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Employer Rights During an OSHA Inspection


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OSHA shows up at your door for a workplace inspection. What do you do?  Well first of all, if you are a client of A Plus Benefits, you should give us a call. Here are some other things to know from SHRM, in case you find yourself in this situation.

As an employer you do have the right to refuse the OSHA inspection, but the inspector can get a warrant from a judge to grant them access, so it is probably not in your best interest to do so. Employers can ask the OSHA inspector to wait for a member of management or designated safety professional to arrive before entering the worksite. Work that can be observed from plain view such as construction on the building, an OSHA inspector can document violations they see without entering the property.

Having a good relationship with OSHA inspectors can help the inspections go smoothly. Designating a certain employee to manage the inspection and has an understanding of what the inspection entails and things to be aware of can help your company stay out of hot water.

Make sure you are courteous the inspector and find out the specific reason for the inspection.  You will want to accompany the OSHA office though the worksite. Be sure to limit the inspection to the specific issue that prompted the visit. If an OSHA officer is there to inspect pipes, but attempts to do a wall to wall inspection, the employer can push back and try to limit the scope. It is best to carefully document everything the OSHA inspector is inspecting, in writing and by taking pictures. If you take the inspector to an area in your workplace where employees are required to wear hard hats, make sure to remember to have the inspector wear a hard hat too. This will show the inspector you are serious about safety.  One thing to remember- anything that is said to the OSHA inspector, such as “I meant to fix that…” can be held against the company.

Interviews are sometimes conducted by an inspector. When nonsupervisory employees are interviewed, they can be interviewed in private. When employees in supervisory positions are interviewed, they do have a right to have legal counsel or a manager present, since they are speaking on behalf of the company. If a manager admits to a violation, it is equivalent to the company admitting to the violation. Having legal counsel present will help ensure all questions are clear and answered appropriately.

Being familiar with what to expect during an OSHA inspection and establishing a good relationship with the inspector will make the process easier. Being proactive with your safety procedures to prevent potential issues instead of waiting for an inspection can prevent a lot of headaches. Conducting routine inspections will help you find issues before they become a real issue.

The A Plus Benefits Safety Director can help you establish a safety inspection routine and give you tips on what an OSHA inspector may be looking for. If you are interested in learning more about the services available through our risk management department, contact Nick Baird at nbaird@aplusbenefits.com or (801) 443-1090.

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A Plus BenefitsEmployer Rights During an OSHA Inspection

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

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

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

Coaching Employees to Keep Them Engaged


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Employee turnover is a huge concern for businesses of all sizes and there is a good reason for it. Statistics show that over half of employees are not engaged in their work and would be open to finding a new job opportunity. The good news is there are a few small things every business leader can do to help ensure their best employee talent sticks around long-term.

Engage all employees in one-on-one discussions
Often company leaders will only offer one-on-one coaching to supervisors in executives in their organizations. To keep employees at all levels engaged, conduct one-on-one meetings with everyone. These meetings give you the opportunity to address any employee concerns early on and offer meaningful, ongoing feedback. You can determine how often these discussions need to occur; weekly, bi-weekly or at least monthly.

Help employees find fulfillment in their work
Take advantage of your time in these one-on-one discussions to discover what motivates your employees. What are their true passions? Do they have untapped skills that their current role doesn’t allow them to utilize? Really get to know your employees and help them find ways to be fulfilled by their work.

Take time to evaluate the ROI of your one-on-one coaching
Make sure this time with employees isn’t just you checking a box on your to-do list. If it is, and you aren’t taking full advantage of this time, you won’t see the kind of improvement you are looking for in employee engagement and satisfaction. Make sure you are investing time in the preparation for these meetings and actually acting on the feedback you receive from employees.

Looking for more ideas? Check out our free Coaching Toolkit and Employee Engagement Toolkit.

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A Plus BenefitsCoaching Employees to Keep Them Engaged

Increase Productivity by Doing These Three Things at the End of Each Week


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Small business leaders must wear many hats. They are also tasked with doing more with less. This often means they are strapped for time and resources, and always looking for ways to be more productive. One of the best ways to ensure you have a great week, is to prepare each Friday. A recent article from Fast Company suggests that you set an appointment with yourself, and don’t move it or cancel it. During this time ask yourself these three questions:

Are my activities aligning with my goals?

Do a quick gut check at the end of each week to make sure that the places you are focusing your energy are those that are getting you to your goals. If that is not the case, make a plan to change that for the next week.

Where am I at with my “someday” goals?

We all have things we’d like to get to “someday” but we haven’t actually set a deadline for. Take time each week to review just one of these goals and decide if you are ready to get more specific with making it happen. Doing this helps ensure that you don’t let these things sit on the back burner forever.

What loose ends need tied up?

Review your to do list and see what things you can tackle immediately to get them off your plate. Clean up your email inbox. Check your calendar so you know what is coming up next week. Clear off any loose papers on your desk, so you can start the week out with a clean work environment.

Ending your week on a positive note is a great way to make sure you can enjoy your week and get your next week off on right foot. Share these ideas with the leaders in your organization and encourage them to give it a try.

