Keeping up to date on 6 critical HR activities

Keeping Up to Date on the 6 Critical HR Activities

How can you find the information you need to be sure you’re compliant with changes in relevant laws and regulations? The best way is to identify at least one reliable source of information for each of the six primary “buckets” of HR: Hiring, Discipline, Termination, Recordkeeping and Retention, Administering Policies and Procedures, and Legal Updates.

Review these at least once a year to make sure they are still meeting your needs.

Hiring

Remember, hiring is HR’s greatest responsibility and the source of greatest value to any organization. If you’re successful attracting great employees, you’ll spend far less time with discipline and terminations. “Hire smart and fire less” should be your motto.

Once you’ve found a promising candidate, carefully targeted and structured interviews are key. Make sure you have a set of specific questions for each position.

Guides to conducting patterned interviews and other hiring tools are readily available online, in books and from HR software companies and consultants.

Discipline and termination

This is one of those places that having a ready-to-use template can help a lot. Best example is a Performance Improvement Plan, or PIP, template. Having it set up in advance helps you to cover all necessary bases with your PIPs and ensure your process complies with all applicable laws and regulations. The same goes for other disciplinary and termination notices. Sources for free standard form templates that you can customize include government agencies, law firms, and business associations. Check your HR software packages for any that are included.

Recordkeeping and retention

It is critical that you know and follow all local, state, and federal requirements for recordkeeping and retention. What records must you make and what forms are required? How long must you keep them? Almost all HR records must be kept at least three years, but many must be kept longer. Which records need to be kept separately to preserve confidentiality? Which must be destroyed and how? Which ones can just be discarded? Are there different requirements for physical and electronic documents? Government websites and local business associations are good sources for this information. Also look for law firm blogs, articles and other resources.

Administering Policies and Procedures

When it comes to administering your workplace policies and ensuring procedures are followed, the simple rule of thumb is to review them regularly and enforce them in a way that’s fair, equitable and consistent. It’s important that you look at your employee handbook and other policy documents at least once a year to be sure they are up to date and comply with any legal or regulatory changes.

Legal and regulatory updates

Keeping your policies up to date doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, outside of the time you’ve scheduled for your policy reviews, it often costs you nothing but a little upfront prep time. In addition to the government sources noted below, most HR-focused law firms offer blogs and send out email alerts when regulations change or court decisions impact labor and employment laws. You want to get alerts whenever something changes.

Ask around at your local HR association or chamber of commerce to ID the best sources and sign up. Add any useful blogs to your Internet bookmarks and set up a folder to collect any email alerts that come in. That way, when you’re ready to check for changes, everything will already be in one place for you to review. If you prefer hard copy, print out alerts as they come in and store them in individual binders.

Staying compliant takes time but will save you money

If you ever get pushback on the time required to keep your department up to date and in compliance, talk about it in a language your leadership will understand – money.

Research shows about 89 percent of employers who get to court lose. The ones that don’t get to court have already settled, usually for big bucks. According to employment liability insurer Hiscox, small and mid-sized organizations pay an average of $160,000 to defend and settle employment claims.

And why do they lose? The most common reasons are a lack of written policies, failing to follow the policies they have written, lack of training for managers and supervisors and ignorance.

Beyond discrimination claims, employers often find themselves on the hook for payouts because they misclassify employees and therefore pay them incorrectly, violate mandated hour and leave policies, and because of other failures by supervisors and managers.

One area where you should keep managers and supervisors out of the picture entirely is filling out unemployment claims. Fewer than a third know enough to catch errors that will cost your organization. Make sure you handle it in HR. It’s a lot of work, but it’s less work than defending a mistake later.

Why Most Employment Claims Are Filed

Here’s a list of the laws and topics that come up most often in workers’ claims (and a good list reference for setting up alerts):

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
    • Equal employment opportunity
    • Discrimination practices in hiring, disciplining and terminations
  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act)
  • ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act)
  • Religious discrimination
  • Sexual discrimination
  • Pregnancy discrimination
  • Race, color and national origin discrimination
  • Equal Pay Act
  • Fair Labor Standards Act
    • Misclassification of workers – exempt vs. nonexempt and employee vs. contractor
    • Overtime violations
    • Miscalculations of pay
  • Sexual harassment

Where to find additional HR resources

  • www.dol.gov
  • www.eeoc.gov
  • www.uscis.gov
  • www.nlrb.gov, and other government websites
  • State chambers of commerce
  • HR consultants
  • Industry and professional associations and HR industry events
  • Law firm blogs, websites and newsletters
Tim McElgunn
Tim, a member of the HRMorning staff, is a veteran writer and editor. His background includes producing and managing publications for Bloomberg, Frost & Sullivan, Gartner Group and McGraw-Hill. Email: tmcelgunn@hrmorning.com