For employers considering a return to on-site operations, a new challenge awaits – navigating the uncharted waters of employee vaccination. Should employers mandate vaccinations, strongly suggest them, or remain neutral? Should vaccinations be provided by the employer or contracted out? What are the liability issues facing employers in both situations?
Every business will have a different regulatory puzzle to piece together, so we are listing a few of the biggest factors you’ll want to consider in the creation of a vaccination policy.
If considering a mandatory vaccine, there are four main major areas of law affected.
The ADA permits employers to require vaccinations under certain circumstances. However, mandatory vaccines implicate two portions of the ADA:
- Medical Examinations and Disability-Related Inquiries: The ADA restricts an employer’s ability to conduct “medical examinations” and make inquiries into an employee’s disabilities. The pre-screening questions asked in administering the vaccine qualify as a medical examination or disability-related inquiry.
- Reasonable Accommodations: The EEOC has addressed vaccines directly and identified a remote-work policy, wearing masks, gloves, social distancing etc. as reasonable accommodations. If an employer can eliminate or reduce the risk of harm imposed by COVID-19 by implementing these things, then it may not require vaccines. But if adopting these accommodations would impose an “undue hardship” on the business, then the employer does not have to provide the accommodation. Employers may also not require the vaccine if an employee has a medical reason for not being able to take the vaccine.
Title VII prevents an employer from discriminating against employees “on the basis of his race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Under this statute, an employee may refuse to take the vaccine due to a sincerely held religious belief or practice.
An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation (see examples above) to any employee who refuses taking the vaccine for reasons protected by Title VII (religious reasons), unless the reasonable accommodations impose an undue hardship. What qualifies as an “undue hardship” must be determined on a case-by-case basis.
OSHA permits employers to require mandatory vaccines and has been used in the past for vaccination in the H1N1 Flu context. However, OSHA cautions employers to know the benefits and to respect refusals for medical reasons. There is no indication that an employer would be in violation of OSHA’s safety requirements in the event it did not require the vaccine.
A tort is “an act or omission that gives rise to injury or harm to another and amounts to a civil wrong for which courts impose liability.”
Many states recognize the tort of negligent transmission of an infectious disease. Under this form of negligence, an employer may be liable for negligently causing the spread of COVID-19. However, an employer or employees would need to have a confirmed positive and still risk transmission before the employer may be liable. It is unlikely that not mandating a vaccine would create liability, however – general negligence still applies and deciding to not require a vaccine may still be a factor.
Those are the main four legal areas to consider, but there are other liabilities to consider as well. These include questions such as:
- Are employees who suffer adverse effects from vaccinations covered by worker’s comp?
- Is the vaccination program covered by liability immunity under the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act?
- Are liability waivers appropriate and enforceable under your state’s law?
- Is your vaccination program subject to any bargaining requirements under union collective bargaining agreements?
- If there are not enough vaccinations available for all employees, how will you prioritize vaccinations without implicating age, disability, and genetic information?
It is likely that these potential liability issues, in conjunction with the laws mentioned above, may create more of a hassle for employers than it’s worth. Either way, these are crucial considerations in the creation of a vaccine policy.
In addition to legal guidelines, there are also guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) employers must stay aware of. According to CNBC, the CDC is now recommending that people age 65 or older should begin receiving the vaccine.
The status of your employees will also factor into a vaccination plan, as essential workers are a large group, broadly defined as “first responders, educators, child care providers, food and agriculture workers, correctional facility staff, postal workers, public transportation workers, and manufacturing and grocery workers.” This article by the National Conference of State Legislatures can help more clearly determine if your employees qualify as essential.
Lastly, it’s important to consider what is feasible for you in terms of capacity. It is a huge task for a non-health care employer to take on the responsibility of facilitating their own vaccinations. Specifically employers face the challenge of refrigeration—more for the Pfizer than the Moderna vaccine—and the need for a second dose.
However, contracting with reputable third parties can be a good solution for employers. In this case, it is well-advised to mandate vaccines by an administered pharmacy or health provider that is not acting as an agent of the employer.
According to the law, an employer may require its employees to submit to mandatory COVID-19 vaccination. To do so, the employer will need to show there are no other reasonable accommodations available that do not impose an undue hardship. Additionally, the employer will need to respect employees who refuse to take the vaccine for disability or Title-VII-related purposes, offering reasonable accommodations to these employees. Employers should also consider other worker’s comp questions, waiver liabilities, and CDC Guidelines in the creation of a vaccine plan. And finally, if considering a mandatory policy, consider out-sourcing as a way to ensure safety, compliance, and a manageable workload.
