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Educating Your Employees about Absences

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Clarifying your company policy on various time-off claims is essential! What is it … sick time, family leave, paid time off, or just a non-paid absence from work? Employees are not the only ones confused! For years California employers used attendance policies that assigned an “occurrence” for unscheduled, unapproved absences. Employees who incurred excessive amounts of  “occurrences”  received counseling, then discipline; if the absences continued, termination usually followed. This policy was characterized as a “no-fault” policy because the reason for the employee’s absence was irrelevant: it was merely a matter of the employee being absent from work so often or for so long, that termination became the only option for the employer. Then came the California paid-sick-leave law, known as the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, which required employers to provide paid sick leave beginning on July 1, 2015. The law required employers to provide at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked or a minimum annual lump sum of 24 hours. Sick leave could be used for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of—or preventive care for—an employee or an employee’s family member, and also for an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Some employers don’t note the differences until they are sure an employee may be abusing one of the classifications. Here’s a 3-step process that can help you reduce employee confusion and abuse when recording workplace absences.   Step 1: Develop a clear company policy on absences. Absences are a constant issue so employers must develop a company policy covering all the different types of absences.  When your company decides to clarify its absence and time off policies, the first rule is to review current federal family leave laws. Then be sure to check the latest information from California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) department, which recently published an updated FAQ that addressed the state law.   Step 2: Record your policy in the company handbook. Publish this policy in your company handbook—don’t forget to include within this policy a list of consequences if the employee has been found to abuse any of these classifications. This list would consist of warnings,...

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Ask HR: Upholding our Call-in Policy

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Dear HR, One of our new hires failed to follow appropriate call-in policy before missing work.  We are aware that they had a death in the family so want to be kind and help our employee through this tough period, but how do we do that while still upholding our company policies and procedures.   HR Answer: Nothing is more frustrating to employers, supervisors, and other staff than when an employee fails to show up to work!  The immediate effects are obvious – it impacts the day’s workflow, burdens co-workers, puts extra work on the supervisor to determine the cause and always, always affects the bottom line of an employer’s profits. It is easy to cast blame on the employee for not notifying the employer.  For many companies, failure to “call-in” is considered job abandonment and is grounds for immediate termination.  But in this labor market, who can afford a high rate of turnover?  There are no California or federal law that regulates the amount of time an employer must hold a job open for an employee who neither appears for work nor calls in to explain their absence. In California, three no-call, no-show days are commonly considered job abandonment.   Time to Review Your “No-Call / No Show” Policy A company handbook must identify and outline a “No-Call / No Show” policy, provide a procedure for calling in, and include a statement about the consequences of not reporting into work.  There will be times, however, when due to a family emergency, calling the company will not be an employee’s priority.  Your handbook should have a paragraph or two defining these “unforeseeable emergency no-call situations” along with a statement concerning the policy of the company on these types of situations. As stated, this was an unforeseeable family emergency, and we believe that situations such as these should always be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.    Annual Review of your “No-Call / No Show” Policy Our suggestion is, when the time seems appropriate, to privately review this policy with your employee. However,  this incident can be a reminder that it is perhaps time to review your company’s “No-Call / No Show” Policy & Procedure with all employees – no exceptions—including...

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EMPLOYER ALERT: Paying Employees During a Power Outage

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California residents are without power due to the PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff program.  As a business owner affected by these outages, do you send your employees home?  Will you need to pay them during the outage if you do send them home? What are your options? You have the option to send employees home. If you decide to send your employees home, remember that pay requirements differ for exempt and nonexempt workers: Exempt Workers – You must pay exempt workers for a full day on any day they perform any work. Also, for any days where the business is shut down for the entire day, if an exempt employee performed any work during the workweek and is ready, willing, and able to work on the day you shut down, you must pay them for the full day you are shut down. Nonexempt Workers – They are only entitled to be paid for the hours they spend performing work. Reporting time pay requirements for nonexempt employees does not apply even when public utilities fail to supply electricity, water, or gas, or if there is a failure in the public utilities or sewer system. Keeping Employees Onsite at the Workplace If you keep your employees on the premises to try and “wait out” the outage—and they do no work—  you will still need to pay them for the time spent waiting for the power to come back on. While the law allows you to require employees to wait out the outage—but if the outage lasts many hours or days—you may want to consider sending these employees home. Call Sequoia Personnel Services for HR compliance help!  If you are still not clear on these pay requirements, or you have other questions concerning labor laws during extreme situations connected to natural disasters, emergencies, or weather-related incidents that affect the workplace, call Sequoia Personnel Services for HR compliance...

