Resources - Stratus.hr®

Back to School, Back to Safety: Safety Tips for Kids

By | Newsletter, Risk Management | No Comments

Now that children (and parents) are back in the routine of going to school, it’s important to spend a few minutes reviewing safety tips for kids and parents, to ensure every child stays safe.

Safety Tips for Commuting: Kids Crossing!

Whether you’re driving to/from work, or driving as part of your work responsibilities, be aware of children out and about first thing in the morning, as well as in the afternoons/evenings. Busy sports, dance, and other programs will have children coming and going from school throughout the afternoon and evening. Morning and evening sun may make it difficult to see, so take a few minutes to be extra cautious and follow these tips:

  • Watch for pedestrians
  • Take school zones seriously; slow down even when school zone lights aren’t flashing
  • Never make lane changes in school zones
  • Watch for crossing guards and obey their signals
  • Leave plenty of room at crosswalks; never block them
  • Obey speed limits
  • Never text and drive
  • Never pass a school bus when the stop signal is posted and the lights are flashing
Safety Rules That Kids Should Follow

Whether your children walk, ride their bicycles, or take the bus to school, it’s extremely important that they take proper safety precautions. Go with your child and teach them the proper way to get on and off the bus, and/or how to safely cross the street.

  1. School Bus Stops: Make sure your child stands six feet away from the curb while waiting for the bus. If your child needs to cross the street in front of the bus, ensure he or she walks on the side of the road until they’re 10 feet ahead of the bus and looks both ways before crossing. Let them know they should always be able to see the bus driver, and the bus driver should always be able to see them.
  1. Training at Crosswalks: Teach children to do the following: stand six feet away from the road at a crosswalk and wait until traffic comes to a complete stop. Look both ways. If using a bike or scooter, dismount and walk the bike or scooter across the crosswalk. The most important safety consideration is ensuring children remain visible to drivers and make eye contact with them. Be sure children understand that they should always use street signals at crosswalks, where available.

Safety tips for kids can help adults, too. Talking about safety helps children and employees be more cognizant of their behaviors. Even simple reminders could help prevent an unnecessary accident. For more tips with staying safe, please email me directly at joey@stratus.hr.

School Safety

Whether or not you have children in school, it’s important to review safety tips to help prevent any unnecessary accidents.

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New Overtime Law Rejected

By | General HR, Newsletter, Overtime, Payroll | No Comments

A district court recently rejected the Department of Labor’s (DOL)’s new overtime law that would have resulted in a higher income threshold for exemption status. Had this law passed, any employee falling under the new salary level of $47,476 would have qualified for overtime wages, regardless of their job duties. For now, however, the existing salary threshold remains intact of $23,600, meaning employees whose job duties, functions, or tasks *satisfy exemption status AND make more than $23,660 are NOT required by law to be paid overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 per week.

The “Final Rule” was challenged late last year prior to its implementation and was put on hold until the district court could review the case. The court’s September 2017 review resulted in the issuance of its own “final rule” on the overtime law, rejecting the case in its entirety.

Why was the DOL “Final Rule” rejected?

First, we need to explain the background of the “Final Rule.” The Secretary of Labor was initially tasked to “modernize and streamline the existing overtime regulations for executive, administrative, and professional employees.” After receiving more than 293,000 comments on the proposed rule, the DOL decided to raise the minimum salary level for exempt employees to the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region of the nation (the South), which was $47,476. Had the law been implemented, any employee making less than $47,476 per year would have been eligible for overtime payment if he or she worked more than 40 hours in a week, regardless of job duties. Additionally, the new overtime law created an automatic system to adjust the minimum salary level every three years based on inflation.

Per the FLSA, the focal point of exemption status should be an employee’s job duties, functions, or tasks, with the salary amount acting as a secondary point of consideration. However, the significant increase to the minimum salary amount for exempt employees bumped the focal point of exemption status to salary amount, making an employee’s job duties, functions, or tasks irrelevant if an employee fell below that minimum salary level. (In fact, had the “Final Rule” passed, an estimated 42 million workers would have instantly become non-exempt, even though their job duties had not changed.) This was the basis for rejecting the new overtime law.

