Consider year-end payroll as you make holiday plans

The holiday season will soon be here and while most people are thinking of planning holiday parties and gift-giving, it is also important to think about your end-of-year payroll now.

Both the year end and holiday payroll processing can be stressful between planning for business closures and compiling end-of-year financials. Starting to think about the topic now and communicate with your BCN Payroll Specialist early to alleviate stress and make this busy time of year go smoothly.

Some things to consider:

Business closure dates: What dates will your business be closed over the holidays? Will you need to receive any payroll deliveries early? How will this impact your employees’ pay?

Pay date changes: Do you have any pay dates that should be changed due to the holidays? Have you reviewed your payroll processing schedule to determine the dates the banks will be closed when you will not be able to issue funds?

Bonus payments: Do you plan to pay any employees a bonus? When do you want that bonus payment to be made? Do those checks need to be printed on paper for you or will they be paid through employee direct deposit?

Fringe benefits: Are there any fringe benefit amounts that need to be reported? By what date do those need to be processed?

Once you have begun planning, it is crucial to involve your BCN Payroll Specialist in this conversation as early as possible. Even before you have amounts and final details, your Payroll Specialist can help answer questions and give advice on your plan. This will also allow them to start planning the processes they must have in place to ensure all your requests can be met in a timely manner.

BCN Services sends communications about all closures and holiday scheduling to help make your season run as smoothly as possible. Please call us at 800-891-9911 so we can assist with your holiday and year-end planning.

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Dani Austin, Payroll Supervisor

Michigan’s Earned Sick Time Act will change policies for many employers

UPDATED – 11/30/2018 – Michigan Earned Sick Time Act

In early September 2018, Michigan’s Legislature adopted the Earned Sick Time Act, which applies to all private employers employing one or more individuals, and takes effect on April 1, 2019. It was originally advanced as a ‘citizen initiated/petitioned ballot measure’ to be placed before the voting public. The legislature opted to avoid the ballot initiative by adopting the law as written.

On November 28, 2018, Michigan state senators voted for a bill introduced by Senator Shirkey to dramatically scale back the Requirements for Earned Sick Time Act, specifically that small businesses (fewer than 50 workers) will be exempt.  This act will also not apply to employees exempt from overtime or who work for a private company but are covered by a labor contract

What will the Earned Sick Time Act do?

  • Require employers, with over 50 employees, to provide every employee 1 hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, or 36 hours per year.  This will allow employees to use up to a certain amount of paid sick time in a year for a specified number of purposes, such as illness, medical treatment, absences caused by domestic violence or sexual assault, or meetings related to a child’s school or care.
  • Allow employees to take leave with little advanced notice.
  • Permit employers to request documentation only if the absence is longer than 3 days, and then requires that the employer to cover the employee’s out-of-pocket costs incurred in providing such documentation.
  • Require employers to provide written notice to employees of their rights under the Act, including protections against employer retaliation.
  • Permit aggrieved employees to file claims with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs or take legal action.

As written, the Earned Sick Time Act could prove challenging for many employers to implement, especially those who have established time-off policies. Employers can comply with the Earned Sick Time Act by providing paid leave (such as vacation, personal days, PTO, etc.), as long as that leave, (1) Accrues at a rate equal to or greater than what the Earned Sick Time Act requires; (2) Is at least the same amount as the Earned Sick Time Act; (3) May be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions.  Employees must begin accruing leave on the law’s effective date or when employment begins (whichever is later) at a rate of at least 1 hour for every 40 hours worked.

What does this mean for employers? 

It is still somewhat unclear what the Earned Sick Time Act will look like come April 1, 2019.  Rest assured that BCN Services will continue to monitor and report on further developments. Meanwhile, employers should take stock of their existing time-off policies, especially if they have separate sick time, vacation time, and personal time policies.

 

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Michigan voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. Now what?

On Nov. 6, 2018, Michigan residents voted to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, making this the first state in the Midwest to do so. The new law allows individuals age 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles. The initiative specifies that adults can grow up to 12 marijuana plants (keeping a maximum of 10 ounces) for their own consumption.

Although the referendum calls for the law to take effect 10 days after election results are certified, in early December, marijuana is not expected to be available commercially for quite some time, as the state puts regulations and licensing in place and local municipalities decide whether to allow such businesses in their communities. Police agencies around Michigan must also consider how law enforcement procedures will change with the new law. A number of Michigan universities are also releasing policy statements regarding marijuana use on campus.

