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Tips for Supporting Employee Caregivers

The last couple of years has taught us that a healthy work-life balance is more important than ever. This doesn’t just apply to those who want to experience what the world has to offer, it also applies to the 73% of U.S. employees that care for a child, parent, friend, or other individuals.

On top of a traditional 40-hour workweek, employee caregivers spend an average of 24 hours weekly on caregiving responsibilities. The time and effort that goes into working and providing care can be difficult to manage, and as an employer, you need to find effective methods to help.

If you don’t provide your employee caregivers with the proper support, your business could face negative impacts. Caregiving represents a risk for depression, chronic illness, loneliness, and social isolation. This could lead to absenteeism or presenteeism (working while sick), resulting in $34 billion in annual losses to U.S. employers.

Here are some tips to help support your employee caregivers.

Provide Childcare Resources

Approximately 40% of female employees have felt a negative impact on their careers due to childcare responsibilities. It goes without saying that no one’s career should suffer in an effort to care for a child. So, you should provide all possible resources to deter the stress of this situation.

If your company has childcare services such as daycare centers or assistance programs, all employee caregivers should be informed. If not, consider implementing a more autonomous workplace policy.

Present options to employees for when they start and finish their workday in addition to where they work. If an employee’s job allows, give permission to work from home.

Educate Your Employees

If your business is stretched thin for resources, be sure to educate your employees on their legal rights to care for a loved one. More specifically, it’s important that they have a full understanding of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Per the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave.

It is also recommended that you teach your caregiver employees about the impact of burnout, which is considered a medical phenomenon. To help, provide employees with a burnout handbook that can be just as useful for them as it is for you.

Check-In

A simple check-in can go a long way for your employee caregivers. Acting as a caregiver can be a stressful and tiring job. It’s your duty as an employer to ensure your employees are set for success and provide them with the necessary tools to be productive.

Empathy shows your employees that you care, not to mention it is a necessary leadership skill that you must master. A study showed that when people felt their leaders were more empathetic, 86% reported they are able to navigate the demands of their work and life—successfully juggling their personal, family, and work obligations.

However, check-ins aren’t always simple and they must be uniform for all employees. Consider using an evaluation template for your check-ins. They don’t always need to be business-focus, but they will help you decide what changes may need to be made in an effort to create a happier, healthier workplace.

Offer a Well-Structured Benefits Package

Not only does a great benefits package help your business attract and retain employees, but it will also provide peace of mind to employee caregivers. This is critical as 32% of employees who took part in a recent survey said they had to leave their job because of caregiving responsibilities.

In addition to medical, dental, and vision insurance, which could save thousands of dollars, employees can also gain access to telehealth. With telehealth, an employee caregiver can get access to healthcare professionals anywhere, virtually, which will save time and resources. An effective way to gain access to the most impactful benefits packages is by partnering with a professional employer organization (PEO). As experts in the HR field, a PEO can provide great value when it comes to making backend decisions for your business and providing Fortune 500-level benefits at unbeatable rates.

March 2022: Old E-Verify Records to Be Disposed After March 31, 2022

Update Applicable to:
All employers who use E-verify

What happened?
On April 1, 2022, the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will dispose of E-Verify records that are more than 10 years old, which are those dated on or before December 31, 2011.

What are the details?
USCIS annually disposes of E-Verify employer records that are 10 years old or older per the National Archives and Records Administration records retention and disposal schedule (N 1-566-08-7). This reduces security and privacy risks associated with the U.S. government retaining personally identifiable information.

To retain E-Verify case information, an employer (or their program or corporate administrators) may download and save the Historic Records Report, which includes:

• Company name and location;

• Initiated date and verification case number;

• Employee name and date of initial resolution;

• Date of additional resolution and final status; and

• Case closure date and case closure description.

Employers are required to record the E-Verify case verification number on the corresponding Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification or attach a copy of the case details page to the Form I-9. Employers should retain the Historic Records Report with each Form I-9.

For more information, please see the links below:

E-Verify Records Disposal Information

USCIS Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and follow the instructions on how to download records from E-Verify if they wish to retain any information that may be deleted.

Tips for Writing Effective Job Offer Letters

Finding the best candidate for an open position is hard work. For some, it could take months to find the perfect fit. But at last—you find the person you were searching for.