The considerations surrounding workplace vaccination programs are complex. If you’re looking for a personal approach to handling policy and employee relations, contact us! As a fully integrated HR team working for your protection, these kinds of questions are our specialty.
(*For even more specific policy questions, we recommend this article – outlining detailed questions for vaccine policy and practice.)
The transition to remote work due to Covid-19 has presented multiple challenges for employers.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the immediate concern was providing tools for virtual communication and ensuring process maintenance. Now, almost a year in, studies are finding that productivity is largely undeterred by the shift to remote work. Many employees are able to continue their work from home – maintaining, and even exceeding in-office performance.
However, recent research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) shows 71 percent of employers are finding it difficult to adapt to remote work as a way of doing business. And a new Forbes workplace survey reported three-fourths of the U.S. workforce is having a hard time transitioning to full time remote work. So, with booming productivity, why the tough time for both employers and employees?
Even if the day-to-day is running smoothly, work from home can create feelings of isolation among team members. The new remote work environment has been proven to affect focus, a sense of collaboration, and creativity. And for many, remote work can create a high-stress environment that contributes even more to feelings of detachment, loneliness, and depression.
As organizations continue to weather the pandemic from home (with some announcing permanent transitions), employers need to be intentional in supporting efficiency, as well as mental health, a sense of belonging, and community among employees.
The following list features our top five tips for successfully managing employees and maintaining connection while working remotely.
1. Schedule regular team video-calls
A remote team predominantly uses email and other messenger apps for communication. While these channels are functional, they are often devoid of important relational aspects, such as tone and emotion. Video calls add dimension to conversation and help employees feel more connected with one another. Consider implementing mandatory video calls on a regular schedule so that everyone is seen, heard, and communicating often.
2. Give recognition generously
Appreciation goes a long way. Because employees are not seen physically, sometimes recognition of good work is forgotten. Support your employees and prevent burnout by taking extra effort to appreciate them. Public recognition, such as a company-wide message of appreciation or kudos from a high-level leader, is especially powerful. These small thank-you’s help stir a sense of ownership and confidence, while inspiring employees to work even harder.
3. Establish feedback forums
When it comes to critical changes or conflict, remote communication can feel a little awkward. To empower employees, develop a streamlined process to share and receive feedback across various functions. Design regular surveys and implement periodic one-on-one meetings. This will keep you in touch with your team and help you identify challenges in morale early on.
4. Invest in culture building
Reinforce your company values often. Not only will this promote work well-being and right conduct, but it will unify your employees by a common commitment. In addition, plan events outside of work to establish a sense of normalcy. Plan meetings over coffee or occasional group outings to keep up face-time and build connections in person. These things may feel small or inconvenient, but go a long way in building and maintaining a healthy environment.
5. Stay aware and available
Be on the lookout for signs of distress in your employees. Facilitate regular conversations, communicate a “virtual” open door policy, and use every opportunity to make clear to employees that you support and care for them. Be organized, flexible, and ask employees how they can best be managed remotely. Then listen carefully and follow-up. This sounds simple, but empathy, flexibility, and good communication are keys to managing successful workers from a distance.
Have more questions or need help developing a remote work policy? Employee relations is an area Servant HR specializes in. We’d love to help you lose the administrative burden of human resources management, so you can focus on your business. Contact us today and see how we can support you.
Servant HR provides fully integrated HR services—giving employers the freedom to focus on the success and growth of their businesses. Operating as a PEO enables us to take on the administrative load that comes with paying employees, offering benefits, managing risk and more.
But what exactly is a PEO again? And how is it different from the other HR service options out there? Good questions! Let’s get a lay of the land.
PEO stands for Professional Employer Organization. The biggest distinction of a PEO is that it offers its services through a “co-employment” relationship. Co-employment means that the PEO allocates responsibilities between the employer and the PEO, as expressed in a service agreement.
While the employer maintains their relationship with worksite employees, PEO’s provide many back-end services in a bundled offering. These often include payroll, health and welfare benefits, workers’ compensation and risk management services.
Perhaps the biggest misconception about PEO’s is that the client loses control of its workforce through the co-employment model. But this is not the case, as PEO clients retain complete control over day-to-day operations and workforce management. Employers continue to make their own hiring, termination, discipline, scheduling, promotion, safety and culture decisions.
