Over a Third of Local Employers Allow Social Media Use at Work

According to the results of the 2011-2012 ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, more than a third of local employers allow at least some groups of employees to access social media sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn during regular work hours.

These results may suggest that many employers still don’t have their arms around the impact of social media in the workplace. With the potential risks of liability and the negative impact these sites can have on workplace productivity, it may surprise some to see that so many employers allow employees to access these sites during the workday.

However, the question did not refer specifically to employees accessing the sites on an employer’s network, meaning that employees may be able to access the sites via their own personal mobile phones and devices as well, which could explain why the percentages could appear higher than some might expect.

Additional Resources

Visit our ERC Survey Page to access more information on our conducted surveys.

Local Trends in Compensation Policies & Strategies

According to a research study conducted by ERC, the majority of employers (58%) have no written compensation policy. Twenty-percent of respondents indicate having a compensation policy that is confidential, and 21% have a written or published policy that is made available or distributed to employees.

Despite not having a compensation policy, 62% of employers report having a strategy to stay even with the area labor market and 49% have a strategy to stay even with industry competitors.

ERC's HR Help Desk notes that “the foundation of an effective compensation system is a philosophy, policy, and strategy for how your organization will pay employees relative to the market – whether that is above, at, or below market rates. This helps HR make decisions about pay and guides an organization’s compensation practices."

Additional Resources

8 Resources Every HR Professional Should Know About

We’ve compiled a collection of eight (8) of our favorite HR resources – free comprehensive tools and information that many of our members find valuable for common tasks like staying compliant, administering FMLA, or finding and supporting employees.

1. Staying Legally Compliant

The Department of Labor (DOL) offers a variety of e-law Advisors, interactive tools that provide information about a number of federal employment laws. Employers typically find these tools very helpful in providing greater understanding of compliance and employment law information. Specific e-law Advisors include FLSA, H1-B, Health Benefits Advisor, OSHA, Drug Free Workplace, Contractor Compliance, and more. Similarly, the DOL also provides an Employment Law Guide that helps employers create policies for their handbook.

2. Accommodating Employees

Employers frequently need to support employees through difficult conditions and circumstances. Whether you’re accommodating employees to be compliant or to better support employees as you create a great place to work, the Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is an ideal resource that provides ideas and examples on what level of accommodations and flexibility are appropriate for different situations. It also helps employers better understand a variety of disabilities and psychological/medical conditions that impact their workforce.

3. Administering FMLA

Leave administration, particularly FMLA, is one of employers’ greatest responsibilities and challenges. Employers are frequently looking for resources surrounding administration of this law to help them administer it. This site is one of our members’ favorites as it highlights all of the most common forms, fact sheets, and general guidance for administering family medical leave required by the law.

4. Creating and Updating Job Descriptions

O*Net is a comprehensive, free resource for job analysis and job description information. It provides detailed information including a summary of a job, alternate job titles, tasks, tools and technology used, knowledge, skills, abilities, work activities, and work context. It even contains information on interests, work styles, work values, wages and employment trends, and education/training requirements relevant to a specific job. The tool is useful for employers that are creating job descriptions and supports a range of other HR functions like hiring and performance management. The Dictionary of Occupational Job Titles is also another ideal resource for job related information, included within O*Net.

5. Developing Employees

Career One-Stop has all the components of a comprehensive career development service (without the cost). Employees can explore careers, assess themselves, write job descriptions, evaluate and profile their skills, and find developmental programs and resources. This tool, as well as the Ohio Workforce Informer, Riley Guide, and BLS Career Guide to Industries, are other valuable career development tools for employees to utilize when developing themselves and can complement employers’ career development programs.

6. Staffing and Workforce Planning

Employers often seek information about local employment trends that impact their business for staffing and workforce planning purposes. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) provides ideal national information for this purpose, most organizations don’t realize that the state of Ohio provides a labor market website that details information about local employment trends and projections, current employment statistics, supply and demand, and skills/training. In addition, Ohio Means Jobs is a free website to search for candidates and post jobs that also helps employers recruit and staff.

