Affirmative Action – Revised Audit Scheduling Letter for 2014

November 20th, 2014 by

CAI’s Manager for Affirmative Action Services, Kaleigh Ferraro, shares information on affirmative action plans from the OFCCP. Make sure you are compliant.

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

On September 30, 2014, the Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs (OFCCP) released an updated audit Scheduling Letter. The OFCCP indicated they would begin issuing a new audit scheduling letter on October 15, 2014 for contractor audits.  Outlined below are the significant changes from the previous scheduling letter and itemized listing and the newly approved one.

  • The Itemized listing requires companies to submit 22 items versus the 11 previously required.
  • Employment Activity data (applicants, hires, promotions, terminations) must be submitted including race subgroups not just minority totals. Information on applicants with “unknown” race and gender must also be included.
  • Compensation data must be submitted at the employee level and not aggregated as previously required. Data for all employees includes: race, gender, hire date, job title, EEO-1 category, job group, hours worked, base pay or rate plus additional compensation such as bonuses, commissions, merit pay, etc. Compensation date should be submitted electronically.
  • Copies of reasonable accommodation policies, requests and resolutions.

 

The revised scheduling letter and itemized listing also incorporates new items related to the revised regulations for Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act and Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). This newly requested information includes:

  • Evaluation results of effectiveness of outreach and recruitment efforts for individuals with disabilities and protected veterans.
  • Documentation of actions taken to comply with audit and reporting system requirements.
  • Submittal of data collected regarding number of applicants, applicants who identified as veterans or individuals with disabilities, number of hires and those that identified as veterans or disabled and job openings and jobs filled.
  • Documentation on hiring benchmarks for veterans and analysis on utilization goals for individuals with disabilities. Results of most recent assessments on personnel processes, including date performed, actions taken and date of next scheduled assessment.
  • Recent assessments of physical and mental qualifications, including date performed, actions taken and date of next scheduled assessment.

Contractors should review the revised Scheduling Letter as well as their affirmative action program and data to ensure they are properly capturing and maintaining requested information. Contractors only have 30 days from receipt of the letter to gather and submit the requested information.

For more information on affirmative action and the recent changes within it, please be sure to sign up for our free webinar Affirmative Action 101: The Basics on December 2, 2014.

For helpful tips and information on preparing your next affirmative action plan, please sign up for our next affirmative action class AAP: What it Takes To Prepare a Compliant Affirmative Action Plan on December, 12, 2014.

Employers Need To Be Prepared For The Cadillac Tax

November 18th, 2014 by

The post below is a guest blog from Mike Beck who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

cadillac taxWhile most employers are focused on managing through 2015 and the upcoming employer mandate, the Cadillac Tax will present another significant challenge for many in 2018 and deserves attention.

The Cadillac Tax is an excise tax on health coverage deemed to be high cost.  The tax begins in 2018, and levies a 40 percent excise on the value of health insurance benefits exceeding the threshold of $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage (indexed to inflation) on an annual basis. The thresholds increase for individuals in high-risk professions e.g. police officers/fireman and for employers that have a disproportionately older population.

While these thresholds seem high for some, when most evaluate their current premium and apply three years of  a trend increase to it, it is easy to see how in  2018 many employers will be  close to hitting or even exceeding the thresholds.  Industry estimates show that nearly 50% of employers will be impacted in 2018.  Making matters worse, it is not just the cost of health insurance that goes into the calculation.  Employer or employee contributions to a health flexible spending accounts must be included as well as employer contributions health savings accounts and health reimbursement accounts (HRAs).

The outcome is that employers will likely have to reduce the value of the plan they are offering, reduce the limit of their Flexible Spending Account, and eliminate any employer contributions to an H.S.A. or a combination of these tactics in an effort to avoid the tax.

The tax will apply to employers regardless of plan funding (fully insured or self insured) and is scheduled to begin in 2018 and go into perpetuity.  The tax is non deductible for employers so many employers may experience an increased tax burden due to the loss of deductibility.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates the tax will raise $80 billion between 2014 and 2023.

