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The Wake of Sexual Harassment Terminations


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Matt Lauer, John Conyers Jr., and many more high profile names on the list of men that have been terminated due to sexual harassment allegations. The #metoo movement, a place where victims can come out in the open, has rising numbers showing up on social media, bringing even more attention to this issue. SHRM asks, are companies reacting too quickly to avoid public relation disasters and not investigating or are things finally being done to resolve the issue?

Investigating further, rather than immediately terminating an accused employee can avoid the filing of wrongful termination case or possible defamation. If you have credible evidence, it may be appropriate to fire the harasser. But, how should employers I handle an investigation?

React quickly to the accusations by meeting with both parties. Ask questions, a lot of questions. Use a standard form for investigations. Be sensitive in the matter and get both parities sides of the story.  Write everything down- using a harassment form that is standard for your company can help you stay consistent and ask the right questions.  Get witnesses statements, if applicable.  If you need to suspend an employee during at this time do so instead of quickly firing them. If you are not comfortable or familiar with handling harassment claims, A Plus Benefits can step in and assist.

However you handle the harassment, you need to be consistent with each case in the process, disciplinary actions, and terminations. Keep in mind that harassers can be either gender, so be careful not to assume that every male accused of harassment is guilty. Have a member of each opposite sex from human resources or management involved in the investigation. If this is not possible, have A Plus Benefits step in to assist. This step will help to ensure objectivity and fairness. Again, what is most important is that you are consistent with how you handle every incident.

Having a plan in place with how you are going to handle a sexual harassment claim will help you handle it to the best of your ability. Take the SHRM quiz to test your knowledge about sexual harassment.  If you have questions about sexual harassment training for your employees or how to handlesa sexual harassment situation in your workplace, contact our HR experts at humanresources@aplusbenefits.com or (801) 443-1090.

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A Plus BenefitsThe Wake of Sexual Harassment Terminations

2018 Minimum Wage Changes


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As 2018 approaches, there are some important changes in employment legislation to be aware of. Some states and cities are implementing new minimum wage rates in 2018. Some take effect January 1, while other change mid-year.

These changes apply to nonexempt employees. As a reminder, a nonexempt employee is one who does not meet the Fair Labor Standards Act requirement to be exempt from minimum wage and overtime requirements.

In some areas employers may be able to count tips an employee receives toward the minimum wage. In those areas, if the direct wage an employer pays an employee plus tips equal the minimum wage, an employer’s minimum wage obligation has been met. If not, the employer must pay the employee the difference.

Utah is not experiencing a change in minimum wage. Here are some states that are:
Arizona
California
Colorado
Nevada
Oregon
Washington

Click here to find out if the states your employees work in will experience minimum wage rate changes in 2018.

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A Plus Benefits2018 Minimum Wage Changes

The Mental Health of Our Workplaces


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Especially around the holidays, employees can experience problems due to the added stress of family obligations. The holidays are also a time when grief can creep back into our lives. While these things don’t necessarily create mental health issues, they can make them present themselves. Mental health has become a serious issue in society and therefore in our workplaces as well.

According to Metal Health America, one in five adults have a mental health condition. That’s over 40 million Americans; more than the populations of New York and Florida combined. Additionally, 56% of American adults with a mental illness do not receive treatment. With these rising numbers, we are bound to have co-workers and employees who have some type of mental condition. It becomes necessary to create greater understanding and acceptance in the workplace and find the resources to assist those employees with their work-life balance.

If you have an employee who you think might be struggling, it can be tempting to press them to ask “what’s wrong?”  But handling these situations carefully and choosing the correct words is important.

What Not to Say                                                   Try Instead
“How’s your health?”                                             “How can we help you do your job?”
“You seem depressed.”                                         “You’re not your usual self.”
“Snap out of it.”                                                      “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Think positive.”                                                     “It’s always OK to ask for help.”
“I know exactly what you’re going through.”          “It’s hard for me to understand exactly what you’re going through, but I can see that it’s distressing for you.”

To help your employees feel like they have a safe place to bring up mental health concerns without the negative stigmat attached, it is important to create awareness about mental health conditions. You can help foster a positive environment by creating educational programs to help employees reach out to coworkers who may be in emotional distress.

