You may think workplace safety policies only apply to “dangerous” environments like factories, construction, or even health care. But a variety of federal and state laws require nearly all employers to provide a safe workplace. And employer’s legal obligations have become increasingly complex in light of the ongoing pandemic. Small businesses and nonprofits in all sectors need to recognize the importance of addressing safety concerns in the workplace. In this installment of our Essential HR Policies series, we take a look at what you should consider when drafting or updating your workplace safety policies.
This week we continue our series on Essential HR Policies. Places of business that have a particular standard of appearance (or a dress code) for employees should have these standards in writing. This can be a sensitive area that often invites claims of discrimination—especially if some employees are allowed to bend the rules. It’s crucial that you have sound business reasons for your business’s particular employee dress and appearance policies.
Employment classifications...probably not the most exciting section of your employee handbook. But how you classify the people who work for your small business or nonprofit impacts everything from tax withholdings to access to benefits and even which employment laws apply to which workers. Whether you are new to putting together employment policies, or it’s time to dust off and update some old policies, there are some common mistakes we see employers make when it comes to employment classifications. This week, we continue our series on Essential HR Policies by looking at employment classifications--what are they, why do they matter, and what are some common mistakes to avoid?
Hiring employees is often an exciting time for small businesses and nonprofits. But not every new hire will turn out to be a great fit for your organization. Perhaps an employee’s performance simply isn’t up to par. Or an employee commits a major violation of some company policy. Or maybe an employee keeps repeating the same relatively minor infraction over and over again (like spending a little too much time texting while working). Regardless of the size of your business, at some point, managing people means having some tough conversations.
Perhaps you’ve already tried dropping not-so-subtle hints to get an employee back on track. When less formal measures don’t seem to be working, it’s time to turn to more formal disciplinary policies and procedures for addressing employee misconduct. Your employee disciplinary policy is not about becoming a stereotypical corporate overlord and ruining the collegial environment that makes working for a small businesses or nonprofit so appealing. Instead, having a formal disciplinary policy is all about maintaining your organization’s standards in a way that is fair and maintains morale, all without getting you and your company into legal trouble.
Most of us now have access to the internet 24/7 no matter where we go or what we should really be doing with that time. And that includes your employees.
You want employees to spread the word on social media about your great products or services, but you don’t want an employee to say the wrong thing and spark a public relations crisis.
You want your employees to work hard and be productive, but you don’t want to micro manage how they spend every single working moment.
You want to be known as a great place to work, but you don’t want your employees to take every grievance with management to the court of public opinion.
How should your HR policies address these issues? What do you tell your employees about their use of the internet, email, and social media while working for your organization?
This week we continue our series on Essential HR Policies with a look at time off and paid leave. As a small business or non-profit, you might be worried that giving your employees paid time off is simply too expensive. On the other hand, you fear that you won’t be able to compete for the best talent if you don’t offer the kind of time off and paid leave policies that are offered by much larger corporations. And these fears are compounded by not knowing what the law actually requires versus simply wanting to be a great place to work.
This week, we continue our series on Essential HR Policies by taking a closer look at what should be in your employment files.
Common Record-Keeping Mistakes
Most of our clients run their business or non-profit because they are pursuing a passion, not because they enjoy record-keeping. But failing to keep thorough and accurate payroll records makes it impossible for you to complete timely and accurate tax filings (including issuing W-9s or 1099s at the beginning of the year) which can expose you to penalties and late fees. And the lack of records means you can’t defend your organization from claims of unpaid wages, salary, or overtime.
When it comes to running a functional and productive workplace, drugs and alcohol can cause any number of problems: lost productivity, excessive time off, workplace accidents, employees behaving badly while under the influence, etc. As we keep reiterating in this series, as an employer, you can be held vicariously liable for everything that your employees do when they are acting in the course and scope of their job duties. And if you think this is just a problem for someone else’s small business or non-profit, think again. Statistically, substance abuse is more of a problem at smaller businesses than larger ones precisely because small businesses are less likely to have drug-free workplace policies in place.
Add in the trend towards legalizing marijuana and small businesses can find themselves caught in a tough place. There’s a tension between being a “friendly” small business employer and making sure your employees can do their best work. After all, you’re not trying to be traditional, “stuffy” corporate America, but you don’t want to face a lawsuit caused by an employee’s bad behavior (especially one caused by an employee being under the influence while on the job).
There are a wide range of laws that cover how you as an employer treat your employees at every step in the employment process: from hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits. And as an employer, you can be held vicariously liable for the actions of your employees, meaning if you “allow” or don’t prevent harassment or discrimination in your workplace, you could find yourself and your business or nonprofit named in a discrimination lawsuit. By putting the right anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy in place (and following it), you will be able to show that you acted appropriately to prevent discrimination and respond to workplace harassment.
And these aren’t just issues for “big” business. Yes, accusations at larger companies make headline news, but for every case you read about against a large corporation, there are several less reported cases against small businesses and non-profits. Not only do these cases take precious time away from your business (not to mention the emotional toll litigation can take on you personally), but they are also incredibly expensive to defend. The problem seems especially prevalent in family-owned businesses where non-family members often feel they are being treated differently and unfairly or that they cannot speak up against one of the family members who is engaging in unwanted behavior.
Regardless of size, every business or nonprofit with employees needs to have certain policies in place. In this series, we’ll be discussing what you need to know when putting these policies into place. But first, which policies should be considered essential, whether you’re hiring your first employee or you’re dusting off an old employee handbook that desperately needs updating?