Employee Engagement

Using Employee Wellness Programs and Workplace Benefits to Increase Employee Engagement, Retention, and Productivity.

As we return to the new workplace “normal” post-COVID, more and more employees are transitioning back to some variation of in-person to work. Right now, it is estimated a whopping 60% of employees are engaging in some sort of hybrid schedule with at least one day involving in-person work. This has placed a spotlight on the importance of employee wellbeing, wellness programs, and employee work/life balance initiatives in the workplace. According to SHRM, “A well-executed [employee wellness] program can reduce health care costs, augment productivity, and increase employee retention, providing further support for the correlation between personal health and job satisfaction” (SHRM, 2019).

Wellness programs come in many shapes and sizes and are not always one size fits all! HR should take time to begin with an employee survey to see what wellness programs are most interesting and helpful to their employee demographic. Employees who feel as if programs are catered towards them will be much more likely to participate and reap the benefits. HR should also take into consideration the possible costs, benefits, and potential legal concerns that may accompany each program before going forward as well.

Wellness programs do not have to break the bank; there are a wide variety which can best suit your organization! For example, nutrition education and exercise programs or memberships are an easy and relatively cost-efficient way to get your employees involved in a wellness initiative! On the higher end of things, providing options such as health screenings, vaccine clinics, or health risk assessments can be valuable tools to help your employees understand and manage their health! Another option would be to provide some sort of mental health services for your employees. This may include free or discounted counseling, therapy, or psychiatry sessions for employees who are feeling overwhelmed or working through something in their personal lives. You can even provide incentives such as reductions to employee contributions to health insurance premiums or contributions to an employee HSA to get employees motivated to place importance on their wellness and want to be involved in your organization’s wellness program!

But are employee wellness programs really that helpful to the overall workplace environment? Studies have shown the answer is a resounding yes! Wellness programs help to improve productivity and performance of employees as studies have shown there is a direct correlation between employee wellness and employee productivity, motivation and focus in the workplace. There has also been a correlation found between wellness programs and the improvement of teamwork; it has been found that workers who engage in wellness activities together actually work better together! Wellness programs also help to lower the impact of stress and risk of illness for employees. This not only lowers healthcare costs for the employees, but also increases overall profit for the organization as employees are taking less sick time. This all leads to higher employee morale, improved recruitment, and reduced turnover!

However, be sure to note wellness programs are not all fun and games. They can have serious legal repercussions if done incorrectly as there are a number of federal laws which apply to the design and implementation of employee wellness programs. These include the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). A good rule of thumb would be to not make any employee wellness program mandatory, not require any employee health information be given involuntarily, and offer employees a reasonable alternative to earn any incentives which may be given if the program is unreasonably difficult for them due to a medical condition (SHRM, 2019). Always consult your employment law attorney before implementing any rigorous employee wellness programs!

Employee Engagement HR

The Importance of Compliant and Updated Employee Handbooks

Employee handbooks are a valuable resource and communication point between HR, the employer, and the employee. Handbooks provide information and guidance for new and existing employees in relation to the mission, values, benefits, policies and procedures of the organization. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, an employee handbook acts as a source of defense against any potential litigation or other legal trouble the organization or the employer may face regarding its employees in the future. As such, it is imperative to have your organization’s employee handbook reviewed, at minimum, annually by an employment or legal professional before distributing it to employees.

Documenting the organization’s compliance with federal and state laws and regulations should be the number one priority when crafting an employee handbook. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), one of the largest mistakes many human resource professionals make when creating their employee handbooks is to simply insert their company’s name throughout a template without tailoring its language to fit the federal, state, or even county law and regulation requirements. For states like California which has extensive state and county laws and regulations, it is even more important to tailor the employee handbook accordingly (SHRM, 2021). 

Employers should make a habit of reviewing their employee handbooks, at minimum, annually. Employment laws, particularly laws on the local and state levels, are constantly changing and therefore should be consistently reviewed to ensure legal requirements are being met and all laws are being accurately reflected within the handbook’s contents. Conducting a full handbook review annually may seem tedious or unnecessary to some employers, however, it is the most accurate way to ensure there are no policies or laws that have been overlooked, and that the handbook’s contents still holds relevance to the organization. Failure to do so may expose the employer to liability, lead to lawsuits, and procure costly fees.

