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The 7 Steps for FMLA Compliance

When employees need to attend to their (or their family’s) medical needs, they may need to take time off from work. There are specific steps they and their employer need to follow to determine whether they will receive compensation when they aren’t working.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees. The FMLA is a federal law that requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year for particular family and medical reasons.

Although the details may seem complicated, the process is fairly straightforward when both employer and employee adhere to the following steps.  

Determine Employer Obligation and Employee Eligibility

An employer has certain obligations towards their employees. They need to provide a safe and healthy work environment, pay them a wage that is at least equal to the minimum wage, provide them with meal breaks and rest periods, provide them with leave entitlements and notify them of changes to their employment terms.

Under the terms of FMLA, if they employ 50 or more employees who work within a 75-mile radius of the worksite, they are also required to offer paid leave.

With a qualifying reason, employees are eligible for these entitlements if they are employed on a full or part-time basis and have worked for the employer for at least 12 months.

Determine Whether there Is a Qualifying Reason

The next step is to determine whether the employee has a qualifying reason for requesting leave. A qualifying reason for FMLA includes when the employee is unable to work because of any of the following reasons:

  • Serious health condition
  • Employees must care for a family member with a significant health condition.
  • Qualifying exigency arising out of the military service of the employee or family member
  • Qualifying exigency arising from an employee’s spouse, child, or parent is on covered active duty (or has been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty) in the Armed Forces.

If an employer denies FMLA benefits to an eligible employee, they must provide written notice. It must include the name and address of each person or organization denying leave and the specific reasons why the leave was denied.

Notify the Employee of Eligibility for FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to notify employees of their eligibility for FMLA. Employers must let employees know if they are eligible to take leave under the FMLA within five business days of receiving a request for leave, or an employee’s first day of work, whichever is later. 

Employees must also be notified if they are not eligible for FMLA within five business days of the employer’s determination.

Request Medical Certification for Paid Leave

As per the company’s policy, employees must provide a medical certification for any paid leave. The company will not process any requests for paid leave without a valid medical certificate.

When possible, medical certifications should be submitted to the HR department at least ten days before the date of leave.

Notify the Employee of FMLA Approval or Rejection

If the medical certificate is complete, they will approve or reject the request based on the provided facts. If it is incomplete or unclear, additional information may be required before they make a determination. The employee should have at least seven days to submit the requested information.

The employee will be notified of the status within five business days of submitting a completed medical certificate. If the request is approved, they will be able to take a paid leave of absence, which will be counted against the FMLA benefits to which they are entitled.

​​Responsible Employee Leave Procedures

Implementing and adhering to Responsible Employee Leave Procedures is a way to ensure that the company is not negatively affected by an employee’s absence. Responsible leave procedures might include giving the employee information on what they need to do before they leave, including who needs to know about their leave, where to find important documents and how best to communicate with people while they’re on leave. 

They may also be required to periodically call in to provide updates on their status so the company can continue to plan for their absence without additional strain to the business or other employees.

Employee Reinstatement After FMLA Leave

Since the employee should have been periodically calling in to report their status, the company should be prepared for their imminent return. Plus, the employee on leave may have been kept up-to-date on any changes made to their job while they were gone.

If the employee requested leave for their own medical condition, they would have submitted a medical certificate. In this case, before the employee is allowed to return to work, a medical release from the doctor may be required.

In some circumstances, there may be mitigating circumstances that require additional documentation. Generally, by following these steps, an employee will be able handle their or their family’s medical issue without running the risk of further financial hardship or losing their job.

Five Top Tips for Solving HR Challenges In Manufacturing

As manufacturing continues to change, companies face the challenge of evolving or being unable to keep up with their more adaptive competitors. To successfully solve these challenges, HR managers need to adapt to changes not only in technology, but in workforce demographics, as well as. Here are five top tips for solving some of manufacturing’s HR challenges:

Retrain Your Workforce to Retain Your Workforce

 Retraining is the key to ensuring that your workforce is equipped with the most current skills required for successful completion of their responsibilities. Keeping your employees happy and engaged is also an element in maintaining employee morale. This can be done by providing them with opportunities to learn new techniques. 

