HR Compliance 2019

A new year brings new compliance updates for 2019. BlueFire HR has compiled resources to help you start the new year right!

  • Labor Law posters – new labor posters are required for 2019. Posters should be prominently displayed in an area where all employees have access.
  • CA Minimum Wage Increase – the new minimum rate for small employers (25 or fewer employees) is $11.00 per hour and the new minimum rate for large employers (25 or more employees) is $12.00 effective January 1, 2019. See the schedule of additional increases here.
  • CA Salary Increase– the minimum salary required is tied to the state hourly wage so any increases to the hourly rate results in an increase to the minimum salary. The new salary for an exempt employee in CA is now $45,760 for small employers and $49,920 for large employers.
  • State and Local Minimum Wage Increases – many states have a higher wage than the federal minimum wage. In addition many cities, particularly in CA have their own schedule for increases even higher than the state minimum. Employers generally must pay employees the highest minimum wage prescribed by federal, state and local law. Check out this summary to see what the new minimum rates may apply to your employees.
  • Sexual Harassment Training – new regulations in CA requires employers with 5 or more employees to provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisory employees AND at least one hour of sexual harassment training to all non-supervisory employees by January 1, 2020 and once every two years thereafter.
  • Salary History Bans – over 10 states including CA, HI, NY, NJ and CT prohibit employers from inquiring about an applicant’s salary history or relying on this information when determining what compensation to offer the applicant. Check out this summary to see if a salary history ban is effective in your state.
  • IRS Mileage Reimbursement Rate – increases to $0.58 per mile effective January 1, 2019.
  • Retirement Plan Limit Increases  – Employee 401(k) contribution limits increase to $19,000 for 2019. For participants aged 50 and over the additional “catch-up” contribution limit will remain at $6,000. You will need to update your HRIS and payroll systems with the new limits and inform employees to avoid any contributions over the new limits. This chart shows a summary of the new defined contribution plan limits for 2019 for most 401(K), 403(b) and 457 plans.
  • Employee Handbooks – An employee handbook is a valuable resource for employers to communicate their policies but it’s critical to keep it up to date. We’ve identified a few areas to pay particular attention to including sexual harassment policies, sick leave and family leave policies and pay practices. Update your handbook for 2019.

BlueFire HR can help you stay in compliance with new regulations that can have a major impact on your business operations. Reach out today and see how we can help! For more information, please contact us at hr@bluefirehr.com, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.

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S.M.A.R.T Goals – Set Yourself Up For Success in 2019

Set yourself up for success in 2019! Planning ahead is vitally important to ensure the performance review process goes smoothly. Goal setting is a critical part of the review process so that both you and your team members know exactly what your goals are.

One of the best ways to set goals is to use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Time-Bound) framework.

S.M.A.R.T goals provide a structure to identify what you want to accomplish. Meet with each of your employees individually to set goals; the key here is to be collaborative. Put the goals in writing and review with your employees on a regular basis. This ensures that everyone is clear on both the expectation and the timing when you meet to discuss progress.

Specific – be specific about what you want to accomplish.

  • Who – consider who needs to be involved
  • What – provide details
  • When – set a timeframe
  • Why – what is the reason for the goal

Measurable – set metrics to measure progress. Include milestones by incorporating specific steps or tasks to accomplish along the way.

Achievable – make the goal attainable. Think about how to accomplish the goal and what it will take to get there.

Relevant – focus on something related to the business objectives.

Time-Bound – provide a target date; giving yourself a date to aim for will keep your sights on achieving that goal.

Sample Goal – I work in sales and want to improve my customer presentation skills to showcase our new service we are launching in Q1.

Specific – become proficient in the use of PowerPoint to improve my presentation skills

Measurable – be able to create presentations that incorporate media, photos, graphs and timelines

Achievable– learn one new PowerPoint skill each week

Relevant – to expand the number of customers and grow in my career

Time-Bound – in two months I should be able to create a new customer presentation before the service launches in Q1.

