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Human Resources Disaster Preparedness

Human Resources Disaster Preparedness

Are you ready for the next storm?

Is your business prepared for the next disaster? While natural disasters are somewhat rare, in South Louisiana we know it is only a matter of time before the next disaster hits. Do you have a business continuation plan to continue operations after a major storm including employee payroll, site preparation, and employee communication? Do your employees know what their work responsibilities will be in the aftermath of a natural disaster?

Many businesses are not prepared to continue operations with limited resources. The effects of a major storm may result in power outages, employee attendance issues, and damaged infrastructure/ buildings, all resulting in limited business operations that could negatively impact production, communication, and ultimately revenue.

The right time to create and communicate a business continuation plan is now, before a major disaster occurs. The following topics should be reviewed in order to create an effective business continuation plan.

  1. Know the Vulnerability of your Business – Geographical information and infrastructure knowledge of your building and location will be of great benefit to you and your employees. Elevation is the major factor in determining your vulnerability to storm surge or flooding from area streams, bayous and waterways. This information can be obtained from your local emergency management office, the National Weather Service or other local or state agencies.
  2. Prepare your Employees – Determine which members of your staff will need to carry out disaster preparations and who you can reasonably expect to be available during and after a storm. Some employees may need to assist their own families or relatives in evacuation from threatened areas. Create and regularly update a list of employee phone numbers and ensure that all managers or department heads have a copy. 
  3. Develop a written plan – This should incorporate a set of disaster task assignments for your staff. Inputs regarding tasks to be accomplished should be solicited from all departments at your facility and should include Production, HR, Payroll, IT, Accounting, Distribution and Security. Critical operations including important database systems, payroll distribution and technical support for internal databases should be covered. This plan should include an activation phase, recovery phase, restoration phase and should be distributed to all employees and updated frequently to ensure accurate and reliable information. Important vendors, suppliers and customers should be aware of your plan to continue business after a natural disaster. 
  4. Alternate Methods of Operation – As employees return to work after a disaster, your business infrastructure may be damaged. Buildings, power supplies and communication systems may not be functioning. The ability of your business to recover operations after a natural disaster will rely heavily on contingency plans that incorporate redundant/duplicate backup systems. This should include secondary power sources/generators, fuel reserves at low impact locations and offsite data storage. Employees who have the ability to complete their job duties from mobile laptops may provide the critical support to overcome interruptions in normal operations.

Disasters have caused tremendous damage to life and property in Louisiana and many businesses have never recovered from the last major storms to hit our region. All business owners should understand their capability for continuing operations in different scenarios during and after a disaster.

Be sure to download our Human Resources Disaster Preparedness Checklist. Add to your calendar to review the list each year at the beginning of disaster season to ensure that you are always prepared.

At Employer Support Services, we have the resources available to assist you with your contingency planning in support of your business operations. For additional information relating to this topic or any of the HR services we provide, please contact us at 225-364-3000, or on the web at www.employersupport.com

Jennifer Ragsdale

Employer Support Services, Inc.

CEO

 

Connor Ingram Joins ESS as Human Resources and Business Consultant

 Employer Support Services welcomes Alan “Connor” Ingram as Human Resources and Business Consultant. Connor will be based in our Baton Rouge office location and will provides support to our clients across all facets of human resources.

Connor brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the team. Connor received his degree in Human Resource Management from Louisiana State University and holds an SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) certification. Before joining ESS Connor focused across multiple areas of the human resource field in generalist, specialist, consulting and management roles. He has worked with various types of companies with locations or offices in Louisiana including: Raising Canes, The Advocate, Capital City Press, and LSU School of Veterinary Medicine.

Having this background in various industries in addition to his SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) certification allows Connor to provide clients with vast knowledge of employment best practices, compliance support as well as provide a focus on the client’s needs. With a strong background and understanding of the various employment laws, Connor is able to provide HR practice audits and create employer specific policies and procedures. He is also able to develop client specific trainings to help facilitate the employer’s goal of employee and manager development. Connor’s passion and focus is on how a client’s human resource function is a strategic partner for the business’s growth. 

A Louisiana native, Connor currently resides in Prairieville, LA with his wife Michelle and their new son Matthew. He is a huge LSU fan who enjoys hunting, fishing from his kayak and frequenting the fine dining scene with his wife.   