As mentioned, laws and regulations are constantly changing on the federal, state, and even county level, and litigation against employers and companies are becoming more prevalent as a result. The employee handbook is a means of protecting the employer against such liabilities, from discrimination or unfair treatment to wage and hour claims. As such, it is important to have it reviewed by an employment or legal professional. A legal counsel, such as an employment lawyer, ensures that all aspects of the employee handbook are compliant with laws and regulations (SHRM, 2020).

A lawful employee handbook is essential for an organization’s success. Some of the most important areas which should be addressed and reviewed annually within an employee handbook include state and local sick leave, remote-work rules, leave of absence mandates, health and safety requirements, the release of private information, regulations related to COVID19, anti-discrimination or harassment policies, and drug-testing programs or marijuana legalization laws. Additionally, if your organization has employees working in multiple states, it is imperative to create an employee handbook which complies with each of the state’s legal requirements.

It is just as important to ensure each employee handbook is sent with an accompanying written acknowledgement form. Acknowledgement that each employee has read and is made aware of the organization’s policies and procedures is just as important as ensuring the policies and procedures are compliant with laws and regulations. The onboarding process should address the acknowledgement of the employee handbook and should then be saved within the employee’s personnel file. Although this establishes the employee has been made aware of the organization’s policies and procedures, it is important to ensure it in no way is construed as an employee agreement, as this can affect the employment-at-will status (SHRM, 2021).

If you would like a compliant handbook or need yours updated, reach out to us! We would be happy to help!


Senate Bill 93: California Right to Recall Statute

On April 16, 2021, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 93, which requires certain employers to rehire eligible employees who were previously laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To be eligible for recall, laid-off employees had to have been employed by the covered employer for six or more months in the 12 months preceding Jan. 1, 2020. This bill is currently effective until December 31, 2024.

The law applies to hotel businesses, private clubs, event centers, airport hospitality operations, airport service providers, and building service providers (defined as businesses that provide janitorial, building maintenance, or security services to office, retail, or other commercial buildings). Covered employers must follow SB 93’s recall procedures, timeline and preference system, which gives priority to employees based on date of hire. 

Covered employees are considered “laid-off employees” who worked for a covered company for at least 6 months in the 12 months preceding January 1, 2020. Additionally, an employee must have worked two hours or more per week for a covered employer; AND were terminated for any reason related to the COVID-19 pandemic (including a public health directive, government shutdown order, lack of business, a reduction in force, or any other economic, nondisciplinary reason due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

As such, employers must make an offer to qualified employees if the laid-off employee is qualified for a position and laid-off employees must be offered the position in order of seniority. With that, simultaneous, conditional offers of employment may be made to more than one laid-off employee, with the final determination of which laid-off employee gets the position determined by seniority. 

The length of time the offer must be open is 5 business days, though if a covered employer chooses not to recall laid off employees for a position based on the grounds that they lack the qualifications, the employer must provide written notice explaining the reasons for the decision within 30 days. 

An employee may file a complaint with the DLSE, which has exclusive jurisdiction to enforce the law. The DLSE may award the complainant the following: 

  • Hiring and reinstatement rights 
  • Front or back pay 
  • Value of the benefits the complainant “would have received under the employer’s benefit plan” 

In addition, the DLSE may impose civil penalties of $100 for each individual whose rights the employer violated. The statute also provides the DLSE with the discretion to impose liquidated damages of $500 per day for each individual whose rights the employer violated “until such time as the violation is cured.” 

Record keeping requires an employer to keep records for 3 years, including records of communication regarding the offer letter to laid off employees. 

In addition to the statewide right of recall, local right-of-recall ordinances persist in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Long Beach, Oakland, Santa Clara, and Pasadena; each of which has its own coverage and requirements.

Human Resources

The Great Resignation, Cost of Turnover, and Importance of Employee Engagement

According to a 2021 SHRM survey report, over 40 percent of United States workers are actively searching for a new job or are planning on searching for a new job soon. Additionally, 49 percent of executives within the United States have reported that in the past six months, their organization has seen higher turnover rates than usual. These turnover rates are twice what SHRM has seen reported in 2019 statistics (SHRM, 2021). For another perspective, according to a 2021 study done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average turnover rate across all industries has skyrocketed to 57 percent (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).

Workers in professional and business services, technology, retail, manufacturing, and administrative roles are most likely to see the higher turnover percentages, compared to workers in other industries (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). Moreover, HR professionals surveyed by SHRM said recent voluntary turnover has been highest in operations, customer service, and logistics. On top of that, statistics show that Millennials and Generation Z are more likely than members of Generation X and Baby Boomers to say they are actively searching for a new job right now (SHRM, 2021).