Employer reaction has been mixed with many taking a wait and see attitude and delaying a decision as long as possible.  In a recent survey of 333 large employers by the National Business Coalition on Health and the Benz Corp, according to the results, “the Cadillac Tax is currently not driving major benefit change.”  Of the employers surveyed, 30 percent have not made any decisions around their course of action with 46 percent of employers keeping benefit coverage the same.

Since the inception of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) there has been wide talk that the Cadillac Tax would be repealed.  Pundits proclaimed that large employers and unions would not stand for it.  As the ACA marches on, the Cadillac Tax is becoming more and more of a reality.  Congress is counting on the tax to be a major source of revenue so repealing the Tax could be unlikely.  There is a possibility that the Cadillac Tax could be redesigned or some form of compromise reached.  The long term impact to employees will most likely be reduced benefits and higher out of pocket costs which may create morale and retention issues.

Employers need to plan now and estimate what the potential costs of the Cadillac Tax to be for their organization and determine a strategy moving forward.

 

 

I Scribbled on a BMW with a Sharpie®

November 11th, 2014 by

pink carThe following post is from CAI’s Marketing Design Specialist, Vanessa Laster.

Actually, there were ten of us from CAI. We all did it. And we didn’t get caught or arrested or even yelled at.

One recent Monday in October (Breast Cancer Awareness month, in case you’ve been under a rock), the Sales and Marketing team of CAI took several hours out of our busy schedules to volunteer for a greater cause. We divided into groups and each group manned a pink car – a “Hope Mobile” to be precise. Crown Automotive of Greensboro has wrapped six different cars with pink graphics to raise awareness and money for research benefiting Earlier.org – Friends for Earlier Breast Cancer Test®. Julie Newcomb, CAI’s Triad Member Solutions Manager, is very passionate about the cause and serves on the Board of this organization, and she arranged for our team to help out.

So we donned our best pink attire and gathered around our respective cars in busy intersections and corners in the middle of the High Point Furniture Market (insanity!). We asked passersby from all over the world to give just one dollar and sign the car to raise money that Earlier.org will use to help identify an earlier test for breast cancer. One hundred percent of the funds raised are given directly to Earlier.org for research grants.

Though some folks just ignored our pleas – we think perhaps they just didn’t speak English – but most people were excited to support our efforts. Many of them even took pictures with the cars. It was inspiring and humbling to learn firsthand that people from all over the globe have had similar experiences with breast cancer in their lives. Some gave over $1. One of our teams even received a $100 bill!

At the end of the day, we raised $625 for Earlier.org. Our three groups were very competitive, really. What else do you expect from the Sales and Marketing Team? So who won? Team Volvo, Team BMW or Team Acura? The winner is every woman and man (yes, men can get it too) who will ever need a test to determine if they have breast cancer.

Support the cause. Visit www.earlier.org for more information.

 

3 Tips for Managing Stress Around the Holidays

November 6th, 2014 by

ThanksgivingThe holiday season can be a wonderful time of year. It is a season of spending time with family and friends, celebrating the year’s successes, and ringing in the new year. Yet this time can also cause stress at work because it is notorious for being busy, and you find yourself having five to-do lists that never seem to get completed. As the year is coming to a close, you may wonder where the year went and how you are going to manage to meet your annual goals while preparing for the holidays. While being busy can be overwhelming, there are ways to ease your stress and manage work so that you can enjoy the season!

By following these three tips, you can start to say goodbye to stress for the holidays!

1. Make to-do lists

This may be an obvious concept that you could already be doing, but do you make to-do lists that sit around and inevitably become longer? To-do lists can be very helpful if they are specific and have an end. You may be thinking that you have an endless amount of things to do, but try to make to-do lists for different areas of your life. At work, categorize your to-do lists and make sure that they contain specific tasks that will be completed. It is also helpful to add completion dates to your list, so there’s a definite end in sight.