How does the law affect the workplace? Employees can still be fired (or not hired) for a positive drug test. Employers may continue to perform pre-employment and random drug tests on employees and maintain zero-tolerance policies. This new referendum will not protect job applicants or employees who test positive for marijuana use.

Individual Michigan employers must consider whether to maintain zero-tolerance drug policies or create alternate guidelines. Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure pre-employment drug-testing policies and employee handbooks reflect the times. A policy needs to be in place making it crystal clear that employees are prohibited from being impaired by marijuana while on the job, legal or not.

We recommend that employers focus on prohibiting employees from being impaired due to alcohol/marijuana use while working instead of focusing on marijuana use in and of itself. By focusing on impairment instead of use, employers will minimize the likelihood of conflicting with state “lawful use” laws.

Employers with federal contracts or for those with employees licensed through federal agencies, there is no gray area. Marijuana is an illegal substance under federal law and, thus, a zero-tolerance drug policy will apply. For employers facing significant safety and health risks, drug testing is imperative.

Employers not facing significant safety and health risks from impaired employees may decide drug testing risks outweigh potential benefits. In states where recreational marijuana is already legal, a growing number of companies are asking the lab to test for all drugs except marijuana. For example, in Nevada, where marijuana was legalized in 2017, the number of companies asking that marijuana be included in workplace drug testing dropped from 95 percent in 2016 to 91 percent in 2017.

Do you need help considering the marijuana issue in your workplace policies? The specialists at BCN Services are happy to help you craft or revise a policy. Contact us for assistance.

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

How to inspire and retain Millennials, and employees of every generation

We’ve all heard, or thought, some of these assumptions about the Millennial generation:

“Millennials are entitled.”
“Millennials expect the world and are barely willing to work.”
“All millennials do is stare at their phones on social media.”
“Millennials aren’t committed to their jobs and won’t stay long.”

In an effort to help our clients and, more broadly, our readership, I embarked on a mission to learn more about what Millennials are looking for at work. Much to my surprise, over and over again research I found does not support the commonly held perceptions about the Millennial generation (born between 1981-1999, or sometimes more narrowly defined as those born between 1983 and 1994).

Millennials have good intentions at work

There’s a strong body of research about employees’ preferences among generations and how they relate to employment. Topics range from the types of benefits preferred, to work environment, flexible schedules, and having an opportunity to make a difference in the company and the world. In nearly all categories among thousands of people surveyed, there was little-to-no difference in responses between the generations. What surprised me the most, is the data related to employees and their intentions to stay at their job for a long time. Even in that category there wasn’t a significant difference between generations.

Most of the articles on the subject conclude that the concerns of more seasoned managers regarding younger workers are essentially the same concerns that have existed about younger workers for decades. In other words, someone likely made those same statements about your generation when you were that age.

There is, however, a theory that the Millennial generation is more vocal about how they feel than other generations.

So where does that leave us?

This is actually great news! What it means is that solid employment practices to inspire employees and encourage retention don’t need to be tailored to specific generations. People are people, and companies and managers can generally expect employees to respond positively to and be more likely to stay at their jobs as a result of the following management practices:

  1. Treat everyone with respect. EVERYONE. No matter what they look like, what age they are, or how they’ve treated you. Set the example in how you treat employees at all levels, how you treat customers, and how you treat people outside of work. In some cases, that may mean having to communicate a difficult truth to someone. But that conversation can happen in a respectful manner and can bring about change in an employee who really wants to be a part of your team.
  2. Make sure every employee understands the company’s goals. Then help everyone see how their work helps to accomplish the mission and vision of the company. Any connection an employer can make between the mission of the company and the betterment of society is an excellent way to help get employees get on board, as well.
  3. Listen. Employees who are at your company working hard every day will likely have productive ideas and new perspectives. Most employees, regardless of generation, want to collaborate and be part of a creative solution to work problems.
  4. Invest in the employee development. That includes formal and informal training. Teach them how to do something new and give them opportunities to apply those new skills in projects that will impact the company’s relationship with its customers or clients, or otherwise impact the bottom line.
  5. Make advancement opportunities clear and available. As you develop employees, help them see how they can advance within the company so they don’t want to take those valuable skills elsewhere. It’s difficult to keep employees who don’t see any advancement potential.
  6. Offer workplace balance and flexibility when possible. This is also something all generations look for in their employment. If flexibility doesn’t work for your company, help them to understand why so they know you will make options available when you can.