Your new challenge is making an offer that is compelling enough to persuade them to choose to work for your company, rather than another. You need to provide the candidate a concise, yet explicative, offer letter that will describe your company’s benefits and expectations.

The question is: what should be included a job offer letter?

Salary and Bonus Opportunities

During your recruiting process, you likely discussed the salary offered to a candidate for the role. However, if you’re offering the position to someone, the salary needs to be written out and agreed upon. This is true for both exempt and non-exempt employees.

If the job role is paid on an hourly basis, you must explain this in addition to what the hourly rate is. If the position is salaried, explain what the annual rate is and how much an employee should expect their gross pay (before taxes) to be per pay period.

It is also imperative that your offer letter details what the pay periods will be (i.e., weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.).

Furthermore, if you offer any form of bonus or commission plan, which is common for many sales positions, you should also highlight this.

Should your company offer paid time off, this should also be detailed.

At-Will Employment

At-will employment is an agreement that state an employer has the ability to terminate an employee for any reason and without cause or prior warning—as long as the reason doesn’t discriminate. Conversely, an employee is entitled to the same rights.

If your company hires on the basis of at-will employment, you need to include the terms within a job offer letter. If you don’t, you may face legal ramifications down the road.

If a candidate acknowledges that they are being hired at-will, courts can deny the employee any claim for loss resulting from the dismissal.

Job Duties

Whatever role you are hiring for, whether it be in sales, marketing, HR, or any other department, the duties of the job should be outlined in the job offer letter.

However, you do not need to list every single detail of what the job will entail.

Highlight specific duties and emphasize that this is not a complete list of everything that is expected—you may go into more detail during the onboarding process.

If you choose to explain the duties in great detail, you may overwhelm your potential new hire.

Confidentiality and Contingencies

Of course, you don’t want competitors to know what projects you’re working on and what you have planned for the future. Because of this, every offer letter you send to a candidate should ask them to sign a confidentiality agreement stating they will not disclose important company information with anyone outside of your organization.

At this time, the candidate should also be asked to sign a contingency agreement. This agreement should explicitly detail that the offer is contingent upon a background check clearance, reference check, and satisfactory proof of the employee’s right to work in the U.S., as required by law.

Onboarding and Next Steps

If a candidate is prepared to accept a job offer, they’re going to want to know what happens next. While, you don’t have to explain every step of the onboarding process, it will be helpful to include a start date and the timeline of any contingencies, such as reference checks. It’s important to include these steps so that the employment relationship begins on strong footing, launching your new employee and your business as a whole towards success and prosperity.

Looking beyond the onboarding process, new employees should be made aware of your company’s performance management practices, such as evaluation periods and employee write up processes.

Extending a Warm Welcome

The end of your search is just as exciting for the candidate as it is for you, and you should let this be known. Be sure to include a few welcoming words and further highlight your company’s culture and accomplishments to reassure the candidate that they made the right choice. While you may be over the moon with excitement, you may still need some help—that’s where a professional employer organization (PEO) comes in. A PEO like Vensure Employer Services can help teach you how to write a job offer letter and provide resources, like a business owner’s guide to recruiting that will help the process run seamlessly.

March 2022: Howard County Increases Minimum Wage

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Howard County, Maryland

What happened?
On December 13, 2021, Howard County Council Executive Calvin Ball signed Council Bill No. 82-2021 into law, which is a series of local wage increases beginning on April 1, 2022. These wage increases will eventually bring the rate up to $16.

What are the details?
Effective April 1, 2022, under the new law, the minimum wage for large employers (more than 15 employees) will be:

  • April 1, 2022 – $14
  • April 1, 2023 – $15
  • April 1, 2024 – $16

Small employers (15 or fewer employees):

  • April 1, 2022 – $12.50
  • April 1, 2023 – $13.25
  • April 1, 2024 – $14
  • April 1, 2025 – $14.75
  • April 1, 2026 – $15.50
  • July 1, 2026 – $16

For Howard County government employees, the increased rates will be:

  • July 1, 2022 – $15
  • July 1, 2024 – $16

After the scheduled rate increases, minimum wage rates will be adjusted via the Consumer Price Index.