 

Human Resources Hurricane Preparedness

Human Resources Hurricane Preparedness

Are you ready for the next storm?

Is your business prepared for the next hurricane? While natural disasters are somewhat rare, in South Louisiana we know it is only a matter of time before the next hurricane hits. Do you have a business continuation plan to continue operations after a major storm including employee payroll, site preparation, and employee communication? Do your employees know what their work responsibilities will be in the aftermath of a natural disaster?

Many businesses are not prepared to continue operations with limited resources. The effects of a major storm may result in power outages, employee attendance issues, and damaged infrastructure/ buildings, all resulting in limited business operations that could negatively impact production, communication, and ultimately revenue.

The right time to create and communicate a business continuation plan is now, before a major disaster occurs. The following topics should be reviewed in order to create an effective business continuation plan.

Know the Vulnerability of your Business – Geographical information and infrastructure knowledge of your building and location will be of great benefit to you and your employees. Elevation is the major factor in determining your vulnerability to storm surge or flooding from area streams, bayous and waterways. This information can be obtained from your local emergency management office, the National Weather Service or other local or state agencies.  

Prepare your Employees – Determine which members of your staff will need to carry out hurricane preparations and who you can reasonably expect to be available during and after a storm. Some employees may need to assist their own families or relatives in evacuation from threatened areas. Create and regularly update a list of employee phone numbers and ensure that all managers or department heads have a copy.

 Develop a written plan – This should incorporate a set of hurricane task assignments for your staff. Inputs regarding tasks to be accomplished should be solicited from all departments at your facility and should include Production, HR, Payroll, IT, Accounting, Distribution and Security. Critical operations including important database systems, payroll distribution and technical support for internal databases should be covered. This plan should include an activation phase, recovery phase, restoration phase and should be distributed to all employees and updated frequently to ensure accurate and reliable information. Important vendors, suppliers and customers should be aware of your plan to continue business after a natural disaster.

 Alternate Methods of Operation – As employees return to work after a hurricane, your business infrastructure may be damaged. Buildings, power supplies and communication systems may not be functioning. The ability of your business to recover operations after a natural disaster will rely heavily on contingency plans that incorporate redundant/duplicate backup systems. This should include secondary power sources/generators, fuel reserves at low impact locations and offsite data storage. Employees who have the ability to complete their job duties from mobile laptops may provide the critical support to overcome interruptions in normal operations.

 Hurricanes have caused tremendous damage to life and property in Louisiana and many businesses have never recovered from the last major storms to hit our region. All business owners should understand their capability for continuing operations in different scenarios during and after a hurricane.

 Be sure to download or request a copy of our Human Resources Hurricane Preparedness Checklist. Add to your calendar to review the list each year at the beginning of hurricane season to ensure that you are always prepared.

 At Employer Support Services, we have the resources available to assist you with your contingency planning in support of your business operations. For additional information relating to this topic or any of the HR services we provide, please contact us at 225-364-3000, or on the web at www.employersupport.com.

 

Jennifer Ragsdale

CEO

Employer Support Services, Inc.

Protecting Workers from Extreme Heat

THE HEAT IS ON!

Heat illness can be deadly, and employers must protect workers from excessive heart.

Under OSHA law, employers are responsible for providing workplaces free of known safety hazards. This includes protecting workers from extreme heat. An employer with workers exposed to high temperatures should establish a complete heat illness prevention program.

  • Provide workers with water, rest and shade.
  • Allow new or returning workers to gradually increase workloads and take more frequent breaks as they acclimatize, or build a tolerance for working in the heat.
  • Plan for emergencies and train workers on prevention.
  • Monitor workers for signs of illness.
  • If you need support in building a heat illness prevention program or further training, please contact Employer Support Services and speak with a member of our sales team.  800-535-7206 or  contact@employersupport.com

ESS Welcomes Julie Williams to the Team

We are excited to announce the appointment of Julie Williams as Benefits Manager and Consultant to Employer Support Services  “ESS” team.  Julie brings a wealth of experience and knowledge across various facets of human resources.  This experience provides a great asset to our company and our clients by providing human resources benefits consultation and support with advanced technology available at ESS.  She is a great addition to our company and a great resource for our clients. 

