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Entries with Topic HR Knowledge .

January 21, 2021

Strategies for Onboarding in a Virtual Environment

Virtual work trends were on the rise even before the Coronavirus outbreak last year. Many employers, however, have been reluctant to offer remote work for a number of reasons—technology setup, company culture, employee morale and management structure to name a few. When the pandemic hit last year, employers were forced to shift gears if they wanted to keep their businesses operating and many transitioned their workforce to work from home almost overnight. The unexpected change left organizations without a plan in place and no time to prepare.

As businesses got back on their feet, many were able to start hiring which meant they had to figure out how to onboard new employees in a virtual environment. Onboarding helps your new hire get familiar with your nonprofit and provides the tools and training they need to start working towards making an impact on the company’s mission. The only difference between in-person onboarding and virtual onboarding is that it’s done mainly through video and email—the goal is still the same.

In a normal environment, the process is often long and tedious—more so when done virtually. There is equipment to ship, software to install, documents to be signed, materials to provide, the list goes on and on. Here are some ways to instantly improve your virtual onboarding strategy:

  1. New Hire Paperwork. Consider using an e-signature tool so new employees can view, edit, and sign the various documents necessary to onboard someone such as tax documents, employment contracts, and direct deposit forms.
  2. Work Equipment. Ship any necessary technology (laptop, keyboard, mouse, monitor, headset, etc.) ahead of time to ensure the employee is set up and ready to go on their first day. Make sure to have any company-specific software installed beforehand and provide setup and login instructions at the same time.
  3. The Onboarding Packet. Create a detailed onboarding plan suited for the role that includes: a timeline with specific performance goals for the first 30, 60, or 90 days of employment, a checklist of tasks to be completed such as setting up voice mail and reviewing the company website, a company overview with your vision and mission statements, organizational charts, and details on information technology.
  4. Training and Development. Provide a list of “self-study” tasks that include online assessments, essential articles, training documents, competitors’ information and eLearning opportunities. It’s also beneficial to allow employees to take advantage of a variety of training topics, not just those that are required.
  5. Documentation and Procedures. It’s critical to the success of your new employee to have written documentation of job-specific procedures. This will help eliminate time wasted trying to figure out a process or waiting for someone to assist.
  6. Internal Announcements. Inform your current team of the new hire by sending a new employee announcement and copy the new hire so they can see any welcome messages from the team. This is also a good time to add them to any relevant communication channels such as Microsoft Teams or Slack.
  7. Welcome Package. You have one shot to make a good first impression. Send a Welcome Kit that includes some company swag, a welcome letter, a gift card for coffee and a personal invite to a virtual lunch with the team—this is a great way to get everyone familiar with each other.
  8. Introductions. Schedule some video introductions and have current employees go around and briefly explain what they do. You can also have everyone share a fun fact about themselves or craft a few starter questions to get break the ice. Make sure you include any other leaders the employee might work with so they too can put a face to a name.
  9. A Work Buddy. Working remotely can be isolating, assigning a go-to person who can guide the new team member through their first few weeks or months can help to make the transition easier. A welcome buddy can answer questions, share insights, and provide tips while helping the new hire settle in.
  10. The Social Side of Onboarding. Have your managers come up with creative ways to connect their team. Things such as challenging employees with trivia questions on a business communication platform like Slack, scheduling virtual team building activities or luncheons to celebrate work anniversaries or birthdays can bring the team together on a personal level.

Virtual onboarding might seem daunting challenging at first, but with thoughtful consideration and a solid plan in place, you can create a successful onboarding plan that guarantees a positive outcome for both the organization and the employee.

January 15, 2021

How Remote Working Impacts the Future of Talent Acquisition

While remote work was on the rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic, most employees taking advantage of working from home still had some form of in-person relationship with their employer and fellow teammates. While it is still relatively rare for companies to hire employees to work remote from day one, we can see that this practice is changing. As stay-at-home orders continue in many states, more employers are having to rely on virtual recruitment and finding this will most likely become the new standard for all future recruiting.

From the perspective of talent acquisition and nonprofit business leaders, the most significant challenges being faced by organizations are resulting in changes that will continue after the pandemic. Some of these changes have resulted in unforeseen positive outcomes—creating a whole new outlook on what a day looks like in the office.

Here are four major changes revealed by the global pandemic and the lasting impact they will have on what the future of work looks like:

1) At-Home Working Environment: As organizations adapt to a remote workforce, the more willing they are to make a permanent change going forward. This will have a direct impact on the need for office space; many organizations are already considering downsizing the amount of office space needed, in turn saving money on overhead costs. Organizations should have a thoughtful plan in place prior to making their operation fully remote. By sharing remote working policies with staff and providing additional training to managers overseeing a remote team, you’ll ensure a much smoother transition.

2) Recruiting Becomes Virtual: As we’ve seen in recent months, talent acquisition teams have incorporated new recruitment practices—ranging from interviewing candidates over video, to giving job offers without meeting a candidate in person. Virtual recruiting has proven to have such success it will most likely carry over as a new process post pandemic.

3) Technology is Priority #1: Many organizations have come reliant on advanced technologies to help navigate this new remote working world. Talent acquisition teams have seen how technology has streamlined onboarding processes and how this is the more desired approach by both hiring managers and new employees. While incorporating a more technology-based recruitment system will require more training, it will increase privacy and security. 

4) What Does Success Look Like Now: An organization can’t remain a float without their employees and now, more than ever, it’s important to listen and invest in your employees. This pandemic has forced organizations to make necessary investments in technology to ensure a functional working model. In turn creating significant benefits for both employees and their employers.

Now, the question everyone keeps asking is “what will happen when stay-at-home orders are lifted?” While there’s much talk about “getting back to normal,” some have come to terms with the notion that it isn’t most likely to happen. As organizations’ country-wide learn how to make remote work more functional, the possibilities of being able to leverage a larger pool of candidates, particularly those high-skilled hard-to-fill positions, is likely to become increasingly appealing. Talent acquisition and human resources leaders adapting to virtual interviews, offers and onboarding, has streamlined recruitment processes, while saving money. Nonprofit organizations will be able to use these recent changes to improve future recruiting outcomes.

January 07, 2021

HR Question: Creating a Diverse Workforce

Question: How can we cultivate a diverse workplace?

Answer: A diverse workplace with employees of differing age groups and experience can add to the richness and culture of any workplace. However, “diverse” and “diversity” can mean a host of different things, and unless company leaders agree on what kind of diversity they are seeking, creating cohesive diversity can be tricky. Here are some ideas for best practices to create and maintain a successful and diverse workforce:

  1. Define the term “diversity” in relation to your workforce and company culture. Consider what your definition means and how it relates to obtaining the best and most qualified workers, as well as how this definition of diversity can be linked to business strategies and goals. Reflecting on the background of the workplace, the organizational structure, and where diversity began to productively impact the business provides a good starting point.
  2. Establish a clear and concise diversity strategy where the stakeholders are defined, changes to the current structure are identified along with potential barriers, and how the strategy will be successfully implemented.
  3. Outline processes for implementation. Spell out each step to obtain the goal of diversity, and consider how the steps will be tested and applied, potential employee involvement, how you will measure success (efficiency, benefits, retention), resources you will need, and key performance indicators.
  4. Utilize employee and manager involvement to create and implement the strategies, which will help determine how the diversity has impacted the organization. Clearly outline participation and expectations for both employees and managers, along with training and cooperation at all levels. Each individual should have a sense of accountability in implementing diversity strategies.
  5. Create future goals, analyze results of all diversity efforts, and consider areas for improvement to ensure continued development and consistent successes.