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A Plus BenefitsIncrease Productivity by Doing These Three Things at the End of Each Week

5 Ways Millennial Employees Positively Impact Your Company


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You most often hear negative stereotypes about millennials. They are lazy. They want more pay for less work. They are entitled.  They lack communication skills. They are job-hoppers. Hearing these and so many others shared all the time both anecdotally among business leaders and in articles found in every business publication, it can be difficult to get excited about the next generation of employees. But just like every generation that came before them, Millennials bring positive and negative things to the workplace. For now, we want to focus on the positive and a recent article in Entrepreneur does just that. Here are five ways that Millennial employees can positively impact your organization:

They have a disruptive mindset.
You have likely heard the buzzword “disruptor” many times in the business world. It usually refers to a product, person or company that changes the way we think about an industry. They are usually start-up companies that manage to unseat the giants in their industry due to their innovative ideas.

Millennials are natural disruptors. They question the status quo and are constantly wondering if things could be done better. There is likely a great source of new ideas bubbling right beneath the surface of your Millennial employees. To gain access to their insights, all you need to do is ask. Encourage employees to share their ideas and provide guidance and support to vet these ideas and move those that are most valuable into action.

They value experiences.
More than any other generation they understand the importance of the customer’s experience with your brand. Allow Millennials to share their thoughts on how you can improve the user experience with the product or service.

They are digitally savvy.
Most Millennials grew up with technology all around them/. Most have computers in their homes and schools and cell phones from a very young age. Use this to your advantage when you’re looking at ways to improve your products, services, or even your internal processes with technology. You can also implement a reverse-mentoring program, where younger, more technically-savvy employees help those employees that may have a harder time getting up to speed on a new piece of technology.

Millennials also grew up in the age of social media. They likely have a keen understanding of the platforms and how you might be able to best reach your customers there.

They care about your purpose.
Millennials aren’t really concerned with having fun at work as many might think. What really creates staying power for most millennial employees is having a purpose at work. Understanding the impact that one’s work has on their company, community and the world is important to them. You know why you went into business, so share that with your team often and allow them to spread that message.

They want leadership.
The stereotype of Millennials being lazy or lacking focus presents a great opportunity for business leaders. Though they may have lacked this in their childhood and young adult like, they really do want structure and accountability. Set high expectations for all employees and hold them accountable. Lead by example. Set high expectations for yourself and hold yourself accountable. Fairness matters greatly to Millennials, so make sure that you fairly assign work and communicate clearly what it takes to succeed.

There is no avoiding the fact that Millennials will soon be taking over the workforce, and in many industries, they already have. Rather than have a negative attitude about that prospect, we hope that small business leaders will see the opportunities that Millennial employees bring to the organization.

Want to learn more about this important part of our workforce? We have a webinar coming up on Thursday October 12, 2017 at 11:00 am (MST) about Unleashing the Power of Millennials with special guest speaker Ben Galvin (PhD), Assistant Professor in the Marriott School of Management at Brigham Young University who has done extensive research on leadership, management and unleashing the power of millennials. You can register for the webinar here.

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A Plus Benefits5 Ways Millennial Employees Positively Impact Your Company

6 Simple Strategies to Motivate Your Employees


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In preparation for our Fall session of HR Boot Camp, we asked participants what their biggest HR challenge is. One of the things we hear often is what challenge it is to motivate employees to perform at a high level. Each individual employee may be motivated differently, creating a challenge for small business leaders already strapped for time and other resources. A recent article from Entrepreneur provides six strategies for motivating employees.

  1. Promote purpose. Companies that clearly communicate and demonstrate their purpose to employees have higher levels of employee engagement. This allows them to attract and retain the best possible employees. Unfortunately, according to research by Gallup, only 27% of employees say they can apply the company values to their individual job. There is a reason you chose to go into business. Share that with employees. Tell them what motivates you to come to work each day. Help them find purpose in their work.
  2. Actively listen and ask open ended questions. Engage in two-way communication with your employees. Ask them what motivates them and really listen to what they are saying. Find out what they are passionate about (inside or outside of work) and then ask questions about why that drives them. Use that information to help employees plan for their own career development to reach their goals.
  3. Catch a motivational wave. Take advantage of times when individuals are already motivated. Maybe it’s the beginning of the year, when people are setting New Year’s resolutions, or right after attending and industry conference or corporate event. Ride that motivational wave and keep the momentum going.
  4. Stop with the bribes. Rewards only work when they are handled strategically. Have a reason for rewarding and recognizing your employees. Doing it for no reason can lead to a lack of appreciation and a feeling of unfairness in the workplace.
  5. Lead by example. Make sure you are motivated as well. If your heart isn’t in it, others will notice., You must lead by example by pushing yourself to perform at a high level.
  6. Be vulnerable. Solicit positive and negative feedback from your employees. Share with them both your successes and your failures. This will increase the level of trust your team has in you as a leader.

These strategies may not all work for all employees, but they should give you some ideas of where you can improve the motivation of your team. Once you implement one or more of these ideas, we want to know how it goes. Drop by our Facebook page and let us know.

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A Plus Benefits6 Simple Strategies to Motivate Your Employees