Leading by example and making retention initiatives a part of your regular operation as a company has benefits for every generation of employees.

Employees of all generations can be influenced to stay at your company in an inspiring and supportive setting. In a job environment where unemployment is lower than it’s been in years, retaining employees from every generation has never been more important.

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Trisha Crigger, Human Resources Generalist

Be aware of voter leave laws, talk with staff before Tuesday

With voter turnout expected to be higher than ever at the polls for 2018 mid-term elections on November 6, some employers may wonder about their obligation to employees.

While there is no federal law mandating time off for voting, nearly half of U.S. states provide a voter leave law (either paid or unpaid).

Employers in states with paid voter leave laws (Illinois and Minnesota, for example) should familiarize themselves with the leave law before employees request time off to vote. Some of these laws have specific details related to requesting of time and how much time must be paid.

Other states (such as Michigan and Indiana) don’t require employers to give time off, however, it is a best practice to encourage employees to make time to vote. Employers may want to consider adding a policy addressing time off for voting, depending upon their specific situation.

If you are an employer that operates in more than one state, experts suggest that you either maintain one policy that complies with all state laws or implement a general policy that denotes local laws will prevail.

Regardless of the laws in your state, managers can take a proactive role by talking to their staff before Tuesday. To maximize office coverage, find out if some employees can vote on the way in to work, some on the way home from work and, depending on logistics, maybe some during an extended lunch period. Advanced planning can be key in making your employees’ work day smoother both in and out of the office.

Not sure of the laws in your state(s)? Would you like assistance in creating a voter leave announcement or a policy for your employee handbook? Contact your HR experts at BCN Services to discuss your individual situation.

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Sue Kester, HR Manager

May the 4th Quarter be with you

The fourth quarter of the year is upon us and with it comes a myriad of images: football, fall leaves changing colors before giving way to snow, holiday parties and last-minute purchases. It also brings business opportunities ranging from back-to-school marketing to the holiday season and everything in between.

As we start the fourth quarter of 2018, it is a good time to make a list of your most important initiatives for the remainder of the year. This might mean moving projects to next year that have no chance of completion in the short timeframe. In addition to a robust work schedule, there’s also the added family pressures of the impending holiday season around the corner. Staying focused and structured will increase your productivity and allow you to maximize resources as the year ends.

What are your goals for the coming year?

The fourth quarter is a natural time to reflect on, and analyze, your business. Assess whether the business is where you want it to be, its prospects for the future, and what can be done to increase business in the upcoming year. As you reflect, set goals for the year to come.

Have you reviewed your cybersecurity recently?

This is a great time to review and improve your company’s cybersecurity procedures. Select a password manager that can secure your online accounts and help you avoid password fatigue. Clean up your digital footprint by deleting old accounts that may publicly reveal sensitive information. Be on the lookout for scams, such as phishing emails. The end of the year is a common time for cybercrime, as businesses are often understaffed, and tired employees are more likely to let their guard down and open a suspicious email.

Are you ready for holiday bonuses and year-end performance reviews?

Your employees are vital to the success of your company. The fourth quarter is a good time to prepare for end-of-the-year employee evaluations, so each team member knows where they stand and what you expect from them in the coming year. Keeping good records puts everyone on the same page, and it can also help you avoid the cost and hassle of employment disputes in the coming year.

End-of-year or holiday bonuses are a great way to boost morale and keep employees happy. However, it’s strongly recommended that bonuses are given in connection to performance reviews. If not, you miss an opportunity to reward performance and the bonus can quickly become a pay expectation. If all employees receive the same bonus, there’s a good chance that the higher-performing employees will be disappointed with the “fairness” of the process.

Are you feeling festive?

The fourth quarter is full of fun and seasonal festivities. Customers are visual and love businesses that get into the spirit and let their “seasonal personality” shine. You can add seasonal graphics to your website, decorate your storefront, and use holiday imagery in your promotions and posts. Help customers get that warm feeling (you know the one) when they enter your store or jump on your website. Take care, however, not to bring religious themes into the mix, as there is a diversity of beliefs out there. Be sensitive to this in your seasonal planning.

Finally – what can BCN help you with?

BCN Services has an experienced staff to help with the variety of day-to-day situations. Our objective is to help you, our valued client, to focus on your business needs and key priorities by freeing up time spent on employment issues and administration. We handle more than 150 Human Resources employment tasks, products, and services and strive to provide outstanding customer service and resources.

