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Fair Workweek Rules – What Employers Need to Know

By | Articles, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Retention, Turnover | No Comments

Predictive scheduling, or Fair Workweek Rules, seem to be the latest trend in workplace regulations to protect hourly workers. When San Francisco first enacted these laws in 2015, the intent was to provide more advance notice regarding work schedules and to ensure schedules were fair. For employers, however, these laws have signaled greater fines and penalties. With several more cities and two states now following suit, what exactly are the rules? Are they really necessary? And will they soon be coming to a city near you?

What are the Fair Workweek Rules?

There are four primary rules consistently found among the Fair Workweek regulations:

  1. Two-weeks’ notice: Schedules must be made available to employees for a minimum of two weeks in advance.
  2. Minimal changes: If the scheduler must make changes within that minimum two-week notice window, they must be documented and have good reason. Employers may also need to pay premiums to employees for any schedule changes made within that window if it’s for anything outside of filling in for a sick employee.
  3. No “clopenings” allowed: Employers cannot enact the practice of “clopening,” which is scheduling employees to work closing shifts and then having them return hours later to open the business. Employees must be allowed a rest period (11 hours) between the end of one shift and the start of another. If an employee must return prior to the rest period ending, the employer must pay a premium.
  4. Maintain records: scheduling records now must be retained for three years, including original hours, schedule changes, time off requests, shift swap or change requests, shift cancellations, and more.
Fair Workweek Rules

Whether or not you are currently impacted, ask your timekeeping solution about their implemented adaptations to comply with the Fair Workweek Rules, such as flagging potential violations and allowing employees to easily trade shifts.

Who is affected by the Fair Workweek Rules?

The Fair Workweek rules are primarily aimed at large employers in the retail and restaurant sectors and have already been enacted in San Francisco, San Jose, Emeryville, Seattle, New York City, Oregon, Washington DC, and New Hampshire. If your business is not in one of those industries or areas, you may still need to prepare since these regulations are likely to drive changes to other businesses that employ blue-collar workers nationwide.

Are the Fair Workweek laws necessary?

At first glance, these laws seem a little extreme to employers. However, the working class that these laws are trying to protect are typically those with the lowest incomes (see statistics here).  Many of them work more than one part-time job and/or are caretakers that have to juggle multiple schedules. Because these employees tend to experience greater work-family conflict and related stress due to their irregular shift times, these laws are to help employers consider the implications before mandating any last-second schedule changes.

What should employers do about the Fair Workweek Rules if they aren’t currently affected?

Rather than wait to be acted upon (and be penalized for violations), employers should start today by adopting the principles within these rules:

  • Provide employees with two weeks’ notice of their schedules.
  • Try to make very few schedule changes within the two-week window.
  • Avoid scheduling employees for any “clopening” shifts.
  • Consider allowing employees to choose their own schedules and/or request their input:
    • Would they prefer to have the same, more or less hours?
    • Which nights would they be available as back-up to come in if customer demands require additional working staff?
  • Provide incentives for employees who were needed to clock in when they weren’t otherwise scheduled.

Adopting employee-friendly practices that include employee feedback will not only help employees feel valued, it will also create loyalty and help reduce turnover. Your proactive efforts may also improve manager relations with employees, particularly when it comes to dealing with scheduling problems. For more information about this or any other workplace regulation, please contact our HR experts at

Our team provides expert guidance for compliance and other employee issues. For more information, simply fill out the form below and our business development team will be in touch with you shortly.

Dealing with a Bully Boss

By | Corrective Action, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Performance, Recruiting, Retention, Termination, Turnover | No Comments

Scenario: a once highly-competent employee was promoted to manager, but their lack of people skills has created more of an authoritarian bully boss. Because they’ve built rapport with their years of service to the company, and because they have significant knowledge and expertise, it’s become a delicate situation for upper management to even want to acknowledge there’s a problem. What do you do?

Employers: How to Deal with a Bully Boss

What are the risks of retaining a bully boss? Beyond motivation and morale concerns, a bad manager may create issues such as poor productivity, stifled recruiting efforts, difficulty retaining key talent, legal issues, and even public backlash. Consider the lessons learned from Uber’s HR nightmare, which stemmed from upper management not listening to employee complaints.

With a number of things at risk, take a step back to observe whether you actually have a bully boss employed as a manager. Is the team sufficiently producing results? Have you noticed a drop in morale? Are good employees quitting or getting fired? Are incompetent employees still employed when they should have been fired? Have you received employee complaints? Any combination of these factors could point to a manager problem.

Next, it’s time to gather feedback from employees. Find out about their interactions and feelings toward the manager. If there is any apprehension about giving candid feedback directly, allow employees to provide their thoughts anonymously. You may want to contact your HR rep for help with setting up a 360-degree manager effectiveness evaluation.

