Post-COVID Tips for Resuming Business Travel

COVID-19 has certainly disrupted business engagements with postponed or canceled business events. However, 75% of business travelers are expected to resume normal or increased levels of travel post-COVID. This is likely due to businesses resuming their new normal and low travel costs.

Here are some post-COVID tips for resuming business travel.

Limiting Business Travel to Essential Business Needs
First and foremost, the main question an employer should ask is: “Is travel necessary?” If the answer is no, then travel should be postponed or canceled depending on the business engagement. If the answer is yes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides pre-travel and general travel tips to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Before you travel, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is COVID-19 spreading or prominent at your destination?*
  • Do you live with someone who is designated in a vulnerable population for contracting COVID-19?
  • Are you designated in a vulnerable population for contracting COVID-19?
  • Does your destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers?

If you answer “yes,” to any of these questions, you should reconsider travel. For example, if your destination is Florida, New York, or California, you should reconsider travel.

*NOTE: The CDC provides a map with COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Country

Continuing Health and Safety Protection Practices
If you decide to travel, it is imperative for you to take the necessary step to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. This includes:

  • Wearing a mask in public settings or in any setting where exposed to another person(s) – make sure the mask covers your nose and mouth
  • Practicing physical distancing (at minimum six feet apart)
  • Washing your hands often and/or using hand sanitizer (of at least 60% alcohol)
  • Avoiding exposure to anyone who is or may be sick
  • Not touching your eyes, nose, or mouth

Utilizing Loyalty Programs and Company Discount Services
One major change that is likely to occur is employers receiving requests for travel reimbursements or financial aid for business travel. To help combat these requests and alleviate the costs of business travel, investing in loyalty programs or company discount services could assist employees who need to travel for business. Car rental rewards and discount programs, airline miles and loyalty programs, hotel and hospitality loyalty and discount programs, and other relevant discounts, loyalty, or reward programs for business travel are great options to help offset some business travel costs.

If you’re looking for additional ways to assist your employees with resumed business travel, please contact VensureHR. Our benefits team can introduce you to our Vensure Marketplace that includes unique employee benefits, such as Avis Budget Group car rental discount program and ZayZoon for financial management assistance. Whatever your business needs may be, VensureHR has the team, resources, and experience to find effective business solutions for you.

 

Condé Nast Traveler

AMC® Re-opens: Here’s What We Can Learn

AMC® has re-opened more than 100 theaters across the United States just in time to celebrate a century of movies at AMC® and Labor Day weekend. As COVID-19 maintains a worldwide presence, individuals may be hesitant to visit their nearest AMC® location.

AMC® Safety and Health Protocols

AMC® is adamant that it is following all state and federal regulations and has provided the following policies and procedures in an effort to provide peace of mind to all customers.

Safety and Health Policies

  • Like most public-facing businesses, facemasks are required for both AMC® staff and moviegoers. Basing their policies and procedures on World Health Organization guidelines, AMC® provides that “eck gaiters, open-chin bandanas and masks with vents or exhalation valves are not acceptable.” However, facemasks will be available for purchase at theaters for $1, and all facemasks may be removed to enjoy food and drinks during viewing.
  • Physical distancing is being enforced with floor markers and posters placed for friendly reminders.
  • Theaters have reduced auditorium capacities to 40% or less based on municipality guidelines. AMC® has updated its ticketing system to automatically ensure seating is properly spaced to maintain physical distancing within the auditoriums.
  • Ticketing and concierge services offer contactless payment options with credit, debit, or AMC® gift cards all accepted. Cash is still an acceptable form of payment, except at concessions or MacGuffins® Bar.
  • To reduce lines and expedite services, AMC® has temporarily condensed its menus to simple selections, such as popcorn, hot dogs, candy, nachos, and drinks. Condiments, lids, napkins, and straws have been removed to deter touch points, but are available upon request. Refills are also temporarily unavailable.
  • Ensuring staff health and safety, AMC® is conducting daily health screenings (i.e., temperature screening before shifts), frequent hand washing, and health self-checks (i.e., if someone shows symptoms, they are required to self-quarantine until symptom-free for at least 72-hours).

