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Here's How You Can Help Your Employees Make The Most Of The July 4th Holiday

David Rook

Many employees feel like they have to check-in with work even when they’re supposed to be enjoying paid time off. More often than not, this is a cultural issue within a company.

Supervisors might be checking-in and sending emails in the evening or on weekends. This leads their direct reports to believe they need to respond immediately, and they may even start adopting these behaviors themselves. 

Yet, research has shown time and time again that workers need frequent breaks and unfortunately, Americans leave a lot of that paid time off on the table every year. It might seem like workers would be more productive if they aren’t using all their vacation time, but in reality, skipping our vacations actually makes us less productive. To keep employees operating in top shape, we need to encourage them to enjoy their downtime — and perhaps it’s fitting to begin with the July 4th holiday. Here are 5 ways to encourage employees to enjoy their independence...and their paid time off this weekend.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO), Employee Retention

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The Importance of Paid Time Off (PTO)

David Rook

Paid time off is one of the most commonly provided benefits as well as one of the most highly regarded.

The Bureau of Labor and Statistics reports that more than 70 percent of employees have at least one form of paid time off, and the rate is much higher among certain types of employers such as large private companies and local, state and federal government entities.

In fact, in a Glassdoor survey, vacation and paid time off proved to be more important for employees than pay raises. Yet despite the desire for it, the United States remains far behind much of the world in both providing and using this benefit.

Even though there’s been a recent uptick in the number of days U.S. employees are taking off annually, they still take very few days off -- and that’s not good for anyone.

The following is an exploration of why paid time off is important to offer and why it's important to take, along with what’s normal in the U.S. and throughout the world. 

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Topics: Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO), Employee Retention, workplace wellness, trends, work life balance, Mental Health, Recruitment

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Employee Benefits in the Gig Economy

David Rook

From Uber and Lyft to TaskRabbit and Fiverr, the gig economy is now firmly established as a fixture of today’s workplace. 

Gallup surveys show that about 36 percent of U.S. workers have some sort of gig, and 29 percent rely on an "alternative work arrangement" (as it's sometimes called) as their primary source of income.

With such a strong presence in the labor market, the gig economy is altering the shape of employment. The numbers from Gallup are lower than some respected economists originally reported (and lower than some less established source’s statistics), but they still show that the gig economy is here to stay. Few aspects of employment will remain unaltered by it, and employee benefits certainly isn’t immune to its impacts.

In fact, multiple issues related to employee benefits in the gig economy have already been raised. Moving forward, both government agencies and businesses will need to rethink employee benefits programs so that they adequately compensate independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers, temporary workers and others with alternative work arrangements.

Here’s what’s being done for both the distant and near future.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Recruitment

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Employee Benefit Perks That Make The Holidays Merry

David Rook

Employee Benefit Perks That Make The Holidays Merry


It’s that time of year again: the time when employers ponder ways to express their appreciation to staff for a job well done. 
 
This year-end recognition almost always coincides with holiday festivities. How can you ensure that the holiday perks and year-end recognition you have in mind are the ones that will really resonate with your employees?

Give the Gift of Time

Around the holidays, one of the scarcest commodities anyone has is time. Savvy employers discern that employees highly prize generous holiday leave policies.

Some small, locally-owned industries manage to arrange their production schedules in such a way that they can close their doors between Christmas and New Year’s every year. While juggling the production schedule requires forethought and fine planning skills, companies that manage this perk reap the rewards of high employee morale as the holidays near.

For most companies, however, business processes must continue throughout the holiday season. Larger companies are often unable to make a grand gesture such as closing down for a whole holiday week. The good news is that a little creative thinking often yields positive results.
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Topics: Company Culture

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Cyber Monday Slowdown; Four Ways To Maintain Some Semblance of Worker Productivity

David Rook
Long holiday weekends are typically an excellent opportunity for employees to relax and recharge their batteries. While the first day back is admittedly a bit crazy, the backlog of calls and emails eventually subsidies, with one dreaded exception...Cyber Monday. 
 