Finally, have a candid conversation with the manager about the issues brought to light by employees. Develop a performance improvement plan that documents specific areas needing improvement and include a description of performance issues and consequences for any repeated misbehavior. Allow the manager to be part of the collaborative improvement process. Solutions may include manager training, communication skills training, personality sensitivity training, role realignment (where available), and so on. Consider providing a points-based assessment completed by employees working under the manager to regularly provide feedback about the manager’s performance.

Employees: How to Deal with a Bully Boss

In an ideal work environment, your manager and/or HR department would be a comfortable place to disclose any feelings of being bullied. If, however, your manager and/or HR is the bully, try implementing some of these self-defense strategies.

1. Treat the situation as a work project.
Be cognitively aware of how you behave at work and stay unemotional. More than ever, be sure your outward appearance (hair and clothes) is calm and tasteful. Maintain a positive attitude and be determined to not react poorly.

2. Stay social and avoid isolation.
Make a conscious effort to keep up personal relationships with other coworkers. If you need to interact with the bully, try to be around others of “importance” that will make you less likely to be bullied. If you’re being pursued, never enter a bathroom or other area of isolation.

3. Use excuses or distractions.
In the event of an uncomfortable encounter with the bully, make an excuse and say you’re late for an appointment or need to use the restroom. You could also pick up a file or note with a customer’s phone number that needs to be called as a form of distraction.

4. Control what you say.
Avoid talking to coworkers about your situation in a way that could be perceived as gossip. Write down the interactions that have you concerned and discuss with a close confidant outside of work to hear their perspective. If they concur that this is a bully situation, and you haven’t yet done this, take your concerns to another member of HR or upper management.

As an HR company, we advise employers to take employee complaints seriously and to immediately investigate any incidents of wrong-doing. For more tips and information, please contact our HR experts at

Bully Boss

Here are some questions to ask when deciphering between an employee’s “dirty laundry” versus truly having a manager problem.
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Need some assistance with employee complaints? Our team has the expertise you need!
Complete the form below and we’ll be in touch with you shortly.

Post OSHA Summary Feb 1 – Apr 30

By | Newsletter, Risk Management | No Comments

It’s that time of year when *employers with 10+ full-time employees are required to keep record of all reportable worksite injuries and illnesses that need treatment beyond first aid that occur on the worksite. The complete record is maintained on their OSHA 300 logs (page 7 of the OSHA 300 booklet) and includes details such as where and when they occurred, the nature of the case, the job title of the injured employee, and the number of work days missed (or on light duty) due to the work-related illness or injury.

Then, from Feb 1 – Apr 30 of the following year, these employers must complete OSHA 300A, which is a summary of those injuries and incidents (page 8 of the OSHA 300 booklet) and post it in a conspicuous place for employees to see, such as a break room. According to, all work-related cases must be recorded if they involve any of the following:
• Death,
• Days away from work,
• Restricted work or transfer to another job,
• Medical treatment beyond first aid,
• Loss of consciousness, or
• A significant injury or illness diagnosed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional.

If any employees do not have access to where the summary is posted, perhaps because of a remote worksite or travel requirements, they must be sent a copy of the report.  Even if no injuries occurred in the previous year, employers are required to post the summary to meet the requirements of this law. clients who are required to post the OSHA Summary and for whom we administer their Workers’ Comp policy should receive their OSHA 300A Forms prior to Feb 1. Please ensure this form is posted in a visible place to employees from Feb 1 – Apr 30. For more information about this OSHA requirement, please contact us at

*To see if your industry is on the partially-exempt list that is not required to post OSHA injury and illness records, click here.

Small business: Is your applicant tracking system working against you?

By | Articles, Company Growth, Human Resources Information System (HRIS), Newsletter, Recruiting, Retention | No Comments

I remember when we all hired from resumes. Really, it wasn’t long ago, but it was a very slow and sometimes painful process.

That’s why I was thrilled when the first ATS (applicant tracking system) hit the market. Because they make short work of screening candidates so the cream rises to the top, these solutions were quickly adopted by big businesses looking to fast-track quality hiring.

Small businesses, however, were frequently left behind in this process: an applicant tracking system was expensive, standalone software. Although reading only a handful or resumes for an occasional available position was doable, requiring paper resumes was not only a waste of some occasional spare time, it was limiting the applicant pool. Fortunately that’s changed, since now small businesses can affordably access applicant tracking software, too.

My question now for small business isn’t “when are you going to adopt the technology,” it’s “are you using your ATS right so you get the best candidates?”

How to use an Applicant Tracking System

Back when we read resumes and used our own wits to assess which applicants moved to the screening round, it was pretty rare that a really amazing candidate got past anyone. But it was even rarer that key roles were filled in a timely manner, which put those amazing candidates at risk of finding another job in the mean time.

