Posts tagged HR Tips

Internships – What Your Company Needs to Know

Thinking about bringing on unpaid interns to join your company?  Be careful! The Department of Labor has strict rules regarding the conditions required for an intern to qualify to work without pay.  Generally, the activities and training completed by the intern must be solely for his or her own benefit, and the company may not derive any immediate advantage from the intern’s activities.  In addition, you may not hire unpaid interns to do work that would normally have been done by another paid employee.

If you do bring on an unpaid intern, you must adhere to the following rules:

  • Training received by the intern must be for his or her benefit.
  • Training must be general, not for the immediate advantage of the business, and it may even slow normal operations.
  • Interns can’t be used to replace paid employees.
  • Interns must be closely supervised or mentored.
  • Interns can do real work as long as they are closely supervised, are learning and aren’t necessarily creating a final product.
  • Both the intern and the business must agree that the internship will be unpaid.
  • Both parties must agree that no job is promised at the end of the internship.
  • High schools, technical schools and colleges can partner with businesses to set up compliant unpaid internships in which the student receives course credit. This lends credibility to the internship’s benefit for the student.

Make sure that you have a thorough written plan outlining the activities and training the intern will receive throughout the course of the internship, as well as the expected learning goals.  Be sure to offer internships in writing, with a full outline of internship activities, goals and conditions.

It’s advisable to consult with legal counsel when developing a formal internship program to ensure that the company is not creating liability by bringing on unpaid interns.

If an intern fails to meet all of the DOL’s criteria, they should be paid at least minimum wage and any appropriate overtime as employees. When in doubt, businesses can avoid legal problems by paying interns at least minimum wage.

 Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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Cell Phones in the Workplace

Are your employees using personal cell phones in the workplace?   Many employers are frustrated with employees taking time during the workday to answer personal calls or texts.  The constant din of ringtones can diminish a professional atmosphere and is often disruptive to co-workers, clients and business partners.  Make sure your Employee Handbook includes a comprehensive personal cell phone policy.  Here are some of the items to consider in developing a workplace cell phone policy:

  • Be clear as to where personal cell phones are NOT allowed (i.e. manufacturing floor, front of store, etc.).
  • If you do allow employees to carry personal cell phones at work, be sure to clarify if phones are to be turned off or “silenced” during work hours.
  • State that employees may use personal cell phones during break or meal periods, but that such use should not interrupt customers or business operations.
  • You may choose to allow employees to “limited and reasonable” personal use of cell phones in the workplace.  If this is the case, request that employees excuse themselves to a private area so as not to disturb co-workers or business operations.  Be sure to add that determination of “limited and reasonable” is at management’s discretion.
  • Many states now have restrictions on use of cell phones in vehicles.  If your employees drive during work hours, be sure to include policies adhering to state rules regarding cell phone use in vehicles.  You may choose to go above and beyond state regulations and ban all forms of cell phone use while driving on company business.  Consider purchasing “hands free” devices for employees who may need to make business calls while traveling in vehicles.
  • If you provide company cell phones to employees, be sure to state whether or not you will allow personal use of such items.  If you do allow “limited and reasonable” personal use of company phones, be clear that ALL cell phone communications (business or personal) must adhere to other company communications standards and not be harassing, inappropriate or illegal.

Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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Workplace Romance – What’s a Business To Do?

With the recent public scandals of ESPN analyst Steve Phillips and David Letterman, work place relationships are becoming an increasing concern for business owners.  Forget the idea of banning dating in the office, a survey by Vault.com cites close to half of us have had a romantic relationship with a co-worker, and that many of these end up with a long term commitment or marriage.  A strict “no romance” policy will most likely result in employees pursuing or continuing relationships behind your back.  Instead, develop clear policies on appropriate workplace relationships and how your company will handle actual or perceived conflicts such as:

  • Favoritism
  • Perceptions of favoritism
  • Conflicts of interest
  • Hostile work environment
  • Sexual harassment

To avoid or minimize such concerns, consider adding a Workplace Relationships policy in your Employee Handbook. Make sure the policy includes the following details:

  • A clear statement that you require all employees to behave in a professional manner in the workplace at all times.
  • State that employees are to avoid public displays of affection that may be perceived as unprofessional, such as hugging, kissing, handholding, etc.  Such displays may make co-workers uncomfortable and detract from the professional image of the workplace.
  • Notify employees that they are to notify you if they are involved in a romantic workplace relationship that could result in real or perceived favoritism by others.
  • State that a relationship that results in perceived or real favoritism may require you to transfer or terminate one of the involved employees.

 

Be sure to use discretion and handle each workplace romance evaluation with sensitivity.  With care and concern you should be able to develop an arrangement that allows the relationship while maintaining a professional image and workplace environment for your employees.

 

Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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Telecommuting Tips

Telecommuting continues to gain interest and attention in the small business world.  There are many benefits to having an employee telecommute to work, either full time, or just a day or two a week.  Here are just some of the benefits of incorporating a telecommuting plan in your business:

Conserves Energy – Telecommuting conserves the energy and resources associated with a daily commute such as vehicle & road maintenance. Also reduces the materials and energy used in the office.