As business objectives change, so should your goals. You should evaluate your goals on a regular basis to ensure they are linked to your business strategy.

BlueFire HR provides Performance Management  strategies designed to meet your business needs. Reach out today and see how we can help! For more information, please contact us at hr@bluefirehr.com, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.

Aisling Byrne, SHRM-SCP, CEBS, is a Sr. Human Resources Director at BlueFire HR specializing in employee engagement, performance management, coaching, leadership development and systems/process improvement.  

Performance Reviews – Plan With Your Team

Performance Reviews – Plan With Your Team

It’s Performance Review time again! Where did the year go? What should I write?

Performance Reviews happen every year at most companies yet many managers are unsure how to plan and prepare for them. Many employees dread this time of year and just want it to be done with.

Ideally, reviews should be an on-going year-long activity between you and your team. Developing good relationships with your team and planning ahead will help you deliver more relevant feedback and enable you to chart the course of performance development together.

Setting Expectations and Goals

Set expectations and goals at the beginning of the year (or whenever your annual performance cycle starts). Meet with each of your employees individually to set goals; the key here is to be collaborative. You may have some very specific goals in mind but by encouraging employees to be part of the process you will develop more engagement and buy-in on their part.

One of the best ways to set goals is to use the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable and Time-Bound) framework.

Put the goals in writing and review with your employees on a regular basis. This ensures that everyone is clear on both the expectation and the timing when you meet to discuss progress.

Regular Touch Point Meetings

Schedule regular check-ins in advance so they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Your team will likely really appreciate you making this an important part of their development.

Use the check-in to discuss progress on goals and address any potential barriers or changes to the company strategy. Give regular feedback and be sure to engage the employee by asking them to share their own thoughts and ideas.

Plan Ahead

Before the actual review, plan ahead and meet with each employee to put together a summary of of their accomplishments, current project work and goals and objectives. The idea is to have the review become a regular part of the overall evaluation and have it flow naturally into setting goals and objectives for the following year.

Use this time to assess if the person is meeting goals and expectations. If not, what can you do to help turn this around? If yes, start thinking about recognizing and rewarding your high performers.

Review Day

By this time you should have several different sources from which to write the actual review. Use this time to develop talking points for areas that you want to cover – make it future focused. Include a summary of your future expectations and begin to plan for the next cycle. Include the employee in the planning process and tie goals into the business strategy.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog where you’ll learn more about setting SMART goals.

BlueFire HR provides Performance Management  strategies designed to meet your business needs. Reach out today and see how we can help! For more information, please contact us at hr@bluefirehr.com, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.

 

Succession Planning – it’s not just for CEO’s anymore!

Succession planning is a strategy to identify and develop future leaders at your company and is used to plan ahead for expected or unexpected employee turnover.

Do you have a plan for when your star performer informs you she’s leaving the company? Succession planning is critical but is often overlooked in managing a business day to day. It’s important to be pro-active in preparing someone on your team to be the next rising star to ensure the smooth running of your business. Searching for a replacement can be costly to your business productivity.

Here are some key steps you can take now to prepare:

  • Identify possible successors at different levels, not just the next person on the org chart. Look for people who are hungry for a growth opportunity and have strong interpersonal skills.
  • Communicate to your team that you value employee development and are invested in their career.
  • Performance management – make opportunities for development part of the performance discussions. Keep track of professional goals and ways that you are helping others to succeed.
  • Recognize and reward achievements – get creative! Give a PTO day, a bonus, or send an email blast letting the company know when someone went above and beyond their job duties.
  • Training and Development – good leaders develop over time; offer mentoring, job shadowing and training to prepare them for the next step.

BlueFire HR provides Leadership Coaching strategies designed to meet your business needs. Reach out today and see how we can help! For more information, please contact us at hr@bluefirehr.com, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.

New – Parent Leave Law in CA

The New Parent Leave Act went into effect on January 1, 2018 and considerably broadens the number of companies subject to family-friendly leave of absence policies.