Problems arise, however, when you either have your ATS do too much or too little. Like all HR technology, your applicant tracking software needs support from experts. Companies that sell you access to an applicant tracking system but don’t provide guidance on how to get the right candidates could saddle your hiring efforts with the following problems:

Thesaurus unwanted — so is creativity. When you set up a job in an applicant tracking system, you’ll include keywords that you want the ATS to find in the application. Candidates are graded on the usage of these keywords/terms, and scored based on the number of times specific keywords appear (“keyword density”). Our ATS is no exception. For some roles, however, we caution against relying on keywords too much: really great candidates may also be very creative causing them to steer clear of repetitive descriptions for jobs. They may also use terminology that was unique to a former employer. You can tell your applicant tracking system to look for synonyms, but I’d also suggest consulting an HR pro and taking a quick glance at any application that doesn’t quite make the cut but seems awfully close. That way you’re not eliminating truly creative minds.

The slacker who found the right article. Have you ever Googled “Applicant tracking system?” It’s why I wrote this article — because of the plethora of articles for job applicants that look at how to talk to the ATS, not to the prospective employer. Each of these articles centers around one thing: maximizing an ATS score without increasing experience. While I could never fault a candidate who speaks the language of their audience, if your small business is only inviting the top 10 applicants from the applicant tracking system to an in-person interview, you want to fill the interview slots with the best applicants. Period. Your ATS scores should single out the top candidates … but it’s still advisable to review anyone who scores a “close second” to ensure you’re getting candidates with the greatest potential to excel at the job, not the application process.

Experience is all wrong … but not really. You need your applicant tracking system to send you people with the most relevant experience. Be sure, however, you consider the following:

  • Limiting experience to 2-8 years could rule out great candidates with 12 years of experience. Not everyone is concerned about upward mobility in a company — sometimes candidates just want to be experts at the one thing they love to do.
  • Rigid job titles and levels might eliminate applicants who held relevant positions in companies that used different titles and hierarchies. “Manager” seems like a pretty straightforward title, but at some companies, every frontline employee is deemed a manager; at other companies, senior managers are labeled as “group leads” or “strategists.” You just never know.
  • Screening for MBAs-only could cause candidates with three undergraduate degrees, a JD or an MFA to score lower, even with relevant experience that far exceed the MBA candidate.
  • Ignoring a candidate with a recent work history gap could mean you might miss a strong contributor who took a few years off to raise a child, write a book, care for a parent, start a business, travel, or finish an advanced degree. Imagine what that background could do for your business.

HR technology is one of the best ways to make employee management easier for companies of all sizes. But if your small business relies solely on technology without expert guidance to back it up, you may be missing the mark in everything from compliance to recruiting and hiring.

Today’s applicant tracking systems are pretty incredible, but it’s still a good idea to consult with an HR professional when you start using one and to ensure your team is trained in more than just how to use the system. Ask the provider of your HR tools if they offer training on how to write effective job descriptions and how to conduct screenings and interviews, too (if they don’t, it’s time to move elsewhere — training and accessible expertise are essential for small teams). While you no longer have to buy a big-business, big-expense applicant tracking system to tap into the productivity advantages that enterprise-level counterparts have, you do have to stay competitive by finding the right candidates for your small-but-growing team. Just be sure technology is working for you, not against you.

applicant tracking system

How to ensure you’re getting the most from your applicant tracking system.
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the real cost of employee turnover

Vacancies can add up to big costs for businesses (see infographic above); when you’re staring down a stack of 90 applications for a single opening, your applicant tracking system is a lifesaver.

Are you ready to start using an applicant tracking system? Contact your rep today! If you aren’t currently a client, please fill out the information below and we’ll be in touch with you shortly.

Are you the reason employee engagement stinks?

By | Articles, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Performance, Retention | No Comments

Personally, I love your pool table. The last thing I want you to do is stop having stress relievers available to employees, especially when they commit so much time to be at work. However, if employee engagement, motivation, or morale seem off, it’s not because you need to add to your collection of stress-relieving toys; it may just be YOU that’s the problem.

Moi? Yes. Workplace leadership both directly and indirectly drives employee engagement. I’m not saying that you or your leaders are bad bosses (those exist, they just don’t read articles like this). But you may be missing some easy opportunities to make your workplace better — even without a climbing wall.

You can start by asking yourself these six questions. Each one points to a pretty simple but necessary solution that you need to keep employee engagement high.

1. Are you giving employees the services they need … and want? If your business is small enough, you may not be required to provide health insurance (if you have fewer than 50 employees). Or you may have opted to keep expenses down by offering only a  high-priced/low-benefit plan. Either of these could indirectly hurt employee engagement. How? Because high-priced or low-coverage health insurance frequently carries the following unintended side effects:

  1. Employees (and recruits) look for employers that offer better coverage plans.
  2. Employees avoid treatment until the situation escalates because of the cash outlay required.
  3. Employees spend time fighting with doctor’s offices over bills.