Will the minimum salary amount for exempt employees be adjusted still?

This is the question on most employers’ minds – and the answer is, possibly. The DOL published a Request for Information on July 26, 2017, asking for the public’s input to create a revised proposal. The request asks for some complex information, including questions “related to the salary level test, the duties test, varying cost-of-living across different parts of the U.S., inclusion of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments to satisfy a portion of the salary level, the salary test for highly compensated employees, and automatic updating of the salary level tests.” Employers have until September 25, 2017, to submit their feedback.

What does the DOL “Final Rule” rejection mean for employers right now?
  1. Employers whose businesses adhere to the federal guidelines rather than some stricter state or local guidelines (such as New York and California) do not need to increase minimum salary amounts for exempt employees yet. As always, be sure to check state and local laws that may have higher standards than the federal level.
  2. If you adjusted employee wages last year in anticipation of the increased minimum salary threshold, you surely helped with retention and morale but cannot legally recoup those additional wages that have already been paid. In fact, employers seriously considering any return to previously-held salary amounts may want to first discuss possible ramifications with their HR consultant.
  3. If you recently reviewed your employees’ exempt vs. nonexempt status and made adjustments to be compliant with the FLSA, we commend you for being proactive. Although the process can be time consuming, cleaning up misclassified employees can protect your company from unnecessary penalties and litigation.
  4. If you have yet to review your workforce’s classifications, focus first on the employee’s job duties, functions, or tasks to determine exemption status. If you need assistance with classifying employees as exempt or nonexempt, please contact your HR consultant.
  5. Provide feedback to the DOL if you want to voice your opinion on the matter. But do it before September 25, 2017!

*For more information about what specific job duties qualify for exemption status, please contact us.

Judge Rejects Proposed Overtime Law

The DOL’s overtime law to bump an exempt employee’s minimum salary to $47,476 was rejected in court. Here are five things employers should know because of this ruling.

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Is the ACA Still in Effect? Current Status of Legislation on Small Business Health Insurance

By | Benefits, Health Reform Updates, Newsletter | No Comments

First there was the Affordable Care Act (ACA), then there was the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The question now: which one is in effect and how does it impact small business health insurance that employers are providing? In other words, should businesses comply with the ACA or the AHCA?

Here’s the short answer: the ACA is still in effect. In July of 2017, legislation was introduced to repeal and replace the ACA with the American Health Care Act (AHCA). After the measure was defeated, the Senate stepped away from healthcare and has yet to determine when it will re-address the topic in the future.

The IRS recently released four letters (2017-0010, 2017-0011, 2017-0013, and 2017-0017) confirming that all obligations and subsequent penalties for a qualified employer’s lack of ACA compliance are still in effect. Although there may be more efforts in the future to repeal/replace or simply amend components to the ACA, employers should continue with all current compliance requirements of the ACA.

Healthcare and ACA: Employer Requirements

Employers with 50+ employees must provide affordable health insurance coverage for their full-time employees (30+ hours/week) that includes the minimum essential health benefits. To comply, employers must track and report hours to the IRS and provide documentation regarding their health insurance plan and participants. Qualified employers that don’t provide both of those elements are subject to penalties. See this refresher of all Obamacare requirements.

Status of the ACA’s Individual Mandate

Because the ACA has not been repealed and replaced, it also means that the individual mandate is still in effect: every person in the U.S. is required to have some sort of major medical insurance or face a tax penalty.

Effect of the Executive Order to minimize the ACA’s impact on businesses and individuals

According to IRS letter 2017-0017, the executive order requesting that agencies minimize the impact of the ACA on individuals and businesses has not changed requirements for coverage or any other aspect of the ACA. Individuals and businesses must still comply with the mandate and adhere to the ACA requirements.

Details about ACA and small business health insurance

For questions about business compliance requirements regarding employer-provided health insurance or the ACA, please see Are You Obamacare Compliant?. To learn more about small business health insurance plans that bring down costs while increasing benefits, please contact our HR experts at HR@Stratus.hr.