The law requires employers with at least 20 employees to provide their employees with 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected parental bonding leave. The provision enables eligible employees to bond with a new child within one year of the child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement.

In addition, the leave is job-protected, meaning employers must guarantee employment in the same or a comparable position upon an employee’s return from leave. Employers must also maintain and pay for the employee’s continued health care coverage as if they had continued to work.

The act does not apply to employees who are already covered by both the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) or the California Family Rights Act (CFRA), both of which already provide very similar leave and job protection to employers with at least 50 employees.

Here’s what you need to do:

  • Create a compliant leave of absence policy
  • Develop leave of absence forms and procedures
  • Update your Employee Handbook
  • Train your managers about the requirements of the act

BlueFire HR can create custom Leave of Absence policies and create a compliant Employee Handbook  to meet your business needs. Reach out today and see how we can help! For more information, please contact us at hr@bluefirehr.com, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.

Summer Internships – make it a rewarding learning experience!

It’s summertime and the labor market is tight – is hiring an intern the solution? Internships can be a great experience all around. Companies get an opportunity to bring on a new team member and develop their talent pipeline. Interns get the opportunity to learn new functions, gain work experience and build up their resumes.

To pay or not to pay interns – that is the question? Employers who hire unpaid interns might fall foul of labor laws. It’s important to ensure that the internship is a true learning and training experience, otherwise the intern could look a lot like an employee who isn’t get paid!

There are certain rules employers must follow to ensure that unpaid interns are receiving a learning and training experience.

These rules include…

  • Interns cannot displace regular employees.
  • Interns are not guaranteed a job at the end of the internship.
  • The employer and the intern(s) understand that the interns are not entitled to wages during the internship period.
  • Interns must receive training from the company, even if it somewhat impedes on the work of the organization.
  • Interns must get hands-on experience with equipment and processes used in the industry.
  • Interns’ training must primarily benefit them, not the company.

If these rules aren’t followed, the intern could be considered an employee who must be paid at least the minimum wage and earn overtime. If you’re not sure your internship program meets all these requirements then you can pay the intern minimum wage and hire them as a seasonal or temporary employee instead. With this scenario everyone wins!

BlueFire HR can develop custom Internship and Recruiting programs and strategies designed to meet your business needs. Reach out today and see how we can help! For more information, please contact us at hr@bluefirehr.com, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.

 

California – NEW City Minimum Wage Increases

Throughout California, local cities and counties continue to pass ordinances relating to minimum wage, paid sick leave, criminal background checks and more. On July 1, 2018, several local minimum wage rates will increase, and two new local ordinances will go into effect.

Minimum Wage Increases

The following cities and county will increase their minimum wage on July 1 to:

  • Emeryville: $15.69/hour for businesses with 56 or more employees; $15/hour for businesses with 55 or fewer employees.
  • City of Los Angeles: $13.25/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $12/hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • County of Los Angeles (unincorporated areas only): $13.25/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $12/hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • Malibu: $13.25/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $12/hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • Milpitas: $13.50/hour.
  • Pasadena: $13.25/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $12/hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.
  • San Francisco: $15/hour.
  • San Leandro: $13/hour.
  • Santa Monica: $13.25/hour for employers with 26 or more employees; $12/hour for employers with 25 or fewer employees.

Eligibility rules may vary based on different locations.

New Minimum Wage Ordinance

Belmont enacted a new minimum wage ordinance that goes into effect July 1, 2018, setting the minimum wage rate at $12.50/hour.

New San Francisco Salary History Ordinance

In addition to San Francisco’s minimum wage rate increase, San Francisco’s new  Salary History Ordinance  will become effective on July 1, 2018. Under the ordinance, employers will be banned from considering the current or past salary of an applicant in determining whether to hire the applicant or what salary to offer the applicant. This regulation is very similar to an existing rule  A.B. 168, under CA state law effective January 1, 2018. New York, Delaware and Oregon have also passed similar laws.

