HR & Compliance

Add SBAM offers a full spectrum of human resources services to keep you compliant and help your business run more efficiently and profitably....


Human Resources Solutions

ASE LogoLooking for help with tough HR issues? 

SBAM partner ASE has the answers about hiring, firing, FMLA, ADA and more! Get access to a FREE HR hotline, affordable and cost-effective research consultation services, discounted employee handbooks and workplace posters, and more.


Section 125 Plan, FSA, HSA & HRA Administration

 

KUSHNER & COMPANY LogoLooking for ways to contain health care costs?
With the cost of health insurance continuing to rise, most employers require their employees to contribute to the cost of health insurance premiums. SBAM partner Kushner & Co. can help you put a tax-favored, consumer-directed plan in place that benefits you and your employees.

 


COBRA Administration

Personalized, affordable administration for your business. 

If you have 20 or more employees, your company is required by federal law to offer continued health insurance coverage via COBRA and will face huge fines if it's not administered correctly.  Let SBAM help you stay compliant for only $30 per month. 

NLRB comes down hard on social media policies

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By Anthony Kaylin

ASE previously reported on the National Labor Relations Board General Counsel’s previous memos on what are appropriate and inappropriate policy statements with respect to social media.  Now comes the next round of restrictive readings, according to a memo of the General Counsel published May 30, 2012.

The General Counsel boils down the issue to evaluating social media policies on whether the restrictions “would reasonably be construed to chill the exercise of Section 7 rights” by employees under the National Labor Relations Act.   Essentially, under this memo, except for a very narrow exception, all employees’ speech, whether oral, written or virtual is protected under the NLRA.  Basically, it appears that the worst is true, that the NLRB wants all companies to be unionized and that companies have too long restricted the rights of employees to organize.

The following are examples of policies the General Counsel found unlawful because, the General Counsel believes,they would discourage or prohibit discussion by employees in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Or they are so overbroad as to lead someone to believe so:

  • “[i]f you enjoy blogging or using online social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube, (otherwise known as Consumer Generated Media, or CGM) please note that there are guidelines to follow if you plan to mention [Employer] or your employment with [Employer] in these online vehicles. . . Don’t release confidential guest, team member or company information. . . .”  
  • “Make sure someone needs to know. You should never share confidential information with another team member unless they have a need to know the information to do their job. If you need to share confidential information with someone outside the company, confirm there is proper authorization to do so.If you are unsure, talk to your supervisor.”
  • “Don’t have conversations regarding confidential information in the Breakroom or in any other open area. Never discuss confidential information at home or in public areas.”
  • “You must also be sure that your posts are completely accurate and not misleading and that they do not reveal non-public company information on any public site.”
  • “[w]hen in doubt about whether the information you are considering sharing falls into one of the [prohibited] categories, DO NOT POST.  Check with [Employer] Communications or [Employer] Legal to see if it’s a good idea.”
  • Under a section called “Treat Everyone with Respect”:  “Offensive, demeaning, abusive or inappropriate remarks are as out of place online as they are offline, even if they are unintentional. We expect you to abide by the same standards of behavior both in the workplace and inyour social media communications.”
  • “Think carefully about ‘friending’ co-workers . . . on external social media sites. Communications with co-workers on such sites that would be inappropriate in the workplace are also inappropriate online, and what you say in your personal social media channels could become a concern in the workplace.”
  •  “Legal matters. Don’t comment on any legal matters, including pending litigation or disputes.”
  • “Adopt a friendly tone when engaging online. Don’t pick fights.”

It appears that any overly broad statement that could imply any restriction to an employee’s speech on any subject, with certain exceptions, would not be acceptable to the General Counsel. Furthermore, a savings clause such as “this Policy will not be construed or applied in a manner that improperly interferes with employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act”

More pointers on building a loyal, productive staff

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner AdvanceHR

What does it take to create a workplace in which employees work hard, productively and enjoy their jobs? The Gallup Organization has been studying the question for years. Read on to find out what they discovered -- and how your company's practices align with those Gallup has linked to the best performing organizations.

In trying to create a positive workplace environment, employers often focus on purely financial inducements like pay and perks. Why? Probably because it's easier to adjust them than other practices, according to Gallup research. Unfortunately, "these factors do not really make a difference to the best, most productive employees and workgroups, and they don't explain job satisfaction," Gallup reported in its online Management Journal.