Some companies offer courses and workshops as part of their benefits package. This helps the company, but it also helps the employee. It provides an opportunity for them to gain new skills at work that can help them advance within the company.

Recruit New Talent to Expand Your Workforce

Recruiting new talent can be a difficult task. Although companies previously depended on want ads and word-of-mouth to find new workers, now, they must be a bit more creative to find qualified employees. 

Job placement platforms online can connect job searchers with recruiting companies. Another option is to promote hiring positions at high schools and colleges. Marketing your job openings in those two arenas will expand your applicant pool exponentially.

Train Supervisors to Respond to Worker Needs

Supervisors are often in charge of training their employees on their jobs. This is especially true for new hires. However, an increasing number of companies are realizing that this responsibility is not just the job of the supervisors. 

Instead, employees should be trained by the company as a whole to ensure that they are getting the most out of their time at work.

Companies can train supervisors to respond better to workers’ needs by giving them an overview of what it’s like for employees on a day-to-day basis and how they can help them with these challenges. 

It is important for supervisors to develop a strong relationship with workers. Company leadership and mentorship programs can assist with this.

Adjust to Evolving Laws for Workers Compensation and Leave

Staying current with evolving laws is a difficult process for any company. The greater number of on-the-job accidents requiring adequate leave and compensation for workers cause manufacturing companies to feel the challenges even more.

With the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the federal government works to make it easier for employers to offer paid leave and workers’ compensation benefits. Companies need to balance the individual needs of the injured employee with those of the companies’ overall objectives. This affects several dynamics.

Skilled HR teams strive to achieve that balance to better benefit everyone involved.

Outsource Work to Help Your Company Adapt 

Although many tasks and responsibilities can be handled in-house, outsourcing work is a way for companies to adapt to changing markets and also cut costs. It is a strategy that many companies are employing to stay competitive in the global market.

Outsourcing work allows companies to assign some tasks to experts with the necessary skill sets while the onsite employees focus on the company’s core competencies. Not only can outsourcing be beneficial for companies by helping them save time, money, and resources, it also can be seen as a form of risk management because it helps companies adapt quickly to changes in the industry.

What’s New for HSAs and High-Deductible Health Plan Limits?

Health savings account (HSA) contribution limits will significantly increase in 2023 and will likely continue to rise in the near future. On April 29, the IRS announced that it would drastically increase contribution limits. The announcement was made in response to the recent surge in inflation, and provides employers sponsoring high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) sufficient preparation time before the approaching open enrollment season.

With the annual inflation-adjusted limit, the maximum contribution limit for a family HSA is now $7,750, up from $7300. This is an increase of 5.5 percent from 2022’s limit, where the increase for the previous year was a mere 1.4 percent. Self-only coverage HSA contributions will increase from $3,650 to $3,850 in 2023.

The IRS verified the projected 2023 HSA contribution limits and the maximum out-of-pocket expenses and minimum deductibles for the paired HDHPs in the Revenue Procedure 2022-24.

2023 Increase Is a “Significant Jump” Over Previous Years

As more employers weigh the benefits of making income-based contributions, the number interested in matching the HSA contributions of their employees has grown. Although this practice is similar to the those used to match 401(k) retirement plans, it is particularly beneficial to lower-paid employees who might require additional help with health care expenses under high-deductible plans.

HSA Bank’s Chief revenue officer, Kevin Robertson, claims the 2023 higher limits are “a significant jump” from previous annual increases. As employer contributions generally spur employees to assign a higher value to their health care benefit packages, he believes news of the increase can be used for a few purposes. 