The law will apply to all employers, including city contractors and subcontractors. It will also apply to all job applicants in the city—even those applying for temporary, contingent, seasonal or part-time work.

The purpose of the law is to combat gender-based pay inequities that continue over the course of a woman’s career. “The problematic practices of seeking salary history from job applicants and relying on their current or past salaries to set employees’ pay rates contribute to the gender wage gap by perpetuating wage inequalities across the occupational spectrum,” the ordinance states.

San Francisco’s pay question ban will prohibit employers from:

  • Asking about a job applicant’s current or prior salaries including the value of benefits or other perks.
  • Relying on an applicant’s salary history in determining whether to make a job offer or what salary to offer.
  • Retaliating against an applicant for refusing to disclose salary history.
  • Releasing a current or former employee’s salary history without written authorization—unless disclosure is required by law or the information is publicly available or part of a collective bargaining agreement.

However, an employer may consider a job applicant’s salary history if it is disclosed voluntarily and without prompting from the employer. This will allow job applicants to freely negotiate or present counteroffers during the selection process. However, employer requests for salary expectations should be done in a way that is intended to solicit salary history or put pressure on a candidate to disclose salary information

Action Items for Employers in CA and San Francisco

  • Ensure your labor law posters are up to date with the July 1 minimum wage rate increases.
  • Ensure your hiring managers and outside recruiters are aware of the salary history ban in effect.
  • Update applicant materials such as your Employment Application or any screening questions in your Applicant Tracking System. Employers in San Francisco must post the Employer Consideration of Salary History Poster at each workplace or job site.
  • Be prepared to disclose a pay range for open positions upon request from the candidate. When providing the salary range, employers may qualify it by explaining that the salary offered will be based on appropriate factors such as qualifications and experience.

BlueFire HR can help you stay in compliance with new regulations that can have a major impact on your business operations. Reach out today and see how we can help! For more information, please contact us at hr@bluefirehr.com, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.

Stay Interviews- what are they and how can they help retain talent?

When was the last time you interviewed your employees to learn about their career aspirations and why they work at your company?

If it was way back when you hired the person then it might be time to think about conducting “stay interviews” with your team.

A stay interview is an opportunity to ask for employee feedback to learn more about their experience with the organization, what keeps them motivated and engaged (or not!).

Conducting a stay interview can be a daunting prospect – but it doesn’t need to become an invite for employees to complain if its handled thoughtfully and with respect. Employees need to know their opinions matter and that employers will try to make improvements based on the feedback.

It may take time to earn the respect and trust needed to ensure that employees open up about deeper issues that they have hesitated to bring up before. Over time, if you can demonstrate that you really do want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly you will earn that trust!

It can also be a way to start a conversation with an under-performer about any skill development or tools they need to perform at a higher level.

Here are some tips to make the most out of a stay interview.

  • Make it important and schedule it outside of your regular check ins or performance reviews.
  • But, keep it light and informal too. Let the employee know the discussion is about how their job is going, how they enjoy working at the company and what you can do to support them – it’s a time to listen.
  • Keep the conversation going – Don’t shut down the employee if they bring up something you disagree with or potentially don’t have the budget for.
  • Thank the person for taking the time to speak with you. Set expectations that this is an opportunity to listen but not every suggestion can be acted on.
  • Identify any issues that were brought up multiple times – be creative in solving for issues such as requests for training that might not be in the budget. Maybe you could launch a mentorship program where newer employees can learn from more experienced co-workers.
  • Follow up is critical.  Let your team know if any desired changes could or couldn’t be made and why.

Stay interviews help your employees understand that you recognize and appreciate them and are taking an active role in their professional development. They also help you discover any “at risk” employees who might feel like they have plateaued in their current position.

Replacing your best employees can be time-consuming and costly. Stay interviews are a solid strategy to help you retain your business’s top performers.

