Archive | March, 2013

HIPAA Compliance and the Value of Voluntary Benefits

29 Mar

The compliance deadline for all organizations regarding the new HIPAA Privacy, Security Breach Notification, and Enforcement Rules (the “Omnibus Rule”) is set for September 23, 2013. For certain employers, these agreements won’t need to be updated until September 22, 2014, if their policies aren’t modified or renewed prior to that date. Whether or not your business organization will be implementing the new Omnibus Rule this year or next year, human resource managers will want to take the time now to review HIPAA compliance rules and regulations in order to make the necessary updates when the time comes.

Coverage Under the Omnibus Rule
Human resource planning should concentrate on making sure that organizations are in compliance by examining the following employee benefit plan rules and regulations. A briefing document from Poyner Spruill LLP offered a few suggestions, including:

  • Ensure major medical plans, wellness programs, healthcare FSAs, employee assistance programs, and other programs where protected health plans (PHIs) are enforced.
  • Examine business associate and subcontractor relationships to determine whether or not an associate agreement should be put into place.
  • Use employee management software to review and adjust all existing healthcare plans to meet new HIPAA rules and requirements.
  • Review and revise HIPAA language for all healthcare, wrap, and cafeteria plan documents
  • Thoroughly revise employee contract notice of privacy practices (NPP) to reflect the new HIPAA rules and distribute the revised documents to employees.
  • Take the time to educate your employees about the new Omnibus Rules and regulations enforced by HIPAA. Training management software is a great HR tool to educate employees about the new rules and compliance regulations. Keeping a copy of the policies in an employee self-service system makes it easy for workers to easily access and reference information should any questions arise after the initial training.
  • Maintain personnel management software to ensure employees execute appropriate business agreements with subcontractors.
  • After training, make sure to hand out new employee contracts and have all workers sign an updated, written breach notification document.

Offering Alternative Coverage and Benefits Packages
A brief based off of the Prudential’s Seventh Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond, reveals that companies are experiencing a higher employee satisfaction rate when their employers offer at least one type of voluntary benefit. The source stated that employees interested in receiving voluntary benefits from their employees rose by 10 percent from last year’s report, so how can your company jump on the voluntary benefits package trend, and what exactly is making this alternative insurance option so popular?

Why Employees Like Alternative Benefits
More employers are beginning to offer employees the option to purchase insurance coverage based on their immediate needs, stated Prudential. Having the option to purchase coverage through the employer-based enrollment systems makes it easier for workers to educate themselves about different coverage options and is a great tool to assess their current and future needs. These options help employees take control of finances with a more hands-on approach. Human resource managers can monitor alternative benefit packages using software for payroll to make sure the correct tax deductions are taken to cover those enrolled in the alternative programs along with those who opt to stay within traditional medical and Medicare programs.

Types of Voluntary Benefits Coverage Options
Recent statistics from the Seventh Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond concluded that 44 percent of brokers expect voluntary benefits packages to increase over the next five years. Experts foresee critical illness coverage options to have the highest increase in demand among employees and employers with a predicted 41 percent increase, added the source. Other voluntary benefit packages Prudential expects employers to see an increase in demand for include:

  • 31 percent increase in accident insurance.
  • 30 percent increase for long-term disability insurance.
  • 28 percent increase in short-term disability insurance.
  • 27 percent increase for dental insurance coverage.
  • 25 percent increase in demand for life insurance.

Employees who participated in the study said having voluntary benefit package options provides a wider range of affordable options concerning insurance and benefit coverage.

Immigration Reform Causes Need for New I-9 Forms

27 Mar

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have come out with a revised I-9 Form for employers to use when verifying employment eligibility for new hires. The revised I-9 Form took effect March 08, 2013, and will be used from here on out in order to reduce errors and provide clearer instructions for human resource managers filing paperwork for new hires. Although some older I-9 Forms can still be processed, the new I-9 Form will become widely used starting May 7, 2013, reported the USCIS.