So why are employees partaking in this Great Resignation? Although each employee’s reason may vary, there have been a number of trends which identify this phenomenon. For example, it has been reported that 56 percent of employees who are considering new employment are doing so because of their managers (Maurer and Mirza, 2021). 

Other common reasons for the Great Resignation among employees include:

  • Better compensation (cited by 53 percent of respondents). 
  • Better work/life balance (42 percent). 
  • Better benefits (36 percent).
  • Career advancement opportunities (33 percent).
  • Desire to make a career change (33 percent). 

High turnover rates due to these conditions can be detrimental to a businesses’ overhead profit and ability for growth. SHRM reported that on average it costs a company 6 to 9 months of an employee’s salary to replace them. That is anywhere between 50-60% of the employees’ salary. However, depending on the individual’s level of seniority, the financial burden fluctuates. For example, for technical positions, the cost jumps to 100-150 percent of salary. And at the high end, C-suite turnover can cost a business up to 213 percent of the employee’s salary (SHRM, 2021).

These rates are so high because organizations are not only forced to dedicate time and resources to recruiting, onboarding, and training a new hire after an employee leaves; business simultaneously take a hit internally while the role remains unfilled. These expenses are known as the cost per hire and cost of vacancy, respectively. It’s estimated that two thirds of all sunk costs due to turnover are intangible, including lost productivity and knowledge, which are part of the cost-of-vacancy calculation (SHRM, 2021).

Therefore, in times of record high employee turnover, SHRM researchers recommended the best way to combat the Great Resignation is for employers be innovative with their retention strategies and employee engagement. 

Low engagement is yet another reason why many employees choose to pursue other means of employment. For example, employees who are genuinely engaged are statistically proven to want to work harder and more willing to go above and beyond than their disengaged work counterparts. Moreover, in connection to performance, studies show that employee engagement results in higher performance outcomes and indicate that employees` engaged behaviors can help them perform better and much more effectively than others (Kura and Alkashami, 2021). 

Employee engagement is critical to all facets of an organization because having effective strategies in place helps to create a better work culture, reduces staff turnover, increases productivity, builds better work and customer relationships, and impacts company profits; all while supporting a happier employee. Statistics show that highly engaged organizations see an average of 20% higher sales than those that are disengaged. In the modern workplace, overall productivity increases by 20-25% when employees are engaged (Kura and Alkashami, 2021). By focusing on the importance of employee engagement, your organization can help ensure employees stick around longer, keeping employee retention high and turnover costs to a minimum. 


CAL OSHA update


“Are we supposed to request proof of vaccination from all employees? What do we do with the medical documentation? Doesn’t this violate HIPPA?”

I have heard this from a number of clients today. So we created some answers. I am sure there will be more information and guidance throughout the summer. We will continue to update you as change happens.

Regarding proof of vaccination:
• You don’t have to ask all employees to show proof of vaccination regarding the mask mandate, just those who want to go mask-less. However, you can require employees to be vaccinated, given you provide an interactive process and give reasonable accommodations where appropriate. Please don’t attempt this on your own! We will help guide you if this is what you want to do.

• Other options: can ask employees to confirm in writing they are vaccinated if they don’t want to wear a mask. You can also give gift cards (or other rewards) for proof of vaccination so you know who can go mask-less.

Violation of HIPPA?
HIPPA does not apply to the workplace like many assume it does. In addition, because COVID19 is recognized as a workplace safety issue, employers have broader abilities to provide a safe workplace, like taking employees temperature, daily health information screening as it relates to COVID19, and requiring vaccinations.

The additional information might come as good news to you as a CA Employer:
• Employers have to document the vaccination status of employees if they are going to go without face coverings indoors. You do not need to retain copies of vaccine cards,but you should have employees self-attest to their inoculation status via signed document and keep that in their employee files
• Workplaces still will be required to provide masks to workers who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and make sure they wear the face coverings while indoors or in shared workplace vehicles or employer-provided transportation. Employers also will have to provide a respirator such as an N95 mask if an employee who is not yet fully vaccinated requests one
• The approved standards also do away with the requirement for solid, cleanable partitions designed to reduce viral transmission (such as the plastic barriers that separate customers and cashiers)

It is advised to review and update your IIPP. Don’t have one, call us!