Contact BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911 if you have questions or need assistance.

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Companies: Consider up-to-date tech tools for your employees

Most company owners and managers agree that recruiting costs have increased, high-quality employees are in high demand and short supply, and employees are their biggest asset. But companies often fall short when providing valued employees the tools and technology that they need to help them be successful. This is something that should be high on an employer’s priority list.

Today’s employees want to work in digitally savvy organizations and employers needing to attract and retain employees must provide the up-to-date technologies and tools that employees need, and want, in order to perform their jobs well.

While the average employer isn’t ready to have an artificial intelligence receptionist greet guests or have employees sign up for health care open enrollment at a kiosk, employers must implement technologies for a more connected, efficient and modern workplace.

Consider user-friendly systems. The market is saturated with software and technology “solutions” designed to perform whatever task a company desires. However, employers must vet these systems to ensure that their use doesn’t burden employees. If the systems aren’t user friendly, employees won’t use them.

This leads us to training. Many software systems boast “intuitive” solutions, but don’t let this claim lead you to skimp on training. Training is an important part of helping employees to feel connected to the systems and to each other. It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that an employee is successful in using any technology.

The ability to share screens is a great way to demo a product, to show off your website or train your employees. Slack, Webex, and GoToMeeting are all relatively inexpensive technology programs that can close a logistical distance by allowing employees to connect online.

Skype and Facetime are interactive programs that originated with personal use technology and have widened the possibilities of how people connect during the workday. What’s better than a face-to-face when you’re having a meeting with a remote client, employee or job candidate?

Keeping your employees engaged and enabled in today’s business requires that they have the tools and technology to make that happen. Fortunately, doing so is easier than it has ever been for the small employer.

Do you need help with employee training or with ideas for improving your business efficiency? The experts at BCN Services are here to help. Contact us for more information.

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Marcus Merillat, IT Manager

Is it legal for employees to record in the workplace? It depends.

There have been a number of high profile news stories lately regarding audio or video recordings in the workplace, including recently released conversations from former White House special assistant Omarosa Manigualt Newman and a viral video of conditions at a Popeyes Chicken franchise in the metro Detroit area.

As an employer, this may have left you wondering if it is legal for your employees to record conversations with their supervisors or other coworkers. It depends on a few factors:

  • What is the law in your state? Most states, including Michigan, only require the consent of one party in a conversation to legally record. In other words, an employee may legally record a conversation they are a party to without giving the employer notice. This is known as “One-Party Consent.” There are 12 states, which require either “All-Party Consent” or “Two-Party Consent” to record a conversation, meaning that everyone involved in the conversation or phone call must give consent before any recording begins.
  • Does your company have a policy for workplace recordings? Many employers have company policies prohibiting the recording of conversations with managers, co-workers or customers. These policies are permissible as long as they are not overbroad and do not violate an employee’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act for protected concerted activities such as documenting unsafe working conditions or federal and state whistleblowing laws.
  • Does the recording contain private information? Even in a One-Party-Consent state, the disclosure of confidential information, such as information covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, may violate common law privacy rights.

Most employees have easy access to a recording device through a smartphone, so there are a few steps employers should take to minimize legal exposure:

  1. Train supervisors and managers who may need to have tough conversations with employees in performance reviews, disciplinary actions or terminations so that they are cautious in what they say and stick to the facts of the situation.
  2. Develop a workplace recording policy if you don’t yet have one and include it in your employee handbook. It should define legitimate business reasons for the policy (for example, protection of proprietary information) and should not allow an employee to reasonably interpret the policy as prohibiting them from protected activity under the NLRA.

Do you need more information about this topic or help developing a handbook policy regarding workplace recording? BCN Services can assist you with this or with a supervisory training program. For more information, contact us at 1-800-891-9911.

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Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

FMLA, parental leave and medical leave can all be options for life events

Starting and growing your family is an exciting time, and the last thing an employee should worry about is how to take time away from work for life events such as this. Employers should develop a policy before these questions arise.

It is common for employees to assume they will get a certain amount of time, either paid or unpaid, away from work. What a business is required to offer is typically dependent on its size. As an employer, you should be prepared to share this information when an employee announces they are adding another member to the family. The options include: FMLA, parental leave, medical leave or a combination.