 

2. Prioritize your tasks

Now that you have your to-do list(s), you can now start prioritizing all of the tasks you need to do. It can be helpful to prioritize tasks by relevance if there are certain things that need to be done before others, or you can prioritize by desire. Putting the less desired tasks first gets them out of the way, so that you can make room for more enjoyable tasks that leave you feeling more motivated. By prioritizing your work, you then have a direction that you are going in to reach your goal.

 

3. Stop multitasking

Multitasking may seem helpful to do around the holidays because it allows you to get a lot done at once, but the fact is, we were not designed to multitask. It seems like a lot of things are getting done faster, but it in actuality, with your focus divided so much, you start to work at a slower pace and your quality of work could get diminished. You can only stretch yourself so thin before things start to get chaotic and stressful. Focus on one thing at a time so you can produce your best quality of work.

 

The holidays only happen once a year so make the most of them! Relax and enjoy yourself by following these three steps. By reducing the stress in your life, you make room for joy!

For more information on managing stress at work, call a member of our Advice and Resolution team today at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. The team is now available 24 hours each day throughout the week! Please give us a call!

 

Photo Source: Satya Murthy

 

 

Is There a Good Termination?

November 4th, 2014 by

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer Column, The View from HR.

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

The best job terminations resemble resignations. The issues are clear, and efforts were made to improve. Dignity is preserved.

The truth is, most firings happen under difficult conditions. A manager dropped the ball, or the employee behaved badly. How can a difficult firing be better?

The firing manager usually controls the “terms of the termination” and can make a difficult situation better. There is discretion on basic terms like time off payouts, future references, how an unemployment claim will be handled, and even a written release of legal claims. There is discretion on what others are told and what the employee record reflects. There is even discretion on the last day of work and whether the employee will stay to finish some projects. The facts vary widely.

A much more complicated and misunderstood category of discretion is how the employee is fired. Call it the “human treatment” option. It is much more powerful than you might think.

The key to “human treatment” is whether the employee views the termination process itself as fair, not whether the decision was correct.

Some questions that could come up:

Was my treatment on the way out the final insult in a long line of insults, or was it something quite different?

Did it recognize my humanity, my need for dignity, my need to tell others why I was fired, and my need to leave this group of work friends without a sudden and public divorce?

The most important way a manager can make the process fair is to tell the truth. “This is why we are firing you. This is how the decision was made. This is how we investigated the facts. Yes, we value the work you did for us on that, but the failures on this led to your discharge.”

This is not the time to say everything that is true, nor the time to debate, but it can often be a time to establish the basic fairness of the decision process itself. It is also not the time to destroy the last shred of an employee’s dignity.

The most important way a fired employee can encourage “human treatment” is to be capable of handling his or her end of the bargain. Can you as an employee depersonalize this firing? Can you disagree or agree on a point without coming unglued? Can you show you are ready to move on if the exit makes that possible? Can you set out your ideas for internal communication and future references, or say goodbye to your team without making matters worse? Can you be trusted?

Research by a Duke professor and his team found that employees who perceived the process as fair were much less likely to make claims against employers, even if they disagreed with the discharge. Employees who saw the process itself as unfair became vindictive and made legal claims at a much higher rate.

Giving no reason for firing is not perceived as fair! Fairness in the termination process itself may be a better predictor of future legal problems than whether the actual reasons for termination were valid or not.

You can make a difficult termination better or worse by how the exit is handled. Your choice.

7 Time Hacks for Productivity

October 30th, 2014 by

work performanceYou’re busy, I mean, “there’s just not enough time in my day to get anywhere near what I wanted to accomplished,” and now you have to run errands, make dinner, take the dog out and finish the laundry all before falling asleep with your laptop in bed (again). In a world so preoccupied with time, here are 7 productivity tips to save you as much of it as possible…and they can all be implemented in under one minute!