ACA or AHCA?

ACA or AHCA: what should business owners do to be in compliance with healthcare legislation?

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Workplace Safety: It’s All in the Attitude

By | Manager Training, Risk Management | No Comments

A company can go for years and years without a workplace injury, but without proactive employees who feel empowered to keep the worksite safe, serious accidents may be just around the corner.

According to OSHA, 80% of workplace accidents are caused by behaviors, whereas 20% are caused by unsafe conditions. While it’s important to ensure all equipment is working properly, employers should also hold regular safety training to emphasize proper behavior. Consider this OSHA example:

“After 15 years on the job and no injuries, Cathy probably thought a workplace injury couldn’t happen to her. But when a part jammed in the automobile assembly plant press, she quickly reached in to pull it out instead of properly shutting down the machine. As a result, Cathy’s arm became pinned inside the machine.”

Employees who get into the groove of focusing solely on their jobs and not taking a moment to proactively prevent an injury may need an attitude adjustment. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Teach employees through well-chosen safety meeting topics
    In order to develop a injury-prevention attitude in employees, help them understand how easily accidents can happen at your workplace. In addition to selecting safety meeting topics that are most relevant to your workplace, also point out potential hazards that can arise from everyday situations. Emphasize that no deadline, quota, or order is more important than employee safety. Show pictures and videos to drive home the importance of safety.
  2. Reward safety-minded behaviors in employees
    Encourage managers to notice and acknowledge any efforts by an employee that encourage safety in the workplace. Create a system for employees to report their coworkers’ safe acts and share these safety moments in your weekly meetings. Conduct a weekly or monthly drawing to reward those who reportedly improved safety, as well as those who reported the safety acts. The more you remind and encourage employees to be safety-minded, the more observant and proactive they’ll become.
  3. Encourage employees to become the safety teachers
    If you have a designated safety coordinator who runs safety trainings, encourage them to allot a 2-minute “speed training” moment to an employee who must come prepared with a potential safety hazard they’ve noticed at work — and be sure to rotate the responsibility each time you hold a training. This will give employees a voice and a better understanding of the safety concern, and encourage them to always be on the lookout for unsafe areas that need improvement.

Employee behavior is perhaps the most significant contributor to workplace safety. For more ideas on how to encourage safety-minded employees, as well as topics for your safety meetings, please contact us.

Workplace Safety: Attitude

It’s easy for employees to think they won’t get hurt at work, but that can lead to lackadaisical attitudes about preventing workplace injuries.

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Should an Office Romance Be Allowed at Work?

By | Discrimination, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training | No Comments

Relationships at work spark red flags for any HR manager. But should a company have a policy prohibiting office romances altogether?

According to a 2015 Vault Office Romance survey, 51% of workers admitted to being in an office romance at some point in their career. Since they’re probably already happening, a better strategy is to be aware of the dangers and to have a plan in your back pocket of how to cautiously handle any workplace love connections.

Dangers of an Office Romance

Although they make work much more exciting for the couple involved, office romances provide a number of workplace issues. These may include gossip, envy, distractions, questionable confidentiality and integrity on making decisions, resentment from team members, onlookers watching for flirtatious and other romantic behaviors, and so on. Anytime a superior and a subordinate are in a relationship, the anxiety rises exponentially with concerns of favoritism, nepotism, real or perceived power and influence of the manager, accusations of bias or preferential treatment, and so on.

Then there’s the fallout of a relationship: if it’s not successful, the whole team may suffer from the mood and temperament of the former lovebirds, which creates more watercooler talk and gossip — and, ultimately, lowered productivity. If the former partner is a subordinate, the danger intensifies in the event the supervisor acts out of frustration for a no-longer consensual relationship, which could lead to grievances and/or claims of harassment.

Overall, workplace relationships that turn into love connections take a definite toll on productivity. But here are steps to help companies combat loss of productivity due to an office romance.