FMLA is the federal Family Medical Leave Act, which applies to employers of 50 or more. FMLA requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of time off for the birth or placement of a child for adoption or foster care. FMLA protects the employee’s job and benefits but does not require an employer to pay the employee for the time they are away. If unpaid, employees may be able to use vacation/PTO time or collect from their short-term disability benefit (if applicable). FMLA applies to both parents for the purpose of bonding with the child as well as giving a mother time to recuperate from labor and delivery. FMLA is clearly outlined for employers and can be found online here: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/benefits-leave/fmla.

The term “maternity leave” was commonly used to describe the time a mother needed off after the birth of a child. The term is outdated, as an employer cannot discriminate against the other parent for the purposes of taking time off. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) also requires pregnancy to be handled as if it were like any other medical leave.

The compromise and appropriate nomenclature is “parental leave,” which is a set period of time an employer allows an employee to be off work for the birth or placement of a child. It is simply describing a period of time, not the medical needs for a woman to be off following labor and delivery. A parental leave may include wage replacement, such as paying part or all of the employee’s wages while off work, or it may be unpaid. Just like FMLA, a parental leave is not required to be paid, but some employers may choose to do so.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently ruled in favor of a new father in a case of parental leave discrimination. This new dad received a $1.1M settlement, and not giving new fathers the same type of leave as new mothers to bond with a child can result in a claim such as this.

Medical leave allows for an employee to be off work for a medical condition. This includes time off after childbirth for a woman who had a baby. Labor and delivery would fall under a medical leave policy, but bonding time is not. The woman’s doctor provides information about the length of time a patient needs to be off of work and this would be handled in the same fashion as an employee undergoing major surgery who is off due to a doctor’s order. Employers may choose to have a medical leave policy instead of offering parental leave, or they may have both.

FMLA is the set of federal regulations, but an employer can always choose to be more generous. If your Medical Leave Policy goes above and beyond FMLA, then your handbook can include just the Medical Leave Policy on its own and not include a separate FMLA policy.

It is surprisingly more complicated when an employer isn’t required to follow a federal regulation and if they also don’t have a policy in place. In these cases, employees in similar situations may, unintentionally, be treated differently. That is considered discriminatory, which is why it is imperative to create a policy and follow it. Having a policy also avoids an awkward conversation when an employee approaches an employer with a leave request.

BCN handles all types of employee leaves for its clients and can assist in policy creation. Please talk to your Human Resources representative and let them know if you have any questions about the types of leaves listed above or any other type of employment leave.

 

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Kari Stanley, HR Customer Call Center Supervisor

 

 

Many Young Adults Are Making Smart Financial Moves

slavik_9-20-18 img 1Millennials are optimistic about retirement, according to a recent report from Charles Schwab. Specifically, 76 percent of surveyed young adults said that they believe they will have a better financial future than their parents, and the average Gen-Y respondent expects to retire at age 60. The latter is a somewhat ambitious goal considering that it would mean exiting the workforce five years earlier than the traditional age of retirement, even as many financial experts are now recommending waiting until age 70.

Delaying retirement, if possible, can be a smart decision since it will help ensure that you receive the maximum Social Security benefit and also provide a few more working years (income) to pad your nest egg. While postponing retirement could therefore put many Millennials on a firmer financial standing in old age, one reason why some of the respondents in the Schwab poll might still be able to achieve a comfortable retirement as early as age 60 is because these young adults are already making wise financial moves. For example, 64 percent of surveyed Millennials said that they will often hold off on a discretionary purchase and instead set the money aside for retirement.

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Nearly half of Gen-Y respondents also said that they do additional work to boost their savings, and around one in three reported that they limit their vacations and traveling in order to set more money aside. Similarly, a new Bankrate poll found that Millennials were a lot more likely than other generations to say that they are saving more for retirement today than they were a year ago, and a recent Principal Financial study even found that some young adults are regularly setting aside at least 90 percent of the maximum the IRS will allow to be placed in a 401(k), IRA, and other tax-advantaged savings vehicle each year.

Since only around 9 percent of 401(k) plan participants are estimated to have annual contributions that come within 10 percent of the deferral limit, these “super savers” are likely to be well ahead of the vast majority of Americans in terms of retirement readiness. Jerry Patterson, a senior vice president at Principal Financial, added that “There is no better advice I can give anyone than save more, earlier. These super savers are making sacrifices today that should help set them up to have the freedom to do the things they want in the future.”

 

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Copyright @ 2018 Slavic Investments (http://blog.slavic401k.com/many-young-adults-are-making-smart-financial-moves)Republished with permission.