Establishing Credibility With Old I-9 Forms
Employers that wish to continue using old I-9 Forms until the new revisions go into sole effect need to check the lower left corner of their forms to make sure their version is still in compliance with the Federal Register, the agency noted.

In a brief posted on JD Supra Law News, Manuel Cairo of Snell & Wilmer LLP provides a list of past I-9 Forms that are no longer accepted by the government, including those papers bearing the following revision dates:

  • May 1987
  • November 1991
  • May 2005
  • November 2007
  • June 2007
  • June 2008
  • February 2009

Cairo points out I-9 Forms that will be accepted until the cutoff on May 7, 2013, include those marked with the following dates:

  • February 2009
  • August 2009

Employers that have filed the proper I-9 paperwork for current employees do not need to fill out a new form, stated the USCIS.

Purpose of the I-9 Form Revisions
The revised I-9 Forms include updated information since the last major revision, which occurred in 1991, added Cairo. The updated forms were created to help organizations and human resource managers practice better employee management strategies. The new forms are an HR solution to help keep businesses in compliance with immigration laws, antidiscrimination rules and regulations, as well as payroll compliance.

Training to Learn the New I-9 Form 
In an effort to help human resource managers adjust to the new I-9 Form rules and regulations, the USCIS offers two types of training to help further an organization’s understanding regarding the revised forms. HR, managers, business owners, payroll administrators or anyone else who is interested in learning more about I-9 Form procedures can access training through webcasts on the USCIS website.

USCIS webcasts are live, interactive training sessions that allow users to interact with presenters to ask questions and engage in discussions to better understand the I-9 Form revisions. These training webcasts help increase personnel management skills and promote federal government rules and regulations regarding payroll compliance, discrimination regulations, and best hiring practices without leaving the office.

If organizations prefer that their staff attend live presentations, they can send managers, human resource managers, and any other administrative employees to conferences, meetings, and panel discussions held by the USCIS.

What Do the I-9 Revisions Include?
The revised I-9 Form is now two pages long instead of one. The form requires employees and employers to provide additional new employee information. This includes a recent hire’s foreign passport information (if applicable), telephone number, and email address. The new forms offer improved filing instructions to make the application process easier for both parties.

The I-9 Form can be submitted by mail or through electronic verification systems. The USCIS understands that organizations need time to adjust to the I-9 revisions and has provided a 60-day period to help aid the implementation process of the new forms.

Workplace Policies: The Good and the Bad

25 Mar

Workplace Policies: The Good and the Bad

Company policy at a California senior living community, Glenwood Gardens, prevented a nurse from giving a resident CPR, reported Bloomberg. The policy led to the death of the resident and a spate of criticism directed toward the retirement facility. This got us to thinking: What are the employee management strategies that help or hinder the workplace?

Bad Workplace Policies
According to the source, there are companies today that are discriminating against the unemployed during the hiring process. The long-term unemployed are being rejected during the recruiting process as some organizations will only hire applicants who are currently employed. Given the state of the economy, this is definitely a bad workplace policy. Washington, D.C., New Jersey, and Oregon are the only states thus far that have made discrimination against the unemployed illegal talent management policies.

Yahoo recently decided to install a new workplace policy, banning its employees from working from home. Yahoo at first declined to comment on the new workplace policy but later stated that the industry view on working from home is the right move for the business at this time. According to several business analysts quotes in the New York Times, if mobile workforces or work-from-home policies fail, it’s most likely because of poor management and not the employees. This specific employee management policy made headlines and received much criticism due to the fact that the majority of workforces are starting to move away from the traditional 9-to-5 office employer culture.

Workplace Policies That Work
Sexual harassment and employer policies regarding office romances are good employee management rules to have in place. If the workplace doesn’t necessarily address office romances, sexual harassment policies should be emphasized. Violators of codes of conduct can be fired whether or not the harassment takes place in or outside of the office, as was the case of Lucchesi v. Day & Zimmerman, No. 10-4164, ED PA, 2012, reported Business Management Daily.

