Are you required to provide paid time off for your employees to vote?

It’s almost Election Day in one of the biggest election years of the recent past. More so than ever, people are emotionally charged and the media is explosive about Tuesday, November 3rd, 2020. It’s been a controversial year, to say the least. While this may cause strain or stress for some, you can help alleviate that from your employees by encouraging and accommodating them to vote.

It may come as a surprise but the majority of states in the U.S. require that employees be given time off to vote and often times, that time is paid. Although Florida is not one of them, it may be wise to formulate a policy outlining your offer and expectations for their voting leave time.

Here are some suggestions that may be helpful. If you have employees outside of Florida or are curious what another state’s requirements are, we’d be happy to share.

• Do not schedule any company or departmental meetings on election day
• Work with your management team to cover absences
• Provide a set amount of paid time off (even if not required in your state and even if it’s just one hour)
• Trust your employees and anticipate long lines, it could take longer than you think
• Be flexible and prepared for last minute voting leave requests

Given the current pandemic situation, it’s more important than ever to BE FLEXIBLE. Schedules may not be what they were before and some staff members may still be working from home or juggling children.

The more supportive you are as they try to fulfil their civic duty on top of an already full plate, the more they will see and appreciate the value in being a part of your team and work family. Be sure to communicate this plan with your team so they know their voice matters and you want it to be heard.

How a proactive strategy on risk management may help lower commercial auto insurance rates

With commercial auto insurance rates consistently increasing, many business owners are looking for any ways to reduce cost, all the while keeping their employees safe. Contrary to what most people realize, this can be addressed proactively rather than reactively.

Here are a few ways companies with commercial automobiles can manage their losses and in turn, keep insurance rates as low as possible…

Make safety a priority: Running MVRs (Motor Vehicle Reports) prior to hiring a prospective employee is huge. This shows you factually how safe of a driver they are, which is also a reflection of their character in many ways. Staying on top of their driving records is equally as important, which can be done with ongoing MVR monitoring.

Offer trainings and education: Distracted and Defensive Driving courses have been proven to be highly effective in encouraging techniques that promote safety and awareness. These can be made as a requirement to obtain access to a company vehicle or, similar to a CE course for a license, something that has to be maintained semi-annually or annually as a refresher. According to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), distracted driving claims 9 lives per day — approximately 3,500 per year. This data also states that more than 1,000 people are injured daily in accidents in which at least one driver was distracted. In 2019, distracted driving was a reported factor in 8.5% of fatal motor vehicle crashes. Defensive driving is just as important in recognizing accident prevention methods, identifying the importance of seat belts and always being fully aware of surroundings.

Update your technology: We recently talked about the “tattle tales of driving habits” in telematics. Front facing cameras and GPS systems are among the most commonly used now that gain popularity by the day. Optimizing technology pays for itself in the real-time data you receive. There are also apps to detect distracted driving or disable certain modes of technology that serve as a distraction.

Vehicle Maintenance program: Maintaining a commercial fleet can be extremely helpful in keeping everyone safe. There are apps and software programs that do the heavy lifting of this and keep check-ups consistent. Without a system in place, it’s essentially unmanageable and will be a major headache, rather than a seamless process you can count on and not have to worry about.

Having a policy in place is one of the most beneficial plans you can make and stick to. Implementing these few things can ultimately reduce the amount of claims for damages and injuries, as well as paint a picture of how you as the business owner view risk management… all things that can come full circle and help bring rates down.

Trade Tip: How to Hire & Retain the Right People in Construction

It’s no secret that in the construction industry, one of the biggest battles business owners face is finding good people and keeping them. In exploring efforts that could enhance the hiring process to be sure you’re getting the right people in the right seat from the get go, we found the following tips:

HIRING NEW FOLKS:
Lean on local or close by schools and industry specific programs. This is a great resource because students graduate and immediately look for employment, oftentimes with the intent to stay in the community where they already have roots. A lot of times, this can start early on at the intern level, which gives a huge opportunity to mentor and mold them to become a more long-term member of your team.
Get plugged in to apprenticeship programs that are gaining huge popularity and admitting more students constantly. These teach the perfect balance of employment and academics in certain trades so that students can learn and work at the same time.
Consider pre-employment physicals or health screenings in addition to the drug testing, background checks, etc that you already have in your hiring process. This can paint a picture of the prospective employee’s overall health and well-being so you can be sure you’re investing in a long-term relationship and a reliable player for your team.

RETAINING THE GOOD ONES:
Focus on culture and how your team feels over what they’re being paid. You may think they care more about their paycheck and yes, benefits are important too, but you might be surprised at how much your team culture and morale means to them. That may be flexible schedules, employee appreciation efforts, team building events or performance-based competitions and incentives.
Emphasize and encourage training. A team that never stops learning together will always succeed. Providing them with courses and material that can make them better and help your team grow together is proof that you want them around for the long haul.
Be transparent and celebrate the small wins. As imperative as it is to be open about and share financial information, the state of the company and growth goals, it also speaks volumes to celebrate and show appreciation for the daily strides in the right direction. The construction industry in general can easily get hung up on measuring success by landing the monster jobs but the little ones count to and as long as you’re transparent and honest, your team will buy in, feel like a piece of the puzzle and genuinely care.
Stay on top of technology and provide your employees what they need to be efficient, safe and profitable. There are many apps and tools out there that could make jobs run more smoothly and most of the time, it’s worth the relatively small upfront cost to invest in those. Making your employees feel as if they have support in that regard alone goes a long way.
Show how much you care. This speaks for itself but is incredibly important and should be a top priority.