Lastly, the minimum cash wage for a tipped employee is $3.63.

“The impact of this legislation will relieve a financial burden for thousands of low-wage workers, moreover it will benefit 25 percent of the county’s Asian and Pacific Islander workers, 30 percent of the county’s working women, 33 percent of the county’s African American workers, 51 percent of the county’s Latinx workers, and 75 percent of workers in low-income families,” Howard County Councilmember Opel Jones said in a statement. “Leading and legislating through an equitable lens by not delaying economic justice and prosperity for one out of four families who may struggle to provide adequate housing, proper clothing, and food for their families is paramount. As a recommendation from the Racial Equity Task Force, I am humbled by the passage of Council 82-2021, and thrilled to earn the support from residents and of our advocate community.”

For more information, please see the links below:

Council Bill No. 82-2021

Howard County Article

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What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links above and make sure they have the correct rates for their employees to abide by the county’s new law.

March 2022: Planning Ahead and Posting Updates

Posting Updates

(This section provides you with an overview of labor law postings for this month. Note: many of these are included in the federal/state labor law poster)

 Federal or StateUpdated PostingMandatory or Recommended
   
TBD
FederalFair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – Overtime Exemptions, Overtime, Joint EmploymentANTICIPATED
FederalMinimum WageANTICIPATED
FederalFamily Medical Leave ActANTICIPATED
ANTICIPATED
CaliforniaJob Health and SafetyANTICIPATED
CaliforniaOSHAANTICIPATED
ConnecticutPaid Family Medical LeaveANTICIPATED
IllinoisYou Have the Right to be Free from Job Discrimination and Sexual HarassmentANTICIPATED
IllinoisEqual PayANTICIPATED
LouisianaEarned Income CreditANTICIPATED
New HampshirePaid Family LeaveANTICIPATED
New JerseyWage TheftANTICIPATED
New JerseyEmployee MisclassificationANTICIPATED
New JerseySafe ActANTICIPATED
New MexicoHealthy Workplaces ActANTICIPATED
New YorkDiscriminationANTICIPATED
New YorkFair EmploymentANTICIPATED
New YorkElectronic MonitoringANTICIPATED
Puerto RicoMinimum WageANTICIPATED
Rhode IslandPay EquityANTICIPATED
Rhode IslandDiscriminationANTICIPATED
March 2022
OklahomaUSERRAMANDATORY
NevadaSafety and Health Protection on the JobMANDATORY
NevadaDepartment of Employment, Training, and RehabilitationMANDATORY

March 2022: Philadelphia’s COVID-19 Paid Leave is Now in Effect

Update Applicable to:
All employers with 25 or more employees in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

What happened?
On March 10, 2022, Philadelphia Mayor Kenney signed into law the third iteration of the Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL) law, which goes into effect immediately and will sunset on December 23, 2023.

What are the details?
Eligibility

The third iteration of Philadelphia’s COVID-19 paid leave mandate applies to employers who have 25 or more employees and has a broad standard for employee eligibility, covering those who work for a covered employer and either:

  • currently works in the city,
  • normally works in the city but is currently teleworking due to COVID-19, or
  • works from multiple locations and spends a majority of their work time in the city.

Using Existing Paid Leave Benefits

In general, COVID-19 leave benefits are in addition to all other paid leave benefits an employer provides, and an employer cannot reduce the amount of COVID-19 leave it must provide by the amount of paid leave an employee previously received. Under limited circumstances, however, employers can use pre-existing benefits to satisfy COVID-19 eave requirements in whole or part:

  • Teleworkers: When employees complete the majority of their work through telework, employers need not change existing policies or provide additional paid leave if existing policies provide teleworking employees with at least 80 hours of paid leave in 2022, and employees can use such paid leave for the same purposes and under all of the same conditions as set forth under the ordinance.
  • Generous Paid Leave Policies: An employer need not change an existing leave policy or provide additional paid leave to employees if its policy provides at least 120 hours of paid time off in 2022 whether such leave is specifically designated as sick leave, if employees can use such leave for the same purposes and under all of the same conditions as the ordinance requires (in 2021, it was 160 hours). Additionally, a provision that differs from the 2021 ordinance provides that, for employers that operate on a 7.5-hour workday and consider an employee working 37.5 hours a week to be a full-time employee, the amount of leave required to qualify for this exemption is 112.5 hours.
  • COVID-19 Paid Leave Policies: If an employer adopted a policy that provides employees additional paid time off specifically for use during COVID-19, it may substitute leave under that policy for COVID-19 leave to the extent they coincide. Employers must provide additional COVID-19 leave only to the extent that the ordinance’s requirements exceed their COVID-19 paid leave policy’s requirements. Unlike the 2021 law, there is no express requirement that the policy had to be adopted on or after March 6, 2020, but it is unlikely many employers adopted COVID-19 leave policies before that date.