Julie has a long commitment to the field of Human Resources going back to her first job out of college.  She received her degree from Southeastern Louisiana University in Organizational Communication and Theory.  She enjoys working with both employers and employees to create great work environments and educate in the areas of human resources.   Julie will be dedicated to supporting all aspects of benefits administration at ESS.  This includes employer and employee support as well as consultations with clients and prospects.

Julie credits company culture and her ability to be part of a team of HR experts as her reason to join ESS.  Having the ability to provide her expertise and support to a variety of small companies is where Julie thrives.  She is looking forward to a long career at ESS. 

 When Julie is not providing support in HR or leading a team yoga class, she enjoys spending time with her mini poodle named Addy.  She is also an active volunteer with Junior Achievement providing entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills training to young students.

 Julie is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and holds a PHR certification.

ESS Kicks Off 2016

Exciting Kick off to the New Year at ESS!

ESS is kicking off 2016 with a fantastic milestone - Our 20 year anniversary!  We are thrilled to celebrate this milestone along with some exciting organizational changes at Employer Support Services which we are announcing today.

Jennifer Ragsdale, CEO

ESS would like to announce the appointment of Jennifer Ragsdale as its new CEO.  While Jennifer is new to the role of CEO, she is certainly not new to ESS.  As one of the original founders 20 years ago, Jennifer has been a stable force in the organization.  She has provided strategic leadership in all facets of the business as well as worked to develop the standard for ESS’s great customer service and support.  She has tremendous knowledge of payroll and human resources and will serve in her new capacity as CEO to guide and lead ESS in these exciting times of the quickly evolving Human Resources Outsourcing "HRO" industry.

Kristen Airhart, Vice President Business Development

Kristen Airhart has joined our team as our new Vice President of Business Development.  Kristen comes to ESS with more than 20 years of experience in all facets of human resources.  Her background includes working and consulting with numerous global organizations providing talent acquisition and talent management services.  Kristen is a proven professional experienced in working with executive leadership.   She is recognized as an innovative leader who is focused on people, process improvement and the optimization of technology to provide clients with competitive advantages.

We are excited to have both Jennifer and Kristen in their respective roles at ESS and know they are going to do great things to lead the organization in 2016 and beyond.

ESS Cloud Coming Soon!

ESS Cloud
HR ESSentials at Your Fingertips
 
We are excited to announce a new service offering that will be launching soon providing a single integrated solution for our clients called ESS Cloud.
 
What is ESS Cloud?
ESS Cloud is a cloud-based HR software solution.
 
Who is ESS Cloud for?
Our solution is built to support small to large businesses.  Whether you are 20 or 2000 employees ESS Cloud is the ideal solution.  It is simple and efficient enough for the smallest organizations yet robust enough to handle large complex businesses.
 
What are the benefits of ESS Cloud?
ESS Cloud enables our clients to offer world-class recruiting, hiring, payroll, benefits, HR, and more combined with professional services and support from our team of HR experts.
 
What makes ESS Cloud unique?
ESS Cloud covers the entire spectrum of HR (Hire to Retire) and gives flexibility to grow and add services when you need them.  Supported by a team of professionals with expertise in HR, Payroll and Benefits, we provide a single integrated solution that is intuitive and easy to use.  ESS Cloud can be branded for your business and our mobile friendly software allows you to use ESS Cloud from your office or your mobile device.   HR Essentials at your fingertips. ESSentially we take the complexity out of the employee lifecycle and other HR compliance.  We are more than software though.  Implementing a cloud solution requires expertise.  Our team of professionals will ensure you have a successful solution that works across your business.
 
Want to learn more?
Whether you are seeking to outsource or looking for support in the areas of Human Resources, Payroll ,or Benefits contact ESS to arrange a free consultation today!

Possible FMLA Changes

The Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revise the definition of a spouse under the FMLA.

The DOL proposes to define spouse to include an individual in a same-sex marriage that either entered into the marriage in a state that recognizes such marriages or, if it were entered into outside of any state, it is valid in the place where it was entered into and also could have been entered into in at least one state. This could also apply to common-law marriages.

  • The proposed definitional change would mean that eligible employees, regardless of where they live, would be able to:
  • Take FMLA leave to care for their same-sex spouse with a serious health condition
  • Take qualifying exigency leave due to their same-sex spouse's covered military service
  • Take military caregiver leave for their same-sex spouse

The proposed change would allow eligible employees to take FMLA leave to care for their stepchild (child of employee's same-sex spouse) even if the in loco parentis requirement of providing day-to-day care or financial support for the child is not met. To date, this was only a possibility if the in loco parentis requirement was met.