 

  • Flip your phone over. Glancing at notifications as they arrive on your phone doesn’t take much time, but it drains a ton of attention. Every time you notice a new alert you glance at it (which only takes a few seconds), but then you either waste time checking it or waste time re-focusing on what you were previously doing. Either way, this is a huge unproductive time-suck.

 

  • The two-minute rule. The moment an email comes in think, “can I respond to this in two minutes or less?” If responding to the email requires a simple yes or no and would need less time to respond than it would to remind yourself to do it later, then do it now. By doing this you’re effectively prioritizing your day and promoting efficiency for yourself and the sender.

 

  • The Rule Of Three. In almost all areas of life, the “rule of 3” applies, and productivity is no exception. Ask yourself at the beginning of the day, “what three things do I want to accomplish today?” Then work toward those goals. When making your list, try not to focus necessarily on tasks so much as outcomes or results.

 

  • Keep a list of everything you’re waiting on and everything you need to do. Keeping a list is the best way to keep up with everything you have to do/everything you’re waiting on other people to do. This may seem a bit obvious, but trying to keep up with everything you’re responsible for can be taxing to say the least and in a world filled with technology, it’s unnecessary to try. I suggest writing everything on a Post-It, putting it in an app on your phone/tablet or both.

 

  • Take more breaks. While we’re on the topic, take more breaks! It may sound counterproductive, but taking more breaks throughout the day actually increases productivity because it prevents fatigue and facilitates creativity. Even if you’re short on time, try simply standing up and looking away from the computer for a minute or two to give your brain a chance to refresh.

 

  • Get Physical. I know it’s early, but getting 30 minutes of physical activity in every morning before you start your day will give you the lasting energy you need to power through your day! No more “2:30 feeling” for you!

 

  • Delegate. Learning to delegate the tasks that can be delegated can be the single most valuable productivity measure you ever take. Just remember that you are ultimately responsible for the work that they do, so make sure they understand the task the first time around or you’ll be doing double the work in the end.

 

Have anything that you need to delegate? CAI’s HR On Demand team is designed to do just that! We’re here to provide exactly “what you need, when you need it” and can handle as much or as little of a project as you’d like. Have something we can help you with? Contact us today at (919) 713-5263 or molly.hegeman@capital.org.

 

Delivering Great New Employees – Part 2

October 28th, 2014 by

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, continues the conversation from his last video blog in which he discussed employer recruiting efforts. His tip to employers is to stay out in front of top talent long before you have an opening.

Doug mentions that there are many factors that can attract a job candidate to your company, such as career advancement or working with industry thought leaders. You may offer enticing employee benefits, but Doug asks, “Does anyone know about them?”

He offers up action items employers can take to make top job candidates aware of their company and the benefits offered. One of the many items he shared in the video included having your team members present at events or activities where top candidates in the specific industry you’re looking in hang out, such as associations or industry-related conferences.

Doug encourages employers to try the tips he shared in the video and see how they attract interest from quality job seekers. Make sure to look out for the third installment of this video series next month.

For additional recruiting tips, please call a member of our Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. The team is now available 24 hours each day throughout the week! Please give us a call!

Survey Reveals Majority of Employers in Favor of Raising the Minimum Wage

October 23rd, 2014 by

minimum wageRaising the minimum wage is one of the country’s top socioeconomic and political issues. Voters at large have shown support for minimum wage increases according to recent polls. A new survey from CareerBuilder indicates that many businesses are also in support of raising the minimum wage.

The survey reveals that 62 percent of employers who participated think the minimum wage in their state should increase. Fifty-eight percent of those participants are senior leaders at their companies.  Harris Poll conducted the survey on behalf of CareerBuilder from May 13 to June 6 of 2014. The survey includes a sample of 2,188 full-time hiring and human resource managers and 3,372 full-time workers in the private sector across industries and company sizes.