Don’t forget to abide by all applicable local, state, and federal laws in regard to diversity and ensure all workplace policies are applied consistently and without discrimination.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial today.

December 09, 2020

COVID-19 and Employee Benefits Plans Q&A

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created new and unique challenges for employers and their employees. Group health plans and other employee benefit plans are one area of concern during these times. UST HR Workplace powered by ThinkHR has been on the front lines, supporting employers with HR and Benefits advice and compliance guidance through their online resources and on-demand advisors.

Here are some of the most-frequently asked questions received about COVID-19 and benefit plans:

Do all medical plans cover COVID-19 testing? Yes, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires that all medical plans provide 100% coverage of COVID-19 testing. There are no deductibles, copays, or coinsurance. This federal mandate took effect March 18, 2020 and applies to insurance plans and employer self-funded plans, including grandfathered plans. It does not apply to retiree-only plans.

All testing-related services and services, such as consultative visits to doctors (including telehealth), emergency rooms and urgent care centers that lead to an order for testing, and the administration of tests, are covered. Preauthorization is not required and coverage is not limited to in-network providers.

Is treatment of COVID-19 also covered at 100%? It depends. The FFCRA mandate for 100% coverages applies only to services and supplies related to testing. Once diagnosed, however, coverage for any treatment of COVID-19 will depend on each medical plan’s terms and conditions, including any provisions for deductibles, copays, coinsurance, and use of network providers.

Additionally, insured plans are subject to state laws that may be broader than the new federal mandate. A number of states now require that medical insurers cover COVID-19 treatment at 100% (in addition to testing). Many carriers also have agreed to provide 100% coverage even if not required by law. For details, contact your carrier or check the America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) website for the latest updates.

Is a high deductible health plan (HDHP) that waives the deductible for COVID-19 testing still compatible with a Health Savings Account (HSA)? What about coverage for treatment? HDHP must cover COVID-19 testing at 100% per the FFCRA mandate. HDHPs also may be amended to cover treatment of COVID-19 as a first-dollar benefit without deductibles. On March 11, 2020, the IRS announced that pre-deductible coverage of testing and treatment does not cause the plan to lose its status as an HSA-compatible HDHP and does not interfere with the covered person’s eligibility to make HSA contributions.

Many employees are working from home now instead of coming to the office. Can they continue using their Dependent Care FSAs for childcare expenses? Yes, employees can continue using their Dependent Care FSAs provided that the childcare is required for the employee to be able to work. For instance, employees working full time may need the same childcare whether working from home or the office. If, however, the employee or spouse can care for the child while the employee works, the expenses are not reimbursable.

Can employees change their Dependent Care FSA election due to the COVID-19 issues? The IRS rules for Dependent Care FSAs set forth a list of permissible election changes. (Ref: 26 CFR § 1.125-4.) Assuming the employer includes all IRS-permissible change events in its plan document, employees may start, stop, increase or decrease their Dependent Care FSA contribution on account of specific events. Examples of events that are likely to come up due to COVID-19 issues include:

  • The dependent care center or provider is no longer available;
  • The employee needs childcare because the schools are closed; or
  • The employee’s or spouse’s employment status or work hours are changed.

Can employees change their commuter benefits since they are now working from home? Section 132(f) plan, often called pretax commuter benefits, allow employees to change their election, or start or stop contributing, for any reason. Generally, changes made by the middle of the month take effect the first of the next month, but employees will want to confirm their plan’s procedures with the administrator. Note that there is no use-or-lose provision for commuter benefits, so any unused balance now will be available for the employee’s use when they get back to commuting to work.

Many employees have been put on reduced hours or furloughed. Can the employer continue covering them on the group health plan? Many employers and workers are concerned about maintaining group health coverage when work hours are cut due to the current COVID-19 outbreak. Each employer’s case is different, so we suggest the following steps:

  1. Review the group policy or plan document. If the plan limits eligibility to employees who are regularly scheduled to work 30 hours or more per week and states that coverage ends when the employee ceases to be eligible (unless protected by the FMLA or similar law), then reduced hours or furloughs will cause the employee to lose coverage. Plans must be administered according to their terms, so the employer cannot continue reporting that employee (and dependents) as active on its eligibility file to the carrier.
  1. If the employer wants to continue eligibility for reduced-hours employees or furloughed employees, contact the carrier regarding options to amend the policy. Many carriers are agreeing to changes, and a number of states are requiring carriers to give employers the option of maintaining active coverage for furloughed or reduced-hours employees.
  1. If the plan is self-funded, the employer may amend its plan as long as the plan does not discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees. If the employer has stop-loss insurance, that policy also may need to be amended to ensure its terms are consistent with the underlying self-funded plan.
  1. Is the employer an applicable large employer (ALE) that uses the look-back measurement method to determine eligibility for group health (medical) coverage? If so, employees who are deemed full-time employees for a stability period will not lose eligibility during that stability period even if they are furloughed or their work hours are cut (if they remain employed).
  1. If the employee’s coverage ends, note that loss of coverage due to reduced work hours or furlough is a COBRA qualifying event. The federal COBRA rules apply plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more workers (except certain church plans). Insured plans also may be subject to state insurance continuation laws (often called mini-COBRA).

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial here.

November 10, 2020

HR Question: Asking Employees About Their Symptoms

Question: As we begin to return to work, if an employee is out of the office due to sickness, can we ask them about their symptoms?

Answer: Yes, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. In non-pandemic circumstances, employers shouldn’t ask about an employee’s symptoms, as that could be construed as a disability-related inquiry. Under the circumstances, however — and in line with an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace — it is recommended that employers ask specifically about the symptoms of COVID-19.

Here is a suggested communication: “Thank you for staying home while sick. In the interest of keeping all employees as safe as possible, we’d like to know if you are having any of the symptoms of COVID-19. Are you experiencing a fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, or a new loss of taste or smell?”

Remember that medical information must be kept confidential as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). If the employee does reveal that they have symptoms of COVID-19, or has a confirmed case, the CDC recommends informing the employee’s co-workers of their possible exposure to COVID-19 in the workplace (but not naming the employee who has or might have it) and directing them to self-monitor for symptoms. Employers should also follow CDC guidance for cleaning and disinfecting.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial here.

October 29, 2020

COVID-19 Nonprofit Story: DARTS

UST’s new blog series, “COVID-19 Nonprofit Stories,” illustrates how nonprofits and their employees have been coping with the unexpected challenges of the Coronavirus. Each blog spotlights one organization and the personal hurdles and workforce strategies they have encountered throughout this pandemic.

Our next story comes from another dedicated UST member—DARTS. Located in Minneapolis, DARTS provides personalized professional services to the aging demographic in the local Dakota County. By providing transportation and home services to their aging community, DARTS helps participants to lead more independent and fulfilling lives. Their services include such things as light housework, outdoor chores, home repair, caregiving resources, transportation and more.

Q: In general, how has your nonprofit been impacted by COVID-19?

A: DARTS provides services to help older adults stay engaged in the community and live in home of their choice. COVID-19 has caused older adults to isolate themselves and their caregivers are either isolated from their loved one or unable to have respite from them. The need for our services grew and we had to rapidly adapt to be able to provide them safely.

Q: What was the most immediate impact your organization faced during the onset of COVID-19?