  • Employers can use the open enrollment season to encourage employee contributions.
  • Employers may be persuaded to contribute to HSAs where they had not previously.
  • Employees may raise their rate of contribution or begin contributing to their personal or family accounts. 

Even with small amounts, employer contributions add up and promote a more collaborative approach to the employee accounts and the perceived value of those accounts. 

Inflation Results in Contribution Limit Adjustments

Generally, October heralds announcements regarding various tax-advantaged accounts’ contribution limits for the following year. Those concerning HSAs, however, are announced in late April or May. 

Although the adjusted contribution amount is regulated by statute, the limits are adjusted annually for inflation using the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers. They use data compiled from the 12 months ending on March 31 and round to the nearest $50 to arrive at the precise amount.

The Employers Council on Flexible Compensation (ECFC) represents the sponsors of various account-based benefits plans. Legislative and technical director of ECFC, William Sweetnam, explains that limit increases for HDHP and HSA are: 

“released much earlier than other employee benefit limits so that insurance companies that offer high-deductible health plans—which participants must be enrolled in to make HSA contributions—can get their insurance products approved by state insurance regulators.”

Differing Limits for ACA

Based on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), there is more than one set of health plan out-of-pocket expenses annually determined by federal agencies. This can cause considerable confusion for the administrators of the plans.

Under an ACA-compliant plan, annual cost-sharing limits for basic health benefits are established by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These out-of-pocket limits are higher than the maximum limits set by the IRS. For a plan to qualify as an HSA-compatible HDHP, however, they can not exceed the out-of-pocket maximum limit of the IRS.

Regardless of whether a person is enrolled in a family or self-only plan, the ACA’s cost-sharing limits apply to every person in a non-grandfathered health plan.

Maximum Limit for Excepted-Benefit HRAs 

Additionally, Revenue Procedure 2022-24 raises the employer contribution maximum amount to an excepted-benefit health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) for year 2023. Excepted-benefit HRAs are restricted to paying only for dental and vision or comparable benefits that the employer’s primary plan doesn’t pay and are also not covered by the ACA. The HRA for 2023 is raised $150 higher from the 2022 amount of $1,800 to $1,950. 

The Announcement Allows Employers to Plan Ahead

Sweetnam claims that, since employers often discuss health care choices and limits during the open enrollment season, the limits for 2023 are “good to know.” To plan ahead, employers should consider updating payroll to mitigate the coming year’s cost-of-living adjustments and incorporate the announced HSA limits.

How to Navigate HR Compliance With An International Workforce

Maintaining compliance in an ever-shifting, increasingly globalized world has its own peculiar challenges which will only grow more complex as time marches on. By understanding these top challenges, you can better situate yourself to take advantage of the opportunities they bring with them.

New Market Compliance 

A 2016 study concluded that “87% of U.S. companies believe international expansion is a necessity for long-term growth.”

The Covid pandemic may have highlighted issues associated with increased globalization, but it also underlined its inevitability. We are more aware of the global supply chain than ever before, and practically anyone can interact with it in meaningful ways through the internet.

And with each new territory with which your business interacts there are a bevy of new laws and regulations – and the onus is on you, the owner, to successfully navigate them.

Tax calculations and regulations are documented in native languages, and the regulations surrounding labor vary widely within foreign markets. For instance, in Mexico, new hires must be registered with the government within a five-day window whereas in Spain such registration must be completed before employment begins.

Violations in this realm can incur immense costs.

While on-the-ground support is clearly the best scenario, it might not be scalable for your enterprise. Couple that with the rapidity with which businesses are expected to grow, and even the most experienced HR departments can feel the strain in grappling with international compliance.

Payroll Compliance

While international compliance poses some obvious challenges, domestic compliance has issues all its own. Different regions and municipalities have their own laws which are being continually updated. Failure to comply with these tax deadlines can result in massive penalties and fines.

So how do you know where to focus your attention? The stakes with payroll compliance are high, and the particularities of the provinces vary.