The proposed change would also affect children of parents in a same-sex marriage. The new definition will entitle eligible employees to take FMLA leave to care for their stepparent (same-sex spouse of the employee's parent), even though the stepparent never stood in loco parentis to the employee.

Although the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has reviewed and approved the NPRM, they are requesting interested parties to submit written comments on the proposed rule at www.regulations.gov.

Proposed DOL changes could qualify more employees for overtime pay

Employers take note.  A proposed increase by the Department of Labor to salary requirements of todays "exempt" classified employees could drastically affect overtime pay for some employers.  The proposal, estimated to impact some 5 million employees would raise the salary threshold for exempt employees from $23,660 per year to $50,440 per year.  This change, if implemented, would rule employers to pay overtime to individuals who make less than the annual threshold of $50,440 or roughly $970 per week.  While the exact timeline for this change hasn't been released, it's expected that some aspects of it will be felt in 2016.

In the meantime, employers may want to consider the following steps in preparation for the change.

  • Identify which currently exempt employees could change to non-exempt if the proposed thresholds are adopted.
  • Analyze the anticipated effect to your business based on work patterns of employees.  If you don't have time record data for employees who may then qualify as non-exempt, consider a brief time study to better understand the impact to your organization.
  • Contact the DOL with questions or concerns regarding the change. Employers have until September 4, 2015 to submit questions.

To see the full ruling and make comments, please visit the DOL and regulations site here.

FMLA Quick Hits

This week we uncovered a few unique circumstances regarding FMLA, the federal Family Medical Leave Act.  These situations reminded me of just how critical FMLA can be to employees in time of need, and the employer's responsibility surrounding the law.  Since this Act is quite comprehensive, I thought I'd share a few of the main facts on it and point businesses to more info if they're interested.  Most importantly, FMLA is in place to ensure protection of an employee's position within an organization if they decide to take leave regarding a medical condition of themselves or a loved one.

FMLA Quick Facts

  • Applies to employers with 50 or more employees.
  • Covers 12 weeks of unpaid leave for acceptable medical reasons.
  • Acceptable medical reasons include   
    • Employee has serious health condition.
    • The birth and care of a newborn child
    • Caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.
  • Employee eligibility begins at 12 months of employment with at least 1,250 worked over that time.
  • Employers must maintain health insurance coverage for an employee on leave.
  • Reinstatement of employee to original (or comparable) job upon return from FMLA leave.

To learn more, visit the DOL website and official FMLA poster here.

So what really is Human Resource Management?

In a nutshell, doing Human Resources can be simplified down to 4 key practices:

  1. Respect your Legal Obligations
  2. Attract and Hire the best employees
  3. Keep your best employees
  4. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Many business owners believe that HR is complicated because it requires a psychology degree to understand human behavior and a law degree to keep you out of the courts.  Often the HR function is then placed in the hands of a subjective administrator to help them manage their people.   This often leads to non-revenue generated activities that only socially solve problems.  While some HR professionals can be very effective in providing guidance to a business owner, it is not a prerequisite to successful employee practices.   After all, business owners and management are ultimately responsible and accountable for managing their people.

Take comfort in knowing that very few companies do Human Resources well. This is true for the largest of organizations with fully-stocked HR departments, and often is a lack of clear people strategy from company leaders.   To me, HR is about focus and applying max efforts to your highest revenue generating positions first then focusing on the support functions.  By focus I mean recruit, train, and retention efforts that are clear and creative.   Focus on creating a performance discrimination policy instead of a sick leave policy and you might actually like the results.

Big Changes to the FLSA

As you have probably heard the Department of Labor has set new rules regarding the minimum salary required for an employee to be exempt from overtime pay. This new rule is expected to impact an estimated 4.2 million workers.

What does that mean for employers? Every employer should be reviewing the compensation of all current exempt employees. This is a good time to consider all of the overtime exemption rules and ensure that all employees are classified properly.