 

Cleaning Procedures

While following state, municipal, and other recommended health and safety guidelines, AMC® has also implemented cleaning policies and procedures, including:

  • Electrostatic disinfectant sprays maximizing surface coverage and adequately disinfect surfaces
  • HEPA filter vacuums proven to trap 99.97% airborne particles
  • Upgraded MERV-13 air filters
  • Routine cleaning and disinfecting common areas and frequently touched surfaces (i.e., doors, trays, handrails, counters, etc.)

 

Exclusive Offers and Updates

To welcome its customers back, AMC® has provided exclusive offers, such as:

  • Movies in 2020 at 1920 Prices
  • Classic treats for $5 each
  • Double points for AMC® Stubs members
  • First month of A-List for only $5

 

AMC® has also updated its AMC® Stubs membership benefits, including:

  • Rewards (i.e., birthday rewards, freebies, discounts) that expired while theaters were closed are extended through October 31
  • Premiere memberships are extended by eight months to ensure full 12-month membership benefits are fulfilled
  • Self-service options to re-activate A-List memberships

 

As nonessential businesses are re-opening, now is the time to review employee handbooks, trainings, and OSHA regulations and compliance for state-specific requirements. If you need help updating, reviewing, and ensuring compliance and adequate health and safety standards for your business, contact VensureHR. Our HR specialists can provide you the tools, resources, and support you need to re-open your business successfully.

 

Source: AMC

1099 Employees: Everything Employers Should Know

A 1099 employee, otherwise known as an independent contractor, is self-employed. When an employer enters a contract with a 1099 employee, the 1099 employee is typically responsible for their own hours, tools, taxes, and benefits. Unlike a standard employee (W2 employee), 1099 employees are not tied to a single employer and are required to follow different laws and regulations.

Uber and Lyft, popular ridesharing providers, were recently ordered by a California court to classify their drivers as employees. Both ridesharing powerhouses have stated their intention to appeal the decision. Currently, Uber and Lyft drivers are classified as 1099 employees, which was intentional in the foundation of both ridesharing companies to provide flexibility of work. However, the continued struggle with 1099 employment is the lack of benefits and workers’ compensation. Uber and Lyft have been subjected to various lawsuits regarding lost wages.

Now is the time to carefully review the fundamentals of a 1099 employee vs a W-2 employee, and which one best suits your business’s needs.

Independent Contractor (1099) vs Employee (W-2)

The IRS uses three categories to evaluate 1099 employee vs W2 employee relationships:

  1. Behavioral: This category analyzes who has control (i.e., what and how the 1099 employee does his or her job).
  2. Financial: This category explores how the 1099 employee is paid, expense reimbursement, and buyer of supplies.
  3. Professional Relationship: This category examines benefits, relationship longevity (temporary vs permanent or long-term), and impact the 1099 employee’s work has on integral business operations.

 

1099 Employee Checklist (FAQ Style)

Question: What form(s) do you give a 1099 employee?
Answer: We have created a quick infographic for the forms employers need for a 1099 employee. These forms include a 1099-MISC form, W-9, and a written contract signed by both parties.


Question: What is a 1099 employee rules?
Answer: 1099 employee rules depend on various factors. The main rules may include, but are not limited to (1) state laws, (2) employer and industry,  and/or (3) written contractual obligations. Carefully review these three rules or seek legal advice on employment laws related to 1099 employees.


Question: What is a 1099 employee?
Answer: A 1099 employee is also known as an “independent contractor.” The 1099 employee is essentially self-employed through individual contracts with an employer(s). This allows them to set their own rates and hours, as well as puts taxes, benefits, and tools responsibilities on the 1099 employee rather than the employer.


Question: Do 1099 employees need workers comp?
Answer: Like most laws, workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state. Whether a 1099 employee needs workers’ compensation is likely going to be dictated by individual state law. Check with your state’s workers’ compensation laws to see what, if any, coverage is needed for 1099 employees. You may also consult a workers’ comp attorney or a PEO like VensureHR to understand workers’ comp needs for 1099 employees.