According to the research firm Robert Haft Technology , nearly a quarter of your workforce will shop online during their work-hours on Cyber Monday. And while 46 percent will browse during their lunch breaks, almost a third of employees will shop all day long.
 

So what can be done about this employee productivity killer? In a nutshell, not much. Resistance is futile, as they say. So here are four ways that you, as an employer, can embrace Cyber Monday in ways designed to minimize workplace disruption and maintain employee productivity.

Sanction Shopping Time
 
Rather than prohibiting or admonishing online shopping throughout the day (it’s going to happen anyway), bring it out from the shadows. In doing so, you might turn this covert experience into something far more social - an activity which can even perhaps foster some group camradery.
 
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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Education, Employee Productivity

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Black Friday Revolt Continues; Employers Put Family Time First

David Rook
Black Friday has become an enormous "tent pole event" for both retailers and consumers. The day after Thanksgiving has become synonymous with outrageous deals – but also outrageous lines, all-night camp outs, poorly-staffed stores, and sometimes violent confrontations between shoppers vying to be the first to hit the shelves. 
 
For a long time, Black Friday was seen as simply a good day to get a head start on Christmas shopping and save some money. However, in recent years, store openings have crept earlier and earlier, even into Thanksgiving itself, and viral videos of stampeding shoppers, brawls, and even some deaths have contributed to a growing sense that the infamous “holiday” has gone too far. Add to this the numerous complaints from employees on social media and the rise in popularly of online/mobile shopping,  and one gets the sense that the importance of Black Friday is finally waning.
 
As demonstrated by REI for the fourth consecutive year, retailers who take the brave stance of sticking to normal business hours, can not only engender goodwill from their employees by adhering to tenets of their corporate culture, but also, in certain situations, can endear themselves to loyal customers - a true win / win if ever there was one. This year, not only will REI close their physical locations during Thanksgiving and Black Friday, but they also plan to take it a step further by not processing online orders during this time either. Though REI is one retailer willing to push the limits by completely closing up shop on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, countless other retailers have curtailed the practice of opening their doors Thanksgiving evening. In fact, according to BestBlackFriday.com, a record number of stores will remain closed that day.
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Topics: Employee Benefits, Company Culture, Education

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Practical Issues to Consider in Expanding Benefits Coverage to Transgender Employees

David Rook

Best-in-class employee benefits evolve with the times and our changing values. We saw marriage equality granted to all people in this country after Obergefell v. Hodges, opening employee benefits to many additional spouses and families. Now, we’re seeing more and more employers (including Fortune 100 and 500 companies) embrace transgender-inclusive health insurance plans as gender identity awareness improves. However, medical professionals have been stressing the importance of transgender health for years.

In 2008, the American Medical Association (AMA) first voiced its concerns for the discrimination of transgender individuals when it published a guidance supporting “public and private health insurance coverage for treatment of gender dysphoria as recommended by the patient's physician.” (This policy was updated in 2016).

In order to truly be an equal opportunity employer, you should have at least one transgender-inclusive health insurance plan in your employee benefits package. It’s not as complicated or expensive as it may sound. In fact, right here in our home state of Arizona, there are quite a few employers already offering such benefits.

Here are some practical issues you should consider when expanding your employee benefits to make sure they include transgender employees and how doing so could help you recruit and retain the workforce of the future — namely, millennials and generation Z, who see inclusivity as an important attribute of prospective employers.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Affordable Care Act, Company Culture, ACA, Recruiting, Retention, Plan Design, employee culture, Arizona, employers, PPACA, Culture, LGBTQ

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FMLA Rules and Regulations: What is Required of Employers?

Jeff Griffin

At some point or another, every human resources employee helps to facilitate a leave of absence under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). HR personnel can probably recite FMLA regulations in their sleep, but the average employee is pretty much out of touch with what the law entitles them to, and quite often they don't realize what’s actually required of their employers.