BlueFire HR can create custom training and guidance in conducting Stay Interview strategies designed to meet your business needs. Reach out today and see how we can help! For more information, please contact us at hr@bluefirehr.com, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.

Elevating the Candidate Experience

It’s a candidate’s job market! A great candidate experience is a must have as part of your talent acquisition and planning strategy.

A great candidate experience is one that makes it simple and easy for passive candidates to apply and one that gets you the right fit for the position.

If your hiring process requires candidates to jump through hoops such as completing lengthy online applications, multiple interviews, long intervals between communications or requires candidates to complete a project on their own time, then it’s high time to reevaluate your processes.

Analyze the steps in the design of your hiring process from the job posting to the sending the offer letter to streamline your time to hire.

  • Define what skills and abilities you are seeking – the job posting should provide a strong sense of the company culture as well as the job responsibilities
  • Be selective and reach out to only the most qualified candidates; let under qualified candidates know they are not a match but encourage them to apply for other opportunities.

Here are some ways you can streamline your hiring process and still hire the best fit:

  • Applications: Keep the application process short and simple. If you use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) ask a few brief pre-screening questions.
  • Communication is key: Let candidates know you received their resume and when they can expect to hear from you. Communicate with candidates throughout the hiring process.
  • First contact: Your initial outreach sets the tone for all future communication and its important to be friendly and respectful.
  • Agenda: Prior to the interview let the candidate know who they will be meeting with and approximately how long it will take – be sure the candidate is aware of the time commitment and can be relaxed and comfortable. Offer refreshments and a restroom break in between interviews.
  • Interviews: decide in advance who should meet with the candidate; do they really need to meet with six different managers who will ask the same questions? Instead, decide on just one or two interviewers and prepare “areas of focus” for each interviewer to inquire about. One might tackle soft skills such as listening and empathy and the other could tackle the technical skills required to do the job.
  • Updates: if the candidate is not a fit, let her/him know as soon as possible.
  • Feedback is important: Many candidates are left feeling confused after having great interviews but not getting the job. Giving them brief feedback on the reasons for your decision and encourage them to apply for other openings you may have.

Ensuring candidates have a great experience will increase your chances of converting your candidate into a new team member!

Have you found the ideal candidate? – Fantastic! The step is to prepare the offer. Learn more about how BlueFire HR can help you create an irresistible offer package.

BlueFire HR provides full cycle recruiting and custom Recruiting and Hiring  strategies designed to meet your business needs. Reach out today and see how we can help! For more information, please contact us at hr@bluefirehr.com, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.

 

Gender Wage Gap and Salary History Ban- what employers need to know and actions to take now!

In a ruling that has widespread impact for employers, a federal court has ruled that employers can’t pay women less than men just because a woman made less at a previous job. To do this perpetuates the gender wage gap and is discriminatory.

The Equal Pay Act was signed into effect in 1962 was intended to eliminate gender pay disparities yet women are still paid less than men on average.

Employers need to take action to review hiring practices and use legitimate job related factors such as experience, educational background, and skills.

Six states – California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York or Oregon have outlawed salary history inquiries meaning that employers may not ask about prior salary or use this as a basis for determining salary in hiring decisions.

In addition, California’s Equal Pay Act requires fair pay for men and women who perform “substantially similar work.”

It’s important that hiring managers, recruiters and others involved in hiring are aware of and trained in the regulations. Documents such as application forms and screening questions in applicant tracking systems will also need to be updated to comply.

Many employers are choosing to conduct a self-audit of their pay to proactively adjust any pay disparities. Demographics, job title, compensation bands and performance information should be reviewed as part of the process. Companies also need to consider any differences in pay among employees in similar positions but with different job titles and those who work in other locations.

BlueFire HR can review and assess your current hiring practices and help you conduct a fair pay audit. Reach out today and see how we can help! For more information, please contact us at hr@bluefirehr.com, 773-793-1362 or at 888-892-9597.