Question: How to fill out a 1099 as an employee?
Answer: Like most IRS forms, the 1099 MISC form comes with instructions available both on the form and as a separate document, found on the IRS website.


Question: What are the best payroll prepaid cards for 1099 employees?
Answer: The best of anything is subjective and typically dependent on business needs. There are plenty of options out there and your best option is simply to do your research. Reach out to vendors that align with your business needs and ask questions. If available, ask for a demo of their platform to evaluate user-friendliness, accessibility, and other features you’re interested in.


Question: Can you collect unemployment if you are a 1099 employee?
Answer: Most state programs do not offer unemployment benefits to 1099 employees. However, 1099 employees may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which provides unemployment assistance for 1099 employees and part-time workers.


Question: Where do I get 1099 forms for my employees?
Answer: 1099-MISC and W-9 forms, and other pertinent forms, can be found on the IRS website.

For more information or if you have additional questions regarding 1099 employees or W-2 employees, please contact VensureHR. Our experienced HR specialists can provide you forms, resources, tools, and industry best practices for your staffing needs.

 

Sources:
Zenefits
SquareUp

The Power of Webinars

Did you know that 6 out of 10 people would rather watch online videos than television? With the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic forcing most businesses to work remote, now is the time for businesses to take advantage of the benefits webinars can bring them. Here are some reasons why you should explore the power of webinars.

Adding Value and Establishing Position as an Expert in Your Industry

Webinars are a great way to raise brand awareness through value-added content (i.e., discussing innovative solutions for common business pain points) and flexing your industry knowledge. When strategizing for a webinar agenda, analyze the common questions or problems your current clients are facing. Explore what’s happening in your industry as it adjusts to the impact of COVID-19, such as addressing the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan and Forgiveness, best HR practices for employee management and concerns, and ongoing business-related issues that your business can provide solutions.

For example, VensureHR is a PEO offering a wide range of HR, employee benefits, workers’ compensation, safety and risk management, and payroll services to diverse industries. With the evolving COVID situation, we provided free, informational webinars addressing client questions we received. We invited speakers from our division partners and ensured to send follow-up emails after each webinar answering questions that were not answered during the webinar or asked post-webinar. Both clients and prospects were invited to participate. We also recorded our webinars, and both sent the recorded webinar and downloadable slides to attendees, as well as posted them to our Webinars page on our website.

A Sales Approach Without the Hard Sell

While your main incentive for hosting a webinar may be simply to build brand awareness, webinars can also provide an indirect sales pitch without being sales-y. Positioning yourself as an industry expert and thought leader will help sell yourself. The most effective webinar should highlight issues, pacify doubts, and present value-added content. Focusing on the “what” of your service or product provides a more natural, soft-sell approach.

Webinars can also open doors to generating leads. By showcasing your services and/or products and providing relevant information that assists your audience can foster a positive response from your webinar attendees. Whether they want more information, want to learn about what other products and/or services you offer, or were sold on what you had to offer, webinars are a great way to attract new prospects, generate leads, and convert new clients.

Webinars also create opportunities for you to build personal relationships and have real-time conversations. Given the circumstances of today’s pandemic, webinars are the next best thing to in-person or phone calls with prospects.

Expand Audience Reach

Conducting a remote webinar allows you to connect with a wide-ranging audience that you may not otherwise reach without a webinar. Another way webinars can expand audience reach is inviting guests to your webinar, which in most cases, the guest(s) is usually happy to invite their audience to increase attendees. Other businesses’ audiences can bring significant exposure to you and your business resulting in a wider audience, generating new leads, and building brand awareness and your reputation in the process. However, be mindful that leveraging your guest(s)’s audience should not be the primary concern or obligation.

Engage Audience

Webinars are great tools for engaging with your audience as they are live events. If your webinar was an in-person presentation, you might not be able to leverage all the benefits webinars provide businesses. For example, if a viewer shows up late or not at all, they miss your presentation. However, with a webinar, they are able to pause and come back or re-watch as many times as they would like.