Amount of Leave

Employers must provide – rather than have employees accrue – the following amounts of paid COVID-19 leave, which is less than what they had to provide under the 2021 ordinance:

  • Employees who work 40 or more hours per week receive at least 40 hours, unless their employer provides a greater amount (in 2021, it was 80 hours).
  • Employees who work fewer than 40 hours per week receive an amount equal to the amount of time they are scheduled to work or actually work on average in a seven-day period, whichever is greater, unless the employer provides a greater amount.
  • Employees whose weekly schedule varies receive the average number of daily hours that the employee was scheduled over the past 90 days of work, including hours for which the employee took leave of any type, multiplied by seven.

Covered Uses

The law’s covered uses provision is nearly identical to that of the 2021 law, except for a few minor changes. Leave is available for immediate use when employees are unable to work due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • care for the employee’s own self or a family member who has COVID-19 symptoms or is self-isolating due to COVID-19 exposure;
  • childcare or school closure; and
  • receiving a COVID-19 vaccine (including booster) or recovering from COVID-19 vaccine side effects.

Employees can use COVID-19 leave in the smaller of hourly increments or the smallest increment the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or use of other time. An employer cannot require an employee to use other paid sick leave available to the employee, e.g., pre-COVID-19 statutory Philadelphia paid sick leave, before the employee is eligible to use COVID-19 leave unless state or federal law requires otherwise.

Employer Notice and Recordkeeping Requirements:

Employers must provide employees with a notice of their rights under the COVID-19 leave mandate within 15 days of the mandate becoming law.  Although not specified, if the 15 days are measured as calendar days, covered employers will need to provide their employees with a copy of the notice by March 24, 2022.

The mandate’s model notice has been posted and can be found here.

Prohibitions

The ordinance includes numerous prohibitions, expressly or by incorporating standards in the pre-COVID Philadelphia paid sick leave ordinance. For example, as a condition of providing COVID-19 leave, employers cannot require employees to search for or find a replacement to cover the hours during which they are using leave. Employers cannot reduce the amount of any paid leave an employee could use or accrue under the employer’s existing policies as of the ordinance’s effective date. Employers cannot take retaliatory personnel action or discriminate against an employee who exercises rights protected by the ordinance.

For more information, please see the links below:

Public Health Emergency Leave (PHEL)

PHEL Model Notice

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What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above, make immediate adjustments to their paid sick leave policies, provide the PHEL notice to employees and post in a conspicuous location, and determine whether and how they can comply via existing policies or, alternatively, how to develop a compliant,

March 2022: New York HERO Act No Longer in Effect

Update Applicable to:
All employers in the state of New York

What happened?
In our previous communication, we informed you about the New York HERO Act that was extended from February 15, 2022, to March 17, 2022. This is an update to that article.

What are the details?
The New York Health Commissioner has allowed the designation to expire due to the COVID-19 infection and hospitalization rates decreasing, and the lifting of the HERO Act mask mandate and other preventative measures in New York.

Effective March 18, 2022, employers are no longer required to implement their Disease Exposure Prevention Plan under the HERO Act, including daily health screenings and other requirements. However, employers must continue to maintain their safety plans in the event of a later designation, but no longer need to activate them.

For more information, please see the links below:

NYS Department of Health Announcement

Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and continue to maintain their safety plans in case of a later designation per the New York State Department of Health.

Vensure encourages employers to reach out to their local health departments in case of any specific rules or mandates that are in effect still.

March 2022: New York Enacts New laws to Strengthen Employee Harassment Protections

Update Applicable to:
All employers in the state of New York.