A: DARTS provides bus rides for groups of older adults, as well as individuals. The group rides stopped immediately on March 13. We took our bus capacity to help fill a need that older adults were not able or willing to go out to food shelves to get groceries by partnering with area food shelves to help deliver those food supports.

Q: What do you see as the long-term impact COVID-19 will have on your organization?

A: How we gather as older adults will be affected for months to come and so we are becoming more nimble with technology to supplement in-person meetings and group gatherings. COVID-19 will help those with means to rely more on technology and it will make the gap larger between those who have resources and those who do not.

Q: How have you addressed employee mental health and wellness during this time?

A: We added intentional time during team meetings to talk about COVID related stress and social justice issues. We hold regular optional coffee breaks so that people can still connect, leaders are proactively reaching out to their team, we are allowing flexibility for those who can to work from home and we got brightly colored DARTS shirts for employees - a cheerful reminder as to how important they are to our community."

Keep an eye out for future renditions of “COVID-19 Nonprofit Stories,” as we continue to gather insight from the nonprofit sector. In the meantime, check out our COVID-19 Resource Center for more nonprofit-specific content—including unemployment insights, workforce trends, employee wellness tips, COVID-19 FAQs and more!

October 23, 2020

2020 Employee Engagement Toolkit

As the pandemic continues to impact the way we work—with no end date in sight—many employees are left feeling disengaged and unmotivated. To help nonprofit leaders rethink (and prioritize) the employee experience, we've compiled our top resources to create the 2020 Employee Engagement Toolkit

Now more than ever, it's critical that you foster a positive work culture where employees feel valued, involved and supported. This free toolkit includes a helpful checklist, a survey template, best practice tips and more:

  1. Employee Engagement Survey Template
  2. Employee Engagement Checklist for Leaders
  3. 6 Employee Engagement Best Practice Tips
  4. 5 Creative Ways to Celebrate Your Team
  5. Back-to-School FAQs: DOL Guidance on FFCRA Leave for Employees
  6. 7 Tips to Help Keep Your Nonprofit Employees Mentally Sound
  7. Blog: 5 Ways to Offer Your Support During a Time of Crisis
  8. Webinar Recording: Employee Engagement & Mental Wellness Strategies During COVID-19

Would you like access to more HR-specific articles, templates and checklists? Sign up for a free 60-day Trial of UST HR Workplace today! You'll also gain access to live, certified HR consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, an extensive compliance library and more.

October 08, 2020

HR Question: Reducing Pay Due to COVID-19

Question: Can we reduce pay because of an economic slowdown due to COVID-19?

Answer: You can reduce an employee’s rate of pay based on business or economic slowdown, provided that this is not done retroactively. For instance, if you give employees notice that their pay will change on the 10th, and your payroll period runs from the 1st through the 15th, make sure that their next check still reflects the higher rate of pay for the first 9 days of the payroll period.

Nonexempt employees (those entitled to overtime) - A nonexempt employee’s new rate of pay must still meet the applicable federal, state, or local minimum wage. Employees must be given notice of the change to their rate of pay, and some states require advance notice.

Exempt employees (those not entitled to overtime) - An exempt employee’s new salary must still be at or above the federal or state minimum for exempt employees. The federal minimum salary is $684 per week. Several states have weekly minimums that are higher than that (California and New York, for instance, are in the $1,000 per week range). The minimum may not be prorated based on hours worked.

Exempt employee reclassification - If an exempt employee has so little work to do that it does not make sense to pay them the federal or state minimum (or you simply cannot afford to), they can be reclassified as nonexempt and be paid by the hour instead. This must not be done on a very short-term basis. Although there are no hard and fast rules about how long you can reclassify someone, it is recommended that you don’t change their classification unless you expect the slowdown to last for more than three weeks. Changing them back and forth frequently could cause you to lose their exemption retroactively and potentially owe years of overtime.

Employees with contracts or CBAs - If employees have employment contracts or are subject to collective-bargaining agreements (CBAs), you should consult with an attorney before making any changes to pay.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial here.

September 30, 2020

COVID-19 Nonprofit Story: National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)

As nonprofit employers continue to navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19, UST decided to compile a blog series that illustrates how nonprofits and their employees have been coping with the unexpected challenges of the Coronavirus. Each blog will spotlight one organization and the personal hurdles and workforce strategies they have encountered throughout this pandemic.

Our first story comes from one of our dedicated UST members, the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. (NORD). Located on the East coast, NORD is very near the epicenter of where the Coronavirus transmission began. A patient advocacy organization, NORD is dedicated to helping individuals with rare diseases and the organizations that serve them through programs of education, advocacy, research and patient services.

Q: In general, how has your nonprofit been impacted by COVID-19?

A: We moved to having all staff working from home. Since two of our organization’s offices are located in Southern New England and the third is in Washington D.C., and these were the areas of the country that were first impacted, the states and locations where we are located basically closed businesses—and offices we were forced to work from home.

Q: What was the most immediate impact your organization faced during the onset of COVID-19?

A: We were required to purchase laptops and other electronic equipment for some of our staff so they could work from home. We also had to change various events from being in person to being remote/virtual.

Q: What do you see as the long-term impact COVID-19 will have on your organization?

A: We will probably have staff working either full time from home or have them come into the office less often. As far as events, I think they will eventually be held in person, though I am not certain.

Q: How have you addressed employee mental health and wellness during this time?

A: We have had one virtual all staff meeting, which was well received, plus we send out a newsletter each week which contains information about what the staff members are doing during this "new normal". In addition, we have software which allows the individual staff members to connect via video with each other during the day which allows them to maintain some sense of "normalness."

Keep an eye out for future renditions of the blog series, “COVID-19 Nonprofit Stories,” as we continue to gather insight from the nonprofit sector. Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center for more nonprofit-specific content—including unemployment insights, workforce trends, employee wellness tips, COVID-19 FAQs and more!

September 18, 2020

2020 UST Workforce Re-Entry Toolkit

 

As states begin to loosen their social distancing restrictions, nonprofit employers are beginning to strategize a return-to-work plan while staying compliant with state, local and federal guidelines. To equip nonprofit leaders with the resources they need to safely re-enter the workplace, we compiled the 2020 Workforce Re-Entry Toolkit

While the decision to reopen will vary from employer to employer, having a thoughtful strategy in place will help minimize employee concern and solidify any new policies well in advance of re-entry. This free toolkit includes essential checklists, letter templates, sample policies and response plans:

  • Return to Work Employer Checklist
  • COVID-19 Employer FAQs
  • Checklist: Preparing the Workspace for Re-Entry
  • Survey: Employee Readiness to Return to Work
  • Employer Guide: Deciding Who Returns
  • COVID-19 Workplace Safety Policies
  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Poster
  • Sample Welcome Back Letter
  • Quick Response Plan for Infected Employees
  • Sample Communication Regarding Infection in the Workplace
  • Webinar Recording: Preparing to Re-Entry to the Workplace

Would you like access to more HR-specific articles, templates and checklists? Sign up for a free 60-day Trial of UST HR Workplace today! You'll also gain access to live, certified HR consultants, 300+ on-demand training courses, and extensive compliance library and more.

September 01, 2020

Back-to-School FAQs About Leave Under the FFCRA

The end of summer traditionally signals the start of a busy period for employers and HR professionals, as they update their policies to reflect regulatory changes, complete their HR initiatives for the year, and start their next-year planning. This fall promises to be especially active given the continuing pandemic and related HR challenges.

The start of the 2020-2021 school year has created confusion and disruption for both employers and their employees. As a result, ThinkHR, powering UST HR Workplace, has been fielding urgent questions about how to handle a variety of situations, including how online vs. in-person school impacts employee leave. Following are some of the most common questions received and their responses.