Advice: Offer a competitive insurance plan. Yes, these do exist, even for small employers.

2. Are morale-building efforts actually a distraction? Anytime you’re attempting to build morale, you’re doing a good thing. Just remember that employees want and need to be productive, too.  Advice: Limit the number of big events to just one or two per year and add smaller-scale, drop-in activities at the workplace that have similar impact without the commitment. For example, schedule company-wide potlucks once a month in the breakroom or a Friday afternoon ice cream social on the front lawn. Small get-togethers not only improve morale, they can increase productivity, too.

3. Do bigger cultural issues slip by? Today’s news is filled with stories of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace. These aren’t isolated incidents affecting just the victim or where responsibility lies only with the accused. Advice: Don’t try to do everything yourself. Work with your HR rep to set up employee training to review your company’s anti-sexual harassment policy and protocol to ensure compliance. This training in should be held on an annual basis.

4. Do employees know they’re appreciated? There’s a need in everyone to feel valued, to know that they’re making a contribution that matters. Advice: Praise employees one-on-one for a job well done. Set up simple appreciation programs, like an employee-of-the-month. (Want an affordable reward? How about access to a reserved parking space during the month that follows.) You could even set a goal for yourself: seek out one employee each day, shake their hand and thank them for a very specific thing they did — that way they know you’re paying attention. That little bit of effort can go a long way towards improving employee engagement.

5. Have you asked your employees how you can make the workplace better? The best workplaces survey their employees regularly and act on the results. Advice: Set up a survey today to gauge employee engagement, but keep it simple — even just three to five questions can provide you with great insight. You may also be able to use surveys to help you decide on workplace changes and new expenditures, like updated office chairs vs. a meeting room scheduler.

6. Do your employees know whether they’re winning or losing at work? This can be defined by whether you’ve set clear expectations and goals for your employees. If an employee always knows what is expected, where they stand, and how their individual work aligns to the company’s overall mission and goals, they are much more likely to be engaged and perform at a higher level. 

Boosting employee engagement starts by ensuring the workplace is working well first. By asking yourself a few simple questions, you’ll get a better view of what you can do to make affordable improvements. Be sure to talk to your expert whenever you need help!

employee engagement

The solution to your employee engagement problems might be discovered in these six simple questions.
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One of the reasons your full-time employees give up 8+ hours of each weekday is because they want to provide comfort and security for their families — and that includes matters of health.

Sometimes formal, event-style, morale-building activities take a big bite out of schedules and result in employees working off the clock to make up for time spent having fun.

As an employer, it’s essential that you provide a safe, comfortable work environment for all employees.

When people are heads-down at work every day, it’s easy to forget that what you’re doing matters.

The answers your employees provide on an employee survey may include great ideas for improving the workplace, even if you don’t want to sign on for a Friday afternoon dessert cart.

If your only clarification of employee performance is from an annual evaluation, that leaves the rest of the year for employees to wonder whether they’re helping the company reach its goals, or if their behavior and actions are actually working against them.

Interested in learning more about how can help improve your employee engagement? Simply fill out the form below and our business development team will be in touch with you shortly.

Sexual Harassment Nightmare at a Small Business

By | Articles, Company Growth, Discrimination, General HR, Manager Training, Risk Management | No Comments

There’s almost nothing worse than a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against your small business.

For me, it happened when I owned a small chain of salons. One of my employees was doing a wash on a client and the unthinkable happened. I wasn’t there so I don’t know exactly what transpired, but the end result was a harassment suit filed against my business.

What I do know is what I, the business owner, went through. It turns out my experience isn’t that different from other small businesses in the same situation.

  • Digging for paperwork. As a small business owner, when a harassment claim lands on your desk, your first instinct is to start looking for paperwork. Plain and simple, you freak out. I started tearing the place apart, checking to see if my insurance would cover this. I read every article I could find regarding “how to handle a harassment case.” I’m not sure I ever slept.
  • Finding a lawyer. Eventually you regain your wits and call a lawyer. For me, this wasn’t a one-and-done task, though. Attorneys and legal assistants wanted to hear all about the case before they would decide whether they wanted to take it or not, which meant I was re-telling the story. A lot.
  • Paying legal fees. Lawyers want to be paid. The meter starts running the moment they say “I do.”
  • Living in meetings. My favorite part of being a business owner was spending time with our customers. Guess what I didn’t have time for? Yup, work. I spent so much time in meetings that attending to my real job was just a dream. I had meetings with each employee in the shop that day, phone meetings and in-person meetings with lawyers, meetings with the employee accused of sexual harassment to learn his side of the story. Forget about growing your business; when your small business has a sexual harassment claim, you just want to keep it from shutting down.
  • Earning a reputation. Word gets around. When a harassment claim is filed against your business or someone associated with your workplace, you lose customers. There is no way around this.
  • Deciding what to do about the employee. Through all of this, you also have an HR challenge. I had to decide whether I should keep the employee, put him on leave or let him go. Taking the wrong action could result in another lawsuit, but, honestly, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. It all depends on the situation.
  • Paying a settlement. Eventually your case either goes to court or you end up settling with the accuser/victim. We did the latter, which involved even more back and forth with my attorney (everything gets billed to you) and a cash settlement. All of this was in addition to our other expenses: my lost time, customer attrition, employee productivity, legal fees, etc.