How to prevent loss of productivity due to an office romance
  1. Create a workplace dating policy. Establish expectations for appropriate workplace behavior to avoid offending others or putting coworkers in an uncomfortable position. See a sample policy on SHRM.org or contact our HR experts at HR@Stratus.hr for guidance. Include this as part of your employee handbook that employees must sign when first hired, and review it during your annual anti-harassment training.
  2. Conduct annual workplace anti-harassment training. Review the workplace dating policy, define what behavior is unacceptable, and explain how to report questionable behaviors. Be sure employees attend annual training and have them sign an acknowledgment form.
  3. Require workers to sign an acknowledgment of consensual relationship. When two workers mutually consent to be in a relationship, make it a requirement that they report the relationship to HR by signing a “love contract.” This helps protect the company in the event of a harassment claim. (Contact our HR experts at HR@Stratus.hr for a sample policy.)
  4. Remind managers that any quid-pro-quo behavior is unacceptable. Gifts, promotions, raises, preferential treatment, and so on should never be tied to sexual demands or favors. Ever.
  5. Keep detailed notes about an involved manager’s personnel decisions. Ideally, managers in an influential position should no longer work with anyone that presents a conflict-of-interest due to a romantic relationship. But if that’s not an option for your company, be very candid with the manager involved. Even the most professional relationships can be victims of vicious gossip. Be sure managers make extremely detailed notes about employee matters such as pay raises, promotions, performance management, hiring, firing, and so on, to protect both them and the company regarding personnel decisions.

Office romances have the potential to create awkward HR situations, but they are manageable. For help with your specific scenario, please contact our experts at HR@stratus.hr.

How to handle office romances

You want employees to enjoy going to work, but there are times when dating, marrying or being related to a coworker can be a bad thing. These five steps will help you manage romantic relationships while at work.

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Racism in the Workplace: Hostile Workplace v. Employee Rights

By | Corrective Action, Discrimination, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Risk Management, Termination | No Comments

With recent events surrounding racial slurs, white supremacist movements, and allegations of racism, we’re being asked what constitutes a hostile workplace. Could a company terminate an employee for off-duty actions such as participation in a rally? Our answer: yes, provided the rally or activity meets specific criteria.

What Constitutes a Hostile Workplace?

According to the EEOC, workplace harassment is “unwelcome conduct based on race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” Such unwelcome conduct may include jokes, name calling, threats, assaults, insults, or anything that may offend a victim. “Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.”

Because the definition of a hostile work environment is subjective in nature, there’s no specified limit of how many racial slurs or other rhetoric constitute a hostile work environment. In a recent case, just one derogatory comment about Jewish ancestry created a hostile work environment wherein the victim sued and won.

Could a company fire a worker for off-duty actions, including participation in a rally?

Although the First Amendment establishes freedom of speech, employees hired under the “at-will” doctrine of employment (recognized nationwide, with limitations in some states) can be fired with or without cause. When considering disciplinary action for off-duty behavior, SHRM.org suggests employers consider these two questions:

  1. Are there any special legal factors at issue in this case?
  2. What effect, if any, does the off-duty behavior have on the employee’s job performance, the workplace, or the company’s image?

When an employee participates in a rally that simply favors one political party over another or supports issues that are protected by legal doctrine, that presents no legal concerns. For example, participation in a peaceful gun-rights rally, the January 2017 women’s march, or a political campaign event would not be grounds for termination. However, when an employee participates in a rally that goes against federal anti-discrimination laws that protect employees of a protected class (race, color, national origin, gender, religion, pregnancy, age, or disability), it does present legal concerns.

All employees have the right to work and should feel safe in a non-threatening environment. When a coworker engages in any activity that threatens an employee from a protected class, it impairs performance, harms a formerly non-threatening environment, and damages a company’s image. (Remember, racism at work isn’t limited to employees feeling threatened; if customers hear a racist remark, they can also sue your company.)

Bottom line: Any employee behavior that may create a hostile work environment, on- or off-duty, should be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination. For more information, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

racism at work

There is no objective way to decide whether or not something may constitute a hostile work environment. However, when in doubt, take immediate action to correct the situation.

