In the new year, update addresses and be sure benefit elections are accurate

Happy New Year! After family gatherings, company parties, school breaks and other celebrations, it’s time for most of us to get back into our regular routines. The start of the year is also a great time for employees to do an audit of their W2 address information and new benefit plans, as well as finalize any benefits spending from the previous year.

Here are a few suggestions that can benefit all employees at any employer.

W2s for 2018
The federal government requires all employers to mail or electronically provide W2s to current and former employees who worked for them in 2018 by January 31, 2019. For employees not signed up for an electronic W2, be sure to update your home addresses, if needed, with current and former employers.

BCN Services employees who use the online portal option can change their addresses online at any time. All others can email address changes to hr@bcnservices.com, including their full name and the last 4 digits of their Social Security number. Every year, hundreds of W2s are returned to BCN Services due to outdated addresses. While it’s best to update the addresses before the W2s are sent, if an employee updates an address at a later time, we sent them right back out using the updated address.

Even with correct addresses, sometimes W2s don’t arrive at an employee’s home or they are misplaced. It’s important that employees wait long enough to give the U.S. Postal Service time to deliver them, but also not to wait until the tax deadline if they need an additional copy of the W2. BCN Services employees who don’t receive a W2 for any reason can contact BCN Services (email hr@bcnservices.com) to receive a free re-print of their W2 between February 11 and March 7. If requesting a copy, include the full name of the employee and the last 4 digits of the Social Security number.

2018 Benefits – FSA
Employees who have Flexible Spending Account plans with money left from 2018 have until March 15, 2019 to incur reimbursable expenses and until March 30, 2019 to submit receipts for payment from their FSA account. In 2018, this process moved from paper to a more convenient online process for BCN Services’ employees. We encourage all BCN Services employees with FSA accounts to view their account balances and submit reimbursement requests through the website or Wage Works app (www.wageworks.com) prior to the March 15 and March 30 deadlines.

2019 Benefits Contributions
Many employees have updated their benefits elections as of January 1, 2019. It’s a good idea for all employees to review their pay stubs to ensure that deductions coming out of your pay match the elections you’ve made. For the final checks of 2018, employees should generally expect to see deductions that match the 2019 medical, dental and vision plan elections. Employees’ first paychecks of 2019 should reflect those plan elections, as well as 2019 FSA and Health Savings Account (HSA) contributions, Aflac supplemental insurance, life insurance and disability, and prepaid legal plans.

Not a BCN employer?
Taking these actions are excellent practices for all employees. This article highlights a few of the many services BCN Services offers to our clients. To learn more about the full package of services offered and for more information about how these can work for your business, call us at 734-994-4100.

Trisha Crigger, Human Resources Generalist

Reviewing a changing workplace dress code and your policy

Many employees feel that wearing jeans and comfortable street clothes is preferable to the more professional business dress code and we are seeing employers moving towards a more relaxed dress code in the workplace.

The terms “business casual” and “business formal” have traditionally had an expectation that employees come to work dressed in a certain professional fashion.

In the past, they were viewed this way: business casual was outlined as women wearing a skirt or dress with a hem past the knee, or tailored dress pants with a button-down or blouse and men should wear dress pants or khakis, with a collared shirt and a belt. For business formal, placed men in a suit and tie, and women in a tailored dress or pantsuit that was dressier than business casual attire.

But these may not be appropriate norms in today’s workplace. Business casual dress has evolved, as has the way that companies should look at gender-neutral language in their policies.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have,” it suggests that higher-level jobs are the ones that require the formal dress code. That doesn’t seem to be the trend anymore. Google is an example of a company that doesn’t fit that mold. Google’s philosophy is that you can be serious without a suit and Facebook has adopted a similar expectation for workplace attire that is completely casual (http://www.businessinsurance.org/10-big-businesses-with-incredibly-casual-offices/).

A lot of employers offer “casual Fridays” which offer a relaxed dress code one day each week. Some employers may also require employees to donate to a charitable organization to be able to wear casual dress on Fridays, but either way, wearing jeans and casual dress is portrayed as a benefit to employees. If you look at attitudes and productivity, could there be potential benefits to easing up on expectations of workplace dress?

Another consideration is brand image and how your company is perceived by customers and clients. If your industry is customer-facing, what kind of image do you want to portray? Do your customers expect their point of contact to be dressed professionally? How would customers feel about seeing an employee dressed in jeans and a t-shirt? If you aren’t in a customer-facing industry, should employees be required to dress professionally every day?