The relationship actually provides the exact opposite, as PEO’s often add to the control and confidence of an employer. Clients have access to higher quality HR offerings, systems and processes, and benefit from PEO expertise in making big decisions.
You may have heard of an ASO as well, which stands for Administrative Services Organization. The main difference between a PEO and an ASO is the co-employment relationship. An ASO manages only day-to-day administrative operations, but does not process payroll, remit taxes, sponsor benefit programs or offer workers’ compensation coverage under the PEO umbrella. There is no shared employment relationship.
If that’s still not enough acronyms for you, there is an HRO model as well! Human Resources Outsourcing is the process of subcontracting human resources functions to an external supplier. This option has traditionally been only available to larger organizations, but like an ASO, an on-site employer remains the “employer of record” in the arrangement.
So, why a PEO?
Here are three of our favorite reasons to consider:
For many small businesses, administering payroll is a huge task in itself. What may seem just like “cutting checks,” actually involves many parts of the business, all affected by payroll functions. PEO clients enjoy easier, more confident compliance in tax payments, and more benefits options. A PEO literally has hundreds of years of human resource experience. Partnering with a PEO provides peace of mind that a full-service team of experts is working solely for your protection.
Another perk is there may be access to more affordable health and ancillary insurance. Alongside a PEO, you gain access to a much larger pool of employees when obtaining insurance quotes. PEO’s may receive bulk, discounted pricing so that clients are able to offer employees more comprehensive insurance coverage with better rates.
For many small business owners, cost is the most compelling reason for signing on with a PEO. Service fees for PEO’s are often significantly less expensive than hiring a full-time, in-house Human Resources professional. The PEO manages all the functions of a full-time employee, and in some cases, for as little as a quarter of the cost.
In addition, many employers struggle under the weight of being both the business owner and the HR department. The inability to balance both effectively can ultimately cause a business to suffer.
Thinking it through
Partnering with a Professional Employer Organization can have a ripple effect across an entire company, offering better health benefit options, employee management and more time for business owners to spend on what they really care about—their business.
Working with a PEO is a big decision for any company. While it may stand to benefit your business in many ways, don’t just take our word for it! Feel free to check out our reviews and explore our website resources. Learn more about our team and exactly what we do.
Still not sure if a PEO is right for you? Give us a call today! We’d love to help answer any of your questions and determine how Servant HR can serve you and your business.
Christmas time is here! Families are looking forward to Christmas traditions, and many workplaces are also celebrating with yearly holiday parties, gift exchanges and even office Christmas trees.
But amidst all the ritual festivities, you might consider implementing one more holiday activity before year-end. Samantha Julka, founder of Indianapolis-based DORIS Research—which uses design thinking to organize workspaces—suggest employees be prompted to write their own wish lists. Not for personal gifts, but for workplace amenities.
The purpose is two-fold. The first is to hear feedback from real employees and gain insight on what could improve their work lives. Some of the most commonly desired workplace amenities include fitness options, free food, unlimited coffee, bring-your-dog-to-work days and special company events.
But every business is different, and simply asking employees what would improve their work conditions can go a long way. Not only will this provide you with new ideas, but implementing wish lists also shows employees you’re listening and you care, regardless if their wishes can actually be granted.
The other purpose is research. Julka has found you can learn a lot about the health of an organization simply by asking the question,
“If you could change one thing about your current office space, what would it be, and why?”
Throughout her years of asking, Julka has heard some pretty crazy answers—including cotton candy machines and rooftop pools. But she’s also reported drastically more practical answers, such as simple Wi-Fi access and yearly carpet cleanings.
Julka suggests that the more fanciful the request, the more satisfied the employee is with the workplace and how his or her needs are being met. For example, the employee wishing for the rooftop pool is likely pretty happy with his workplace, so his mind is freed up to dream big. For the employee asking for a clean floor, a rooftop pool is unthinkable.
Ultimately Julka concludes, “If the talent pool has a lot of options, and the workplace isn’t particularly comfortable or doesn’t offer a lot of amenities, people have to be attracted by the integrity or prestige of the work. If the work itself isn’t viewed as prestigious and the competition for talent is high, a workplace that offers more amenities could be the deciding factor.”
So what does this mean for you? Ultimately compelling work is what you’d like to drive your employees. But research shows that the amenities are on the rise for what’s keeping people around.