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8 Job Recruiting Techniques for Small Business

By | Articles, General HR, Recruiting | No Comments

Your small business needs to find the right candidate, but the job applicants you’re seeing just aren’t cutting it. Are you doing something wrong? The answer may be “yes.”

While job applicants may seem to hold all of the cards in today’s workforce, your recruiting style may be working against you. Big businesses have deeper pockets to employ a team of experienced HR professionals and paid recruiters to find the right people for integral roles, but small businesses don’t have to roll over and wait for leftovers. By using the following techniques, small- and medium-sized companies can compete for great talent against large corporations, all without breaking the bank.

What your small business needs to entice the right job applicants:

#1 — Well-written job descriptions. What turns off a job applicant before they ever become a candidate? A bad job description. While you want to paint an accurate picture of what the role will entail, don’t make it overly cumbersome. Other job-description faux pas you should avoid include:

  • Being too hip or sassy to the point of offensive. A little humor goes a long way in a job description; a lot of humor can quickly turn off top prospects. Will it offend anyone or could it be taken the wrong way? If so, cut it out. You could face bigger problems.
  • Requesting impossible skills. Do you need someone with 10+ years of social media experience? Good luck. Facebook launched publicly about 10 years ago and it took a while for businesses (and business pages, which started in 2009) to catch on. Only a handful of people on the planet can legitimately claim the social experience you’re seeking. Better bet: shoot for 5+ years instead.
  • Descriptions that are too vague or too cliche. Remember back in college where every fly-by-night company offered a job where you could “have fun, make money”? Those ads all had one thing in common — they never actually told the applicant what they’d be doing. The lesson here is to neither be too detailed nor too vague. If you’re looking for an office manager who will also need to answer phones, greet clients, and set up appointments, say so. If you want an office manager who will keep your books, state that. Good applicants don’t need to know everything, but they do need to know enough to know that they would be happy doing the job.

#2 — Applicant tracking system. Spreadsheets are great. But they’re terrible when it comes to keeping track of job applicants. Interviewers need to know status, who else is scheduled to interview the person, notes from previous interviewers, scoring systems, and more … and the interviewer needs to be able to access this info whenever it’s needed. In short, there are too many details and needs for a single spreadsheet to handle efficiently.

Using an applicant tracking system (or “ATS” — also called a “recruitment management system”) benefits both the company and the applicant. The ATS can be linked to online job applications so job applicants effectively begin their own record. Then the applicant tracking system becomes the one-stop-shop for every stage, note, and record of the hiring process. Interviewers can access the ATS, see the comments from other interviewers and determine what questions or follow-ups they have for the job applicant.

One of the best benefits on the applicant side of an ATS is that candidates are always updated on their status.  Most applicant tracking systems have auto-responder features. Online recruiting systems are also linked to lower potential litigation costs as systems sort applicant information based on match rather than on potential human bias factors (i.e. protected class criteria). An ATS can also speed up hiring.

#3 — Big-picture view of the internal impact. How is the role you’re filling going to affect the entire company? Will you reach a threshold that requires you to provide a different level of benefits? Will your own HR team be stretched too thin due to additional employees? Before you hire, know exactly how a new team member will impact your company to help you prepare for any growth-related risks.

#4 — Overview of the market and industry. You’re vying for the same talent that your competitors and other businesses are looking at, too. Is the company down the street hiring? Is your top competition experiencing high turnover rates? (If so, why?) Will an industry giant’s new facility mean your talent pool is about to shrink? Knowing these details can make your small business’s recruitment efforts much smarter and will also help you field candidate questions. Staying up to date on changes in the industry and marketplace that will directly affect employees should always be a top priority for your HR team/partner. Just be sure you have a system in place to help that team scale, too.

#5 — Competitive benefits and compensation. You may have the coolest workplace ever and a brand that would make millennial job candidates wanting to make a societal difference swoon. But here’s the thing: if you can’t compete in terms of benefits (and at least come close in compensation), enticing the right person to apply for and take an open position at your small company will be next to impossible. But how do you do it? Two tricks: your HR team and a partner that can provide you with a Fortune 500-style benefits package in a price range you can afford. The best part is that these “tricks” can be one and the same.