Everything about the situation was a nightmare and a headache. I realize now that a big part of the problem was that I was trying to handle everything myself (not the legal proceedings — but everything else). But that’s how I ran my business — I was a hands-on owner. Turns out there are better ways.

What I should have done when my small business had a harassment suit

I’ve written about hiring and employee terminations and how much easier the process is when you’re working with a PEO (Professional Employer Organization). Guess what else is easier? Responding to harassment allegations or any type of employment-related lawsuit. Here’s what would have been different.

  1. A full-service PEO would have launched an investigation. If I had been working with a full-service PEO like, I would have picked up the phone, told my rep what happened, and would have handled things. They would have launched an internal investigation (I was supposed to do that?). They would have given me advice on how to handle the employee. They may have even advised me on an attorney.
  2. A PEO would have ensured I knew about EPLI and how to get it. Before the harassment ever happened, a PEO would have educated me on being smart about running my business. A little knowledge about EPLI (Employment Practices Liability Insurance) would have been invaluable.
  3. A full-service PEO could have helped with manager training. You know the best way to avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit at your business? Prevent them. Train your managers and ensure everyone understands what’s right, what’s wrong, and what prevention looks like. While not every PEO does this, some, like, will assist with employee training.
  4. A full-service PEO could have helped with my employee handbook and policies. I laughed when I wrote this one — I didn’t have an employee handbook! But it’s a good idea for businesses, regardless of size, to have one., for example, can conduct a review of policies, make recommendations, and provide sample language. In my situation, having a policy might have helped me figure out what to do about the accused employee. It would have also informed my own employees on how to report harassment and what they should do.
  5. A PEO would have saved me time, money and hassle. If you know anything about PEOs, this goes without saying. Your PEO might handle payroll, benefits administration and workers’ comp. Some of them, like, also answer questions from employees, conduct manager trainings, provide paperless onboarding (so I know for certain that an employee has read the policies and understands them, and I have a record of everything), handle risk management, and a whole lot of other things you might only get with an internal HR team. These are all great services, but until my company was hit with a sexual harassment claim, I never really knew how “over my head” I was. If I had someone to go to for advice and answers, someone who knew exactly what to do and who took action quickly, I would have spared myself a lot of hassle, stress, effort and probably a few other things, too.
Sexual Harassment Small Business

Facts and figures about workplace harassment

  • 75% of U.S. workers have been affected by discrimination or harassment as victim or witness
  • 29.4% of discrimination suits filed in the U.S. in 2016 were sexual, including harassment
  • $125,000 is the average cost for small business to defend a discrimination suit
  • 11.7% chance that a U.S. small/medium businesses will face a discrimination lawsuit

Insurance Journal

Take my advice – don’t wait to look into a PEO before your small business runs into employment nightmares. Start today by getting a free quote from! Simply fill out the form below and our business development team will be in touch with you shortly.

Tax Reform – What it Means for Employees

By | Articles, Health Reform Updates, Newsletter, Payroll, Press Releases | No Comments

With the late December tax reform bill, many employees are wondering how this will impact them in 2018. We’ve written a brief summary below of some of the frequently asked questions regarding tax reform and their impact on individuals.

When does the new tax law take effect?

The tax law won’t apply to the taxes you’re about to file for 2017. Most provisions that affect individuals and businesses take effect January 1, 2018, meaning your 2018 paychecks should see more take-home pay as soon as tax charts are updated by the IRS. If you would like to adjust your W-4 per the new tax law, you are able to do so via Mobile. However, the IRS has emphasized that the new tax reform information “will be designed to work with the existing Forms W-4 that employees have already filed, and no further action by taxpayers is needed at this time.”

What are the new tax rates per tax reform?

New individual tax rates go into effect January 1, 2018. These individual tax rates will sunset after 2025, meaning a new congress will need to determine whether they are extended or discontinued at that point. See the previous tax rates versus the 2018 tax rates (per the new tax reform bill) in the image on the right-hand side.

What is the standard deduction under the new tax law?

The standard deduction, or the dollar amount that can be subtracted from income before income tax is applied (for non-itemizers), jumps from $6,500 to $12,000 for single filers, and increases from $13,000 to $24,000 for joint filers.

What is the child tax credit per the new tax law?