FMLA rules are designed to protect both the employer and the employee. From an employee’s perspective, they’re able to take necessary medical leave without fear of losing their job. For employers, it helps them work toward the goal of true, equal opportunity employment for both men and women.

To help make your life as an HR professional just a little bit easier, we’ve put this handy guide of FMLA rules and regulations together for you — including some that are specific to our home state of Arizona's FMLA laws. Feel free to download this additional resource guide to include it in your employee handbook or to email to employees who are inquiring about FMLA guidelines.

About the Family Medical Leave Act

The Family Medical Leave Act took nearly a decade to become law, with its first draft being written in 1984 by the Women’s Legal Defense Fund. It was introduced every year from then until 1993, and was even passed by Congress in 1991 and then again in 1992, but was vetoed both times by President George H. Bush. Congress passed the legislation once more in 1993, which President Bill Clinton signed into law just 16 days after taking office.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Compliance, Company Culture, Paid Time Off (PTO)

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5 Ways to Make Pregnancy (and the Return to Work) Easier for Working Moms

David Rook

Even though the majority of the working population in America are parents, employers seem to be largely in the dark about how to cater benefits packages to people who are raising kids, especially working moms. Thanks to the openness of the internet and highly successful working moms (like Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook) talking about their experiences, a whole new avenue of conversation has started about making the workplace more family-friendlyThe law provides a starting point, but there are little things (even free things) you can do to help make pregnancy and the return to work easier for working moms. 

First, a disclosure before I go on - I had a lot of help from my wife, a working mom of two children, when writing this particular article. She had a lot of thoughts about what she wished she would have had access to when our children were young and what employers could do now to make the return to work easier. With that out of the way, let's continue...

What’s Required of Employers by Law

Employers with 50 or more full-time equivalents are required to allow men and women to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Most employers will allow their employees to use vacation or sick time during their leave so that part of the weeks are paid. Some even offer partially paid leave.

One of the provisions in the Affordable Care Act includes employer requirements for working moms who are still nursing. This stems from the scientific belief that breast milk, for the first year, is what’s best for babies, as well as the reality of breastfeeding — which is that it’s time consuming. Women are more likely to give up on breastfeeding if they don’t feel their employer is supportive of providing work breaks for pumping.

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Topics: Employee Benefits, Affordable Care Act, Compliance, Company Culture, Flexible Schedules

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Why Workplace Harassment Training is So Important

Jeff Griffin

Most employers in America have some kind of workplace harassment training in place. The majority of the time, it’s hokey, outdated videos full of unrealistic scenarios that completely miss the nuances of personal interaction, followed by a series of questions with very obvious answers. Pretty much anyone could correctly answer those questions without actually paying attention to the videos. We all know the “right” answers because they’re so obvious.

The recent sexual harassment allegations in the news have left many business owners and HR departments wondering what they can do to improve sexual harassment training in their companies, while enduring push back from staff who are dreading yet another terrible seminar.

It’s important for every company to have effective workplace harassment training and subsequent guidelines for how to handle accusations, as not doing so can leave you vulnerable to lawsuits. But not having proper training and procedures can also create a breeding ground for workplace harassment, giving rise to employees feeling unsafe at work, which doesn’t create the type of environment people enjoy working in — and it’s definitely not the kind of place that recruits and retains the best talent.

Workplace Harassment in the News

Sexual harassment has been prevalent in the news lately, as more and more women (and men) are coming forward about their experiences with workplace harassment. Discussions of harassment and assault have been picking up momentum since the summer of 2016, when 24 women made assault or harassment allegations against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Since then, multiple men have been accused, including former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, celebrity chef Mario Batali, Metropolitan Opera conductor James Levine, former host and creator of the radio show "A Prairie Home Companion" Garrison Keillor, former Today Show anchor Matt Lauer, journalist Charlie Rose, hip hop producer Russell Simmons, former Minnesota Senator Al Franken, actor Kevin Spacey, comedian Louis C.K., defeated Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, and of course, movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The list goes on, and on, and on.

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Topics: Compliance, Company Culture, Employee Engagement, Culture, Training

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