HR PSA: Sometimes it’s Not Your Problem

You got into HR because you genuinely like helping people. You care about other people’s wellbeing and you see the value in building systems that are mutually beneficial for both individuals and companies. You take pride in being able to listen, empathize, and help people deal with problems. 

But being a people person comes with its own challenges. You want to be able to help everyone, but in HR (and in life) that doesn’t always mean allowing them to bring all their problems to you. You’ve got to balance the needs of the company with the needs of individual workers. That does not mean you’re supposed to be the company therapist.  

Although playing the role of the listener is often a part of being in HR, it isn’t your job to listen to employees complain about each other. There are more productive ways to deal with those issues. 

Constructive Conversations 

When employees approach you to complain about a problem they’re having with someone on their team, or their manager, do a quick evaluation to see if they should be talking with you or if they should be taking the first steps to addressing the issue. 

  • Have they tried to solve the problem themselves? 
  • Do you get the sense they just want to change the other person? 
  • Are they trying to absolve themselves of accountability? 
  • Do they simply want to vent and aren’t interested in coming up with solutions? 

In these cases, they should be exploring other methods of addressing the problem rather than giving it to you. Coaching employees and managers to have constructive conversations on their own is key for teams to run effectively. People need to learn to approach, talk about, and solve problems within their team in a professional manner. 

It might include coaching on key concepts like active listeningmirroring, and how to create value from a conversation. Unless it is a matter of safety, such as harassment, this should be the first step anyone takes when dealing with an interpersonal problem at work.  

If your company culture pushes people into the arms of HR before they’ve tried addressing the problem themselves, some changes may be in order. Take steps toward adjusting the company culture around internal problem solving and empowering people to address some level of challenges on their own. 

Need extra support? 

Empowering people to manage their own concerns and disputes is a great way to develop a team. However, sometimes employees are dealing with something much larger than an interpersonal issue.  

Problems stemming from mental illness, grief, or trauma are common and can go unknown to teammates. It may be manifesting itself in disagreements with other coworkersnegativity, and decreased engagement. HR may be the right answer to help in these situations, and you’ll need to take the time to uncover the real issue.  

But often personal problems like this need extra assistanceSome companies have employee assistance programs (EAPs) that are designed to help with these issues. Having an EAP and pointing employees to these services may be especially useful if there was a recent event involving workplace violence or harassment.  

There are other resources outside of your company you can tap into to help deal with a problem that is beyond the capacity of HR. It’s important to be familiar with them so you can make informed recommendations for whats needed to help maintain workplace health. 

Here are some supporting resources you can tap into: 

  • Hire a coach to come work with your team 
  • Offer inperson or overthephone counseling options to employees 
  • Have a list of hotlines you can reference for employees struggling with personal issues 

Saying no 

Learning to say no to people approaching HR with the wrong problems can be difficult, especially when your first instinct is to help. But sometimes it’s necessary—although it doesn’t mean that the problem goes ignored. 

When you send someone away to deal with a problem themselves, and you give them the tools to do so, you are challenging them to take accountability for their situation and assume a leadership role in addressing the issue. You are empowering them by teaching them how to deal with future workplace challenges and showing them they have the ability to solve it on their own. You’re also taking a lot of unnecessary work off your plate. It’s a winwin.  

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Dmitrii Shironosov 

  

Employers Beware: Comp Time Could Land You in Hot Water

Employees are often more than willing to put in extra hours to help accomplish a specific team or company goal. Participating in special events, trade shows, product launches, and other occasional high-intensity activities can be fun and rewarding for motivated staff members.

In these circumstances, it can be tempting to get creative when compensating helpful employees for this additional time. It can also be a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act.

What is comp time?

Compensatory (comp) time is sometimes offered to non-exempt employees in lieu of overtime pay. Rather than paying employees time and a half for those extra hours, a company or supervisor might offer additional paid time off to make up for the additional time worked.

Here’s an example: An employee works 48 hours one week as a result of helping out with a company special event. In return, their employer offers to give them an additional paid day off at some other time. Everybody’s happy, right?

Not quite.

While this may sound like a great idea to many employers and employees, it’s usually illegal.

When is comp time legal?

