The HR Strategist: July 2016
In this issue:
- Document Document Document!
- Tax Benefits of a Health Savings Account
- Leveraging Technology for Overtime Compliance
- Minimum Wage Increase in Washington, DC
Most HR professionals recognize the importance of documenting employees’ performance problems. The challenge is to teach managers how to document those issues appropriately and the point isn’t just to protect the employer in case an employee (or former employee) files a lawsuit. In fact, good documentation creates credibility for the employer by showing that employees are treated in a fair and consistent manner.
Here are seven steps to creating “bulletproof” documentation:
- Describe company expectations. Cleary state what the job description or the company policies require. For example, “Your job begins at 8 am, at which time you should be at your desk ready to answer client calls.”
- Describe the behavior or performance that must change (or that you want to continue). Describe the conduct, not the individual. Avoid making broad judgments using works such as “always” and “never” – best practice is to record specific dates to show when and where the unwanted behavior occurred. Keep your observations job-related. Describe how the employee’s behavior impacts others trying to do their jobs. Remember to include positive comments as well.
- Include the employee’s explanation for why expectations aren’t being met. Having a two-way conversation shows the manager’s attempt to be fair and learn how to help the employee.
- Prepare a detailed action plan that the employee should use to improve performance. Include specific steps the employee will take to improve an what you will do to help. Focus on a few key areas.
- Set deadlines for correcting the behavior or performance. For example, “We expect your report will be turned in by 5 pm tomorrow.”
- Follow up at the specified deadline. Keep a written record of what happened, including the employee’s explanation. Perhaps circumstances beyond his or her control prevented the employee from meeting the deadline. Record whether additional training is needed and any disciplinary actions that are taken.
- Describe the consequences if the behavior or poor performance continues. If after repeated attempts to help the employee meet expectations have been unsuccessful, or in the case of serious policy violations, disciplinary action may be necessary.
Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are designed to help individuals save for future health costs. They were introduced in 2004 and have been nicknamed “medical 401(k)s.” They are used to pay for medical costs with pretax dollars and can be funded by employers and employees or both. To encourage participation, employers can match employee contributions.
Through payroll deductions, contributions to an HSA are tax-free (avoiding federal and state income taxes, and FICA taxes in most states). Additionally, money earned through HSA investments is not taxed and there is no tax on funds withdrawn to pay for qualified medical expenses.
HSAs are subject to annual contribution limits of $3,350 for individuals and $6,750 for families in 2016. Individuals over the age of 55 can make an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution every year. There is no cap on account balances and when employees leave, they are able to take the money in their HSA account with time. Funds can be used to pay for qualified medical expenses for spouses and children as well as the individual.
To use an HSA, a person must:
- Be covered by a qualified high-deductible health plan (HDHP)
- Not be covered by another qualified health plan
- Not be claimed as a dependent by another person
Qualified expenses include but are not limited to:
- Prescription drug costs
- Dental fees
- Lab fees
For many employees, being reclassified as non-exempt has a result of the new overtime rule, which takes effect December 1, 2016, will be a significant change. Employers can help employees deal with this transition, while simultaneously minimizing their risk of liability for wage and hour claims, by leveraging a few innovative and user-friendly technologies.
- Remote Access. Employers offering remote access should consider creating a security group for non-exempt employees and a rule prohibiting those in the group from accessing company resources and networks outside employer-defined time periods.
- Monitoring and auditing software. Employers can assist in the transition by implementing, monitoring, and auditing software that records all activity on computers on or off the network. Specifically, this software allows an employer to see every employee e-mail sent and received – as well as the subject, recipients, date and time.
- Time-keeping software. The new FLSA classification may require many employees to track, record, and report working in a manner that they have not done for years, if ever. There are dozens of software solutions, both for desktops and mobile devices, to help newly non-exempt employees keep track of and report their time.
Earlier this summer, DC lawmakers gave final approval to a bill (Fair Shot Minimum Wage Amendment Act of 2016) that will increase the City’s hourly minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2020.
The bill incrementally raises the hourly minimum wage, starting with an increase to $11.50 on July 1, 2016; $12.50 on July 1, 2017; $13.25 on July 1, 2018; $14.00 on July 1, 2019; and $15.00 on July 1, 2020.
Starting July 1, 2021, annual increases will be automatic and tied to inflation.