The end of the year is always a good time to take stock of things. That’s true whether you’re an individual or a small business.
Things slow down a bit and often you can find a few moments to reflect on where you are, where you’ve been, and where you want to go. In your small business, there are many HR areas to which you might want to give some extra thought as all of us look ahead to 2014.
Here’s a brief checklist of just a few HR areas to consider:
1) Are you keeping up-to-date with changes in the law? The laws pertaining to Human Resources change and evolve all the time. We recently profiled the many evolving trends and changes in the law pertaining to harassment and discrimination in the post entitled “Respect in the Workplace.” There have also been recent changes to FMLA in a number of areas including its military leave provisions and changes in implementation of the ADA several years ago under the ADA Amendments Act of 2008. Do you have your finger on the pulse of these changes in the law, the manner in which they overlap, and all other changes in the laws affecting HR?
2) Definition of Spouse. When the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) on June 26, 2013, it opened whole new vistas with respect to the interpretation of the word “spouse’ in a number of laws, among them the FMLA and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Same-sex couples who reside in states that recognize same-sex marriage are now entitled to rights under these laws that same-sex couples do not receive elsewhere. Although Michigan does not currently recognize same-sex marriage, what happens if a same-sex spouse from Illinois (which will adopt same-sex marriage in June 2018) works in Michigan? Make sure you’re ready for challenges like these going forward.
3) Are your HR policies up-to-date and consistently applied? Do you have a Social Networking and Internet Use Policy? Even a policy written several years ago is most likely out of date. Do you have a policy on Religion in the Workplace? If you have a policy of annual performance evaluations, do all managers and supervisors do them? Are all managers and supervisors trained in the various policies they are required to administer? Do they apply them consistently? Failure of managers and supervisors to apply HR policies consistently is one of the greatest causes of HR litigation coast to coast.
4) When was the last time your employee handbook was reviewed? A handbook provides a great introduction to a company for a new employee and helps him or her learn about its culture and policies. But these benefits are dashed if the employee handbook is not kept current. Is there anything in your handbook that is clearly out-of-date? Do you describe benefits you don’t have, disciplinary policies you don’t follow, promises you haven’t kept? Do you have an employment-at-will disclaimer and if so, has the disclaimer language been reviewed recently? Do you have acknowledgements from all employees that an employee handbook has been received either in hand or on line?
5) Back to the Basics. Many currently existing laws governing HR are extremely complicated to implement, and even some larger employers do not always administer them properly. At the same time employees are becoming savvier about these laws as a result of government websites and even commercials by lawyers seeking business in these areas. Are you administering the Wage and Hour laws correctly? Making the proper determinations between exempt and non-exempt workers? Are you calculating overtime correctly? If you’re not certain, now’s the time to make sure.
We hope this HR short list has proven helpful. Should you need any help with your review in any of the above HR areas or more, we’re always here.
Happy holidays to all our clients and friends! See you next year.