If you’re dealing with public sector employees under a union contract, you may be able to provide comp time in a manner that doesn’t violate the FLSA. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The comp time strategy must be spelled out and agreed to before the extra hours are worked, not after the fact.
  • Employees can’t be required to work mandatory comp time on a regular basis.
  • Comp time must be paid at the same rate as overtime pay, meaning they should receive one and a half hours of comp time for every additional hour worked.

Some states have passed laws that allow private employers to provide comp time instead of overtime. If you’re in one of them, you may be in the clear. Just keep in mind that these laws can be complex and difficult to interpret. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you can and can’t do. Working with an employment law expert when developing your compensatory time program is always a good idea.

When not to use comp time

If you’re a “better safe than sorry” kind of person, you may want to toss the idea of comp time out the window altogether.

Focusing on a clear compensation system that includes accurate time keeping, fastidious record keeping, and careful attention to hours worked and overtime pay calculations might be the best solution for your business and your employees.

If your employees are putting in extra hours, here are few things to keep in mind:

  • Workers can’t volunteer their time or waive their right to overtime pay. Businesses are required to pay overtime to eligible employees, even if that employee wants to work unpaid.
  • Non-exempt, overtime-eligible employees must be paid overtime for additional hours worked, even if the overtime was unauthorized or prohibited.
  • Simply paying overtime isn’t enough to keep you in compliance. Overtime must be paid at the correct rate. Compensating employees for overtime incorrectly is also a wage and hour violation.
  • Overtime can be mandatory, but comp time cannot.
  • Private sector, non-exempt employees who are covered by the FLSA must be paid at time and a half for all overtime hours worked. Offering them comp time for extra hours worked is a violation of federal law. (Unless your state says differently.)
  • Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay. However, exempt employees must be classified correctly according to their job role, duties, and salary. Classifying someone as exempt to avoid overtime pay is a big no-no.

it’s not uncommon for employers to do everything they can to avoid paying overtime, but sometimes it isn’t a matter of ill intent or gaming the system. Sometimes, your employees really do just want to go above and beyond, working extra hours in the process. And you may want to let them.

Unfortunately, those helpful staff members may not realize they are actually putting the company in jeopardy— and you might not realize you’re in danger of non-compliance.

Other overtime hazards

Overtime isn’t just about money or being in compliance. Sometimes, it’s about how much work there is and who may or may not be willing to do it.

Even if you are following all the rules, classifying your employees correctly, and accurately paying people for all of their time, there are a couple of reasons you may want to keep overtime hours in check.

Expecting your exempt employees to work more than their fair share on a regular basis isn’t a good employee retention strategy. Employee burnout is real. And so is math. If your exempt employees get to a point where they’re calculating out their hourly wage, will that salary you’re offering still seem appealing? 

Some employers pay out loads of overtime as if it’s a good thing. But be careful about whether those additional hours are optional or mandatory. Not every hardworking employee thinks being paid time and a half is worth missing every one of their kid’s soccer games.

Finding that sweet spot where work hours, employer compliance, and employee satisfaction all come together won’t just keep you out of trouble. It will make your business healthier and your team happier. 

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by Carolyn Franks

Overwhelmed by Overtime? Here’s What You Need to know.

Depending on what kind of business you’re running and the kind of work your employees are doing, it can be difficult to manage the various kinds of time your employees are clocking. Or not clocking. Or should be clocking.

The bottom line is this: When employees put in extra hours, employers need to be extra careful when calculating overtime and extra vigilant about paying it out.

Overtime rules

According to the standard Fair Labor Standards Act, overtime refers to time worked over and above 40 hours in any one-week pay period. Sounds simple, right? But there is more to it than that, including some very specific requirements regarding how that work week is defined and which workers are entitled to and exempt from overtime pay.

Here are the basic overtime rules you need to know:

  • FLSA overtime rules apply to all nonexempt employees.
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act applies on a workweek basis.
  • Employee work weeks must be defined as a fixed and recurring time period consisting of 168 hours, or 7 consecutive days.
  • Work weeks can begin on any day and at any hour as long as they meet the above guidelines.
  • Different work weeks may be established for different employees or groups.
  • Averaging hours over multiple work weeks is not allowed.
  • Overtime pay earned in a particular week should be paid on the regular pay day for that specific pay period.
  • The overtime pay rate is equal to 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in one consecutive time period.
    • The first 40 hours are at the standard rate of pay with anything over occurring at time and a half.
  • Most exempt employees are exempt from overtime pay— if they are classified correctly.
  • Exempt employees who make under a certain salary threshold ARE eligible for overtime pay. Again, it’s important to classify employees correctly.
  • Some states and local jurisdictions have their own overtime requirements, which may provide greater protection for employees than what is provided under the FLSA. It’s important to know your local laws.
  • When federal, state, and local laws conflict, the rule that is most beneficial to the employee should prevail.
  • FLSA requires employers to keep records of payments to employees, including overtime.
    • In the case of an audit, an employer must be able to prove payment of overtime that meets FLSA requirements.