Q: If children and their parents can choose between in-person schooling or online schooling, can we deny leave to employees who choose online schooling?

A: We don’t know yet. EFMLA can be used when a child’s school or place of care is “closed,” such that the child cannot be there in person. This might suggest that if the option is available to attend in-person, that those choosing online school would not be eligible for leave. However, we expect that many school districts will need a certain percentage of students to take classes online to make in-person school possible at a sufficiently reduced capacity. In effect, these schools will be “closed” to a certain portion of the student body and it may or may not matter whether the parents chose the online option. We expect guidance from the Department of Labor soon that will answer this question definitively.

Q: If kids are going to school in-person two days a week and doing school from home three days a week, do we have to give a parent three days a week off or can we refuse intermittent leave?

A: If you’re in the Southern District of New York, you must grant intermittent EFMLA if that is what an employee needs and asks for. That district includes the counties of Bronx, Dutchess, New York, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, and Westchester.

In the rest of the country, the answer is not clear, but we certainly recommend providing intermittent leave (as does the Department of Labor). Employees with children are in desperate need of flexibility and understanding right now and refusing a request for intermittent leave may lead to low morale, low productivity, or the employee quitting.

Keep in mind that not all employees will want a full day off just because a child is doing school from home — many may request an hour or two in the morning and an hour or two in the afternoon. Being open to these kinds of requests should help you maximize productivity (as much as possible under tough circumstances) and reduce turnover.

Q: Can we set up childcare or tutoring in the workplace?

A: While it may be possible (and we applaud the creativity), you’d want to consult with an attorney or someone else in your state that is familiar with the kind of licensing and insurance that would be required to do this. Even if you were only allowing children in the workplace occasionally, and they remained under the control of their parent, you’d want to check with your general liability carrier to make sure that it would cover incidents that involved a visiting child.

Q: Can I deny leave to an employee who has high schoolers who should be able to take care of themselves during the day?

A: No. However, if the child or children are 15 or older, you should require that the employee provide a statement or affirmation that there are special circumstances that cause the older child to need their care. They do not need to provide any further information beyond that statement (such as what the special circumstances are). If you feel it necessary, you can remind all employees that it is fraudulent to take FFCRA leave if they are not unable to work as a result of the care they will be providing. 

Q: Can we require proof that the school or place of care is closed?

A: No. You can and should (for IRS documentation) require the names and ages of the child or children being cared for and the name of the school, place of care, or caregiver that is closed or unavailable due to COVID-19. You should also require a signed statement that the employee is unable to work because they need to provide care for the child or children. Finally, if the child or children are 15 or older, the employee needs to indicate that there are special circumstance (but doesn’t need to explain them).

We don’t encourage independent sleuthing to verify what an employee tells you, but if you feel that’s necessary, be very careful of doing anything that could infringe on an employee’s right to privacy. Also be consistent in verifying this kind of information — if you are only fact-checking certain employees, you’ll open yourself up to complaints of unfair treatment.

Q:  Can I ask an employee to look for different childcare if their usual provider is unavailable?

A: No. An employee is entitled to leave if the child's usual care provider is unavailable due to COVID-19 — they are under no obligation to look for alternatives, and any attempt on your part to require that would be illegal interference with their right to leave.

Q: Can I deny leave if I think or know an employee is lying about the need to care for a child?

A: There is significant risk in denying a request for FFCRA leave if an employee has provided the appropriate documentation. That said, if you believe the request is fraudulent, you should have a discussion with the employee before granting or denying leave. If it turns out that they were submitting a fraudulent request — and you have sufficient evidence to support that — you can take disciplinary action if it seems appropriate. If, after discussion, you think their request is more likely than not legitimate, you should grant it.

Be careful of disciplining an employee who requests leave but doesn’t meet the necessary criteria. These leave entitlements can be confusing, and it would be unlawful retaliation to discipline an employee who was attempting to use their right to leave in good faith.    

Q: If an employee’s stay-at-home spouse is sick with COVID-19 and unable to care for their children, can they take FFCRA leave to do so?

A: Yes, the children’s regular care provider (the stay-at-home spouse) is unavailable because of COVID-19, so the employee would be able to use either EPSL or EFMLA to provide care while their spouse is not able to do so.

Q: What if an employee won’t fill out the required FFCRA documentation?

A: The earliest an employer can require notice is after the first workday of FFCRA leave. (The regulations require employees to provide notice of their need for school closure leave as soon as practicable, but there are no consequences if the employee doesn't do so.) If, after the first workday, the employee does not provide sufficient documentation to support their request for leave, they must be notified of the problem and given an opportunity to provide what is needed. If the employee still does not provide completed documentation after being given a reasonable opportunity to do so, then the employer is not required to provide FFCRA leave.  

Q: Can we terminate an employee who is unable to work because they need to care for a child but have used up their leave under the FFCRA?

A: Assuming that no other leave laws apply, termination is an option. But you may want to instead consider offering the employee an unpaid personal leave of absence or revisiting whether a flexible or part-time work schedule would be better than losing the employee entirely. Recruiting, hiring, and training are all expensive undertakings, so if there’s a way to keep an employee around — even if they need some time off — that is likely better for your bottom line.

If you do decide to terminate an employee who is out of leave, make sure you can be consistent in that response going forward. If you are flexible with some employees while firing others, you will open yourself up to claims of discrimination.   

Q: What if we find out after we’ve granted and paid for an employee’s leave that it was fraudulent? Do we make them pay us back or report them to the IRS?

A: There is not yet clear guidance about how to handle this situation, so we recommend calling your local Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. They are generally very responsive and may be able to provide some guidance based on your situation.

The U.S. Department of Labor will continue to provide compliance assistance to employers and its employees on their responsibilities and rights under the FFCRA. The full 100-question Department of Labor FAQ can be found here.

This Q&A was provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Sign up for your FREE 60-day trialand test drive UST’s online HR platform! You’ll find HR-specific articles, templates and checklists as well as access to a plethora of tools including a live HR consultant, 300+ on-demand training courses and an extensive compliance library.

August 28, 2020

Help Your Employees Better Manage Stress

As we continue working from home—isolated from loved ones, juggling work/life balance and trying to make sense of this seemingly never-ending pandemic—stress levels are at an all-time high. So it's more important than ever to ensure the well-being of your workforce.

The harmful side effects of long-term stress can lead to increased absenteeism, poor work quality and decreased morale. Taking the time to show you care about your employees' mental health, by developing activities and resources that help alleviate stress, can create a sustainable, positive workplace.

Without effective mental health resources in place, it could cost your organization its best employees. Uncover 7 Tips to Keep Your Nonprofit Employees Mentally Sound to help foster an engaged workforce during these uncertain times.

Would you like access to more HR-specific articles, templates and checklists? Sign up for a FREE 60-Day UST HR Workplace Trial today! (Use priority code "2020HR-Content" to expedite your request).

August 07, 2020

Nonprofit eBook Reveals Strategies to Secure Nonprofit Endurance

UST releases a new eBook, focused on positive brand perception in today’s increasingly competitive job market.

Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST publishes an eBook that discusses the importance of ensuring you have a solid brand reputation and why. This insightful eBook uncovers strategies that nonprofit employers can utilize to attract employees that fit their organization’s culture, mission, and values—and keep them.

Available now for download, UST’s eBook explores 5 key strategies that can help strengthen your organization's culture through inclusivity, innovation and trust.