7. Auditing Wage & Hour Practices

FLSA compliance is one of ERC’s most common questions and an area where many employers may find themselves non-compliant. In the event of a Wage & Hour audit, the DOL provides a checklist of items requested. This checklist is not only ideal for organizations being audited by the DOL, but also for those that want to prepare for an audit. You can download this checklist here.

8. Posting Requirements

The DOL makes posting requirements available to employers including information about what organizations must post, citations and penalties, and other information. Click here to view these requirements. Employers can also download PDF posters on this site.

In conclusion, the Department of Labor and other governmental agencies can offer free resources and support for your organization. With vast amounts of information, online tools, free training and webinars, and access to experts, they can be very helpful for employers and particularly HR departments – often in ways that many organizations don’t anticipate.

Additional Resources

HR Training
Gain even more crucial skills and resources to be successful in your HR role through various ERC HR training courses. For more information on these informative training courses which cover all aspects of HR including employment law, compensation, benefits, performance management, orientation, communication, please click here. To view other upcoming HR programs, click here.

HR Help Desk
ERC’s Help Desk staff is exceptional at working with governmental agencies to answer employers’ questions, resolve problems, and locate information, resources, and forms to meet your needs – especially when you don’t have time to do the research yourself. Just e-mail hrhelp@yourerc.com for assistance.

HR Practices
Benchmark how your HR practices compare to other Northeast Ohio employers by participating in our Policies and Benefits Survey. This survey covers benefits, compensation, recruiting, hiring, communication, training, development, and safety practices. Click here to participate.

Other HR Resources
In addition to resources discussed in this article, ERC members enjoy an array of additional resources related to compensation, benefits, and policy information; HR Help Desk service, sample forms, job descriptions, and policies; cost-savings (and free services provided by some of our Preferred Partners); and more. Click here to find out more about the benefits of being an ERC member.

 

More Employers Have Space and Policies for Nursing Mothers

The 2010 ERC Health Care Reform Issues Survey shows that the regulations imposed by the health care reform law appear to have influenced Northeast Ohio employers’ practices for nursing mothers. When compared to 2009, nearly all (98%) employers surveyed now have space set aside for nursing mothers, compared to only 79% of employers in 2009. All respondents with fewer than 100 employees and over 500 employees had these spaces.

Similarly, many more employers (28%) have nursing mothers’ policies in place compared to 2009 (6%). Larger organizations (over 500 employees) were more likely to have nursing mother policies compared to smaller organizations (fewer than 100 employees).

The survey’s results show that since the law’s regulations went into place in 2010, which required employers to provide nursing mothers with reasonable break time for nursing activities and functional space to do so, employers have changed many of their practices relative to nursing mothers.

Workplace Gift-Giving & Bonuses

Giving employees a year-end gift or bonus this year? Here are a few common questions and answers employers ask us about issues related to giving gifts and bonuses to their staff.

How common is gift-giving in the workplace?

Gift-giving is a fairly common practice among organizations. In ERC’s 2010 Holiday Practices in the Workplace Survey, 51% of local employers give gifts to employees. A 2010 survey conducted by BNA shows that 41% of employers across the U.S. plan to provide a year-end gift or bonus to employees, and also reports that this is the highest percent in three years.

What is the most popular holiday gift given by employers?

We find that the most common holiday gift is a generic gift card. In a 2010 survey of local employers, 61% said they provide this type of gift. Some employers also give cash, food (such as a turkey or ham), clothing or logo items, or gift baskets. In addition, a few employers raffle-off gifts versus providing them to all employees. Spending amounts for employee gifts typically range from $25-$75 per employee.

Are there any legal or payroll issues we need to be aware of when giving holiday gifts to our employees?

