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.

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.

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.

What if you were told your construction company could be fined up to $132,589?

As this year’s Construction Safety Week wraps up, let’s look at some pretty staggering statistics relating to jobsite and workplace safety, as well as some new-age solutions to these age-old problems.

• The average cost of a slip or trip injury causing time away from work: $46,000 {National Safety Council}
• It is estimated that the amount of near misses that go unreported is up to 85% {MakuSafe}
• The Top 2 OSHA citations were for lack of fall protection systems and insufficient information transmitted to employers and employees regarding toxic and hazardous substances {ThinkHR}
• OSHA penalties range from $13,260 (other-than-serious & serious) to $132,589 (repeat & willful) {ThinkHR}
• 20% of private-industry worker fatalities are in construction {Big Rentz}
• Construction sees non-fatal injury rates that are 71% higher than any other industry {Accident Analysis & Prevention}

So what can we learn from all of this and how can the construction industry do better to stay safe?

• Construction companies can save $4-6 in indirect costs for every $1 invested in direct costs by evading an injury in the workplace
• Creating and implementing training programs such as how to properly wear PPE, general awareness and classes provided by OSHA would reduce the amount of employee injury but also be wise financially… Construction site injuries typically account for 6–9% of project costs, while health and safety programs only account for 2.5% of project costs
• Utilizing safety and machine operating checklists as well as hazardous material communications will facilitate consistency and reduce liability exposure
• Maintaining a safe environment will help build a positive reputation, assist with brand awareness and recruiting, and promote team morale

How does technology play a part? There are newer systems and protocols that could help prevent and protect construction companies from safety issues. Things such as:

• Wearables (think arm holster or watch) that can monitor conditions, detect slips/trips/falls quickly, report near-misses without interruption, etc.
• Digital trainings available at any time to any size group
• Live stream cameras with recording for monitoring or later verification of procedures or events
• Telematics installed on heavy equipment that could include front and rear facing cameras and operational details of the equipment
• Systems to analyze safety inspection data in order to implement change

We can all agree that safety in construction is a problem and something to take seriously. It’s a risky environment with constant movement, equipment and people coming on and off the jobsite. Taking every step possible to mitigate injuries is worth every penny these precautions could cost. What steps do you have in place for your team?

Important updates on FFCRA and employee leave

With the Coronavirus being something new to most people as of this year, it is to be expected that the way we react to and handle it to be unfamiliar territory. Even just this week, the FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act) guidelines were challenged after some DOL (Department of Labor) changes. This stemmed from a court hearing in New York but could trickle out to the rest of the US as well. Here is some important information from our valued HR partner, Think HR:

FFCRA Leave – Significant Rule Changes

A federal court in New York recently struck down four federal DOL rules related to the leaves provided by the FFFCRA. As a result, certain aspects of the FFCRA are now more favorable to employees. Unfortunately, it’s not clear if the ruling applies nationwide or only in the Southern District of New York, where that court is located. Until there is further activity in the case—which may clarify whether the rules remain intact throughout the rest of the country—we recommend that employers err on the side of caution when administering FFCRA leaves and assume these particular rules no longer apply.

What is clear is that these four rules definitely do not apply to the counties of Bronx, Dutchess, New York, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, and Westchester (i.e., the Southern District of New York).

Here are the rules that the court invalidated:

1. The requirement that work be available for an employee to use leave
• DOL Rule: The DOL said that for an employee to use Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) or Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFMLA, aka EFMLEA), the employer had to have work available for them during the time they needed leave. For instance, if an employee was furloughed while sick with COVID-19, they would not be eligible for EPSL.

• The Court’s Ruling: Availability of work is irrelevant. If an employee is still employed, whether on the schedule or not, they should be allowed to use FFCRA leave for qualifying reasons.

2. The requirement that employers agree to intermittent leave
• DOL Rule: Employees must get approval from their employer to use intermittent leave to care for their children when their school or place of care is unavailable because of COVID-19.

• The Court’s Ruling: If an employee needs intermittent leave (partial weeks or partial days off) to care for their child whose school or place of care is unavailable because of COVID-19, the employer must allow it.

3. The requirement that employees provide documentation before taking leave
• DOL Rule: Employers could require that employees provide certain documentation before being allowed to take FFCRA leave or before designating the leave as EPSL or EFMLA.

• The Court’s Ruling: Employers can still require documentation (which is necessary to get their tax credit), but they can’t prevent an employee from starting leave until the documentation is received. The law clearly states that an employee must provide notice “as is practicable” when taking EFMLA leave and after the first workday of leave when taking EPSL.

4. The definition of health care provider, for the purpose of exemption from leave
• DOL Rule: The DOL had defined health care providers broadly, to include anyone who works for a healthcare entity and many who contract with one. (The rule was so broad that a custodian working at a drugstore or an English professor at a university with a medical school could be exempt.)

• The Court’s Ruling: The definition is too broad. However, the court did not provide a new definition. We recommend that employers apply the exemption only to those employees capable of directly providing healthcare services.

As a partner of Think HR, we will pay close attention for activity in this particular case and will let employers know if and when things change or become clearer.