Consider asking the question and see what responses you get! Include it as a fun element of your traditional office Christmas party. If people request on-site personal trainers and smoothie bars, it’s likely your baseline office space is comfortable and your employees are satisfied. If people request more basic things, it might be a red flag that your office space and culture are falling behind.
We want your employees to be excited about both the integrity of their work and their workplace perks. However, we know that managing employee wish lists, on top of your regular to-do lists, puts a lot on your plate.
Servant HR prioritizes you so that you can prioritize your people and your business. Feeling overwhelmed by the mountain of HR work that can accompany end-of-year? We’re here to help. Contact us today to see how our PEO model can free you up to focus on what matters most for your business—this holiday season and year-round.
It’s the holiday season! But as many of us know, the holiday season is often cozied up right next to the flu season. Employees are calling in to claim sick days, while others trudge through the work day with cough drops and tissues in tow.
In 2018, a Walgreens survey revealed that 40% of workers admit coming in to work with the flu. This year 90% of employees admit going in to work with cold or flu symptoms. Our culture’s obsession with productivity has made “workaholism” the norm. Sick days? Those are for wimps.
Even still, HR firm Career Builder recently surveyed more than 2,200 human resource professionals and 3,700 employees about their companies’ employment practices. The survey found that 40% of workers have faked a sick day in the last 12 months.
So what’s an employer to do? How do you create a sick policy where people can take care of themselves without taking advantage?
While you will never be able to control this entirely, there are a few things your company can do to prevent these tricky situations without fostering a culture of suspicion.
Review your policy
The “sick day” concept was originally created to keep employees from abusing time off and to help track work environments in which employees were sick more frequently than other parts of the business.
However, having designated “sick days” can often force employees to compromise their integrity. Sometimes people aren’t sick, they just need a day off. If an employee’s only way to take time off is to use a sick day, it can encourage dishonesty. Also, those who believe “sick days are for wimps,” may feel guilty taking these designated days, and end up “powering through,” potentially getting other coworkers sick in the process.
Research shows that forming a modern, non-defined PTO policy fosters more positive workplace sentiments. Small businesses should still allocate a predetermined number of days off for their employees. However, an increasing amount of businesses are no longer using the antiquated terms “sick days” or “sick leave,” but instead defining all days off as paid time off (PTO).
You may or may not decide modern PTO is right for your company. However, if you decide to no longer differentiate between personal time and sick time, make sure this is clearly stated in your policy. Make sure your employees don’t think they will get all of their personal time in addition to sick days.
In today’s progressive workplace, more and more companies are putting everything in the open. This means everything from opening financial dealings to simply opening office doors. Of course, each business is different and must implement these ideas with discretion. Still, the principle is universal: face-to-face communication encourages honesty.
If you talk openly with your employees about significant things such as work projects, compensation, and company decisions, it is more likely that your employees will talk openly with you about their family, their health and their need for time off.
Hire honest people, include others in decision-making processes and treat all employees equally. These are just best practices in culture-making, but they inevitably affect your employees’ use of time off. If honesty is at the core of your company, it will be at the core of your time off policy as well.
A report by Stericycle found that prevention efforts—like vaccinations and hand washing—are up over the last year. And while less than half of workplaces offered flu shots as a benefit (and even fewer offered on-site vaccinations), those that do are viewed more positively by their employees.
Many organizations now host on-site vaccination clinics, allowing employees to get vaccinated without sacrificing their free time. You can contact your local pharmacy or community vaccinators to come to your workplace and administer the vaccines on site.
If having on-site vaccinations isn’t an option for you, do your best to make it easy for employees to get their flu shots elsewhere in the community. Make sure that flu shots are covered by your company’s health insurance, post a list of all local vaccination sites, and be flexible to allow your employees to leave work briefly to get a flu shot.
You can also promote prevention by following the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s suggestions. Encourage employees to wash hands frequently, cover coughs, use hand sanitizer and avoid close contact with others during flu season. You can also stock your office with hand sanitizer, a shared medicine cabinet, orange juice, Emergen-C, tea and healthy snacks for employees. These are small but significant ways to show your employees you care.
Encourage staying home
Despite those who take advantage, employers cannot dismiss the reality that many employees feel pressure to come to work sick. And having sick employees in the office can have serious consequences. The 2018-2019 flu season was one of the longest on record—and this year’s season has started early, meaning it could reach similar heights, according to the CDC.
Productivity may suffer, but employers should encourage those with the flu to stay home rather than spread the virus to co-workers. Employers should review their sick time policies to see if they put undue pressure on workers to come to work ill. You may also consider remote work arrangements for appropriate positions and situations.