Another benefit of engaging the audience during a webinar is through open dialogues. Your audience is allowed to ask questions, share personal experiences, voice opinions, and simply engage in the conversation. As a result of your audience having a voice, they are by default more focused and engaged.

If you’re looking for HR updates or improving your presence in your industry, please contact VensureHR. We have a team of HR, employee benefits, payroll, workers’ compensation, and risk management experts who are able to guide you through available resources, training, and services to better serve your clients and build yourself as a leader in your industry.

 

Sources:
Demio
Paramount Business Coach

 

Google

Here’s What You Need to Know About President Trump’s Recent Legislation

On August 8, 2020, President Trump released three memoranda and an executive order addressing payroll tax, student loans, evictions, and benefits for lost wages.

Here’s what you need to know:

Memorandum 1: Deferring Payroll Tax Obligations in Light of the Ongoing COVID-19 Disaster

This memorandum instructs the Secretary of the Treasury to “defer the withholding, deposit, and payment” of old-age, survivors, and disability insurance tax liability from September 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020, subject to (1) employees whose wages or compensation, as applicable, is less than $4,000 (pre-tax), or the equivalent amount of other pay periods, and (2) deferrals shall be provided “without any penalties, interest, additional amount, or addition to the tax.”

The Secretary is also instructed to provide guidance to effectuate this order, as well as explore methods to forgive any deferral.

Some aspects of this legislation are ambiguous and require further clarity pending future legislation, guidance, or executive orders. Here are some topics that may require further clarification:

  • Interpretation and application of the $4,000 qualification
  • Employers must defer for all employees or only eligible employees
  • Employer payment obligations, responsibilities, and liabilities
  • Reporting requirements and any retroactive implications

Read the complete memorandum here.

Memorandum 2: Continued Student Loan Payment Relief During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Beginning March 20, 2020, the Trump administration alleviated student loan borrowers by temporarily suspending loan payments and reducing interest rates to 0%. This relief was intended to assist students and guardians stabilize their financial situations during the pandemic. The original relief was set to expire on September 30, 2020 but has been extended to December 31, 2020 as many are still facing financial hardships resulting from COVID-19.

Read the complete memorandum here.

Memorandum 3: Authorizing the Other Needs Assistance Program for Major Disaster Declarations Related to Coronavirus Disease 2019

The Trump administration has provided up to $44 billion from the Department of Homeland Security’s Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) to assist eligible claimants with lost wages and supplement State expenditures for allocating such relief.  States are responsible for allocating temporary financial support to individuals whose jobs or wages have been adversely impacted by COVID-19. At minimum, $25 billion of DRF contributions will be directed toward ongoing disaster response and recovery efforts and potential 2020 major disaster costs.

This relief will be available for eligible claimants until DRF amount reaches $25 billion or for weeks of unemployment ending not later than December 6, 2020, whichever occurs first, for which the lost wages assistance program will be terminated.

The memorandum also advises, “To ensure that those affected by a loss in wages due to COVID-19 continue to receive supplemental benefits for weeks of unemployment ending no later than December 27, 2020, States should also identify funds to be spent without a Federal match should the total DRF balance deplete to $25 billion.”

For further details, read the full memorandum here.

Executive Order: Fighting the Spread of COVID-19 by Providing Assistance to Renters and Homeowners

This executive order provides guidance for government entities, such as the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Director of the CDC, Secretary of the Treasury, and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, to use discretion in providing temporary relief to renters and homeowners where eviction may result in further spread of COVID-19. Where financial assistance is available, federal government entities are to provide temporary financial assistance to renters and homeowners facing financial hardships as a result of COVID-19.

Read the complete executive order here.

If you have any questions, please contact VensureHR to speak with one of our HR representatives, or visit our COVID-19 Resources page for continued updates.

July 2020 Washington, D.C. HR Legal Updates

D.C Expands Face Mask Requirement – Mandates Employer-Provided Masks

What happened?
Washington, D.C Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued a Mayoral Order, effective immediately, expanding face mask requirements.

