time employment. This flood of new job seekers on the market come May offers employers a great opportunity to take on these highly educated, enthusiastic potential new employees- and, even better, in most cases, these new employees can be brought on board at entry level compensation levels.

Benefits of Recent Grads

In fact, ERC/NOCHE’s 2012 Intern & Recent Graduate Survey reports that 42% of employers make their entry level hires directly from this pool of new college graduates. Their reasons for doing so are fairly consistent from year to year with the vast majority of employers recognizing new graduates not only as a great value (strong educational background, again for entry level compensation levels), but also as an opportunity for their organization to develop a talent pipeline, infuse the workforce with new energy, and boost the level of tech savvy among their employees.
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