The child tax credit doubles from $1,000 to $2,000 (up to $1,400 refundable – even if you don’t owe taxes, and depending on your earned income) per qualifying child. Learn more about the child tax credit here. There is also a new non-refundable “family” tax credit of $500 for qualifying dependents that are not children.

What changes to tax reform affect the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)?

One major change included in the tax reform law impacts Obamacare: the individual mandate will be repealed with this new tax law as of 2019. This means persons will no longer be required to “secure health insurance or pay a penalty.” Many project this to be the official unraveling of Obamacare, as the individual mandate is a critical element to making it sustainable. (If healthy individuals will choose not to have coverage with the elimination of the individual mandate, the balance of those who are insured will tip towards those who are sick, which will increase the cost of healthcare overall.) Employers with 50+ employees still have to provide ACA- compliant health coverage and reporting requirements will remain intact.

When will the IRS have more guidance about tax reform?

As of December 26, 2017, the IRS issued this statement:
“We anticipate issuing the initial withholding guidance in January, and employers and payroll service providers will be encouraged to implement the changes in February… Use of the new 2018 withholding guidelines will allow taxpayers to begin seeing the changes in their paychecks as early as February. In the meantime, employers and payroll service providers should continue to use the existing 2017 withholding tables and systems.”

For questions or concerns about how tax reform may impact you personally, please contact your tax professional.

Tax Reform - Employees

After the IRS updates tax charts, employees should see more take-home pay.
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Tax Reform Chart

Click the image to compare 2017 tax rates with the new 2018 tax rates.

Winter Work: Cold Weather Safety for Workers

By | Manager Training, Risk Management | No Comments

“Baby, it’s cold outside” means only one thing to safety geeks like me: winter work and the dangerous conditions that accompany it.

Employees who regularly work outside in winter aren’t just feeling a chill — they also face real occupational hazards related to cold exposure, including health problems like frostbite, trench foot, and hypothermia. Employees should be trained to be prepared for the cold weather and watch for signs of problems in themselves and other workers. But it’s also the responsibility of employers to take precautions to limit prolonged exposure to the elements.

Worker winter safety: minimizing personal risks when working in cold weather

Workers can prepare for cold outdoor work by doing the following:  

  • Wear sufficient warm and dry clothing. Have a change of dry clothing available (including underwear and socks) in the event clothing gets wet from sweat or other conditions, as wet clothes enhance coldness.
    • OSHA recommends workers wear at least three layers of clothing when working outside in winter weather:
      • An outer layer to break the wind and allow some ventilation
      • A middle layer of wool or synthetic fabric to absorb sweat and retain insulation in a damp environment (down is a great insulator, as long as it doesn’t get wet)
      • An inner layer of cotton or synthetic weave to allow ventilation
    • Avoid wearing tight clothing, as it can restrict blood circulation
    • Wear a knit mask to cover face and mouth, where needed
    • Cover your head and ears with a hat to reduce the amount of body heat that escapes from the head
    • Wear insulated gloves and boots
  • Avoid taking drugs or medications that impair judgment or inhibit the body’s response to cold (such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, etc).
  • Stay hydrated; you may not have the desire to drink as much fluid as your body needs, so keep track of how many ounces of water you drink each day to keep your body healthy.
Employer precautions for cold weather work safety

Employers should also take measures to prevent cold-related health problems in outdoor workers, including the following:

  • Ensure workers take periodic breaks from the cold whenever needed.
  • If a worker is in a new position and unaccustomed to working outside, allow them to acclimate through periods of adjustment before they start working full shifts outside.
  • Recognize the symptoms of cold-related stress and teach employees to recognize them, too. Symptoms include heavy shivering, uncomfortable coldness, severe fatigue, drowsiness, or euphoria.
  • Shield work areas from drafty or windy conditions.
  • Have an on-site source of heat for workers (air jets, radiant heaters, warm plates) to help them stay warm.
  • Minimize, whenever possible, the amount of time that workers must spend outside and perform outdoor-only tasks during the warmest hours of the day.
  • Implement a buddy system so workers can recognize signs of cold-related stress and/or exhaustion in each other.

Employees with diseases including diabetes, heart, vascular, and thyroid problems may be more susceptible to winter elements than others and may need more adjustments, even with limited cold exposure. The same is true for elderly workers and even workers suffering from a common cold. Finally, use good judgement and err on the side of caution: if it’s possible to adjust a work schedule to minimize cold exposure, do. It may help keep your employees as healthy and productive as possible.

For more tips on staying safe in winter work, please contact us.

winter work safety

While employees need to dress properly for working in cold weather, employers need to take precautions to prevent cold-related health problems in outdoor workers.

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Why payroll outsourcing may not be all unicorns and rainbows

By | Articles, Company Growth, Payroll, Risk Management | No Comments

Thinking of outsourcing your payroll? You’re not alone. Research indicates that a little less than half of all businesses in the U.S. already put their company payrolls in the hands of others.