When asked what a fair minimum wage would look like, only 7 percent of participants think a minimum wage of $15 per hour or more would be fair. Check out how the other participants answered:

  • $7.25 per hour (current federal minimum): 8 percent
  • $8.00 or $9.00 per hour: 29 percent
  • $10.00 per hour: 29 percent
  • $11.00-$14.00 per hour: 19 percent
  • $15.00 or more per hour: 7 percent
  • No set minimum wage: 9 percent

When asked why the minimum wage should increase, employers in favor of an increase gave business-related reasons for the support. A majority of the supporters say a higher minimum wage helps the economy and company retention. Additional reasons are below:

  • It can improve the standard of living: 74 percent
  • It can have a positive effect on employee retention: 58 percent
  • It can help bolster economy: 55 percent
  • It can increase consumer spending: 53 percent
  • Employees may be more productive/deliver higher quality work: 48 percent
  • It can afford workers the opportunity to pursue more training or education: 39 percent

The employers who do not support an increase highlight the negative effects an increase may have on their business. See below for those reasons:

  • It can cause employers to hire less people: 66 percent
  • It can cause issues for small businesses struggling to get by: 65 percent
  • It can cause hikes in prices to offset labor costs: 62 percent
  • It can mean potential layoffs: 50 percent
  • It can lead to increased use of automation as a replacement for workers: 32 percent
  • Wages for higher-level workers may suffer and create retention issues: 29 percent

The survey showed that 27 percent of employers are hiring minimum wage workers in 2015. Forty-five percent of these employers are hiring more minimum wage workers than they did pre-recession.

An interesting statistic the study uncovered is that companies currently hiring for minimum wage positions are more likely to support a minimum wage increase than those who are not by an 11-point margin– 70 percent versus  59 percent.

Photo Source: Maryland GovPics

 

 

 

 

Promoting Positivity in the Workplace

October 21st, 2014 by

Many people seem to know the expressions “Negative Nancy” or “Debby Downer,” but negativity is not something that should be familiar in the workplace. A negative environment can lead to low performance, job and performance dissatisfaction, and low employee retention rates.

But how exactly do we eliminate negativity in the workplace? This may seem like a tricky question because ultimately we can only control ourselves, but therein lies the answer. Whether a senior executive or an entry-level employee, to eliminate negativity in the workplace, we must evaluate our own attitudes and behavior and the way we express our views to colleagues and employers.

Let’s examine a few areas where we can re-evaluate our attitudes:

Interactions with colleagues

  • Employee retention rates may have a lot to do with how happy employees actually are. It may seem obvious, but no one likes a person with a negative attitude or someone that is never happy with anyone at work. Whenever you interact with colleagues think about trying to stay positive and optimistic because a positive attitude is contagious. If people have positive interactions with you, then they are more likely to have a positive interaction with another colleague, thus spreading the attitude throughout the workplace.

 

  • Try to avoid gossip or exclusivity, because this can turn an office into a negative environment by isolating certain employees and spreading animosity for certain people. By encouraging others to remain positive through example, you will help reduce office gossip, exclusivity and ill feeling towards others.

One-on-ones with supervisors

  • Feedback is key to developing employees, yet feedback can be unproductive if it presented improperly. Positive feedback can be beneficial to both the person giving and receiving it. When presenting feedback, try to do so in a positive way. Tell employees what they are doing well and then present them with a few things they could be doing to improve performance instead of only telling them what they are doing wrong. By keeping the attitude positive, the employee feels hopeful and encouraged to perform well.

 

  • It is important to receive critical feedback in a positive way as well. Try to understand where your supervisor is coming from and offer ways that you could improve your work. If you are optimistic about how you can improve, then your supervisor will be too.

Job performance

  • When approaching your own work, a positive attitude can look like many different things, such as being confident in the task or challenge at hand, feeling optimistic with the effort you are putting forth or performing to the best of your ability to achieve the results you want. By having a positive attitude towards your own work, you can achieve the best results. If a negative attitude is encroaching on your work, figure out if your skill set is being used properly or if there is a way to approach the task differently.