Uruguay, Argentina, and Chile require employee signatures of pay-slips upon receipt. Overlooking this would leave you open to lawsuits for lost wages.

Italy requires an Italian bank account to pay monthly statutory tax returns. Ignorance of this fact would lead to a massive headache on the due date.

However, the legal aspect of compliance is just half the battle. Compliance failures can erode workforce morale in spectacularly short order. How long can an employee be expected to wait for their wages? A few hours? Days? Your reputation is at stake if you miscalculate.

One survey showed that 49% of American workers will be looking for a new job after just two payroll errors. Now you’re increasing recruitment allocations to fill existing positions.

Benefits

International benefits policy requires careful consideration.

First, acquaint yourself with the statutory requirements in each country. Bonus points if you’re fluent in the local language as many governments will detail these statutory minimums on their websites

Here is a prime opportunity to consider your current spending on benefits. Though the U.S. requires substantial coverage from large employers, most countries have some degree of state-provided healthcare coverage. Thus, offering prime, private health insurance to global workers may prove redundant and costly.

The demographics of your workforce can also significantly shift your benefits calculus. A senior director in the U.K. may need supplemental private healthcare for their family, whereas a single salesperson in France might opt for reduced healthcare coverage and opt instead for a richer profit-sharing package.

While gender inequality dominates the headlines, so too does the definition of family and the practice of family leave. 

The U.S. design of shared parental leave is markedly different from the 52 weeks shared between parents in Denmark. Considering these differences complicates more than the compliance itself, it also complicates the allocations of resources in response to cultural relationships to regulations. 

Liability Insurance

The liability insurance you provide your employees will vary from country to country. Most have different schedules of resources for such insurance. However, many global organizations have begun adopting private insurance protections even in nations with established plans. This does more than appease legal responsibilities, it also addresses ethical responsibilities.

An organization’s culture should promote the well-being of everyone involved, regardless of their geographic location. Assessing insurance liabilities is a basic way to address the effectiveness of your employee protections.

Termination Policies and Practices

There are only two certainties: death and taxes. With a particular lens, terminations can fall into both categories.

Incorrectly managed terminations can be unpleasant for all parties involved.

“At-will employment” exists only within the U.S., a streamlined termination function that is not to be found elsewhere around the world. Therefore, when considering terminations abroad, there are a multitude of procedures and processes that must be adhered to if you’re to maintain compliance.

Theft or other criminal acts are simpler to navigate during termination regardless of the geography. Laws are effective guidelines for proper behavior. The difficulty comes in issues tethered to employee performance or disagreements. Different places have different requirements for legal termination of employees based on performance. Most will require documentation and evidence, and in some places, it can take up to a full year to legally terminate an employee.

There are instances where a justification can be made, but there are still notice periods and severance pay mandates that require proper attention.

Retirement and Pension Plans

The U.S. workforce is aging rapidly. While the covid pandemic coaxed some people to accept retirement, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers still make up 58% of the workforce. With this concentration of older workers comes interesting resource planning – the pensions for an anticipated exodus.

There are no hard and fast international rules about retirement age, it is useful to consider how different countries approach retirement. France allows workers to claim retirement after reaching the age of 62, but who may also gain a higher pension by working to the full-rate retirement age of 67. The U.K. recently rewrote pension laws to require employers to contribute at least 3% into an employee’s private pension scheme.

This reflects a growing global trend – statutory requirements of private businesses to allocate resources to employee pension funds.

Global HR compliance is unavoidably challenging and complex. However, by facing it head-on, business owners may be able to take the advantages presented by shifting global sentiments, winning victories for themselves and for their increasingly global workforces.

Launchways is here to support you and help you navigate international workforce compliance issues.

Compliance Best Practices for Human Resources

Human Resource managers are vital to the success of an organization. They communicate with every level of an organization and consistently impact business activities – from recruitment and retention to continued training and compliance.