Maximizes the Employees Free Time – By eliminating the commute, employees have more time to devote to family and personal endeavors.

Improves Productivity/Reduces Stress – Studies suggest that people who work from home are more productive with their time, and are less stressed than those who work in a traditional environment.  Here is some of the research results:  http://psychcentral.com.

 

Decreased Turnover – Employees consider telecommuting a valuable benefit, and are reluctant to leave an employer who supports such flexibility.

Before you start having an employee work from home, be sure to address the following items:

Develop a Telecommuting Plan: Develop a thorough plan that addresses work hours, expectations and deliverables.  Make sure the plan is in writing and signed by the employee.    Also make sure to retain the right to terminate the telecommuting aspect of the position if things are not working according to plan.

 

Make Sure the Employee Is Prepared: Ensure that the employee has been provided all of the tools required to work effectively from home.  A computer, high speed connection and dedicated phone line are just some of the items to be considered.

 

Timekeeping: Consider installing timekeeping and supervisory software on the telecommuter’s computer.  This will eliminate any arguments as to how the employee is spending their day. 

Security: Make sure the employee has a secure computer and office environment that will allow you to keep your company and client information confidential. Article: Telecommuting Security Mistakes.

Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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Minimize the Flu in Your Small Business

With the influenza season upon us, and elevated concerns over the H1N1 virus (also referred to as “Swine Flu”), businesses should be prepared to promote a healthy work environment for their employees.  Small businesses are especially susceptible to a flu outbreak, as they operate with a small staff.  The Secretary of Homeland Security has provided some tips and guidelines for Small Business to assist them through the flu season.  Here are some highlights:

  • Develop policies that allow employees to stay home sick without fear of reprisal.
  • Develop flexible policies to allow workers to telework (if feasible) and create other leave policies to allow workers to stay home to care for sick family members or care for children if schools close.
  • Provide workers with up-to-date information on influenza risk factors, protective behaviors, and instruction on proper behaviors (for example, cough etiquette; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; and hand hygiene). See www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/business.
  • Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and disposable towels for workers to clean their work surfaces.
  • Promote a culture of health in the workplace, encouraging employees to access available health benefits & flu shots.

Other resources may be found at www.flu.gov, as well as a letter to small businesses from Janet Napolitano, Secretary of Homeland Security

Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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Layoff for Small Business

Are you considering layoffs for your small business?  Layoffs are a common consideration in today’s tough economy.  Here are some things to think about before you conduct layoffs for your small business:

  • Consider Your Options – Many companies are avoiding layoffs by looking to other pay & staff reduction strategies.  Consider an across the board pay reduction for all employees, reduced staff hours or a required time off without pay schedule.  Employees are often understanding of such measures in lieu of layoffs.
  • Be Fair – Make sure you aren’t selecting lay off candidates with a disparate impact on protected class employees.  Layoff considerations should be based on company operational and financial needs.  Consider utilizing a seniority based system for determining layoff candidates.
  • After the Layoff – Laid off employees may be eligible for unemployment, so be prepared for this.  Make sure you are in compliance with COBRA or similar state programs.  Consider whether or not you are going to offer severance payments to laid off employees, and if you are going to require a release for severance payments.
  • Know Your State’s Employment Rules – Specifically, final pay rules.  Employment regulations and rule can vary wildly from state to state.  Make sure you are versed in your state’s rules.
  • Communicate – Be sure to immediately communicate to all remaining staff the reason for the lay off and express your regret for the situation.  Confirm that the decision was to keep the company in solid financial shape and stable through this tough economy.
  • Continue to be Proactive – Don’t forget to continue with goals to move your business forward.  Even in a staff reduction situation, you should continue to develop your policies, programs & staff development.

Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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5 HR Hot Topics

Here are 5 HR Hot Topic Items – things that are often ignored or avoided by small business owners. Make sure your business is protected and that you are being proactive in managing HR issues.

  • Employee HandbookMake sure you have an up to date and customized Employee Handbook for your business. A well written Employee Handbook will:
    • Define your policies & procedures
    • Communicate to your employees
    • Protect your business from liability

  • Classify Contractors and Employees Correctly – Make sure you have people classified correctly as either Contractors or Employees. Use the 20 Rule test to determine if you are meeting IRS classification criteria.

  • Make sure you know your state employment rules

Employment regulations and rule can vary wildly from state to state. Make sure you are versed in your state’s rules.

  • Job Descriptions – Develop accurate and up to date Job Descriptions for every position in your company. Job Descriptions should include the Knowledge, Skills and Abilities required for each position, as well as primary responsibilities for the job. Well drafted Job Descriptions are:
    • Great for defining the new and current jobs
    • Works as documentation if you need to discipline a current employee.
    • Help when hiring for a new position – use the job description to create the ad and screen candidates.

  • Document all discipline! There are two primary purposes to documented disciplinary action:
    • Clearly communicate the issue and correct behavior to employees.
    • Protect your business!

Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant. Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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