Your HR team/partner should be on top of what competitors (industry and market) are doing to entice candidates. They should also be able to help you find insurance and other benefits options that are not only on par with the competition, but that also fit your budget — regardless of how small your business is. Small- and medium-size businesses may choose to partner with a PEO (Professional Employer Organization) to address both of these concerns. A PEO can serve as a scalable, internal HR team, providing all essential HR services, including payroll management, onboarding, applicant tracking and others, while also offering access to large-group insurance plans and other benefit options at affordable rates. Additional reasons for working with a PEO include risk reduction and the consistent growth and success of companies they serve.

#6 — Internal job recruitment system (Hello, social!). Maybe it’s not who you’re looking for but where you’re looking that’s hurting your applicant recruitment efforts. Tap into the team you already have to help find the right person. Announce job openings company-wide. Provide details that are easily shared via social media. Create a referral bonus to encourage your existing team to get the word out. Harvard Business Review reported that when people have a friend at work, they tend to enjoy their jobs more and are more likely to be fully engaged – so get your existing staff to help with recruiting!

#7 — Background and reference checks before day 1. You found the perfect candidate who possesses absolutely everything you were hoping for in this role: education, experience — it’s all there. It seems almost too good to be true… or is it? With more than 85% of employers reporting they’ve found lies on resumes, there’s a chance it could be. Aside from asking the right questions to find potential reality discrepancies and alternative facts during the interview, be sure you’re also conducting background checks, as well as a candidate’s professional references, before it’s too late. While there’s always some risk in bringing aboard a new team member, you reduce risk when you do your homework before day 1, no matter how perfect and amazing the job applicant seems.

#8 — Outsource while you wait. You want whomever you hire to stick with your company a long time, so it makes sense that finding the right person will take time. The current average hiring time is 52 days. While there are ways to make the process shorter and more efficient, it’s usually not a good idea to rush through the process. Instead, outsource tasks that need to be completed while you, your managers, and your HR team spend the necessary time to ensure you secure the right person. You may not be able to outsource every aspect of the job, but in today’s gig economy, you should be able to outsource parts of it. For a look at roles that are prime for outsourcing while you focus on growing your business, read 5 Outsourced Tasks to Reclaim Your Day: Small Business Edition. You may find that the outsourcing solution is the perfect way to fill the empty role (or another role entirely).

Keeping employee recruitment in budget

While there are a number of items to consider when finding the right job applicants, the cost of recruitment shouldn’t be one of them. Ensure you’re keeping costs low and services high with HR by selecting an HR partner that can assist in your recruiting efforts while also performing essential services for your business.

You can learn more about smart recruiting in today’s workplace and how Stratus.hr can help your business find the right candidates faster by contacting Stratus.hr.

Recruiting

According to Visibility, “58% of candidates who have a poor experience with a company’s recruiting process cite ‘not receiving regular updates’ on their job application as the reason.”

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Most applicant tracking systems allow for weighted criteria input and can be made accessible to interviewers so they can jump in whenever needed.

Job Description - ATS
Applicant Tracking

A potential drawback to an ATS may be the expensive investment in software to track job applications. However, some HR outsourcing firms provide access to applicant tracking systems for their clients at very affordable prices.

Stratus.hr is a full-service HR outsourcing PEO that allows small businesses to access online tools including an applicant tracking system, competitive benefits packages, background checks, and expert guidance and assistance, among other pre-hire services. Stratus.hr also takes on other HR tasks (unemployment claims management, work verifications, payroll, benefits administration, procuring workers’ comp, injury claims management, and so on) and provides expert advice and assistance that extend beyond the recruiting stage to ensure businesses take a low-risk approach to workforce management and growth.

No Matter What Happens, Your Small Business Health Insurance Is Going to Cost More

By | Benefits, Health Reform Updates, President's Corner | No Comments

Like just about everyone else, I’ve been paying close attention to what’s happening with healthcare reform this year, but not for the reasons most people think. I’m interested in what’s going to happen to small business health insurance plans.