While HR is primarily concerned with the “human” aspect of a company, it is also necessarily interested in the ways team members relate with organizational, state, and federal regulations which govern the business’ operations.

Navigating these requirements is a complex undertaking often relegated to legal entities and compliance committees. But because of the wide-reaching applications of regulations, HR is particularly well-suited to positively affect compliance outcomes.

Effective compliance begins with people, policies, training, and communication, which is exactly what HR deals with daily.

HR’s Role in Compliance

Successful compliance begins and ends with the functions of Human Resources

So, what is it?

HR Compliance is the process of defining and implementing policies concerning current laws and regulations. From there, it is the insurance that employees acknowledge, understand, and comply with these policies.

While it might deal primarily with employment laws, most compliance regulations revolve around people’s behaviors.

Crucial in Corporate Compliance 

HR managers are a protecting force against the wide and varied threats to doing business. Beyond safeguarding employees through adherence to federal law, they also spearhead company efforts to mitigate risk at every turn.

HR is a far-reaching department, and thus communicates with employees at every level. Being responsible for hiring and training makes HR the best place to be for building an organizational culture of compliance.

Common Issues:

HR’s compliance management generally falls into three common categories:

1) Employment Law: This is the acronym department, featuring laws and regulations that apply specifically to Human Resources which include Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA), hour and wage laws (Fair Labor Standards Act), anti-discrimination laws [Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)], and anti-harassment laws.

2) Employee Health and Safety (OSHA): While having traditionally covered hazards, HR has recently played a larger role in employee health and wellness. Research continues to show the benefits of healthy employees, resulting largely in higher rates of productivity, reduced benefits costs, and fewer sick days.

3) Hiring/ Firing Processes: While traditionally focused on labor relations and unions, this now includes a greater focus on immigration laws. Severing relationships with employees in such a way that does not invite problems or lawsuits have long been a primary function of HR.

Implementation of HR Compliance Best Practices

With the multitude of functions carried out by HR departments, how might HR managers most directly influence their company’s compliance efforts?

Let the Right Ones In

In other words, “hire the right people.” This is perhaps the most obvious answer to the question, but it is the most significant challenge in growing a business. But how do you define what the right person for the job looks like?

 There are multiple laws and regulations regarding onboarding, from the Fair Labor Standards Act to minimum wage and overtime rules. The ADA protects against disability discrimination, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects those over 40 from similar discrimination. Thus, it is important to understand what regulations surround the onboarding process. 

Beyond legal considerations, another primary concern for HR is bringing in recruits who pose the least risk regarding continued HR compliance. Ethical red flags from previous employers can be multiplied in high-liability industries or roles.

The entire recruiting/hiring/onboarding process is in the purview of HR and sets a tone for an employee’s career at a company. It exerts a major influence on overall workplace culture, and culture is an effective measure of a company’s compliance.

Consistently Update Employee Handbook and Policies

There are a wide array of approaches to handbooks and individual policies. Some companies use a single handbook for the entire enterprise, others opt for department or individual-specific policies. Whatever the preferred method, HR usually has a hand in the writing and conveyance of these policies.

All too often these policies are thoughtfully created, then cast aside and neglected in day-to-day operations. In practice, they should be living documents, constantly adapting and changing. While the core might remain the same, the details will shift. When framed this way, these policy guidelines can have a real impact on an organization. Effective management should change and grow with regulations to ensure continued compliance

Regular reviews and revisions of policies come to nothing, however, if they are not shared with and lived by the teams they directly impact.

The Necessity of Two-Way Communication

Of course, communicating these constantly shifting expectations and policies can be points of friction. Impressing the importance of new policies is one thing, but making them resonant in day-to-day interactions can be another thing entirely.

This is where communicative leadership is vital. Consistent, clear communication from leadership will help increase employee buy-in and convey a sense of top-to-bottom accountability. Still, effective communication from leadership is only one facet.