What are the details?
New face masks requirements have been issued in a Mayoral Order by Mayor Bowser. These requirements include:

  • Employers will need to provide masks to workers in Washington, D.C.
    • Individuals leaving their residence will need to wear a mask when they are likely to encounter other people.
    • Places of business open to the public must put up signs noting that persons not wearing masks will not be allowed to enter.

Violations of the order can incur up to a $1,000 fine per violation. The Metropolitan Police Department is authorized to enforce these rules. No youth under the age of 18 will be charged with a violation.

The full order can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers in Washington, D.C. will need to immediately begin supplying employees with masks. If the workplace is open to the public, they should create and post signage about entry being barred for individuals not wearing masks.

July 2020 New York HR Legal Updates

New York Supreme Court Enforces Anti-Mandatory Arbitration Law

What happened?
The New York Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (“CPLR”) 7515, New York’s anti-mandatory arbitration law.

What are the details?
On July 30, 2020, the New York Supreme Court denied a motion to compel arbitration and enforced CPLR 7515 in Andowah Newton v. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc., Sup, Ct., N.Y. County, July 13, 2020,. This resulted in the arbitration agreement that the employee had signed becoming null and void. The defendant had claimed that the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) would allow the arbitration agreement to be enforceable and that it would supersede the state’s CPLR. The court ruled that the FAA is only applicable to matters of commerce and that sexual harassment and employment discrimination cannot, by their very nature, be matters of commerce.

A more detailed breakdown of the case can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers in New York should review their mandatory arbitration agreements. If the arbitration agreements have clauses regarding sexual harassment and/or employment discrimination, they should seek legal counsel to ensure the agreements are in compliance with CPLR 7515.

Summary of Laws with Upcoming Effective Dates

Sexual Harassment Claims
Effective August 12, 2020, the statute of limitations is extended from one year to three years for employees to file sexual harassment complaints with the New York Division on Human Rights.

New York City Sexual Harassment Training
In New York City’s Commission on Human Rights guidance regarding an amendment to the New York City Human Rights Law (“NYCHRL”) effective January 11,

2020, which expanded protections under the law to independent contractors and freelancers, employers are now required to provide certain independent contractors and freelancers with sexual harassment prevention training in accordance with the NYCHRL. Similar to employees and interns, independent contractors must receive this training if they work for an employer of 15 or more people, work more than 80 hours in a calendar year, and work for at least 90 days.

Suffolk County Criminal Background
Effective August 25, 2020, employers with 15 or more employees are prohibited from inquiring about a job applicant’s prior criminal convictions during the application process or before a first interview.

The law allows employers to inquire about prior criminal convictions when:

  • The employer is hiring for licensed trades or professions (including interns and apprentices) and asks applicants the same questions asked by the trade or professional licensing body in accordance with state law.
  • Certain convictions under or violations of state or federal law prohibit employment in that position.
  • The inquiries are authorized by law.

The restrictions do not apply to certain public employers, private schools, and private service providers of direct services specific to the care or supervision of children, young adults, senior citizens, or the physically or mentally disabled.

Paid Sick Leave
Effective September 30, 2020, New York’s statewide paid sick leave law requires that employers with 100 or more employees provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave per year, and employers with fewer than 100 employees to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year, except employers with fewer than four employees and a net income of less than $1 million, whom can provide sick leave as unpaid.

Employees accrue one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked beginning September 30, 2020 or when employment begins, whichever is later. Employers are not required to allow use of sick leave until January 1, 2021.

Unused sick leave must be carried over to the next calendar year, but the employer may limit the amount of sick leave that may be used in a calendar year to 40 hours (employers with fewer than 100 employees) and 56 hours (employers with 100 or more employees).

Sick leave may be used for the employee’s or employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness, injury or health condition; medical diagnosis, care or treatment; and preventive medical care. It can also be used for an absence for various reasons when the employee or employee’s family member has been the victim of domestic abuse, a family offense, sexual offense, stalking, or human trafficking.