Employees appreciate being treated with respect and trust. Ultimately, as an employer, it’s up to you to approve PTO arrangements and determine the validity of time off requests. However, doing everything you can to encourage health and honesty will go a long way in building the kind of workplace your employees won’t want to miss.
Interested in learning how a PEO can aid your efforts toward building a healthy culture? Along with offering HR coaching and counseling, Servant HR frees business owners from their administrative burdens to better focus on what matters most—their people and their business. Give us a call and see how we can serve you today.
Your employees might be a little jumpy with Halloween just around the corner. However, recent research shows it’s not the spooky season that’s frightening your workers—it’s their jobs.
A new Cornerstone report found that over half of American workers aren’t sure they have the skills to withstand a future layoff. Some economists are already forecasting a downturn after a recent spike in layoffs, and data shows employees are getting nervous. Cornerstone reports that 60% of baby boomers feel insecure with their current skill sets, especially as compared to the increasingly competitive talent market. And with the rise of new technology, workers are afraid they could lose their jobs to either more qualified employees or in some cases—to machines.
So what is HR’s role amidst this worried workforce? How can you more effectively train your employees so they feel empowered to do their work and confident in their skills? To start, you’ll have to learn what your employees know and don’t know—and tailor your training and development programs to fit the needs of your organization.
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers several key ideas for better training and development programs that actually increase employee confidence.
1. Survey your employees
The best way to get real information about organizational performance is to simply ask your employees. They know their exact pain-points and will be motivated to participate in training that specifically addresses their needs. Surveys also boost morale, as they demonstrate employer care and interest in employee development. SHRM notes the most common feedback from employee surveys is that employees want clearer work expectations and training by experts.
2. Align training with goals
Management should define their operating goals before designing targeted programs. Specific goals might be better performance, productivity or customer satisfaction. Perhaps you need better onboarding and new-hire training so that employees can provide greater customer service. For compliance training, partner with regulatory agencies like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (health and safety), the Department of Labor (wage and hour compliance) and the Department of Justice (harassment and discrimination training). You may consider contracting out design work in order to create more comprehensive instructional material. If you’re managing a multi-generational workforce, your goal may be to improve communication within the organization. Offer training for supervisors to improve their coaching skills and help develop a healthier work culture.
3. Ingrain it into your culture
Speaking of healthier work culture, consider implementing a “life-long learner” philosophy that focuses on employee satisfaction. When making promotion decisions, give preference to employees who have completed training and performed well. A promotion should be one of the rewards for their efforts, as it answers the employee question, “What’s in it for me?” Celebrate achievements by letting everyone in your organization know when someone completes training and what that means for their growth opportunities. Advertise your programs and participants in internal communications, display their pictures and stories, and talk about it at every employee gathering. Encourage employees to be trainers or subject matter experts so that employees are engaged and empowered to take ownership of their skills.
4. Keep innovating
Sometimes the problem lies, not in lack of programs or training content, but in the inability to communicate that content in an appropriate learning format. As we all get more comfortable with technology, there’s a growing need to adopt the latest ideas. Today there are apps, games, and easy-to-use video tools that can be streamed to mobile devices for individual training on the employee’s own time. It’s important to research the latest trends online, network with other training professionals, and revise programs to take advantage of the latest best practices. Just because it’s what you’ve always done, doesn’t mean it’s what you should do forever. Tailor your training to how your employees best learn and don’t be afraid to adapt to new technology.
5. Measure results
Make sure you’re keeping track of how things are going. This lets you know if the training offerings you provide are worth everyone’s while. The best measures are the simplest ones; incorporate them into your program so everyone knows what’s expected. Look for behaviors and measure them on the job to determine if employees actually learned how to perform appropriately. If trainings do not provide the intended result, consider redesigning programs, as well as offering feedback. To ensure there are no surprises for employees, communicate the importance of feedback and implement a specific structure. Make feedback a regular part of life at work so employees know how they are doing in real-time.
These are just a few ideas for revamping training and development at your company. You want your employees to feel happy, confident and motivated in their work—not insecure and nervous they might get fired at any second! Demonstrate your belief in your workers by investing in their development. Providing your employees with growth opportunities sets them at ease and allows for greater productivity in the long run.
Want more ideas for training? Need HR coaching and counseling for specific issues at your company? That’s where we come in. The health of your business is our priority, so contact Servant HR and allow us to serve you today.