This case specifically addressed a sour workplace romance in which case one of the two parties would not stop attempting to rekindle the relationship. After evaluation and the investigation by human resources, the defendant was determined to be unstable and irrational and proclaimed that he would continue to act in disturbing and disruptive manners in the office.

new workplace issue creating buzz is the stance on workplace bullying. According to the Charlotte Observer, over a dozen states have looked into antibullying laws over the past year. Given the state of the economy, many employees are staying in toxic and stress-filled work environments because the job market is so limited.

Workplace bullying is a problem that can drain employee performance, lead to a high percentage of employee turnover, and affect the business’ bottom line. Verbal abuse, threats, and incessant teasing by a coworker all fall under on-the-job bullying and may soon be classified as a legitimate reason for these abused workers to take their case to court. Human resource managers should make the most of employee management to address such behaviors, with or without a formal legislation in place.

We Want to Know

  • Have you as an employee or employer ever had to deal with a case of workplace bullying? How did your company handle the situation?
  • Does your company policy prohibit romantic relations in the workplace? If not, are there any rules or procedures employees need to follow if they engage in a romantic relationship?
  • Have you or anyone you know been subjected to unemployment discrimination?

Let us know on Twitter by mentioning @SageHRMS in your tweet or by commenting on our Facebook page.

Employee Management: Why Timekeeping Systems are Beneficial to HR

7 Mar

Clock and MoneyAccording to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are responsible for collecting and maintaining accurate records regarding the number of hours each employee works. Many states also require employers to document worked time, break time and leave time. Establishing a reliable timekeeping system also helps HR manage employees, track performance management, and stay on top of payroll compliance! Time management systems come in many forms including: time clocks, handwritten time cards, employee badge readers, and electronic workforce management solutions. Employers who rely on automated systems find they can save time and money while increasing processing efficiency! Some of the benefits of automation are:

Improved Accuracy: Handwritten time records are often difficult to read and include calculation mistakes. Handwritten records also pose the risk for record abuse whether from simple mistakes or actual intent to falsify hours worked as this system heavily relies on an employee honor system. Electronic records eliminate error and ensure calculation policies are applied correctly and consistently across all employees.

Increased Productivity: Businesses that use payroll tracking technology report an increase in productivity among workers. Instead of wasting time hand recording hours and payroll exemptions, data is automatically tracked and recorded. The timekeeping system then transfers this data to the HR/Payroll system electronically further reducing errors and allowing Managers to spend time working instead of chasing paper.

Greater Employee Engagement: Timekeeping systems also allow for managers, HR and business owners to track and measure employee performance. Often, automated punch systems can be programmed to alert HR if an employee clocks in early/late or if he or she clocks out before or after hours. A few minutes here or there should not affect payroll compliance but if it’s a common occurrence, HR can use the data system to pinpoint the issue, making it faster and easier to get the problem under control. Employees also have greater insight into their own performance and can better meet expectations.

Stronger Compliance: The use of an automated system is especially helpful should the company be audited by the IRS. Timekeeping systems store employee hourly data, which makes it easier to comply with labor regulations. Having this stored data makes it easy for human resources to provide documentation for attendance and to review time punches. Having these records on hand makes an audit run smoother and is considered one of the top business utilization tools. Even if the business is not under a legal audit by the FLSA, HR managers can use it to periodically audit themselves to ensure payroll is in compliance with the law and that employees are being accurately compensated for their work.

Regardless of the system used, businesses should have written policies detailing their timekeeping practices and should require all employees to sign a statement acknowledging their understanding and acceptance of these policies. The policies should include information regarding what happens when a discrepancy occurs and what disciplinary action may result from intentional violation. Payroll/HR managers should make use of occasional audits to ensure their employees remain in compliance with the organization’s policies.

For more information about automated electronic workforce management solutions, please visit the Sage Time and Attendance website.