Although “time” is usually the top reason for choosing to outsource (sound familiar?), there are plenty of other reasons companies hand off this essential duty to someone else. Still, outsourcing your company’s payroll doesn’t magically usher in unicorns and rainbows. As someone who has worked in the payroll outsourcing world for nearly 20 years, I can attest that payroll outsourcing can come with some potential risks to keep in mind.

Data security

Pros: Most outsourced payroll services and cloud-based applications go to great lengths to ensure your employee data is secure — because nothing says “gotta go” like a client data security breach. (By the way, security breaches are more likely to occur when a well-meaning, internal employee uses a software application resident on his or her laptop and leaves the device or the program unsecured … in Starbucks.)

Cons: Of course, there are exceptions. For example, payroll and HR outsourcing giant ADP fell victim to a data security breach that affected the employee data of dozens of its clients. While the breach occurred outside of ADP’s secure system, it was facilitated because policies didn’t include strong data security enforcement.

In general, if your payroll provider isn’t taking measures like the following, your employee data is no safer than that laptop in the coffee shop.

  • Generate a unique code for each new employee to set up an online profile
  • Provide instructions for setting up an employee profile privately rather than listing them online
  • Require strong passwords
  • Encrypt confidential information
  • Install patches (this should not be the responsibility of the client)
  • Conduct security audits through an outside vendor

Advice: Ask questions about how data is secured, whether you’re planning to outsource to a large company or a single person. At, for example, we encrypt ALL client employee data, do all of the updates ourselves, and we’re SSAE 16 SOC 1 Type 2 certified — which means we’re audited by an independent firm to verify that our systems and controls are secured. (This audit also tells us if there are areas for improvement.) Also, stay away from any solution that stores personal employee data on a desktop rather than in the Cloud. Not only will Cloud security be better, you’ll get other benefits, too, like the ability to access the data and review payroll yourself wherever you are.

State, local and federal regulation compliance

Pros: Any good payroll professional should know which regulations apply to you and your employees, such as tax cutoffs. They should also know which payroll deductions are allowed, how bonuses affect taxes, what you can pay a teen, and more.

If you work with a PEO (Professional Employer Organization) for your payroll outsourcing provider, you should receive notifications of when you reach regulation thresholds and whether or not they directly affect payroll. 

Cons: Giant payroll processors have a ton of people you can talk to but none provides the individual attention that’s required to keep you in compliance. In other words, if you work with a really big payroll outsourcing service, you’re still going to need to keep a close eye on everything.

Advice: Find out how each payroll provider you’re considering works. At, for example, we provide HR outsourcing for a lot of clients and provide services like we’re their in-house HR and payroll departments. I personally process payroll for clients and work one-on-one with them to make sure everything is in order (all of our payroll, benefits and HR reps do this, too). So, yes, I know when there’s a regulation that needs to be addressed or when an individual employee request is going to require a change to payroll.

Costs of outsourcing payroll

Pros: You will pay less when you outsource your payroll since you’re not paying for a full-time person to run your payroll in-house. Outsourcing also beats running payroll yourself, which can  get very costly very quickly in both time and potential for errors.

Cons: In terms of cost, some payroll providers nickel and dime you for everything. (You need to run an extra check because somebody missed their time punch? Extra charge. You’re changing your PTO plan? Extra charge.) Check the fine print of their service fees. You’ll also want to ensure the organization stays on top of the regulations that you need to meet or else you’ll be paying fines for noncompliance. Then there’s also the concern about getting the level of service you want for the price you’re paying. In any of these instances, you may wind up spending extra to get those additional services through another resource and/or have to settle with a frustrating provider that is simply the “best bang for your buck.” (Or so you thought.)

Advice: Do some quick math — how much time is your existing staff spending on payroll? Consider the costs of hiring a full-time (or even part-time) payroll professional, with or without all of the recruiting and potential turnover costs. Then get a quote to compare expected wages v service fee. If you’re still not sure, compare the services you’d get from a team of professionals at the outsourced price versus what an individual employee can do. Although I may be biased, I know first-hand that my clients need more than just my payroll expertise, which is why our full-service HR team is such a perfect fit for growing businesses.

Answering questions about payroll

Pros: Ever notice that paychecks seem to breed questions? Fortunately, when you outsource your payroll, you won’t be the one who has to answer all of them. Most large payroll providers, including, also provide employees with an online, self-service portal where they can view their check stubs, make withholding changes, update their direct deposit account(s), and get the majority of their payroll and HR questions answered on their own time.

Cons: Sometimes a self-serve HR system isn’t enough. And there’s nothing more frustrating than telling an employee with a paycheck problem to call a number that leads to a phone tree that’s staffed by someone who has never heard of him or her and who has to get all of the background information again, open a case, and do some research before returning with an answer. Or worse, when the payroll provider is “not authorized to answer employees’ payroll questions and kicks the question back to you.