What happened?
On March 16, 2022, Governor Hochul signed Assembly Bill 2035 (AB203) and Senate Bill 5870 (SB5870) into law.

What are the details?
Effective July 14, 2022, the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) will be required to establish and maintain a toll-free, confidential hotline to provide assistance to employees complaining of workplace sexual harassment. Employees who call this hotline will be assisted by pro bono attorneys recruited by the NYSDHR.

Information regarding the hotline will be added to all required workplace posters and sexual harassment materials by the NYSDHR in collaboration with the New York Department of Labor. The hotline will not extend to other forms of discrimination or harassment covered under the New York State Human Rights Law (NYSHRL).

Effective immediately, the anti-retaliation provisions of the NYSHRL specifically prohibit employers from disclosing or releasing an employee’s personnel file in retaliation for opposing unlawful workplace harassment or discrimination or for initiating or participating in complaint procedures (except where necessary to respond to or defend a civil or criminal action or in a judicial or administrative proceeding).

The law was further amended to permit the Attorney General to commence a proceeding against an employer upon information and belief that the employer has or is about to violate this new provision.

For more information, please see the links below:

Article 1Article 2

Assembly Bill 2035 (AB203)

Senate Bill 5870 (SB5870)

What do employers need to do?
Employers need to review the links above, continue to take measures to ensure their workplaces are free from discrimination and harassment, as well as review, revise, and implement policies and trainings with an employment attorney to ensure compliance.

March 2022: Nebraska Now Mandating Vaccine Exemptions

Update Applicable to:
All employers in the state of Nebraska

What happened?
On February 28, 2022, Governor Ricketts signed Legislative Bill 906 (LB 906) into law, mandating certain vaccine exemptions.

What are the details?
Effective immediately, any employer—public or private—that requires its job applicants or employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 now must grant an exemption from vaccination for individuals who provide a completed vaccine exemption form, available from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (NDHHS), seeking an exemption based on a medical or religious reason.

The simple, one-page form is now available and can be found here. An employer need not require the NDHHS form, although that does not alter the employer’s obligation to grant medical or religious exemptions under this new law.

In the vaccine exemption form, the individual must declare either:

  1. that a healthcare practitioner has provided the individual with a signed written statement that, in the healthcare practitioner’s opinion, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is either medically contraindicated for the individual or medical necessity requires the individual to delay receiving such vaccine; or
  2. that receiving a COVID-19 vaccine would conflict with the individual’s sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance.

Those seeking an exemption for medical reasons must also provide the signed written statement from a healthcare practitioner identified in the completed form.

Additionally, the statute explicitly states that certain employers, such as Medicare-certified or Medicaid-certified providers or suppliers or federal contractors, may require additional processes, documentation, or accommodations for them to comply with their obligations under federal law and the rules and regulations under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). This means the CMS vaccine mandates supersedes Nebraska’s LB 906 and employers who fall under this need to keep the CMS still in mind.

For more information, please see the links below:

Legislative Bill 906 (LB 906)

Article

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the links provided above and grant their employees exemption from the vaccine if requested for the reasons as stated above and in the bill.

Vensure encourages employers to reach out to local health departments in case of any specific rules or mandates that could have an effect.

March 2022: Federal Contractors and Subcontractors Facing New, Mandatory OFCCP Registration, Certification of Affirmative Action Programs

Update Applicable to:
All employers with federal supply and service contractors and subcontractors that have 50 or more employees

What happened?
On December 2, 2021, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) announced the launch of its new “Contractor Portal,” which covered federal contractors and subcontractors (contractors) must use to certify, on an annual basis, whether they have developed and maintained an affirmative action program for each establishment and/or functional unit, as applicable.

What are the details?
Federal supply and service contractors and subcontractors that have 50 or more employees and one or more federal contracts or subcontracts of $50,000 or more are required to have in place (within 120 days of entering into a covered contract) a compliant affirmative action program for each employment location, including annual written affirmative action plans for women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and for contractors and subcontractors with one or more awards of $150,000 or more, protected veterans.

For more information, please see the links below:

Contractor Portal Announcement

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What do employers need to do?
Employers that are applicable to this should review the links above and ensure they are in compliance with this update.