Looking Ahead to Benefits; EAP and Mental Health!

There has been an uptick in employees who seek mental health help since the pandemic began. A wonderful benefit program employers can add to their policies, for little cost, is an EAP (employee assistance program). Through EAP’s. employees are able to access a set number of mental health counselor visits for themselves and family members. They are also able to receive help from other providers if they need r different types of counseling. EAP’s are often underutilized programs that can help your employees get the help they need so they can thrive. If you notice an employee struggling or they come to you with statements about their mental health, it is great to have an EAP to guide them to.

CAL/OSHA Enterprise-Wide and Egregious Violations, What Does it Mean?
Governor Newsom just signed into law SB 606. This new law is a significant change to Cal/OSHA. It creates two new categories of violations: Enterprise-wide Violations and Egregious Violations. The law goes into effect January 1, 2022.

This new law creates a presumption that an employer has committed an enterprise-wide violation, or a violation at multiple worksites if Cal/OSHA finds either:
• The employer has a written policy or procedure that violates section 25910 of the Health and Safety Code; or
• Cal/OSHA has evidence of a pattern or practice of the same violation or multiple violations committed by that employer involving more than one of the employer’s worksites.

Cal/OSHA is not required to investigate other sites or observe other violations in order to issue citations. An employer can be cited for worksites that have not been inspected.

Cal/OSHA has also introduced egregious violations that can lead to exponential penalties for employers. According to the new law, each employee who could be exposed to the violation would count as a separate violation for fines and penalties.

Cal/OSHA can find that an employer has committed an “egregious violation” for any of the following:
• The employer, intentionally, through conscious, voluntary action or inaction, made no reasonable effort to eliminate the known violation;
• The violations resulted in worker fatalities, a worksite catastrophe, or a large number of injuries or illnesses;
• The violations resulted in persistently high rates of worker injuries or illnesses; The employer has an extensive history of prior violations;
• The employer has intentionally disregarded their health and safety responsibilities;
• The employer’s conduct, taken as a whole, amounts to clear bad faith in the performance of their duty to provide a safe work environment; or
• The employer has committed a large number of violations so as to undermine significantly the effectiveness of any safety and health program that might be in place.

Additionally, SB 606 provides Cal/OSHA with new subpoena power. The new law provides the agency with the authority to issue a subpoena if the employer or related entity fails to promptly provide the requested information. We suspect this will be used particularly as it relates to COVID19 and COVID19 requirements under CalOSHA’s ETS. If you are not adhering to the guidelines or need to update your COVID19 plan, reach out to us for assistance.

Minimum Wage and Salary Increase
Employers are reminded that on January 1, 2022, California’s minimum wage will increase to $14.00 per hour for employers having 25 or fewer employees and $15.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees.
Because the minimum salary threshold for exempt employees is defined as a multiple of the state minimum wage, this minimum wage increase means that the 2022 minimum salary threshold that must be paid to an exempt employee will be $1,120 per week ($58,240 per year) for smaller employers and $1,200 per week ($62,400 per year) for larger employers. Many cities and counties have higher minimum wage rates, but the minimum salary threshold is based exclusively on state law.

Human Resources

Paystub or Itemized Wage Statement requirements in California

Did you know there are multiple items that must be included on a paystub or itemized wage statement for employees in California?

The items that must be on a paystub or wage statement include:
• Employee Name
• Last 4 of SSN or another employee identification number
• Gross Wages
• Total hours worked (for hourly non-exempt employees)
• All deductions
• Net wages earned
• Dates that the pay period include
• Name and address of the employer
• All pay rates included in the pay period (Overtime, regular rate, piece rate, etc.)
• Available paid sick leave

If you use an HRIS or online payroll company, you must make sure all items are on the paystub. Compliant electronic copies of paystubs meet this requirement if employees can view and print their paystubs or wage statements as needed. Fines for noncompliance start at $50 and go up to $4000! It is important to ensure you are compliant with California’s wage statement requirements.


COVID-19 Retaliation Claims

Employers are facing numerous challenges regarding laws and policies due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a constant need to remain fluid and able to meet the requirements in order to keep employees working on site. Recently, an ever-increasing rise of retaliation claims have been filed from employees who allege they were disciplined or discharged for complaining about health or safety concerns relating to COVID19.