Understanding the definition of overtime and how to properly calculate overtime wages is critical to running your business, staying in compliance, and limiting your exposure to liability and risk.

Staying in compliance

If the fear of wage and hour claims keeps you up at night, you’re not alone. And your worries are not unfounded.

Many companies have found themselves suddenly wrapped up in costly, time consuming, and exhausting battles over wage and hour issues. There are many ways for businesses to end up in these situations, including misclassification of employees, inefficient time and attendance tracking, and payroll mistakes.

The good news is that many of these problems can be avoided with some relatively simple strategies:

  • Paying careful attention to individual job descriptions and duties will help make sure your employees are classified correctly.
  • Investing in time tracking and payroll systems that are easy, efficient, and accurate will ensure that your staff is paid correctly and on time.
  • Consulting with outside experts will keep you on the right side of wage and hour compliance.

If you don’t have an in-house expert on staff, consider working with an outside company who specializes in things like time tracking, payroll, and overtime.

Not only will finding the right compliance partner take work off your HR team’s plate, it will help reduce your business risk and keep things running smoothly. And that is time well spent.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners

Photo by cunaplus

Got Overtime? Make Sure You’re Handling It Correctly.

When it comes to payroll mishaps, there’s a lot at stake. Costly fines, penalties, and litigation can do serious damage to your company.  

Even if your payroll mistake is accidental and relatively small, it can quickly balloon into a large financial burden. One company’s $608 overtime mistake ended up costing them nearly $45,000 when it was all said and done.

And if that’s not enough to worry about, payroll mistakes can also lead to unhappy employees, low workplace morale, class action lawsuits, and negative press. All of which are bad for business.

Where are businesses going wrong?

Payroll can be a nuanced and complicated processes, changing with every new law, regulation, and employee that comes along. If you’re not on top of it constantly, things can go bad quickly.

Here are some common payroll mistakes companies make:

  • Misclassifying employees
  • Using inaccurate time tracking methods
  • Keeping poor records
  • Missing deadlines
  • Being uniformed

Often, the problem is as simple as poor communication. Deadlines get missed. Hours are worked but not reported. Employees and managers have different expectations about what is and isn’t acceptable.

It’s all about the details

Even employees with the best intentions can put their employers at risk. Motivated staff may actually want to skip breaks and/or put in extra hours without expectations of pay. But even if these employees don’t expect to get paid for those extra hours, employers are still on the hook for following and enforcing all wage and hour laws.

Some companies will take advantage of employees like this by looking the other way and hoping they don’t get caught, but many companies are truly unaware that their employees are working off hours.

Technology plays a role here as well. Cell phones, laptops, and remote work options make it very easy for employees to log additional time off the clock without anyone knowing. Often, these employees themselves don’t realize they are doing anything wrong. But small overtime mistakes can add up to big trouble.

Keys to effective overtime management

1. Make compliance a priority

It all starts with knowing your responsibilities as an employer— and staying in compliance. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can do one time and trust that it will take you into the future. Compliance is an ongoing process that requires constant attention.

2. Invest in your HR and payroll systems

If your payroll person is also your HR person, your accountant, and your receptionist, you’re just asking for a wage and hour violation. Invest in strengthening your internal HR team or consider partnering with an outside payroll company to help. Whoever is in charge of these things needs to have the bandwidth, knowledge, and experience to get them done correctly.  

3. Classify employees correctly

Misclassification of employees is one of the most common causes of labor lawsuits. Pay close attention to the rules for classifying contractors, exempt, and non-exempt employees— and follow them to the letter. If you’re feeling uncertain, this is another area you can ask a payroll expert for help.