You'll also discover:

  • Why it's important to evaluate your employer’s brand
  • How to increase productivity and improve bandwidth
  • Methods to create cultural diversity in the workplace

Don’t miss your opportunity to download your complimentary copy of “A Collective Strength: Strategies to Secure Nonprofit Endurance” to discover how to attract better talent and promote a diverse and inclusive workplace.

July 09, 2020

HR Question: Replacing Employees Not Ready to Return to Work

Question: Some of our employees have said they don't feel safe returning to work. Can we just permanently replace them?

Answer: We recommend extreme caution when deciding to replace an employee who refuses to work because of concerns about COVID-19. Generally, employees do not have a right to refuse to work based only on a generalized fear of becoming ill if their fear is not based on objective evidence of possible exposure. However, under the current circumstances, where COVID-19 continues to be a threat across the country, we think it would be difficult to show that employees have no reason to fear coming in to work, particularly but not exclusively in a location with a shelter-in-place rule. Returning employees may also have certain rights under state and federal law. Here are few things to keep in mind:

  • Recalled employees may have a right to job-protected leave under a city ordinance, state law, or the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). See our overview of the FFCRA.
  • Employees who are in a high-risk category — either because they are immunocompromised or have an underlying condition that makes them more susceptible to the disease — may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or state law if their situation doesn’t qualify them for leave under the FFCRA (or if they have run out of that leave). It would be a reasonable accommodation under the circumstances to allow the employee to work from home or take an unpaid leave, if working from home is not possible.
  • Employees who live with someone who is high risk are not entitled to a reasonable accommodation under federal law, but we strongly recommend allowing them to work from home if possible or take an unpaid leave. Otherwise, they may decide to quit and collect unemployment insurance. If you want to keep them as an employee, being compassionate and flexible is your best bet.
  • Under Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules, an employee’s refusal to perform a task will be protected if all of the following conditions are met:
    • Where possible, the employee asked the employer to eliminate the danger, and the employer failed to do so;
    • The employee refused to work in “good faith,” which means that the employee must genuinely believe that an imminent danger exists;
    • A reasonable person would agree that there is a real danger of death or serious injury; and
    • There isn’t enough time, because of the urgency of the hazard, to get it corrected through regular enforcement channels, such as requesting an OSHA inspection.

Check state and local law to see if additional protections may apply.

Instead of replacing employees who express fear at this time, we recommend that you consider methods to encourage employees to come to work and to help put their minds at ease. Consider emphasizing all of the safety methods you have put in place (such as scheduled handwashing, frequent disinfection of surfaces, social distancing rules, reduced customer capacity, staggered shifts, or more extreme measures if warranted by your industry). We recommend relying on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health department guidance for establishing safe working conditions at this time. You might also consider offering premium pay (a.k.a. hazard pay) or additional paid time off for use in the future to employees who must come to work.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial today.

 

July 01, 2020

Guidance for Nonprofits When Returning to Work

As nonprofit organizations prepare to return to business as usual, there are quite a few new safety protocols being put in place to ensure that employees return to a safe work environment. The Center for Disease Control – CDC continues to release updated guidelines for employers to help prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. When making decisions around business operations, two main components should be factored in: (1) the level of disease transmission in your community and (2) how prepared your business is to protect both your employees and customers.

Employers are encouraged to coordinate with their state and local health officials to acquire timely and accurate information to provide updates to employees as needed. If your nonprofit’s business operations were put on hold, or are gearing up for workforce re-entry, this is an opportunity to update your COVID-19 preparedness, response and control plans.

When making the appropriate updates to your organization’s COVID-19 plans, the following items should be included:

  • It must speak specifically to your workplace environment
  • It must mention all possible job tasks and areas in the workplace that could lead to possible exposure to COVID-19
  • It must include the appropriate measures that will be taken to eliminate or reduce these exposures

Be sure to take the time to communicate with your employees of any changes and ask for their input—their questions and concerns can ensure all your bases are covered when creating the COVID-19 plan for your organization. Educating our employees on the severity of taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves and others safe is vital. To protect themselves while at work and at home, new policies and procedures related to illness, cleaning and disinfecting should be followed.

To ensure a safe workplace environment, employers should advise their employees of the following:

  • If an employee is sick, they should stay home except if they are going to a doctor’s appointment to receive medical care
  • If an employee’s family member is sick at home, they must alert their supervisor
  • Avoid working in other employees’ work spaces and avoid using their office equipment
  • Practice social distancing and avoid large gatherings while maintaining a distance of 6 feet
  • Wash their hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching their face with unwashed hands
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces or objects

While there is much more to learn about the severity and characteristics of this virus, as a nonprofit employer, you can do your part to follow important guidelines to create a safe and healthy working environment for your dedicated employees.

June 26, 2020

The UST COVID-19 Nonprofit Employer Guide

Are you still trying to figure out how to navigate the uncertainty of COVID-19 and its impact on your nonprofit and its employees? When you download UST’s new employer guide, 3 Critical Steps to Maintain a Resilient Nonprofit During COVID-19, you'll discover helpful tips on maintaining your nonprofits operations during the current pandemic and beyond.

This short employer guide shares valuable insights and key strategies for securing your brand during times of crisis, including: 

  • Equipping your staff with the tools they need to stay productive at home
  • Supporting employee mental health and well-being during a time of uncertainty
  • Preparing to re-enter the workplace

This guide will not only enable you to stay on top of strategy development, but also equip you with the tools you need to help your employees feel safe. Download your FREE copy today!

June 16, 2020

[Webinar Recording] Preparing for Re-Entry to the Workplace

Nonprofit employers have faced unimaginable challenges in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as states start permitting businesses to reopen, nonprofits across the country are trying to figure out what that looks like for them, their employees and the communities they serve.

This informative webinar recording provides helpful tips for preparing to welcome employees back to the office while maintaining compliance with state and federal regulations related to the Coronavirus. Watch now to discover:

  • Important workplace health and safety measures
  • Ways to return employees to the office in phases
  • How to handle common areas in the office
  • And more general best practices

For additional COVID-19 employer resources and FAQs, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center today!

June 04, 2020

HR Question: Screening Employees Returning to Work

 

Question: Can we screen employees returning to work for COVID-19?

Answer: Yes. Generally, inquiries about an employee’s health or a medical exam (like a temperature check) would not be allowed, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has stated that screening employees for symptoms of COVID-19 is allowed since it is a direct threat to others in the workplace. Because of that, you may inquire about symptoms related to the virus, require self-reporting by employees, and take employees’ temperatures.

Known symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and sudden loss of taste or smell. As the medical community learns more about COVID-19, additional symptoms could be added to this list. Employers can check this page for currently recognized symptoms.

If you decide to do screenings, make sure you screen all employees; otherwise you may find yourself in the middle of a discrimination claim. And remember that all information about employees’ health — including a lack of symptoms or temperature — must be kept confidential.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 60-day trial today.

May 21, 2020

Five Ways to Offer Your Support During a Time of Crisis

Our country has been forced to adjust to a new way of life due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With that, a large percentage of our workforce is now working from home and in an effort to help employees adjust to this new normal, nonprofit employers have created a variety of techniques to better support their employees. From increasing mental health benefits, offering flexible work hours and ensuring employees have what they need to be productive at home—nonprofit employers are doing their best to navigate these changes while keeping their employees well-being a top priority.