To support employees with mental illnesses, the National Mental Health Association and the National Council for Behavioral Health recommend the following actions:

  • Educate employees about the signs and symptoms of mental health disorders.
  • Encourage employees to talk about stress, workload, family commitments and other issues.
  • Communicate that mental illnesses are real, common and treatable.
  • Discourage stigmatizing language, including hurtful labels such as “crazy,” “loony” or “nuts.”
  • Understand and communicate the mental health benefits available to employees, including the Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).
  • Help employees transition back to work after they take leave.
  • Consult with your employee assistance program.
  • Be sure not diagnose peers or use judgmental language.

Implementing a teaching program can help educate employees identify co-workers who are in crisis and foster a positive working environment for all employees, regardless of their mental health. Additional resources can be found here.

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A Plus BenefitsThe Mental Health of Our Workplaces

8 Ways to Celebrate the Holiday Season for Every Budget


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Holidays are the time where everyone seems to get in the spirit and celebrate. It can also be a great time for employers to thank employees for all of their hard work over the year and inject a little fun into the workplace. You don’t have to throw an elaborate holiday party or purchase expensive gifts for employee to make them feel appreciated. Here are some ideas for every budget to help you celebrate with your team.

  • Set up a Secret Santa gift exchange the “new” way. Elfster is a site to help you organize your gift exchange. You simply go to the site, enter the date and deadline for signing up, and spending limit. You can send an invite to your teammates to join in on the gift exchange and Elfster will match up people for you.  Your teammates can make a wish list to help make it easier for finding the perfect gift.
  • Have a holiday movie party in the conference room. Provide popcorn, treats, and drinks. Watch a classic like White Christmas or the latest holiday movie.
  • Swap a holiday dinner for a holiday lunch. Go out to lunch as a group. The lunch options at a restaurant are often less expensive than dinner. Or, have your holiday party at the office with a holiday themed potluck lunch. Everyone can sign up to bring something and have fun without leaving the office.
  • Have a yummy treat at the office. Grab some sugar cookies, seasonal bread from a local pastry shop, hot chocolate, doughnuts and cider for a festive employee treat.
  • Get a little artistic. Go to a local ceramics studio and create a fun piece to take home.  Attend a class where you can paint your masterpiece on a canvas.
  • Attend a holiday cooking class. Attend a cooking class at a local restaurant or grocery store, such as Harmons. You can often find vouchers on Groupon for classes in your area to help save even more.
  • Score a swanky hotel site in January. Moving your holiday party to January, after the holiday season, can help save on a cool venue and possibly even catering.
  • Go to the aquarium or museum. Treat your team to a day at the museum or aquarium. Being a tourist in your own city and learning something new can be a fun way for the team to bond.

Finding new things to do during the holidays can help make work a little more fun and boost employee morale.  You do not have to break the bank.  Doing anything, even if it is something small, will let your employees know you appreciate them, helping end the year on a high note.

Did you do something unique with your employees this year? Share with us on our Facebook page www.facebook.com/APlusBenefits

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A Plus Benefits8 Ways to Celebrate the Holiday Season for Every Budget

Rather Than Policing Cyber Monday, Turn It into an Employee Reward


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Thanksgiving is one day away, which means that the holiday shopping season is just around the corner.

Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) is the busiest online shopping day of the year. In 2016, shoppers spent $3.45 billion on Cyber Monday alone. Many retailers take advantage of this with incredible sales. Because of the popularity, many business owners are left wondering how to manage the impact of Cyber Monday on their workplaces. You will see countless articles about the cost of lost productivity on this particular day, but we have a slightly different perspective.

Director of Employee Performance at A Plus Benefits, Amber Hunter, suggests looking at this day as an opportunity rather than a challenge. Employees do personal things often at work, from paying a bill online, to making a doctor’s appointment to sharing a funny story with colleagues. This is what gives our offices and organizations personality. Offering this little bit of flexibility allows us as leaders and small business owners to distinguish ourselves from the competition by truly embracing the well-versed concept of work-life balance. We know our team members have a life outside of work, and they also have a life inside of work.

Set expectations and then allow employees a little bit of freedom. Rather than police Cyber Monday (which no small business owner really wants to spend their time doing), turn it into a fun, celebration at work. Consider granting employees 30 minutes to shop online and then have employees share what deals they found. You could even turn it into a competition to see who got the best deal.