In a previous article, we identified the first half of one dozen dimensions of a great workplace. Here we round out the research with the final half dozen dimensions.

Six More Elements of Great Workplaces

1. "My opinion seems to matter." Employees want to know that they are more than mute machinery in the eyes of the company's owners. "Nothing is more demoralizing ... than being excluded from significant decisions" -- especially those affecting one's job, said Gallup. Not only are such employees less productive, they also can damage customer relations by conveying their sense of powerlessness. Good managers "consult with employees regularly to make sure those close to the action have input into critical decisions" and grasp the reasoning behind the ultimate decisions, according to Gallup. This is particularly critical with decisions that don't follow an employee's recommendation.

2. A sense of purpose. Not every company is in on a lofty mission. Yet employees who clearly understand and respect their employer's mission -- and their part in fulfilling it -- will be more content and productive. Don't assume that simply displaying your company's mission statement will meet this need. "They are often too vague and too broad to allow every employee to connect with them," Gallup has discovered.  Remember that employees' own values vary; some place high importance on competition, others service, and still others, technical competence. "Great managers translate the company's purpose into language that each employee can understand," Gallup maintains.

3. Perceiving a shared commitment to quality.  Employees who care about doing a good job also need to believe they are part of a team whose members share that commitment. They also "want to be part of an organization that challenges and enables [themselves and their coworkers] to excel," according to Gallup. It's important that "quality" as understood within the company means more than the mere absence of mistakes, because such a narrow perspective can motivate employees to cover them up. "In the best workplaces, managers realize that human beings will make mistakes, and can learn from correcting them. In these workplaces, quality is defined as the process of recognizing and solving problems."

4. Having a "best friend" at work. Building trusting relationships "is a significant emotional compensation for employees in today's marketplace," according to the study. Employers benefit when employees have "best friends" at work because the positive resulting employee mindset "may be the true key to effective change, integration and adaptation." While you can't create such relationships for employees, "in the best workplaces, employers recognize that people want to forge quality relationships with their coworkers, and that company allegiance can be built from such relationships." The task at hand is to encourage an environment in which employees are comfortable developing such attachments.

What you need to know about SNOPA (The Social Networking Online Protection Act)

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By Suneetha Giridhar, PHR


In the great arc of human existence, events always combine with technology to change peoples’ lives. In turn, they push lawmakers to draft new legislation that nobody would have imagined only handfuls of years earlier.

One such federal bill, currently in the early stages of the legislative process, is the Social Networking Online Protection Act (SNOPA) – a federal bill introduced on April 27th, 2012 by Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y. This legislation would ban employers from requiring their employees and job applicants to give them usernames, passwords, and other access to the online content in their social networking sites.

Employers have naturally wanted access to those sites, especially those of their applicants, to further vet their qualifications and suitability for employment.

ASE has held several roundtable discussions on this topic where members have shared both their frustration and confusion over whether and how to use such information. In the absence of regulation there is the danger that employers may use such information to illegally discriminate against protected groups. More insidious is using the information without illegal intent but inconsistently, which can lead to disparate impact in ways they did not even consider possible. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been urging Congress to protect applicants and employees from requests to share their private information on personal networks such as Facebook.  According to a statement from the ACLU, “We need a bright line rule—if it’s behind a password, that means keep out, whether you’re an employer, a school or the government.”

Rep. Engel stated that a federal statute was needed to protect the American public. Some states are taking their own actions. On May 2, 2012, Maryland became the first state prohibiting employers from requesting the social media passwords or accessing the social media accounts of prospective and current employees. Michigan has introduced the Social Network Account Privacy (SNAP) Act, which would also prevent schools from requesting access to student social media accounts.

Password Protection Act Of 2012 follows closely on the heels of SNOPA. This act would restrict employer access to employees online accounts.  The bill was unveiled in the Senate by Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).

All of these bills and statutes are seeking to address the new challenges brought on by the Internet and privacy concerns.  