Even with all these steps being taken to ensure a smooth transition for employees to work from home, social distancing has certainly altered our in-person interactions, such as coffee breaks, breakroom chats and late afternoon strolls with a colleague. Human connection has the ability to boost our spirits—our mental and physical health need it now more than ever so finding alternate ways to connect is important during this uncertain and strange time.

Some leaders are taking this opportunity to further engage with those who are struggling or that have been impacted in more ways than one during this pandemic—a spouse losing their job, feelings of isolation, increased emotional stress, juggling home-schooling their kids while meeting work deadlines. Times are tough right now and our employees are in need of support.

Here’s some ways you can offer support to someone at work during this pandemic:

1)  Scheduling virtual meet-ups: Check in on each other by hosting virtual coffee dates, lunches, happy hours and even mentoring sessions on video-sharing platforms, which their employer may already offer. A virtual happy hour can offer a relaxing environment for you and your fellow coworkers to escape life for a bit, swap stories and share the latest DIY project that you’ve taken on.

2) Encourage healthy activities: Offer support for a variety of activities people are embracing these days to improve their health and well-being, including new exercise routines and nutritious recipes. A healthy lifestyle that includes workouts and heart-healthy meals can help us remain focused, increase energy levels and be more mindful.

3) Offer cross-training opportunities: Cross-training can provide an opportunity to offer relief to those who may have health, childcare and/or family concerns. Also, cross-training allows for employees to carry out essential functions to keep the company moving forward while employees are out on leave.

4) Connect through social media: Creating a private Facebook group for your employees to share wellness and well-being information with fellow coworkers can be great way to stay connected. From sharing tips on fitness and self-care to a new recipe or a cute pet photo—personal connections can improve the mood of employees, making them subsequently happier and less stressed.

5) Send a care package or make a special doorstep delivery: Small tokens of appreciation go a long way toward forging a connection with your coworker. Baking some homemade cookies, or putting together a simple flower arrangement can brighten anyone’s day. A gift can also come in the form of offering your time or help, such as picking up groceries. 

Any kind of support, while important during normal circumstances, has become even more essential to help keep our employees spirits up and overall well-being high during this pandemic.

May 14, 2020

[Webinar Recording] Employee Engagement & Mental Wellness During COVID-19

While we continue to adjust to this new “normal” of working remotely—with little to no face-to-face interaction—the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a major toll on nonprofit employees and their mental health.

This informative webinar provides helpful tips on how nonprofit leaders can help keep employees productive and engaged in day-to-day work activities. Watch now to learn key strategies that include:

  • Ideas for which company policies to update during unexpected workforce changes
  • Methods for communicating with a remote staff to keep them engaged
  • Tips for recognizing the impact of isolation and loneliness and what to do           

For more access to nonprofit specific how-to guides, checklists and resources? Sign up for UST's monthly eNews today!

April 29, 2020

HR Question: Furlough vs. Layoff

Question: What's the difference between a furlough and a layoff?

Answer: First, you should note that the language used when sending employees home for a period of time is less important than communicating your actual intent. Since temporary layoffs and furloughs are only used regularly in certain industries (usually seasonal), you should not assume that employees will know what they mean. Be sure to communicate your plans for the future, even if they feel quite uncertain or are only short-term.

Furlough

A furlough continues employment but reduces scheduled hours or requires a period of unpaid leave. The thought process is that having all employees incur a bit of hardship is better than some losing their jobs completely. For example, a company may reduce hours to 20 per week for a period of time as a cost-saving measure, or they may place everyone on a two-week unpaid leave. This is typically not considered termination; however, you may still need to provide certain notices to employees about the change in the relationship, and they would likely still be eligible for unemployment.

If the entire company won’t be furloughed, but only certain employees, it is important to be able to show that staff selection is not being done for a discriminatory reason. You’ll want to document the nondiscriminatory business reasons that support the decision to furlough certain employees and not others, such as those that perform essential services.

Layoff

A layoff involves terminating employment during a period when no work is available. This may be temporary or permanent. If you close down completely, but you intend to reopen in the relatively near future or have an expected reopening date — at which time you will rehire an employee, or all employees — this would be considered a temporary layoff. Temporary layoffs are appropriate for relatively short-term slowdowns or closures. A layoff is generally considered permanent if there are no plans to rehire the employee or employees because the slowdown or closure is expected to be lengthy or permanent.

Pay for exempt employees (those not entitled to overtime)

Exempt employees do not have to be paid if they do no work at all for an entire workweek. However, if work is not available for a partial week for an exempt employee, they must be paid their full salary for that week, regardless of the fact that they have done less work. If the point is to save money (and it usually is), it’s best to ensure that the layoff covers the company’s established seven-day workweek for exempt employees. Make it very clear to exempt employees that they should do absolutely no work during any week you’re shut down. If exempt employees do any work during that time, they will need to be paid their normal weekly salary.

Pay for nonexempt employees (those entitled to overtime)

Nonexempt employees only need to be paid for actual hours worked, so single day or partial-week furloughs can be applied to them without worrying about pay implications. We recommend that you engage in open communication with the affected employees before and during the furlough or temporary layoff period.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial today.

April 24, 2020

[Webinar Recording] COVID-19 Unemployment Insights for Nonprofit Employers

Nonprofits are facing unprecedented challenges navigating COVID-19 and its impact on day-to-day operations. Our recent webinar was designed to provide some valuable insight into the latest unemployment legislation and its impact on your organization and its employees.

This informative webinar recording discusses how COVID-19 is impacting nonprofits nationwide, what alternatives there are to layoffs and/or workforce reductions and more. Watch now to discover:

  • How unemployment for nonprofits and nonprofit employees normally works
  • How the COVID-19 response is expected to impact unemployment for Employees
  • How the COVID-19 response is expected to impact unemployment for nonprofit Employers, both tax rated and reimbursing
  • Other COVID-19 response related resources you may consider as alternatives to layoffs and/or reductions in workforce

For additional COVID-19 employer resources and FAQs, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center today!

April 10, 2020

Managing Stress and Personal Well Being During a Crisis

It’s natural to feel stressed or anxious when presented with unprecedented circumstances. The coronavirus or COVID-19 continues to present new and unique challenges that evolve every day. Nonprofit employers are navigating unchartered waters and their employees are along for the ride. Many are working from home for the first time, isolated from co-workers, friends and family while also home-schooling their children and or taking care of elderly family members. This disruption in our daily routines has caused added anxiety, stress and strain—physically, mentally and financially. All of this combined makes it more important than ever to find new ways to interact and communicate with others while also taking care of our mental health and physical well-being.

You can’t avoid stress completely but too much stress over long periods of time can be harmful to your health—ranging from headaches, decreased energy, irritability, body aches and pains, irregular sleep or insomnia, difficulty concentrating or worse, can contribute to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease and mental health disorders. The good news is you can get ahead of stress by recognizing how you feel and practicing ways to find calmness.

Below are some ways to manage stress and anxiety through positive self-care and healthy social connections:

Be selective about how you consume COVID-19 information – while it’s good to be informed and aware of what’s going on around the world and in your community while we combat this virus, ensure you follow credible sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and limit how much time you spend absorbing that information.

Set boundaries on your work schedule – it’s easy to keep working when you have no reason to get up and leave the office but it’s important that you set a schedule with healthy boundaries and stick to it.

Maintain a routine – having some semblance of structure and consistency from your pre-Coronavirus life will help to keep a sense of control and normalcy while also making it a little easier to readjust to the outside world when it’s time to go back to work.

Limit your time online – set a timer, focus on positive things while you are online and divide your time between the different sites you like to browse. You can even install a website blocker to help temporarily force you off certain websites.