Here’s what we know for certain: insurance rates for businesses on small group plans are still going to be outrageously high and coverage won’t compete with what big company insurance plans offer. But it looks like there’s only one impending change to a business’ small group plan — they can hold onto a grandfathered policy through the end of 2018.

Truthfully, that’s not as good as it sounds.

Don’t get me wrong, a lack of disruption is always a positive thing in business. Anytime you’re faced with shopping around for a new provider, educating your team about your new healthcare plans and fielding a year’s worth of one-on-one questions about employee benefits, options, insurance cards, and which doctors and hospitals are approved, you use up a ton of time that you and your HR team would probably rather spend focusing on business instead. But if you’re on a grandfathered small group policy, the fact that you’re not mandated to change healthcare plans in 2017 is really the only “pro” you’re getting.

The cons are this:

  • You’re still spending more on small business health insurance and getting less in terms of benefits than you should be.
  • Regardless of the carriers offered by your insurance broker, your small business will likely see a rate increase for 2018.
  • Whether your business has a grandfathered plan or not, a small group health insurance plan is not helping you attract the talent that you want. Have you seen the benefits plans that big companies are offering?

To make the matter even more depressing: no amount of regulation is going to change any of this.

Keeping the costs down on your Utah small business health insurance

Now a little good news: you don’t have to keep your small group health insurance policy. Your small business CAN buy into a large group health insurance plan if you’re working with a PEO that offers large group health plans.

PEO means “Professional Employer Organization” — it’s a pretty unsexy term for an entity that basically runs your HR for you on an outsourced basis. Most PEOs work with a lot of companies, which means the PEO can use the collective buying power of ALL clients to access large group plans for every employee.

Unlike small group insurance plans, a large group plan uses averages, standardize rates, and considers risk pools to determine rate structures. That means a single employee with a big insurance bill one year isn’t going to jack up next year’s rates for everyone. When your small business is in a large group health insurance plan, you have less market volatility, more  consistency to the price all employees pay, regardless of age or location, and rates that remain more consistent from year to year.

When changes are needed for healthcare plans, the PEO both shops around for you and fields questions from employees. (By the way, at Stratus.hr, most basic questions are answered via our mobile app so our clients’ employees can get answers any time rather than only during business hours, which is never really the time you need to know policy numbers and information.)

Plus, switching your small business to a large group healthcare plan ensures you’re offering a benefits package comparable to the package offered by large corporations. That’s always nice for recruitment and retention.

Your PEO may also be able to work on other services for you, including payroll that requires you to write just a single check each month, analytics that you can see anytime, paperless onboarding, applicant tracking systems and risk management. In general, everything is simpler, which means you’re spending less time on HR responsibilities. When your company grows, your HR team is still the right size because a PEO scales with your organization. And your insurance policy doesn’t need to change year-to-year because you’re in a large employer group policy, not a small one, even if you only have a handful of employees.

One last thing to note: I am fully confident that our government will continue to monkey around with healthcare and that whatever changes they decide on (or push through — however you want to look at it), it’s going to mean more hoops for your business to jump through. For me, that would be reason enough to work with a PEO, because a really good one will keep up with every regulation change and ACA reporting requirement that impacts your small business. Your PEO’s experts will ensure you’re always in compliance.

Small Business Health Insurance

Small business health insurance doesn’t have to be limited to just that; working with a PEO will allow even the smallest company to tap into the benefits of a large group health plan.
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Summer Safety: Keeping Employees Safe in Hot Weather

By | General HR, Health & Wellness, Manager Training, Risk Management | No Comments

Safety topics are always a concern when working outside, particularly as the temperatures soar. The best way to ensure employees with outdoor jobs stay safe during summer is by taking proper precautions. Start with a hearty dose of safety training and use the following tips to help prevent workplace injuries when employees are working outside on hot days. And stay hydrated, too!