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Employee Benefits in the 21st Century

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The World of Employee Benefits is Evolving   Employees usually say that the most important things they want in a job first and foremost is a good-paying wage, along with “benefits.” The most common form of employee benefit is basic health insurance – with dental and vision still being an optional offering. Health benefits are still the gold standard by which many prospective employees judge a prospective employer. In a tight labor market, an employer will eventually need to offer some sort of access to health care insurance to compete. But the world of employee benefits is evolving—what constitutes a “benefit” is being redefined as the face of the workforce grows younger.   2019 Employee Benefits Report To get an accurate overview of what the rest of the world is offering as an “employee benefit” and what employees are requesting—we need to look no further than the 2019 Employee Benefits Survey compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management [SHRM].  The annual survey examines more than 250 benefits that companies offer, or are requested by their employees. This survey was conducted in April of 2019.   Historically, this report has a reputation for being an accurate window on the trends that start from the top and trickle their way down to eventually impact small business owners. Why is it important to understand these trends? As the labor pool shrinks in America, competition for qualified workers will get fierce, even in rural areas. Rural or nonurban-centered employers will keep losing younger workers to urban areas as educated or trained candidates migrate towards better-paying jobs and better benefits.   Current Trends in Employee Benefits While the top five listed below are the most popular requests and have already been implemented across the business world, others on the list are growing in popularity and may become standard benefit offerings within the next 10 years. The current trends are: Employer match for 401(k) plans. Cost of living adjustment in pay that is not dependent upon performance or seniority. Flexible work schedules (can be remote, compressed work week, or customized hours). Company-provided student loan repayment assistance which could include a 401(k) match for student loan repayments. [IRS has already allowed this.] Childcare assistance programs...

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Ask HR: Employee with Cancer diagnoses.

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Dear HR: My employee is being tested for cancer. While there is a definite cancer diagnoses – my employee’s doctors are still doing tests to see what course of treatment will be required. The employee is trying to be proactive and called me to find out about our company benefits. What benefits would apply… disability, medical leave, etc.? This is the first time I’ve had a seriously ill employee whose condition will definitely impact my company. We are a small “mom & pop” shop –so news and gossip travels fast, and any absences due to the employee’s medical treatments will effect everyone’s work schedule.  Please tell me the appropriate steps that I as an employer need to take to minimize this upcoming impact as well as any advice I need to tell my employee.  HR Answer, Sorry to hear that your employee is ill. A cancer diagnosis ranks among the most complex workplace health issues employers have to deal with. Here is a very general outline of the next few steps you will need to take to ensure you stay compliant with state and federal laws regarding an employee’s serious medical condition: 1) Privacy Laws:  First have a private yet frank discussion with your employee, discussing the fact that privacy laws prohibit management from openly discussing the employee’s health status. You will need to determine who on your staff must know about the situation – the supervisor, or any HR staff member that would be directly involved in any of this employee’s medical leave paperwork. Review with your staff the privacy laws that they must adhere to. 2) Applying for Medical Leave: Identify the organization’s work/flex policies and services, such as employee assistance programs services and/or benefits such as paid time off or sick time the employee may be eligible for. Immediately start the process to determine Medical Leave eligibility. Medical Leave as outlined by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law providing eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to attend to a serious illness, such as cancer. Many states have similar family medical leave laws that are equal or more generous for eligible employees such as the California Family Rights...

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Natural Disasters and the Work Place

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Employers need to be ready for emergency closures before they happen! Californians aren’t subject to dangerous hurricanes or tornadoes, but many business owners have had to contend with floods, fires, earthquakes, and even tsunami watches. Office closures in California often revolve around dangerous road conditions or business closures created by fires, flooding, freeway accidents or car chases … no matter what the cause of the delay, closure, or emergency, these conditions can appear suddenly and employers must be prepared for worker’ absences that can occur when these situations arise.   CALIFORNIA MANDATED “EMERGENCY ACTION PLAN” If you have more than 10 employees, you must create a written Emergency Action Plan for your company. Your company is exempt from the written plan requirement if you employ 10 or fewer employees. However, this does not relieve you from your obligation to have a plan for handling emergencies. An Emergency Action plan must specify: The people responsible for implementing the plan or portions of the plan How to communicate emergencies to employees Fire and emergency evacuation policies The personnel assigned to provide first aid and emergency medical attention   Review and Implement an Emergency Closure/Natural Disaster Policy Now Your company should have established guidelines for handling your business operations during periods of extreme workplace conditions and similar emergencies, no matter how many people you employ. This is the time to review your Emergency Action Plan and prep your employees on how to handle the situation when it comes to reporting for work. FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security have a website focused on emergency response resources for employers and a page tailored to family emergency planning. Step 1: Set up a policy and determine protocols of what constitutes a viable reason to close or delay the opening your place of business; the availability of alternative workplaces or work from home arrangements; whether you will offer any leave to employees during times of extreme environmental emergencies and whether that time will be paid or unpaid (beyond what you are legally required to do); and if you will need an extension from the EDD to file any of your payroll reports or taxes. Step 2: Establish who will be in charge of deciding...

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