Stay connected – our greatest resource for alleviating stress is still connecting with our loved ones. Don’t just pick up the phone, use Skype, FaceTime or Google Hangouts to get some face to face time.

Leverage Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction – the practice of meditation can help relieve anxiety, boost your mood, improve sleep and promote mental and emotional health—the benefits are endless and you can do it anytime, anywhere.

Stay active – this isn’t just good for your physical health but also for your mental health so don’t let this time at home go to waste. It’s important to keep moving, whether it’s strenuous exercise, Yoga or even just light stretching. You can find an entire universe of free classes online right now with many instructors live-streaming classes from home.

Get outdoors – fresh air goes a long way in easing the feelings brought on by stress and anxiety. Take a long walk around your neighborhood or go for a bike ride and enjoy some new scenery—all while maintaining physical distance from others of course.

Embrace a hobby – partake in something you really enjoy doing just for the fun of doing it. Something that requires attention and physical movement like embroidery, scrap-booking, painting or sewing to name a few.

Learn a new skill – knowledge is power as the saying goes. There are an unlimited number of online classes you can partake at no or minimal cost that range from bread making and drawing to crochet and learning a new language. Skillshare and Udemy are great resources.

Take an adventure through a book – start a mini book club and invite your friends to participate via video so everyone can share their thoughts and interact as a group.

Get in the kitchen – if you enjoy cooking or baking, there’s no better time than now to try out some of those recipes you’ve been waiting to experiment with.

Do some Spring cleaning – it is Spring after all. Organize those drawers that have been begging for order, clean out your closets, and donate what you no longer need or use, or work on getting your filing cabinet in order.

Watch feel-good movies – musicals are a great way to lift your spirits if you’re into that or distract your mind with an old black and white classic.

Count your blessings – take a few moments to focus on all that you have. Be thoughtful and sincere about who and what you appreciate in your life and let them know.

Find an online support group – there are a plethora of websites out there that offer virtual or phone options for group or individual support as well as live chat rooms. Having others to talk to that share your same concerns can help alleviate the anxiety brought on by COVID-19.

As we protect ourselves against potential exposure to the coronavirus, keep in mind that social distancing does not mean social isolation and remember that you’re not alone. Look after yourself, get enough sleep, eat well, and reach out to your support network. Engage in activities that benefit your well-being, bring you happiness, and distract you from existing challenges. Set your sights on long-avoided tasks or projects and try something new. The above mentioned tips about self-care are meant to help you thrive in mind, body, and spirit. Coping with stress in positive ways will make you happier, healthier, and stronger.

March 19, 2020

Q&A with ThinkHR: Navigating the Coronavirus

With the rapid spread of the Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, we have taken appropriate precautions here at UST to do our part of social distancing by working remotely as we know many of you have as well. Here in our local communities we see fear and panic everywhere—empty shelves at the grocery store, people standing in line for hours to get paper products, schools scrambling to move to a virtual method of teaching, large department stores closing their doors and citizens pushing for cities to lockdown.

New details pour in every day and our inboxes are flooded with shared information from our partners and members across the states. Yesterday, there was an article shared by our partner, ThinkHR, “When Business Threats are Contagious: 10 Answers for Employers Navigating the Coronavirus” that shares questions they have been receiving from HR professionals across the country. They range from how to handle employees refusing to come to work, creating a telecommuting policy and the appropriateness of asking about symptoms. The answers come from their certified HR advisors and is a benefit of our UST HR Workplace product. If you are an HR professional in a business still considering how to navigate these challenging times, you may find some answers here.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial today.

February 27, 2020

HR Question: An Increase in Employee Complaints

Question: We’ve seen an uptick in complaints from employees. Is this cause for concern?

Answer: The mere fact that you’re getting more complaints than normal isn’t necessarily something to worry about. The increase in complaints could be a sign that there are now more issues that require your attention, or it could be a sign that your employees are—for some reason—feeling safer speaking to you about their concerns.

In and of themselves, complaints can be a good thing because they inform you about matters that may have escaped your notice and they indicate that your employees trust you to resolve those matters. The last thing you want is for employees to keep their concerns to themselves or vent about them to their colleagues (or the entire internet). You can’t solve problems you don’t know about, and unaddressed problems can quickly turn into bigger issues. Knowing what’s troubling your employees is essential for effective risk management.

Listen to what your employees have to say, thank them for bringing the matters to your attention, keep the lines of communication open, and do what you can to resolve the issues. If several complaints relate to a single issue (or person), you may want to give that issue more attention or urgency. And, of course, any complaint that suggests there may be harassment or discrimination should be dealt with promptly and thoroughly.

While dealing with the additional complaints, keep in mind that if you can solve or improve the problems that are being brought to your attention, you’ll have happier—and likely more productive—employees.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial here.

February 13, 2020

The Do's and Don'ts of Terminating Employees

Terminating an employee is stressful for everyone involved and many managers and human resource professionals consider this responsibility the worst part of their job—whether as a layoff, a bad hire or for cause. With a little planning and preparation, you can make the experience less traumatic for everyone, maintain compliance with state and federal law, ensure your employee feels respected and avoid any bad publicity.

Organizations are under strict protocol when it comes to terminating employees and should therefore have written procedures in place to avoid negative repercussions such as fines and or lawsuits. Get ahead of issues as soon as possible by having open conversations on how to improve performance, attitude, or other matters so as not to blindside employees when the decision is made to let them go. Never take allegations as fact—conduct thorough investigations, secure findings and always document performance and behavioral issues as well as any disciplinary actions taken.

Following are some do’s and don’ts to consider when preparing to terminate an employee.

Tips on how to approach, conduct and communicate a termination:

  • Make sure the termination decision is consistent with the company’s practices and policies
  • Consider protected classes to ensure you have proper documentation before proceeding—these include race, age, gender, religion, physical or mental disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, pregnancy and citizenship
  • Schedule the meeting at an appropriate time for the employee —avoiding birthdays, holidays or the anniversary of their hire date
  • Hold the meeting in a private location where you won’t be interrupted and others can’t observe
  • Plan an early morning meeting on any day other than a Friday to provide the employee the opportunity to move forward rather than facing an entire weekend at a stand still
  • Have a witness present to take notes
  • Start off by telling the employee the purpose of the meeting so they know the decision is final
  • Provide appropriate and detailed information about the termination—even in states that allow “at will” employment, companies should still articulate a reason for termination
  • Have specifics ready on the employee’s final pay and benefit information
  • Treat your employee with dignity and respect by being honest but also sensitive
  • Create a “Separation Package” with relevant materials to be taken home, as often times the stress and emotion involved in being let go interferes with the ability to process all the information provided
  • End on a positive note by offering words of encouragement

Mistakes to avoid when terminating an employee:

  • Making excuses, apologizing for the situation or changing your story
  • Avoiding the issues causing the termination
  • Classifying a disciplinary termination as a layoff
  • Communicating the decision inaccurately
  • Not retrieving company property such as door keys, badges, phones, or laptops
  • Allowing disgruntled employees access to their work area or information systems
  • Assuming the dismissal will remain private and not notifying other employees
  • Dragging out the conversation longer than necessary
  • Arguing with an employee to justify the termination decision
  • Allowing the employee to think that there is an opportunity to change your decision

Termination meetings are uncomfortable and come with risks but you can make the experience more palatable by preparing an effective and supportive approach to a hard conversation. The last 15 minutes you spend terminating an employee will likely be the most important of the employment relationship, so ensure you’ve covered your bases to avoid negative outcomes that could harm your organizations reputation.