You could also look at this as an opportunity to reward employees for their hard work. Many businesses are very busy this time of year. Let employees know you see how hard they are working and you want to allow them a little 30-minute online shopping break for Cyber Monday.

As small business leaders we need to make sure that we are looking for opportunities to create the employee experience. When you allow employees flexibility in their workday, they will be more willing to give your organization the same flexibility when facing a major deadline. The more you embrace these kinds of things in the work place rather than resist them the more likely you are to attract and retain great talent.

If you decide to try it this year, let us know how it goes. Email us and humanresources@aplusbenefits.com or share on our Facebook page.

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A Plus BenefitsRather Than Policing Cyber Monday, Turn It into an Employee Reward

Six Strategies for Developing a Healthy and High-Performing Workforce


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The goal of every leader is to develop a high-performing workforce. Employees are the largest expense of an organization, so it makes sense that you want to get the very best work out of them. Focusing on building a culture the fosters high-performance can often lead to some un healthy habits, such as working long hours, sacrificing sleep and maintaining high level of stress. To build a really successful team, you need to find a balance between health and high-performance.

A recent article from Inc. highlights six things you can do to develop an organization that is both high-performing and healthy.

  1. Encourage an entrepreneurial mindset. Allow employees to work with some level of autonomy. Set appropriate expectations and then let employees decide exactly how to get their work done. Push them to think creatively, solve problems, and look for new opportunities.
  2. Embrace diversity. The highest performing teams have diversity of thought. Look for opportunities to create a diverse workforce that brings new ideas to the table.
  3. Place value on rest. Emphasize the importance of taking breaks. Make sure employees really unplug at the end of the day and leave work at work. Staying late at the office should be the exception, not the rule.
  4. Prioritize movement. Encourage employees (especially those that sit behind a desk) to get up and walk around during their rest periods. Conduct walking meetings when possible. Make sure leaders set a good example by doing this as well.
  5. Think about mental health. Employers can no longer ignore the impact that mental health has on their performance of their employees. High levels of stress and anxiety affect not only the health and well-being if employee, but also the productivity of the entire organization. The ideas above (placing a value on rest and prioritizing movement) can help with this. Also look into benefits options such as Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that can connect employees with mental health resources.
  6. Build relationships. Build strong relationships with your employees. Find out what motivates them. Get to know who they are outside of the office. Also encourage your employees to build relationships with one another. Provide the time and space for this to happen. Create inter-departmental working groups. Encourage the formation of employee committees for things like wellness or charitable giving.

Take a moment to think about your organization., Are your highest performing employees doing thing that could be negatively affecting their health? Try implementing these tactics to create a culture that values both high performance and employee well-being.

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A Plus BenefitsSix Strategies for Developing a Healthy and High-Performing Workforce

Understanding the Current Status of Employee Benefits


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Understanding the ever-changing employee benefits landscape is important for small business leaders, tasked with making decisions about employee benefits in their organizations. Each year, the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust (HRET) conduct a survey to examine employer-sponsored health benefit trends. Here are some of the main findings from the 2017 survey and suggests how this may affect healthcare decisions moving forward.

Health Insurance Premiums

  • In 2017, the average premium rose 4 percent for single coverage and 3
  • percent for family coverage. The average premiums were $6,690 and $18,764, respectively.
  • Premium costs varied widely across industry and regions in 2017.
  • The premium for family coverage was, on average, lower at small employers (3-199 employees) than at large employers—$17,615 compared to $19,235.

Employee Contributions

  • Most workers must pay a share of their health care costs, and 81 percent had a general annual deductible for single coverage in 2017.
  • Fifty-one percent of workers had a deductible of $1,000 or more for single coverage. The average deductible for all workers was $1,221
  • The average worker contribution toward the premium was 18 percent for single coverage and 31 percent for family coverage
  • In terms of dollar amounts, workers contributed $1,213 and $5,714 toward their premiums for single coverage and family coverage, respectively.

Plan Enrollment

  • Preferred provider organizations (PPOs) were the most common types of health plans with 48 percent of workers covered.
  • High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) were next with 28 percent of workers covered.
  • PPO enrollment has decreased by 8 percent over the last five years, and enrollment in HDHPs has risen by 9 percent over the same period.