Employees are filing complaints regarding issues with personal protective equipment, social distancing, and other health and safety measures during the pandemic. After the complaints were made, many employers were faced with the necessity of changing or reducing hours, cutting pay, or terminating employees due to decline in business. This exacerbates the issue as some employees feel like they are being retaliated against.

How do you protect yourself and navigate these issues? Be transparent with your workforce and take complaints seriously and address with the employee/s to show you are listening and you understand their issues. Follow up with employees and your workforce to let them know next steps and what they can expect.

Always make sure any reduction in force is notated due to business reasons and not tied to any complaints (documentation is key). Having an HR consultant review your documents and proposed staff reductions is a great safeguard to minimize your risk and exposure!

Human Resources

Why hiring an Experienced HR Consultant in California is Important

California is an employee friendly state which means being an employer in California is tricky. The employee laws are vast. Having a California specialized and experienced HR Consultant to ensure you are compliant is extremely important.

Did you know that if an hourly employee misses a break you owe them a meal penalty premium? This even applies if an employee takes a short break, shorter than the minimum requirement.

Did you know there are additional fines and penalties for wage and hour violations beyond the above penalty premiums?

Did you know Misclassification of employees as salary exempt or contractors is also very costly?

Why? They often lead to wage and hour claims which rack up back wages, meal penalty premiums, and additional hefty fines. This does not include other issues like workers comp violations for misclassified contractors.

This seems like the extreme, right? Cases like this happen daily to well-meaning companies. To make it more perilous, under PAGA, one employee can sue on behalf of all.

Do you know if your employees are correctly classified?

An experienced HR Consultant can minimize your risk by auditing your practices, give best practice information, ensure you have a compliant handbook and that you are administering policies and procedures correctly (particularly wage and hour issues). They can also help with compensation reviews, retention, and employee engagement strategies all to increase productivity and minimize risk.

What about hiring and terminations? Absolutely!

Experienced HR consultants are available to help with big and little issues that come up so you can focus on the big picture of running your business!

The best part, you do not pay an HR consultant as a full-time employee. There are no payroll taxes, PTO, or benefits. We are there to support you, when you need us. This costs less than a full-time position and provides an unbiased bird’s eye view of your business. We are here for your business when needs arise. We consult and provide proactive best practices when new laws are passed, and we help you plan for the future of your business workforce.


In-House or Outsourced HR….What is the best option for my company?

When considering HR solutions, the biggest thoughts are on company size and the budget you have for HR. HR outsourcing is a great option for small and medium-sized companies that might not have the ability to support a full-time human resources role. Outsourcing allows companies to save money as you are not paying payroll and employment taxes you would by having an internal HR employee.

With outsourcing you have professionals that access advanced HRIS technology, offer benefits admin, ensure compliance, complete compensation reviews, help with hiring and terminations (to name a very few roles).

Outsourcing HR gives you access to trained, certified HR professionals that work with various clients and industries so they are up to date on all employment laws, a

• Training staff
• Payroll administration
• Recruiting
• Benefits administration
• Performance Management
• Risk Management and Safety
• Employment and Labor Law Compliance

On the other hand, having an internal HR employee allows you to have more control over their time and their work since they are an employee. However, you will need ensure they know all the laws and compliance changes and some tasks might beyond their abilities (skill set).

As your company grows your HR responsibilities also grow it is best to be prepared so you are in compliance the whole time. Having HR on hand for consultation before making any big decisions could save you a ton in wrong moves.

How do you hire an HR Consulting Firm or Consultant?

According to SHRM (Society for HR Management) outsourcing some or all HR tasks can have advantages including compliance, better focus on company strategy, and access to tools you might not know exist (HRIS, payroll systems, performance management).

Referrals are always great help in finding a consultant. If there is no referral peer reviews and active LinkedIn and social media could be a good help to see if that person or company is the right match for your company’s needs. Google and Yelp reviews could help in your search too.

Steps to finding your consultant or HR firm:
• Be realistic with your budget
• Meet with the consultant
• Ask for case studies or info on similar industry and sized companies they have worked with
• Be transparent in known needs
• Be open to having an audit…it’s a scary vulnerable word, but sometimes the issues are not right on the surface and addressing those deficiencies could lead to better outcomes. The consultant wants to be a partner and help you focus on your business so it is important for them to gather as much info as possible
• Ask for costs and fees and a plan for the first month, 2nd month and so on

Sometimes there is a lot of work upfront, but once compliance and systems are implemented you can become a well working compliant organization with a consultant to call as things come up and to work on more things as you grow.