The Department of Labor has set a deadline of December 1, 2016 for compliance. Employers should therefore be proactive in reviewing the status of each employee and preparing to make adjustments. However, stay tuned before making significant and sweeping changes. There is somewhat of a bi-partisan effort in congress to create legislation that would create a slower phase-in of the changes.

Some of the regulations outlined by the Department of Labor include the following:

● The DOL sets the minimum salary required to qualify for the white collar exemptions (the administrative, executive, and professional exemptions) at the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for full-time salaried workers in the region in which the salary level is lowest (currently the South). The Final Rule's salary level increase more than doubles the current salary threshold—which is $455 per week or $23,660 annually. This amounts to a minimum salary of $913 per week or $47,476 annually as of December 1st.

● DOL increases the total annual compensation requirement needed to exempt highly compensated employees to the annualized value of the 90th percentile of weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers nationally. Using data from the fourth quarter of 2015, the DOL set the new salary basis at $134,004 annually. This is a large increase over the current salary basis of at least $100,000 annually.

● The DOL has established a mechanism for automatically updating the minimum salary and compensation levels for these exemptions going forward. Under the Final Rule, the salary level will increase automatically every three years, starting January 1, 2020. The DOL estimates the salary basis for 2020 will be $984 per week, or $51,168 annually.

● DOL allows part of the salary threshold to be met with bonuses and commissions. For the first time, employers can count nondiscretionary bonuses, incentives, and commissions toward up to 10% of the required salary level. To credit such payments, however, employers must pay them on a quarterly or more frequent basis. If an employee does not earn enough in nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) in a given quarter to retain their exempt status the Department permits a "catch-up" payment at the end of the quarter. The employer has one pay period to make up for the shortfall (up to 10 percent of the standard salary level for the preceding 13 week period). Any such catch-up payment will count only toward the prior quarter's salary amount and not toward the salary amount in the quarter in which it was paid. If the employer chooses not to make the catch-up payment, the employee would be entitled to overtime pay for any overtime hours worked during the quarter.

● The Department is not making any changes to the standard duties test. The Department believes that the increase to the standard salary level, coupled with automatic updating in the future, will address concerns that some workers who satisfy the standard duties test should be entitled to overtime pay because they are performing substantial amounts of overtime-eligible work (e.g., operating cash registers, stocking shelves, etc.). The Department also heard concerns from many employers, both in pre-rulemaking outreach and in comments on the proposal, that changes to the standard duties test would be disruptive to employers.

● For employees eligible for overtime compensation there is no requirement that they "punch in" and "punch out." Employers and employees have flexibility in designing systems to make sure appropriate records are kept to track overtime hours. As long as records are complete and accurate as to the number of hours worked each day, employers may use any method they choose.

● For an employee who works a fixed schedule, an employer need not track the employee's exact hours worked each day; rather, the employer and employee can agree to a default schedule that reflects daily and weekly hours, and indicate that the employee followed the agreed-upon schedule. Only when the employee deviates from the schedule is the employer required to record the changes to the hours worked.

● For employees with a flexible schedule, an employer does not need to require an employee to sign in each time she starts and stops work. The employer must keep an accurate record of the number of daily hours worked by the employee. So an employer could allow an employee to just provide the total number of hours she worked each day, including the number of overtime hours, by the end of each pay period.

Compliance with the new FLSA regulation can be tricky, but should be manageable. This is a good time to review all pay practices to ensure compliance. The first step is to identify exempt employees making under $47,476. Additionally, employers should at this point consider whether the duties of employees making over $47,476 qualify the employee for exempt status. For current exempt employees making less than $47,476 action will be required. For those employees, employers must determine whether to increase the employee’s pay to $47,476 or to change the employee to hourly. At this point an employer should also consider the pay of other employees performing similar duties. If an employer has multiple employees performing the same or similar duties but different compensation, there is the potential for a discrimination case. Lastly, for employees being changed to hourly, the employer will need to consider how the employee’s hours will be tracked and documented.

At Employer Support Services, we have the resources available to assist you with the new FLSA regulations. If we are currently providing HR services for you and we have not yet contacted you regarding your employee data, know that we have already reviewed your data and will be contacting you soon. If you are not an HR services client, contact us about conducting an FLSA audit. For additional information relating to this topic or any of the payroll, benefits, and HR services we provide, please contact us at 225-364-3000, or visit our website at www.employersupport.com.

Jennifer Ragsdale

CEO