How to Help Employees Avoid Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke
  • Schedule physically-demanding activities for workers in the early mornings or evenings when temperatures are lower. To prevent heat exhaustion when work requires strenuous physical activity, have employees wear loose-fitting clothing, drink plenty of water, and avoid drinking dehydrating beverages (ex: drinks with caffeine).
  • Encourage employees to drink 5 to 7 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes when working outside. In the course of a day’s work, the body may produce as much as two to three gallons of sweat. These fluids should be replaced at nearly the same rate as they are lost. Cool, clean, palatable drinking water should be readily available.
    • Employees should not depend on thirst to signal when or how much water to drink since thirst is a poor indicator of the actual need for fluids.
  • Implement a program of work-rest cycles for outside jobs. Shorter work-rest cycles are required for more strenuous physical work and hot work environments. Work periods should be followed by periods of rest in a cooler environment (about 76 degrees Fahrenheit).
    • The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) specifies ways to measure heat and humidity and outlines recommended work rest cycles for different workloads in hot/humid environments.
  • Encourage employees to add extra salt to food if salt replacement is needed. Salt tablets should not be used.
How Employees Should Protect Themselves when Exposed to Excessive Sun
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Wear sunglasses with UV protection. When shopping for sunglasses, the darkness of a lens should not be used to gauge protection from UV rays. The tint is designed to reduce glare.
  • Know when to stop and take a break. Outdoor workers should seek shaded or covered areas to take breaks.
  • Wear the right clothing. Long pants and a long-sleeved shirt can provide protection from the sun.  A wide brimmed hat or neck covering that can be added to a hard hat is recommended.

For more tips on staying safe this summer and other safety topics, please contact our certified HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

Source: WCF.com

Safety Tip: Stay Hydrated

Simple reminders about how to stay safe while working outside will help prevent workplace injuries this summer.
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Company Culture: Tips for Boosting Employee Morale

By | Employee Morale, General HR, Performance, Retention | No Comments

Even workplaces with a strong company culture can use a boost in employee morale from time to time. But if company picnics aren’t your cup of tea, don’t panic. Although eating together does make a team more cohesive, it’s not right for every employee. Thinking outside the box (and inside your budget), here are some ideas of how to help bring your work team together.

  1. Make employee praise part of your company culture. Send a personal email or even a company-wide (or department-wide, if a larger company) email that praises the employee’s efforts. You can even go a step further and write a personal thank-you card, acknowledging your appreciation for their great work. Create a corporate culture where employees look for the good in each other and create opportunities for them to brag about their coworkers.
  2. Allow employees to create committees to carry out a project. Would you like to promote a healthier workplace? Could your company provide some type of a giving-back project to the community? Are there non-work functions or sports leagues your employees are interested in doing together? Increase employee engagement by helping employees form committees, create projects, make a team, and work together to carry it out. The sense of ownership, involvement, and autonomy does amazing things for unity and employee morale. It’s also a great opportunity to create leaders within the company.
  3. Create flexible work arrangements. Working remotely when work-life schedules are hectic is a great way to boost employee morale and foster a positive attitude about work. If remote arrangements aren’t possible, perhaps working flexible hours outside of the typical workday could be an alternative option. Let employees brainstorm ideas to find a win-win solution for their specific situation.
  4. Bring services onsite. Employees’ lives are busy and can easily get out of balance. Consider having a dry-cleaning service come and pick up clothing items once a week for employees. (You could even see if they would be willing to provide discounted services to employees!) Have a massage therapist come for a few hours during the day to help relieve tension. Reward employees with an onsite car detailing service. Partner with a restaurant to bring healthy meals once a week to your break room or even cart them around from office to office, allowing employees to purchase healthy food without having to leave their desk. These simple services will be remembered as a thoughtful gesture that shows your company management understands employee stresses. They’ll also reflect highly on your company culture: imagine what employees say when they’re discussing things they love about their jobs.

Want more ideas on how to motivate employees? Stratus.hr’s certified HR experts have tips on improving employee engagement, building your corporate culture and boosting workplace morale. Contact us at HR@stratus.hr.

Employee Morale

Boosting employee morale doesn’t have to be expensive. A little recognition goes a long ways, especially when it comes from somebody higher-up in the company.
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