January 16, 2020

HR Question: Employee Engagement Surveys

Question: Can you provide some tips for developing and conducting an employee engagement survey?

Answer: An employee engagement survey can be a great tool to check the temperature of your culture. When done right, the survey can help you understand the needs of your employees, which in turn benefits productivity, job satisfaction, and supports employee retention. It is also an excellent tool to help you calibrate the quality of your leadership as well as your employee relations and talent management programs.

 

Before you start, however, ensure that the management team is ready to act on the critical feedback you’ll get. Then decide what it is you need to know. Do you want to better understand how your employees view their relationship with management, understand and support the company’s strategic direction, or learn what aspects of their work environment, compensation and benefits, work assignments, and opportunities for learning and advancement are working (or not working)?

Next, determine how you will create, disseminate, tabulate, and communicate the survey process and results. If you’re creating your own survey, consider gathering employees from different areas of the company to formulate the survey questions and include them in the employee communications process to encourage participation. This team can also be instrumental in reviewing the survey results and providing feedback about how those results should be communicated and acted upon.

Another option is to use one of the many online engagement survey tools available in the marketplace. While the questions may not be as personalized to your company issues, you can get the surveys, along with the tabulated results, done quickly.

If you do create the survey in-house, consider these best practice tips:

  • First, determine whether the survey identifies the respondents. Confidential surveys typically yield higher response rates and include more candid feedback. With these surveys, be sure to include department or other group data to assist you later in analyzing feedback and specific action items that may be tied to one group. The decision to include identifying information is generally tied to the level of openness and trust in an organization’s culture.
  • Ask relevant questions. Ask questions that employees can — and want to — answer about their employment relationship with the company.
  • Make it simple and easy to complete. Keep the survey short. Employees may not take the time to complete a lengthy survey with in-depth questions. Save those types of questions for the follow-up action planning.
  • Provide an open comment area. Give employees an opportunity to comment at the end of the survey and add any additional information not covered by the questions.
  • Make the results actionable. Follow up on survey results so employees know they are heard and appreciated.

Encourage participation by using incentives or contests. With more feedback, you’ll have a better picture of your employees’ engagement level. Train your leaders so that they are prepared to use the survey feedback as a gift to improve performance and have productive feedback and performance improvement planning sessions.

Most importantly, don’t ask for employee feedback unless you are willing to do something with the results. Your employees will expect you to implement changes and take action. Let them know how much you value and respect them by listening and acting on their opinions and ideas.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial here.

October 23, 2019

HR Question: Requiring Vacation Usage on Furlough Days

Question: Can an employer require its employees to use their accrued paid time off during an employer-required furlough? And, if salaried exempt employees work during the furlough, how is pay calculated for these employees?

Answer: Yes, an employer can require employees to use their accrued paid time off, for example vacation, for time not worked during a furlough. If an employee has no accrued time off, the employer can even put the employee into a negative paid leave balance.

Even while furloughed, however, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies to employees. The FLSA mandates compliance with the salary basis requirements for salaried exempt personnel. Accordingly, if such an employee performs any work during that week, the employer may not dock the employee’s pay for the absence. When a furlough is for one or more full weeks, federal law generally does not require payment to an employee.

Employers must be mindful that employees on furlough continue to accrue vacation days, sick days, and personal days, and continue to receive other benefits such as health insurance.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial here.

October 16, 2019

How to Reduce the Risk of Workplace Violence

Violence in the workplace was virtually unheard of until the 1970s but today, it is a national epidemic that affects everyone involved both physically and psychologically, and often, long term. Workplace violence as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs in the workplace. OSHA estimates that nearly two million U.S. workers report being victims to workplace violence every year. Workplace Violence takes many forms, including homicide, assault, stalking and bullying. Because this growing issue not only has a profound effect on employee morale, company reputation and overall productivity but also leaves employers to bear the burden of lost wages due to employee absences and increased benefit payments, damage repairs, liability lawsuits and higher insurance rates, employers need to be as prepared as possible.

Taking a proactive approach in implementing procedures that address potential incidents allows employees a work environment that provides protection from harassment, threats and violence. There are many ways to implement safety measures in the workplace that can help to eliminate the risk of workplace violence—ranging from criminal record checks, substance abuse testing, reference checks, secure entrances, security assessments and employee training. The most important, however, is having an Emergency Preparedness Plan. Since these incidents are nearly impossible to predict, the primary components should educate your staff on the early warning signs of potential violence as well as how to respond when a situation does arise. Your plan might also include internal and external communication procedures, exit routes, evacuation plans, training drill procedures and a media relations plan.

Some additional protections that align with an Emergency Preparedness Plan:

  • Identifying your organizations strengths and weaknesses and areas for improvement
  • Assigning key personnel to act as emergency coordinators
  • Creating Emergency Safety Kits
  • Conducting drills on a regular basis

As a nonprofit leader, it’s your responsibility to provide a workplace free from harassment and bullying. Providing open and safe communication channels for discussing suspicious behavior, concerns and problems will go a long way in helping to prevent the unthinkable. Your main goal should be to reduce the probability of risk and ensure that any complaints that fall under the OSHA definition of workplace violence are handled promptly

For more information how to handle this growing epidemic, sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial to ThinkHR, powered by UST HR Workplace.

September 17, 2019

BackHR Question: Preparing for New Overtime Thresholds

Question: What should employers do to prepare for the anticipated January 1, 2020, effective date of new DOL white-collar exemptions?

Answer: On March 7, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a proposed rule to update and revise Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) white collar exemptions by raising the salary level for an exemption from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $679 per week ($35,308 annually, among other changes.

The rule is expected to be adopted and become effective January 1, 2020. While it's too early to make any actual changes in response to the proposal, it's a good idea to start preparing now so you'll be ready if it becomes law, as experts anticipate it will.

  • Analyze cost impacts. You can begin to determing which employees are classified as exempt and ear $35,308 per year or less. Estimate the increased costs of either increasing their salaries to $35,308 per year or reclassifying the employees as nonexempt and paying overtime when they work more than 40 hours per week (or overtime hours worked based on your state's overtime laws.) Again, hold off on any actual changes until the proposal becomes effective.
  • Review job descriptions. Take a look at your organization's job descriptions to ensure that they are accurate for the work that the employees actually perform. Update as needed. Review the classifications as exempt or nonexempt based on the "job duties test" as defined by the DOL.
  • Forecast overtime. Talk with the impacted employees and their managers to get an estimate of how much overtime per week they actually work.
  • Review your overtime policies. While employers must pay overtime per federal and state laws even if the overtime is not authorized, employers can limit the amount of overtime allowed and provide disciplinary action to employees who fail to follow policy.
  • Measure productivity. Now that some exempt employees may be reclassified as nonexempt, ensure that the extra hours worked result in measurable productivity. Many exempt employees did not track hours worked previously and may have worked longer hours when not absolutely necessary. Since that time will now be compensable time, employers should ensure that the overtime is warratned based on business demand.
  • Review meal and rest break rules. Those employees who will be reclassified as nonexempt will be required to comply with state or company mandated meal and rest break requirements.
  • Review employee communications regarding plocies, the enforcement of such policies, and how you will communicate these changes to those employees who will be affected by the change in status.

Q&A provided by ThinkHR, powering the UST HR Workplace for nonprofit HR teams. Have HR questions? Sign your nonprofit up for a free 30-day trial here.

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