July 2020 Missouri HR Legal Updates

Missouri Limits Punitive Damages in Workplace Safety Lawsuits

What happened?
On July 1, 2020, Governor Mike Parson signed SB 591, which modifies various provisions relating to civil actions.

What are the details?
On July 1, 2020, Missouri has passed SB 591, creating additional restrictions for plaintiffs when filing for punitive damages. SB 591 provides that punitive damages will only be awarded if the plaintiff “proves by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant intentionally harmed the plaintiff without just cause or acted with a deliberate and flagrant disregard for the safety of others.” This language is a change to the previously lower burden on plaintiffs for establishing punitive damages. Additionally, plaintiffs may now only seek punitive damages by submitting a written motion for leave to file a pleading seeking punitive damages and can no longer seek them in an initial pleading. Such motions must be supported by evidence “establishing a reasonable basis for recovery of punitive damages.” SB 591 also establishes that the amount of punitive damages shall not be based, in whole or in part, on harm to nonparties.

Plaintiffs must file a motion for punitive damages no later than 120 days before the final pre-trial conference or trial date. The court must then rule on the motion no later than 45 days after a hearing on the motion, or if no hearing is held, after the defendant has filed its response to the motion.

The full text of SB 591 can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers in Missouri should consult their legal counsel if they are involved in a civil action.

July 2020 Massachusetts HR Legal Updates

Massachusetts Issues Final Amendments to Paid Family Medical Leave Regulations

What happened?
The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (“DFML”) has released the unofficial version of the final amendments to the Paid Family and Medical Leave (“PFML”) regulations.

 What are the details?
The DFML has made final changes to the PFML regulations that have been finalized as of July 24, 2020. Some of the final changes made include:

  • Added language to close gaps in coverage when an employee was transitioning to a different private plan or between State Trust Fund and a private plan
  • Changed the time for an employee to notify the employer of a change in the term of an approved private plan exemption from 30 to 60 days.
  • Clarified that if an employee who separated from a company, but less than 26 weeks since separation, is filing for benefits, they will file under their previous employer if still unemployed or their current employer if they’ve since found new work.
  • Substance abuse treatment is now considered a serious health condition, allowing employees receiving treatment for substance abuse issues to be counted as a qualifying reason to take PFML. However, absences caused by the employee using substances do not qualify for leave.

The regulations in their entirety can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers in Massachusetts should update their policies to reflect the final PFML regulations. Training should be provided to supervisors and managers to recognize protected leaves to reduce the chance of violations.

July 2020 Maryland HR Legal Updates

Summary of Laws with Upcoming Effective Dates

Hair Discrimination
Effective October 1, 2020, an amendment to the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act provides that race discrimination includes discrimination based on traits associated with race, including hair texture, Afro hairstyles, and protective hairstyles such as braids, locs, and twists.

Salary History
Effective October 1, 2020, employers must provide job applicants with a wage range for their potential position upon request. In addition, employers may not take adverse action against applicants for not providing a wage history or rely on an applicant’s wage history in considering the applicant for employment or in determining the applicant’s wages.

However, after an initial offer of employment including a compensation offer has been made to an applicant, an employer may confirm and rely on voluntarily provided wage history to support a wage offer higher than initially offered, as long as the higher wage does not create an unlawful pay differential based on sex or gender identity.

Salary Disclosure
Effective October 1, 2020, employers may not take adverse action against employees for inquiring about their own wages.

Work Adjustment and Retraining Notification
Effective October 1, 2020, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide written notice at least 60 days prior to the relocation of a part of an employer’s operation from one workplace to another existing or proposed site or the shutting down of a workplace or a portion of the operations of a workplace that reduces the number of employees by at least 25% or 15 employees, whichever is greater, over any three-month period.

Employers must also provide continuation of benefits to affected employees.

Paid Sick Leave
Effective October 1, 2020, the definition of a family member for paid sick leave purposes has been expanded to include a legal ward of the employee and a legal guardian or ward of the employee’s spouse.

Facial Recognition
Effective October 1, 2020, an employer may not use a facial recognition service for the purpose of creating a facial template during a job applicant’s employment interview unless the applicant provides consent.