Communication must also flow honestly and unimpeded from employees to leadership. Some employees may be able to address concerns with management directly, but others may prefer a less direct avenue of recourse. An anonymous whistleblower hotline is a fine example of a formal mechanism that solves this problem. But it cannot function without the informal aspect of HR and their willingness to hear individual concerns. Safety and processes need constant attention, and so addressing issues surrounding these concerns must be done promptly and effectively. If left unchecked, trust begins to erode between employee and employer.

Transparent communication is one of the highest goals for an organization. A hazard-free flow of communication with administrative bodies, as well as accountability in all offices has multiplying effects on regulatory compliance as well as workplace satisfaction. Win/win.

Train On Compliance Regularly

It is tempting to host one extravagant, day-long training on sexual harassment or diversity, have employees sign an attendance sheet, and leave it at that for another year. It seems simple and to the point, but if there is not a direct link to your company’s core values, this grand show might fall on deaf ears and blind eyes.

Instead, consider shorter, more personal online pieces of training that coincide with policy updates or general reviews.

Compliance should complement your core values. By personalizing messaging and making it a consistent pursuit, you increase the likelihood that your employees will internalize the training. Practicality and consistency are fundamental to this success.

In short, the integration of meaningful compliance training into your training schedule can have an immense impact on workplace culture; indeed, it should be a vital part of it.

Audit HR and Compliance Regularly

The other side of meaningful compliance training is the insurance of that training’s effectiveness. Enter the audit. Essentially, this is when HR teams look at hard data relating to regulations they interact with directly – dispute documentation, hiring processes, employee surveys, policy manuals, etc.

The aim is to diagnose issues before they turn into problems. It can shine a light on what is working, and what is not. Once a general landscape of current practices is illuminated, the organization can strategize ways to reach compliance, maintain it, or more effectively imbed it in their culture.

Of course, this type of audit requires a thorough understanding of applicable laws and industry best practices. It also comes with a non-insignificant time-cost alongside other day-to-day human resources compliance tasks. However, it is tremendously valuable in the continued legal successes of a business.

Get Started

Sounds good, right? What could be better than ensuring regulatory compliance and increasing a positive workplace culture at the same time? 

Then again, desire and action are not the same things. It can be taxing work, and oftentimes those most concerned with these issues are already wearing more than one hat in their organization. Luckily, there are steps you can take without attempting a full-fledged HR compliance audit yourself. You can educate yourself first. You can evaluate the state of your current HR policies and measure them alongside current regulations. You can seek third-party guidance through these issues. This is exactly what we do here at Launchways – we work alongside our clients to navigate the complexities of regulatory compliance. And we do much more than that too! Contact us to learn how else we can help.

Over 100 Employees? COVID-19 Vaccine Requirements are Coming

  • Ensure that 100% of their workforce is vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, with any of the emergency or fully FDA-approved vaccines; OR
  • Receive a weekly negative COVID-19 test result from all unvaccinated employees prior to coming to work.

In addition to this vaccination and/or weekly testing requirement, employers must also provide paid-time off benefits for the time needed to get tested and post-vaccination recovery, if necessary. OHSA should release its ETS in the coming weeks, outlining the specifics of this new ruling and how to comply with its requirements, including information on payment responsibility for vaccinations and testing and the timeline for implementation.

There are many compliance concerns raised by this plan under ERISA, HIPAA, certain wellness program rules, and other regulations that will need to be contemplated by employers. Upon OSHA’s issuance of the ETS, we will provide further guidance and information on compliance with the requirements. We also recommend you reach out to your legal counsel for assistance. If you are a large employer and would like to discuss the above requirement in more detail or if you are a healthcare entity, federal contractor, or federal government employer and would like information on how the other pieces of this plan apply to you, please visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/covidplan/ or contact Launchways directly for additional HR and compliance support.