The IRS has different tax reporting and deduction rules depending on the cost of the gift and whether it is considered tangible (ham, turkey, wine, entertainment tickets etc.) or intangible (cash, gift cards or certificates, etc.). Intangible gifts of more than $25 are taxable income and must be reported on a W-2 form. Tangible gifts do not need to be reported in taxes. Employers can deduct up to a maximum of $25 of the cost of both intangible and tangible gifts, according to IRS guidelines.

Should we allow for gift-giving between coworkers and/or bosses?

Some organizations choose to institute a gift-giving policy on the types of gifts their employees can give and receive in the workplace. While instituting such a policy can decrease the likelihood that employees will encounter uncomfortable situations surrounding giving gifts, gift-giving can be a nice way for coworkers and supervisors to show appreciation to one another that employers may not want to limit. In general, however, gift-giving etiquette is as follows:

  • Gift-giving should be considered voluntary. No one should feel pressured, obligated, or required to give gifts.
  • Gift-giving should also be kept relatively inexpensive, simple, and modest. Several sources suggest that $10-$20 is an acceptable amount to spend on gifts for coworkers or bosses.
  • Gift-giving should be appropriate for the workplace. Alcohol, gifts with political or religious messages, romantic gifts, and hygiene-related items are typically considered inappropriate holiday gifts. Tasteful and professional gifts, cards, treating to lunch, or even donating to a charity on behalf of an individual are all appropriate ways to show appreciation.
  • Group gifts are generally an acceptable way of thanking a supervisor/manager versus an individual gift. 
  • If supervisors or managers choose to give gifts to their employees, it’s best that they are given to everyone versus only certain individuals to prevent perceptions of favoritism or unequal treatment.

Employers should consider their culture before instituting any rules as there is no gift-giving best practice that works for all organizations. Some workplaces are more formal, and others are more family-oriented, and gift-giving should generally align with the culture.

How common are holiday bonuses?

Nearly a third of local employers provide holiday bonuses, according to a 2010 ERC survey. Certainly this isn’t the majority of employers; however, it is a sizeable portion. Recent reports, however, do indicate that the holiday bonus is diminishing in popularity. Discretionary or individual performance bonuses, on the other hand, tend to be more commonly offered by employers.

What criteria should we use to determine who gets a holiday bonus?

That depends. Some employers use a holiday bonus as employees’ gift versus a reward for attaining a certain level of performance. Others only provide holiday bonuses to employees who meet certain criteria such as performance, attendance, or length of service.

How much should we spend on a holiday bonus per employee?

Bonus amounts typically range from $200-$1000 or 2% of earnings with the average being $712. The most popular bonus amounts are $200 and $1000. However, $300 and $500 are also somewhat common. Also remember that bonuses are taxable, per the IRS.

What issues should we keep in mind when providing our employees with holiday bonuses?

First, if bonuses are regularly given at your organization, it may be helpful to develop a policy which includes eligibility requirements for the bonus, criteria for receiving the bonus (i.e. average performance ratings, length of employment, etc.), how the amount of the bonus is determined (i.e. based on company profit, revenue, etc.), when the payments will be awarded, and any legal guidelines or requirements the program is subject to. A disclaimer is also recommended, so that the organization can reserve the right to administer, modify, or terminate the program at any time, should business needs dictate.

Also, make sure your organization is compliant with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Bonuses given to employees for performance, productivity or quality need to be included in calculating an employee’s regular rate for overtime purposes. However, holiday/gift bonuses can be excluded when calculating overtime rates for non-exempt employees if they are not linked to hours worked or production.

Finally, if your organization provides holiday bonuses based on certain criteria, but not to all employees, be sure that you have documented why or why not employees have not earned the bonus to avoid any potential legal issues surrounding discriminative treatment. Performance documentation is crucial for your organization’s legal protection.

Gift-giving and bonuses are certainly great ways to show your employees appreciation and recognition during these final weeks of the year. To obtain answers to other questions related to gift-giving and bonuses, please contact ERC’s HR Help Desk (Members Only) at hrhelp@yourERC.com.

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