A positive work environment starts with you. Positivity and happiness seem to be contagious, so the next time you overhear an employee gossiping or being negative, encourage them or offer them a positive view on the situation. Say goodbye to “Negative Nancy” and say hello to “Positive Polly.”

Photo Source: Glen Wright

How Can Staffing Firms Manage The Employer Mandate?

October 16th, 2014 by

The post below is a guest blog from Jay Lowe who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

hcw 10 16 14Be sure your staffing firm is ready to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Many companies use staffing firms to fill placement needs within their organizations. The placements can be for short-term coverage needs or longer term work assignments. Under the Employer Mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), these temporary employees must be classified just as any other permanent employee based on their job description or role within the company. The classification determines whether or not this temporary employee should be offered health coverage. Improper classification and failure to offer health coverage to a full-time but temporary employee could result in significant tax penalties levied against the client employer.

The Problem

When PPACA was initially enacted, the rules around staffing firms were not clearly defined. There was some speculation that these entities would not be subject to the Employer Mandate or penalties and that companies who use staffing agencies would not be required to offer their ”staffed” or “temporary” employees coverage. Earlier in 2014, however, the IRS and the Department of Labor issued clarification around this and deemed that the Common Law Employer is to be responsible for providing coverage to staffed employees and will receive the penalty if out of compliance with the Employer Mandate.

The Common Law Employer may or may not be the staffing agency and is to be determined using the IRS 20 factor test. This determination would be made regardless of any agreement or contract between the staffing agency and the client employer. Additionally, the issuing company of an employee’s Form W-2 is not determinative of who is responsible for offering coverage. In many cases, the Common Law Employer is the client employer who receives the temporary employees from the staffing firm. When the client employer is the Common Law Employer, the burden of offering coverage (and the risk of penalty) lies with the client employer.

The Solution

The Employer Mandate final rules provide some relief to companies using staffing firms, by allowing a staffing firm to make an offer of coverage on behalf of the Common Law Employer. A compliant offer of coverage for staffed employees releases the Common Law Employer (i.e., the client employer) of the Employer Mandate obligations for those employees procured through the staffing agency. The rules around this are simple:

  1. First, the offer of coverage must be made by the staffing firm. The coverage will consist of a medical plan that meets or exceeds the 60% actuarial value limit set by law and be affordable to the employee (total annual premium cost to the employee of no more than 9.5% of their W-2 income).
  2. Second, the plan that is offered is a group health plan established or maintained by the staffing firm.
  3. Third, the fee paid to the staffing firm by the client employer is higher for those temporary staffers who enroll in the plan than it is for those temporary staffers who choose not to enroll. Basically, the staffing company is required to pass along a portion of the cost of insurance to their client employer.

What should you do now?

Employers who use temporary employees should ask their staffing firms questions about how they are complying with the PPACA regulations, as that could have a significant impact if penalties are triggered. Conversely, staffing firms must be prepared to answer the questions they will receive from their clients.

Questions that should be asked and answered are:

  1. How do you plan to comply with PPACA in 2015?
  2. Do you plan to offer MEC to full‐time employees?
  3. Will the MEC be of minimum value (i.e., 60% plan value)?
  4. Will you be charging a different fee for employees enrolled in the plan than for employees not enrolled in the plan?
  5. If yes, what will the differential be?
  6. Will you obtain and maintain waivers for those employees who waive coverage?

Ultimately, there is a vital necessity for any company that uses temporary employees to have an open channel of communication with their staffing firm. Employers must educate their staffing firms on types of employees they need with respect to their classification. Conversely, staffing firms must educate their employer clients on how they plan to manage the Employer Mandate and what to expect regarding pricing and coverage on the employees they place. Staffing firms and their employer clients must work together to develop a plan to reduce and/or eliminate the exposure to penalties.