Advice: Choose a payroll provider that gives your employees a self-serve HR system along with a dedicated rep for any questions that need a human touch. It’s how we operate at — all of us who work with payroll know the names of the people whose paychecks we’ve worked on, which means it’s pretty easy for us to get an individual answer about any question quickly, assuming they can verify who they are. also has a handy “chat feature” built into our website for employees to instantly chat with one of our representatives, making it really easy and convenient for them to communicate with our team.

Bottom line: consider the pros and cons of payroll outsourcing and then decide if it’s right for you. Outsourcing isn’t the right decision for every company, but it certainly works great for my clients.

Outsource payroll

My favorite reasons for outsourcing payroll? Not having to deal with compliance laws and deductions, only writing one check, and plain-old expertise.

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How laws change as you grow

At, we ensure the companies we work with are compliant with all applicable regulations as they grow – because nobody likes paying fines. Chat Feature has a “chat feature” built into the website for anyone to instantly chat with one of our representatives.

Is outsourcing right for your business? Find out today! Let give you a free quote customized to your specific needs.

Benefits 101: Health Insurance Definitions Every Employee Needs to Know

By | Benefits, Employee Morale, Newsletter, Retention | No Comments

Providing a great benefits package is critical to being a competitive employer. But if employees are confused by the terminology, they may not recognize just how great their benefits package is. Here’s a breakdown of the most common terms found on a health insurance policy.


Premium is the amount you and/or your employer pay each month towards an insurance policy. At, each month’s premium is divided in half for semi-monthly or biweekly payroll, or divided by four when employees are paid weekly. This helps spread the cost for premiums which are then collected throughout the month. If an employee is paid biweekly (let’s say every other Friday) and there are three paydays in one month (since there are usually 26 Fridays in a year), premiums will only be collected on the first two paychecks. The same is true for weekly payrolls when there are five paydays in a month; premiums will only be collected on the first four paydays of the month.

Month-in-advance premiums

When premiums are collected one month in advance, it means that money paid over the course of a month is collected and spent on the following month’s coverage. For example, premiums collected in January are for February’s coverage. This enables the employer to pay February’s insurance bill at the beginning of February and allows the employee to have coverage for the entire month, even if the employee quits on February 1.


A deductible is how much you pay before insurance kicks in to cover any remaining expenses. For example, let’s say you have an individual deductible of $500 and a family deductible of $1,500 and you end up in the hospital after falling off a cliff. If this is the first time you’ve been in the hospital all year and your plan says it will pay 80% of services after you’ve met your deductible, you must pay the first $500 and then expect to pay 20% of the remaining expenses charged by the hospital. If, however, your family has had a year of medical expenses where several family members have collectively paid $1,500 of deductible-worthy expenses (let’s say your 9-year-old had a tonsillectomy, your spouse had a hernia, and your 14-year-old broke his leg), then congratulations! Your family members have already met the $1,500 family deductible and you will only be responsible for 20% of the expenses of your hospital stay. The deductible may not apply to every service (such as office visits), so check your plan for coverage details.


Coinsurance is the amount you pay after you’ve met your deductible, which is usually calculated as a percentage. In the example above, the 20% is your coinsurance. Let’s say the remaining hospital expenses are $20,000 after you’ve met your deductible of $500. Your final bill at 20% coinsurance will then be 20% of $20,000, which equals $4,000.


A copay (i.e. copayment) is a fixed cost for a service anytime you have that service. If you have an in-network copay for an office visit of $15, then you can expect to pay $15 anytime you see a family doctor within the insurance network. (Specialists, or doctors that are more specialized than a general practitioner, will typically have a higher copay than a regular doctor.)  If your out-of-network copay is $25, then you’ll pay $25 for visiting a doctor who is not within the insurance network. Co-pays don’t typically go towards meeting the deductible, meaning your in-office copay of $15 will not reduce your individual $500 deductible to $485.

Out-of-Pocket Maximum

An out-of-pocket maximum is how much you and/or your family will pay during the policy period. This can be a calendar year policy (January through December) or a plan year policy that follows your plan renewal date, say from September through August. The out-of-pocket maximum amount usually includes the deductible and co-insurance amounts that you and/or your family pay throughout the policy year. If you satisfy the out-of-pocket maximum during the policy period, the insurance carrier or plan will then pay 100% of the allowed amount for any additional services. For example, let’s say your individual out-of-pocket maximum is $4,000. In the example above, you would pay $500 for the hospital deductible and then your remaining portion would cap at $3,500 because of your out-of-pocket max.

Understanding basic insurance terminology will help employees make good choices about their medical services. For help with understanding your health insurance policy, please contact our benefits department at

Health Insurance Definitions

If your employees are confused by health insurance terminology, here are some common terms and definitions to help them better understand their health insurance policy.
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