Availability of Employer-sponsored Coverage

  • Only 40 percent of very small employers (three to nine employees) offer benefits, while virtually every large employer (1,000 or more employees) offers coverage.

Telemedicine

  • Over half of large employers have embraced telemedicine, with 63 percent offering health care services through this method. Participants on the A Plus Benefits Medical Plan (in most states) have access to telemedicine with a $0 co-pay. If you have questions, please contact us at service@aplusbenefits.com or (801) 443-1090.

Supplemental and Voluntary Benefits

  • Dental is offered by 67 percent of small employers, 97 percent of large employers.
  • Vision is offered by 47 percent of small employers, 82 percent of large employers.
  • Critical illness is offered by 23 percent of small employers, 46 percent of large employers.
  • Hospital indemnity is offered by 16 percent of small employers, 28 percent of large employers.

Companies partnering with A Plus Benefits have access to all of these benefits options for employees. Knowing that only a small number of small employers offer some of these benefits, including these to your benefits offering can set you apart as an employer.

As this summary indicates, the market has been stable over the past few years and remains that way. The Affordable Care Act repeal effort is something to monitor—as well as the Cadillac tax, as the 2020 deadline approaches—but the market is stable despite these disruptions. Employers continue to offer employee benefits at high rates and that seems likely to be the future trend as well.

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A Plus BenefitsUnderstanding the Current Status of Employee Benefits

Understanding USERRA and FMLA for Employees Who Serve in the Military


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In honor of Veteran’s Day, we wanted to offer a refresher on two of the employment laws that impact your employees who are also serving in the military, USERRA and FMLA. Often these laws don’t even cross the minds of business owners until they are in a situation where they have an employee in the military, but it is important to understand your responsibilities as an employer.

USERRA (The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act)

USERRA was enacted in 1994 to expand and strengthen the employment and reemployment rights of uniformed service member including those in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Public Health Service commissioned corps, as well as the reserve components of each of these services. Federal training or service in the Army National Guard and Air National Guard also gives rise to rights under USERRA. In addition, under the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Response Act of 2002, certain disaster response work (and authorized training for such work) is considered “service in the uniformed services.”

Uniformed service includes active duty, active duty for training, inactive duty training (such as drills), initial active duty training, and funeral honors duty performed by National Guard and reserve members, as well as the period for which a person is absent from a position of employment for the purpose of an examination to determine fitness to perform any such duty.

USERRA covers nearly all employees, including part-time and probationary employees. USERRA applies to virtually all U.S. employers, regardless of size.

All employers are required to post a notice, informing employees of their rights.

The rights protected include:

Discrimination: USERRA prohibits employment discrimination against a person on the basis of past military service, current military obligations, or intent to serve. An employer must not deny initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment to a person on the basis of a past, present, or future service obligation. In addition, an employer must not retaliate against a person because of an action taken to enforce or exercise any USERRA right or for assisting in an USERRA investigation.

Reemployment: The pre-service employer must reemploy service members returning from a period of service in the uniformed services if those service members meet five criteria:

  1. The person must have been absent from a civilian job on account of service in the uniformed services;
  2. The person must have given advance notice to the employer that he or she was leaving the job for service in the uniformed services, unless such notice was precluded by military necessity or otherwise impossible or unreasonable;
  3. The cumulative period of military service with that employer must not have exceeded five years;
  4. The person must not have been released from service under dishonorable or other punitive conditions; and
  5. The person must have reported back to the civilian job in a timely manner or have submitted a timely application for reemployment, unless timely reporting back or application was impossible or unreasonable.

Employers are required to provide to persons entitled to the rights and benefits under USERRA a notice of the rights, benefits, and obligations of such persons and such employers under USERRA.

Health Insurance: Employees who leave their job to perform military service, have the right to elect to continue existing employer-based health plan coverage for themselves and their dependents for up to 24 months while in the military.

They also have right to be reinstated on the employer’s health plan when they are reemployed, generally without any waiting periods or exclusions (e.g., pre-existing condition exclusions) except for service-connected illnesses or injuries, regardless of whether they continued their health coverage while away.