There are increasing news reports in recent months of employers requiring employees and applicants to submit their passwords for personal networking sites such as Facebook. Employers are well advised to approach the issue conservatively. Obviously they need to keep a close watch on these statutes as they develop. In the meantime, they need to establish common-sense policies on accessing social networking sites for recruitment or employment-related decisions. These should include clearly informing employees/applicants of their intent (or non-intent) to access such sites, and formulating clear, job-related rationales, that they can easily articulate, for doing so.

Have a social networking related human resources question?  ASE provides free fact-based answers to your questions!  Just click here to find out how.

Tax and financial benefits of hiring your child to fill a summer job

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner AdvanceHR

Here's a common situation for the family of a small business owner: The family's teenage child is looking for a job for the summer and in the afternoons after school starts in the fall. The owner needs help around the workplace during the upcoming busy season. Isn't the solution fairly obvious? By hiring the child to work for the business, it's a win-win for the family.

But putting a child on the payroll isn't just a smart move from an employment standpoint. It can also result in several other tax and financial benefits. Here are six potential perks.

1. Income tax savings. Say that you reduce your compensation by the amount of salary you pay your child. Instead of being taxed to you at rates reaching up to 35 percent this year, the income is taxable to your child. For 2012, your child can earn up to the standard deduction amount of $5,950 without paying any federal income tax. Any excess is taxed at a low 10 percent rate.  

    Example:

You pay your child $5,000 to work during the summer before she heads off to college. The entire $5,000 in wages is covered by the standard deduction. In contrast, in your 33 percent bracket, $5,000 in wages would cost you $1,650 in tax. Your adjusted gross income (AGI) is also lowered, which means there is less chance that you'll be subject to unfavorable AGI-based phase-out rules.

2. Kiddie tax avoidance. Generally, the unearned income of a child under age 19, or a full-time student under age 24, is taxed at the parents' tax rate to the extent it exceeds an annual threshold ($1,900 in 2012). But this rule doesn't apply to "earned income" that your child is paid in wages.

3. Business tax deduction. You get a business deduction for money that, as a parent, you might have given your child anyway.

The wages you pay the child are deductible by the business just like the wages paid to any other employee of the company. However, when a family member is employed, you must take care to ensure that the wages are reasonable in amount for the services actually provided (see right-hand box).

4. Payroll tax savings. If a child under age 18 is employed by his or her parent in an unincorporated business, the earnings are exempt from FICA tax. This exemption also applies to FUTA tax up until the age of 21. These payroll tax breaks can provide significant tax savings for a parent who is self-employed or a partner in a partnership.

An unincorporated business includes a sole proprietorship; husband-and-wife partnership (owned only by you and your spouse); a husband-and-wife limited liability company (LLC); or a single-member LLC, which is treated as a sole proprietorship for federal tax purposes.

What if your business operates as another type of entity, such as a C or S corporation? Your child's wages are subject to Social Security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes, regardless of age. That's the bad news.

The good news: The $5,950 standard deduction for 2012 still provides a great shelter against the federal income tax. And your business can deduct your child's wages and the employer's share of employment taxes on those wages. So this is still a tax-effective strategy for both the child and your business.

Children Age 18 and Older: After your children reach age 18, the tax advantages decrease, because their wages are then subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes (however no FUTA tax is due until age 21).

As the employer, your business must pay its share of the Social Security and Medicare taxes. The employee's share is withheld from your child's paychecks. However, again, the child's standard deduction still shelters up to $5,950 from the federal income tax. And you still collect a nice business write-off that cuts your income tax and self-employment tax bills.

MEDC's Mike Finney and a culture change of supporting small business. Wednesday on the Business Next program!

There’s a new state culture that supports small business growth and entrepreneurship. Michael Rogers talks with MEDC President and CEO Mike Finney about how the culture change came about. Also on Wednesday's program, Dave Haviland of Phimation Strategy Group in Ann Arbor talks about the important it is that fast growing small businesses have accurate job descriptions; business consultant Tom Borg discusses his three tips for business success; and U.S. SBA National Small Business Financial Champion Dave Adams, CEO of the Michigan Credit Union League, talks about the role of credit unions in meeting the needs of small business owners and how to boost your chances of getting a business loan at your credit union.

Listen Wednesday at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the 
Michigan Business NetworkSBAM members can log in and listen to archived programs anytime on a PC or mobile device by going to the Business Next show page.    
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