March 2016 HR News

We’re almost a quarter of the way through 2016! This month we examine ways to make safety programs engaging for your employees and options you have when constructing a company dress code. Go to the HR Support Center after the 15th for an HR Cast on addressing poor employee hygiene. The pleasant smells of spring are almost here!

HR Alerts
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a proposed change to the annual Employer Information Report, or EEO-1, which would require that employers with more than 100 employees report pay data in addition to the information they currently provide on race, ethnicity, sex, and job category. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on February 1. The comment period is now open, and will close on April 1, 2016.

If the proposed revision is adopted, private employers and federal contractors with over 100 employees would be required to submit data on employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked. Federal contractors with 50-99 employees would continue to report on race, ethnicity, and sex by job category, but would not report earnings data; private employers with fewer than 100 employees would continue to be exempt from EEO-1 reporting.

If implemented, employers would be required to submit pay data as of the September 30, 2017 EEO-1 filing deadline. We will keep you updated on any developments as we learn of them.

The Safety Program Mistake You Don’t Want to Make
Some employers try to create a safe workplace by rewarding employees when there are no work-related injuries. This is a mistake. While you certainly want to motivate employees to follow your safety procedures, you do not want to incentivize employees to hide injuries and accidents—or to refrain from filing a claim. Encouraging “no injuries” tells employees that they should downplay their injuries or keep them quiet. It may be well-meaning, but it’s still a form of pressure that exposes you to liability and increases the chances of repeated injuries. And it doesn’t make you safer.

There’s a simpler and safer way to motivate your employees to take safety seriously: keep the topic of safety front and center. If you talk a lot about safety, you’ll have a safer workplace. You likely do this for customer service and performance standards, so why not do the same with safety?

Here are a few tools you can use to remind your employees to be mindful of safety:
• Publish a monthly or quarterly newsletter. Each edition could have an article on a specific safety or wellness topic, a fun quiz (with the chance to win prizes), a reminder of important company safety policies, and emergency contacts.
• Provide employees with a form on which they can document and report safety concerns they’ve noticed. This promotes employee involvement in proactive safety assessments of the workplace. For this practice to work, employees need to feel comfortable bringing concerns to your attention and confident that you’ll address them.
• Offer a monthly 10-15 minute training on a matter of safety or wellness. And make them fun. You could have trainings on anything from avoiding sleep deprivation to the health costs of stress. Promote employee involvement by asking various employees to facilitate them.
• Talk to your workers’ compensation carrier. You can get good safety tips, trainings, and ideas from them, and you may be able to get write-offs. Like you, they want to keep costs down, so they’ll likely appreciate your efforts to make safety a priority and do what they can to help.
These are tools that any organization can use, but remember that some industries have special trainings required by OSHA. In any case, remember that your goal should be to have a safe workplace, not to maintain a workplace with absolutely no recorded accidents or injuries. Keep safety and wellness on the minds of your employees, and you’ll go a long way toward making your workplace as safe as possible.

Question & Answer
Q: What are the laws regarding cell phones at work? Personal use by our employees has gotten out of hand. Can we change our policy to say that cell phones are not permitted on the premises?

A: Thank you for your question. I can certainly understand the frustration of having employees on their phones frequently and the need to implement a policy to limit this use. There is no law saying you cannot implement a policy prohibiting cell phones on the property, but I would recommend a different approach.

Banning cell phones from the property would likely decrease employee morale as there are times (e.g., break times or family emergencies) when employees may need to be able to make or take personal calls. Instead of restricting phones altogether, you could instead restrict cell phone use to break times and to designate areas away from employee workstations where an employee can make those phone calls.

In either situation, eliminating all calls or restricting use, you will want to address how an employee’s family members will reach them during working hours in case of a true emergency. One option is to have the calls filter through your reception desk. Alternately, it may be a good idea to have a second line to your company that is for employee emergencies.

Whatever you decide, you need to hold your employees accountable to the standards you set. Employees who fail to adhere to these standards should be disciplined according to your policy.

Tattoos, Piercings, and Man Buns, Oh My! – Finding the Dress Code That’s Right for Your Organization
What kind of dress code should you have? The answer to that question may come down to the kind of company culture you have or want to have.

There’s no universally-applicable dress code for successful businesses. And what works fabulously in one office might prove distracting in the next. Some employers avoid restrictive dress codes because they can negatively affect morale and may drive away impressive job candidates. Other employers prefer a strict dress code to maintain a certain company image.

Whatever your situation, we recommend that you have a written policy that explains your expectations. These expectations may be specific or general, depending on your needs. If you anticipate questions from employees about what they can wear (e.g., jeans, shorts, or sandals), it may be worth mentioning them in your policy.

Tattoos and Piercings
If you’re concerned about visible tattoos or body piercings conflicting with your organization’s image, you may prohibit them entirely or you may simply prohibit those that are offensive, distracting, inappropriate, or over a certain size. Your policy could also be something general like “Tattoos and piercings must be appropriate and in keeping with a professional image.” What qualifies as appropriate should be determined by the top brass.

However, your policy and practice must allow for religious accommodations. Some religions do not permit the covering of tattoos or other religious items, and you should be prepared to make exceptions.

Facial Hair and Man Buns
It is legal to have an across-the-board policy that facial hair is not permitted or must be well-trimmed. However, some disabilities preclude people from being able to shave regularly, and there are also some religious traditions with closely held beliefs regarding facial hair. If an employee indicates an objection to your policy based on a verifiable disability or religious belief, you will almost certainly need to make an exception. While an accommodation can, in theory, be refused if it creates an undue burden, that standard is very high and hard to meet. For companies with dress codes, those undue burdens are usually related to legitimate safety, health, or security concerns.

The same holds true for hair length. While your dress code may specify that hair length on men may not pass a certain length, we strongly recommend you consider a policy that simply requires hair to be pulled back and neatly groomed. Our best practice recommendation is to make dress codes gender neutral to avoid employees feeling that they are being treated disparately.

Have a written dress code policy that fits with your company culture and image, but be sure to make exceptions or accommodations if they’re appropriate.

Tool of the Month:
SWOT Analysis

What is a SWOT analysis? How do you perform one? Why would you ever use it? This month’s featured tool introduces you to the basics of this business term.

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