Vital Signs HR-Newsletter

The New Year is here! In this first Advisor Newsletter of 2018, we look at steps you can take to reduce absenteeism and a few employment law trends currently making news across the country. We also have a federal law update on two recent reversals from the National Labor Relations Board. Thank you for reading!

How to Reduce Absenteeism

Taking time away from work is good for the health and morale of employees. When they can rest during an illness, recuperate after an injury, or tend to affairs in their personal lives, they’re better able to focus at work and engage in the tasks at hand. Too many absences, however, can be costly for employers and frustrating for other employees who have to pick up the slack.

A lot of absences may be sign of absenteeism, which occurs when employees skip work for no good reason. You may not be able to prevent the illnesses, injuries, or family emergencies that keep employees from coming to work, but you can and should do something about absenteeism. Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take.

The first step to reduce absenteeism is to make sure you have a clear attendance policy. This policy should state your expectations for attendance and the procedures for time-off requests—as well as the possible consequences for employees who violate the policy. Having and following a clearly-written attendance policy makes it easier to hold people accountable to it.

The second step is to make sure you’re following all applicable leave laws. If your company is subject to the Family and Medical Leave Act, for example, you may be required to provide job-protected leave to an employee who needs a leave of absence to seek care for themselves or a family member. A number of states and municipalities have sick leave laws that may guarantee employees a certain number of sick days per year. Make sure you give employees the option to take all the time off to which they’re legally entitled. You can certainly give employees more time off than what the law requires, and allowing for more expected absences may help reduce the number of unexpected ones. Just make sure you offer this leave in a non-discriminatory manner, consistent with your policy.

Third, use discipline for policy violations. If an employee has been missing work without a legitimate reason and in violation of your policy, you should discipline them. Depending on the severity of the absenteeism, you might start with an oral or written warning and then move up from there. Reoccurring absenteeism could be grounds for termination if you’ve given the employee fair warning and they haven’t improved.

The fourth step to reducing absenteeism is to create a workplace where people want to be. If absenteeism is widespread or higher than you find acceptable, assess the management styles and employee interactions in your workplace. Are people generally happy? Do they get along? Are there any issues of concern, such as bullying? Do employees have opportunities to get to know one another and form collaborative and supportive relationships? Do they feel supported and valued by management? You can stop attendance problems before they start by building a workplace where people are inspired to work hard, do well, and celebrate success.

Trending Employment Laws in 2018

When a city or state passes a new kind of employment law or practice, you can expect other locations to follow their lead. We’ve seen this with paid sick leave, ban the box, social media privacy laws, and other legislation. This year will have its own trending employment laws and best practices. Here are a few to keep your eye on:
1. Sexual harassment prevention: With the public hearing every day about new harassment allegations, employers are looking for better ways to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace. Training is necessary and important—and sometimes required by law—but it’s only one preventative step. Accountability is also a must, as is a culture of trust so when harassment happens, victims know their reports will be addressed and the harassment will stop.
2. Bans on salary history inquiries: Oregon, Delaware, and California have salary history bans already in effect. New York City does as well. A ban in Massachusetts will go into effect in July of this year. These laws prohibit employers from inquiring about a candidate’s current or previous wages or salary. They’re intended to decrease pay disparity.
3. Predictive schedules: The cities of San Francisco, Emeryville, Seattle, and New York and the state of Oregon have predictive-scheduling requirements for certain employers in retail, food service, and hospitality. Likely more states and cities will soon follow their lead. These laws typically require employers to provide advance notice on schedules and limit the conditions in which an employer can make last-minute changes to the schedule.
4. Pregnancy accommodation expansions: Washington, Massachusetts, and the City of San Francisco have each passed mandatory pregnancy accommodation laws. These laws require that employers provide specific workplace accommodations, even if the employee isn’t suffering from a pregnancy-related disability.
We’ll be keeping track of these and other legislative developments across the nation. See the Laws section on the HR Support Center for more information about laws that may apply to your organization. Recent employment news can be found on the News Desk.

Content Spotlight
Absenteeism Calculator

We have a calculator on the Support Center you can use to determine your organization’s absenteeism rate and see how it compares to the national average. You can find it under Tools > Calculators > Absenteeism.

News Brief
Federal Law Alert

The National Labor Relations Board, with new members appointed by President Trump, has already reversed several past positions on workplace policies and joint employment.

Workplace Policies: The Board overruled its 2004 position on “facially neutral” workplace rules. Facially neutral rules are those that do not appear to violate any employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), but could when applied to particular situations. Since 2004, the Board has struck down policies that could be “reasonably construed” by an employee to limit their rights under the NLRA. The new rule takes a more employer-friendly approach. Now when evaluating a rule or policy, the Board will evaluate two things:

1. The nature and extent of the potential impact on NLRA rights, and
2. Legitimate justifications associated with the rule.

The Board warns that although the maintenance of particular rules may be lawful, the application of such rules to employees who have engaged in NLRA-protected conduct may violate the Act, depending on the particular circumstances presented in a given case. As such, employers should not think of the new rules as creating a free-for-all. They may have more leeway to demand courteous behavior, or limit camera use in the workplace, but policies that clearly violate the NLRA—such as those that ban salary discussions—are still illegal.

Joint Employers: The NLRB has returned to its pre-2015 position on joint employment. In all pending and future cases, two or more organizations will be considered joint employers under the NLRA if one entity has actually exercised control over the essential employment terms of another organization’s employees (rather than merely having reserved the right to do so) and has exercised that control directly and immediately (rather than indirectly) in a manner that is not limited and routine.

Contact Us

Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
[email protected]
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630

Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]

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