USERRA laws can be complex, particularly for small businesses that may not have the resources of larger organizations.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)- Special Provisions for Servicemembers and Their Families

The military family leave provisions of the FMLA entitle eligible employees of covered employers to take FMLA leave for the following two reasons: Qualifying Exigency Leave and Military Caregiver Leave.

Qualifying Exigency Leave: An eligible employee may take qualifying exigency leave when the employee’s spouse, son, daughter or parent who is a member of the Armed Forces (including the National Guard and Reserves) is on covered active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty. Qualifying exigency leave was created to help eligible employees manage their affairs when family members are called to covered active duty or are serving in covered active duty with the Armed Forces. A covered employer must grant an eligible employee up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during any 12-month period for qualifying exigencies that arise when the employee’s spouse, son, daughter or parent is on covered active duty or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty.

Military Caregiver Leave: This allows an eligible employee who is the spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin of a covered service member with a serious injury or illness to take up to a total of 26 workweeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during a single 12-month period to provide care for the service member.

Both qualifying exigency leave and military caregiver leave may be taken on an intermittent basis or on a reduced leave schedule basis. In addition, an employer may require that an employee’s request for either type of military family leave be supported by a certification completed by an authorized health care provider.

For more information about FMLA, check out the Understanding FMLA Toolkit.

Contact us at humanresources@aplusbeneifts.com or (801)443-1090 if you have any questions about USERRA for FMLA.

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A Plus BenefitsUnderstanding USERRA and FMLA for Employees Who Serve in the Military

Five Communication Strategies of Successful Leaders


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Being a leader in a small business means you have to be a jack of all trades. One skill that is vital to your success as a leader is the ability to communicate effectively. Everything you do in your organization hinges upon communication skills. A recent article from Harvard Business Review gives some great tips for developing your “executive voice.”

Understand context. Make sure you are communicating in the right way at the right time. Often leaders have the urge to speak up and share their options, even if they aren’t actually the authority on a subject. Know when it is best to speak up, and when it would be better to listen. Ask for the input of others and avoid the “because I’m the boss” mentality.

Set aside time to think. Take time to think strategically about your role and your organization. Too often leaders, especially those working in small businesses forget to take the time to think creatively. They get too caught up in the day to day work. Part of your job as a leader is to think about the future of the organization.

Cultivate relationships. Another main focus of the leaders in your organization should be relationship building with employees. Take the time to really get to you know the people who work with you. Seek to understand what motivates them, what their life is like outside of the office and ways you can support them in reaching their goals.

Bring solutions, not just problems. You will find that your employees get frustrated if you point out things that aren’t going well, without offering any suggestions for improvement. Do your research and come prepared to be a part of developing the solution. Also, be sure that you are balancing any constructive criticism with positive feedback.

Stay calm. Practice staying calm in stressful situations or times of conflict. No one wants to work for a leader who reacts emotionally in tough situations. One tip: focus on the facts when confronted conflict of any kind. This will allow you to remain level-headed no matter how stressed you become.

Just like anything else, effective communication takes practice. Share these ideas with the leaders in your organization and ask each to focus on just one of them this week to see an immediate improvement in communication at your organization.

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A Plus BenefitsFive Communication Strategies of Successful Leaders

Announcing a New Applicant Tracking Solution


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Having difficulty finding qualified applicants for open positions?

Don’t have a tool for applicants to apply online?

Struggle with keeping track of applicant data?

Our newest HR solution can help with all of that. Prism Hiring simplifies and streamlines posting jobs online, receiving resumes and screening applicants, as well as applicant communications and scheduling interviews.

  • Manage multiple job postings across dozens of websites from a single platform including Indeed, LinkedIn, CareerBuilder, Craigslist, Twitter and Facebook.
  • Create a fully branded careers page that’s integrated with your website.
  • Set up a customized screening questionnaire, quickly review candidates, communicate and schedule interviews, all from a single platform.
  • Easily involve multiple people in the hiring process with admin, manager, reviewer or read-only user permissions.

Contact us if you would like to see a demo and learn more.

Phone: (801) 443-1090
Email: humanresources@aplusbenefits.com

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A Plus BenefitsAnnouncing a New Applicant Tracking Solution