4. Communicate with your team

You’ve gone through the trouble to learn the ins and outs of wage and hour law, but do your employees know what they need to do? Spell out the details of what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to overtime and hours worked and let them know what will happen if they don’t follow the rules.

5. Keep accurate time

If your time tracking system isn’t accurate, your payroll system won’t be either. It’s as simple as that. Find a system that is consistent, precise, secure, and easy to use. Then, make sure you get your money’s worth by clearly explaining how it works and requiring everyone to use it. 

Play it safe

Effectively managing overtime will help protect your company from payroll and compliance violations, wage and hour fines, and class action lawsuits. This alone should be more than enough motivation to keep you on the right side of wage and hour compliance, but it doesn’t end there.

Avoiding payroll mistakes will save you time, money, and headaches. It will also keep your employees happier— which means they’ll keep clocking in for years to come.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Photo by ViDi Studio

Got Overtime? Make Sure You’re Handling It Correctly.

When it comes to payroll mishaps, there’s a lot at stake. Costly fines, penalties, and litigation can do serious damage to your company.  

Even if your payroll mistake is accidental and relatively small, it can quickly balloon into a large financial burden. One company’s $608 overtime mistake ended up costing them nearly $45,000 when it was all said and done.

And if that’s not enough to worry about, payroll mistakes can also lead to unhappy employees, low workplace morale, class action lawsuits, and negative press. All of which are bad for business.

Where are businesses going wrong?

Payroll can be a nuanced and complicated processes, changing with every new law, regulation, and employee that comes along. If you’re not on top of it constantly, things can go bad quickly.

Here are some common payroll mistakes companies make:

  • Misclassifying employees
  • Using inaccurate time tracking methods
  • Keeping poor records
  • Missing deadlines
  • Being uniformed

Often, the problem is as simple as poor communication. Deadlines get missed. Hours are worked but not reported. Employees and managers have different expectations about what is and isn’t acceptable.

It’s all about the details

Even employees with the best intentions can put their employers at risk. Motivated staff may actually want to skip breaks and/or put in extra hours without expectations of pay. But even if these employees don’t expect to get paid for those extra hours, employers are still on the hook for following and enforcing all wage and hour laws.

Some companies will take advantage of employees like this by looking the other way and hoping they don’t get caught, but many companies are truly unaware that their employees are working off hours.

Technology plays a role here as well. Cell phones, laptops, and remote work options make it very easy for employees to log additional time off the clock without anyone knowing. Often, these employees themselves don’t realize they are doing anything wrong. But small overtime mistakes can add up to big trouble.

Keys to effective overtime management

1. Make compliance a priority

It all starts with knowing your responsibilities as an employer— and staying in compliance. Unfortunately, this isn’t something you can do one time and trust that it will take you into the future. Compliance is an ongoing process that requires constant attention.

2. Invest in your HR and payroll systems

If your payroll person is also your HR person, your accountant, and your receptionist, you’re just asking for a wage and hour violation. Invest in strengthening your internal HR team or consider partnering with an outside payroll company to help. Whoever is in charge of these things needs to have the bandwidth, knowledge, and experience to get them done correctly.  

3. Classify employees correctly

Misclassification of employees is one of the most common causes of labor lawsuits. Pay close attention to the rules for classifying contractors, exempt, and non-exempt employees— and follow them to the letter. If you’re feeling uncertain, this is another area you can ask a payroll expert for help.

4. Communicate with your team

You’ve gone through the trouble to learn the ins and outs of wage and hour law, but do your employees know what they need to do? Spell out the details of what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to overtime and hours worked and let them know what will happen if they don’t follow the rules.

5. Keep accurate time

If your time tracking system isn’t accurate, your payroll system won’t be either. It’s as simple as that. Find a system that is consistent, precise, secure, and easy to use. Then, make sure you get your money’s worth by clearly explaining how it works and requiring everyone to use it. 

Play it safe

Effectively managing overtime will help protect your company from payroll and compliance violations, wage and hour fines, and class action lawsuits. This alone should be more than enough motivation to keep you on the right side of wage and hour compliance, but it doesn’t end there.

Avoiding payroll mistakes will save you time, money, and headaches. It will also keep your employees happier— which means they’ll keep clocking in for years to come.

 

Content provided by Q4iNetwork and partners 

Photo by ViDi Studio