It seems to save everyone time, effort, money and headache to get the right people in the right seat early on in the game. Then keep them happy and well taken care of for a long-term relationship of them serving your clients while also fostering a culture of a work family.

Is Technology the Future of Construction Site Safety?

We can all agree that safety is a huge concern in the construction industry. Out of every 5,000 private-industry worker fatalities, 20% are in construction. Contractors and subs alike are constantly looking for ways to improve their safety protocols to be more time efficient, cost effective and proactive in keeping everyone safe and healthy.

Sure, smart phones and Wi-Fi have helped. But to really address OSHA’s Fatal Four Hazards (falls, struck-by, electrocution and caught-in/between), it appears that we need to dive even deeper than just a phone or internet access. Here are some of the technology apparatuses you may see implemented, or even required, sooner than later:

WEARABLES: There are lots of companies out there developing wearable devices. Some are a small device that slips into a Velcro armband. Some consist of a safety vest and hard hat that integrates wearable computers, sensors, GPS and real-time locating systems. These can even have inflatable airbag collars should a worker fall. Some can detect and monitor vital signs or temperature. Others have a “press and record” button so voice messages can be recorded for the jobsite supervisor. We’ve seen some wearables that also detect a push or pull motion in excess of what is considered strenuous to prevent injury. It’s amazing what these devices can do, all the while being portable.

While to a worker, it may feel a bit like “Big Brother”, it does not invade their privacy by recording video, sound or personal information. And from an employer’s perspective, keeping an extra watchful eye on the jobsite altogether can help predict an accident before it occurs.

DRONES: Currently, drones are being used on jobsites for everything from site surveying and inspections to creating promotional or training videos to taking daily progress photos. Drones can also be used to quickly identify potential hazards each day. They can also be used to monitor workers throughout the day to ensure everyone is working safely and wearing the proper PPE.

TELEMATICS: Telematics refers to technology such as front facing cameras, sensors, GPS, and vehicle engine diagnostics. These devices can effectively monitor driving behaviors such as location, hard braking, rapid acceleration, speeding and hard cornering. Identifying these habits is an important element of commercial auto insurance, especially given the increasing rates lately.

The results of these telematics can help determine the risk, along with appropriate pricing and proactive loss control. Some of the technology can even alert the driver itself in real-time of any unacceptable driving behaviors to prevent an accident or injury. Devices like these can be used on commercial autos or even heavy equipment on site.

SITE SENSORS: Some companies have developed site sensors that can be deployed across a construction site to monitor things like temperature, noise levels, dust particulates and volatile organic compounds to help limit exposure to workers.

The sensors are mounted throughout the site to alert workers immediately when they are at risk from permissible exposure levels being reached. Data from the sensors are collected and can be analyzed to mitigate exposure levels and keep workers safe and stay compliant with OSHA regulations.

What technology tools have you implemented on your job sites to ensure your workers are protected and keeping safety a top priority? You probably devoted a lot of time and energy in to finding good help so it’s worth the investment in technology to keep them around and well.

Payroll Tax Holiday – To opt in or to opt out?

It’s only fitting for a year like 2020 to have an unorthodox holiday come early… the payroll tax holiday! May not sound very exciting but it’s an important one with some grey area that everyone should understand fully.

Here’s a quick back story: On August 8, 2020, President Trump issued a proposal to stop withholding the 6.2% employee share of the Social Security tax. It would be for pay periods from September 1 – December 31, 2020 and only applicable to those that earn less than $104,000 annual salary ($4,000 bi-weekly). The intent behind this was to be yet another relief effort for those affected by COVID-19 and professional changes that may have caused financial strain, especially the last quarter of the year.

Sound too good to be true? Although it’s a very generous plan to help put more money in employee’s pockets, it does have to be paid back. The payback period starts January 1, 2021 and runs through April 30, 2021. That bill would most likely be in the form of a higher deduction from those paychecks, resulting in less take-home pay for those 4 months.

It’s been advised by many HR professionals to NOT elect for this as an employer or an employee. And here is why… As an employer, it is unclear if you will get stuck with the payback bill if the employee is no longer with your company during that first quarter of 2021. And as an employee, you could be charged penalties and interest if you’re unable to pay it back on time.

The White House is currently stating that they will TRY to get the deferred taxes forgiven but there is no guarantee at this time. That doesn’t seem likely as it would require new legislation and support that isn’t there since it would under fund Social Security.

The good news is that this is optional for those that think it’s a good fit and not required for the majority that will choose to pass up the offer. The only mandatory employers, as of now, are federal workers in the US government.

As always, if you have questions relating to HR and compliance for things such as this payroll tax holiday, we are happy to help find the answer for you.