Businesses also need to consider how they are wording their dress code policy and be careful to use only gender-neutral terminology. The definitions above for business casual and formal, for example, are not appropriate nomenclature now given our clarified view of gender identity.

Telling women they must wear a skirt and men, pants, could be seen as a discriminatory policy, even though this was widely accepted until recently. Please contact the human resources department at BCN Services if you would like to review your policy and make an update to your employee handbook.

Kari Stanley, Partnership Manager

Be proactive to keep job candidates interested in your company

With the U.S. unemployment rate at its lowest rate since 1969, employers find themselves in the hottest job market in decades and candidates are holding all the cards. Contacting potential candidates and following through to the hiring stage is becoming more and more difficult, and important, for employers.

A growing number of candidates are “ghosting’ their prospective employers, ignoring scheduled interviews, accepting offers but not showing up on the first day or work or even vanishing once hired for a position, giving little or no notice.

Act quickly: The best candidates won’t hang around for a long employment vetting process and may accept a position elsewhere before you get a chance to make an offer. Every day a position goes unfilled, the company misses out on full production and runs the risk of burnout of current employees who have taken on additional tasks to keep things running smoothly. Investing in technological solutions to help with the recruiting and hiring processes may be money well spent. A Human Capital Management (HCM) System offers many benefits to improve productivity in each stage of the process, starting with recruiting and hiring.

Maintain a pipeline: It is important to maintain regular contact with a network of potential candidates. When you find good candidates, whether you are filling a job or not, contact them to discuss what they are seeking long term. Create a relationship with them, stay in contact and keep them on a short list as turnovers arise so you have a pool of possible candidates to contact before even placing an ad.

Communicate your timeline: Often candidates are interested in your company or an open position, but a lack of communication on your part can cause them to abruptly halt any contact when something else comes along. Commit to a timeline and inform them of the progress along the way.

Sell the role: More often than not, the best job candidates aren’t the ones who will choose your company because of entertainment, employee lounges and foosball tables. They are more interested in a job that’s exciting, fulfilling and challenging, and one that helps them achieve their personal and professional goals. When speaking with a candidate, focus on the possibility of how this role will help the company meets its goals and how they will fit into the culture of the organization. Help create a mental image of the candidate in the role to pique their interest and prevent them from losing interest.

BCN Services has a full service HR Department to help you with your recruiting and hiring needs. Please contact us at 800-891-9911 for help and advice.

David Pilon, Controller

Setting goals for 2019? BCN Services can help you with HR efficiency

Yes, it is December already.

It’s that time of year when you reflect on the challenges your business has achieved, crushed, fallen short of or come close to over the past 12 months. You have probably started proactively assessing goals for the coming 12 months.

Those plans should include strategies for growth, doing things differently and maximizing your resources for efficiency when it comes to the world of human capital.

Here are a few powerful and thought-provoking questions to help develop your 2019 plans:

  • Do you have infrastructure and resources in place to meet your company goals?
  • What are the biggest challenges facing your company today?
  • How do you keep up to date with ever-changing employment regulations that affect employees?
  • What would you change about your employee retention and recruiting strategy?
  • How confident are you that you are complying with wage-and-hour, immigration and wrongful termination practices?

BCN Services has been providing comprehensive human resources services to businesses for over 25 years and can help you answer these questions. We are your one-stop resource for all HR services including: payroll processing, risk management, human resources administration and employee benefits administration. This helps you focus on your day-to-day business priorities, avoid costly HR mistakes and maximize your company’s profits.

Let us handle all of these services for you, which are typically done by an in-house HR department:

  • Oversite, compliance and guidance of EEOC, HIPAA, COBRA, FMLA and other federal regulations Recruit and retain employees with better healthcare, 401K, and voluntary benefits packages
  • Electronic onboarding, administration and compliance including I-9 tracking, drug screen program set-up, record keeping of new employees using a state-of-the art HRIS and payroll system
  • Risk assessment of your HR policies and procedures
  • Employee relations coaching and training for team members who manage staff and deliver disciplinary actions
  • Proactive assistance with a workplace safety training program
  • Lower unemployment rate with complete unemployment case management program

We can help you identify and prioritize your challenges and opportunities for the upcoming year in when it comes to payroll, risk management, HR administration and employee benefit offerings. How can you look at your business in a different way? BCN Services will put together an individualized plan so you can focus on operating and expanding your business.

Call us at 1-800-891-9911 so we can begin helping you.

Wishing you all the best in 2019!

Corey Decker, Sales Manager

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.

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.

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