To Eat or Not to Eat? Managing Meal and Rest Periods

To Eat or Not to Eat? Managing Meal and Rest Periods

Ensuring employees adhere to state and federal mandates surrounding meal and rest periods is incredibly important during optimal times. It is crucial now more than ever with so many employees working remotely that managers hold their employees accountable for taking their required meal and rest periods and are documenting such breaks accordingly, and that such time worked is appropriately compensated.

When it comes to managing teleworking employees, it is vital to ensure compliance with federal, and state, and local wage and hour laws which are different depending on the classification of your employees:

Exempt Employees

Exempt employees must be paid for the entire workweek during which they perform any amount of work as their “primary duty” for the employer. PTO or vacation/sick may be taken in full or half day increments (depending on your internal policies), but the employee’s full salary must be compensated for that workweek if they have performed any work. If an employee performs NO work for the employer, the full week may be taken off as unpaid as in compliance with organizational policies. It is additionally important to note that exempt employees must still be paid their full, weekly salaries for absences taken at the employer’s discretion or based on operational requirements.

In addition to communicating expectations and reiterating your internal policies regarding meal and rest periods, strongly encourage your exempt employees to work their regularly scheduled hours if possible.

Nonexempt Employees

Generally, nonexempt employees must be compensated for any and all work performed during the workweek. The schedules of nonexempt employees may be reduced due to a decrease in demand or due to closures, with pay reflecting that cut accordingly. The biggest thing to focus on with nonexempt employees is ensuring that time is logged and monitored accordingly and in compliance with federal, state, and local wage and hour laws. Consider the following to make certain no violations arise:

  • Depending on the time tracking system your organization uses, many remote employees do not have access to a physical time punching system. While it is ideal if you have software that provides online access, what do you do if you don’t have that type of system? A simple spreadsheet to be submitted daily, indicating when an employee punches in and out throughout the day is one common method.
  • Alternatively, have your employees email you when they start their day, communicating expectations of when meal and rest breaks are to be taken and logged, with these emails and entries being logged and monitored closely.
  • Communicate to your employees your policy on meal and rest breaks, ensuring that laws and expectations are outlined and understood. CLEARLY communicate that all hours worked when working remotely must be logged accurately.
    • Additionally, communicate your policy on the use of overtime, particularly the authorization (or prohibiting unauthorized) of working overtime.

Contact us if you have any questions on regulations that may apply to your organization, or for assistance on implementing a policy on meal and rest periods or a system for effective time tracking.

Working from Home: The Kid Edition

Working from Home: The Kid Edition

March 2020: States across the country ordered “shelter in place” mandates due to the ever-spreading coronavirus pandemic. Resulting in furloughs and layoffs for some organizations, other companies were lucky enough to allow their employees to work from home. While a blessing with regards to ensuring the safety and health of employees remained a top priority, working from home does not come without its challenges, especially when shirt tugging and the pitter patter (pitter patter? more like the stomping of giants…) of little feet are rampant due to child care and school closures.

April 2020: Less than 2 weeks into working from home with no child care, my 3-year-old daughter proceeds to dump half a cup of coffee ON MY WORK COMPUTER! Instant fear washes over me as I frantically power my device off, turn it upside down, and pray to the IT gods that my computer is saved, alleviating a dreaded call to my boss explaining that I’m the worst employee ever. (Pro tip: If you work from home with kids, invest in a keyboard protector, it saved my ***).

Mid-April 2020: At last. Some semblance of a routine in which I am ALMOST logging my standard hours per week. Clients are being taken care of, and as the first few weeks of chaos following the launch of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) have come to a close, things are finally falling into place and I think I can make this work for the foreseeable future.

Working from home with kids is HARD. I am fortunate enough to work from home on a part time basis; however, when our child care facility was no longer permitting children of “non-essential” workers and we had to keep our children home to comply with social distancing mandates, I quickly realized how much I relied on those child-free days. Though we followed a very loose routine prior to sheltering in place, I knew that in order for my husband and I to work, for my daughter to get some preschool education in, and for all of us to maintain our sanity, I had to quickly develop and implement a schedule and stick to it.

Every family dynamic is different, but routine is critical when you work with kids underfoot. Our ideal schedule involves my working while my infant son sleeps (that is a non-negotiable), during which time I get my daughter set up with some craft or educational activity. Before and after those 2 longer chunks out of the day I have carved for work, I make sure to keep tabs on emails and calls, but I have to get my kids outside at some point; otherwise they get stir crazy and the house is DESTROYED. Taking a break to run them (yes, like dogs) is necessary in ensuring I get work done. Otherwise, I’m left entertaining a very bored threenager and fussy crawler.

Oftentimes, I’m working on the floor with my daughter coloring next to me and my son playing with some toys on the other side. On days when my son is teething and super cranky, I’ll work standing at our kitchen counter with him in a wrap. When I’m desperate, my daughter will watch a video so I can make a call (caving to extra screen time during this phase does NOT make you a bad parent!!). More often than not, I’ll get an extra hour or so of work in after the kids are down for the night to flex and make up hours.

*Honest disclaimer: As I’m writing this, I’m telling my daughter that I will give her an ice cream cone after lunch if she lets me finish this project…

Sometimes, you have to resort to extreme measures and there are days when your routine will be broken. That is okay! The biggest takeaway I’ve learned in the past few weeks is to give myself grace. (Case in point, my house in that photo is a disaster; but, there is a smile on my daughter’s face = win). Set a routine that works for you and your family. Try your best to stick to it. Communicate where you are at with your supervisor and colleagues. However, if a project has to get pushed to the next day, or if you just can’t dedicate the time one afternoon to take a call or work on a last-minute request, don’t beat yourself up. Burnout is far more unproductive and lasts way longer than having to take the afternoon to recharge and focus on your family.

In times like these, it is all about balance. Find that balance, establish that routine, and simply do your best. We are all in survival mode right now. So long as at the end of the day the job gets done, we don’t pull our hair out, and we support and encourage one another when we are having a rough day, we will all get through this.

Families First Response Act – How it Affects You!

Families First Response Act – How it Affects You!

In unprecedented rapid succession, House Bill 6201 (also known as the Families First Coronavirus Response Act) was passed by House of Representatives on March 13, the Senate on March 18, and signed into effect by the President on March 18. Effective on April 1, this bill will provide for paid emergency sick leave, expanded leave protections, enhanced unemployment benefits, and free testing for those adversely affected by COVID-19.

The following summarizes the three biggest components to the Families First Act:

  • Paid Sick Leave – Qualifying employers (private sector employers with less than 500 employees and all government employers) will be required to pay for up to 80 hours of paid sick leave (prorated based on average hours worked over a 2 week period) benefits to employees who have been impacted by COVID-19 (for reasons such as being required to stay home or when it has been advised to self-quarantine, when they are exhibiting symptoms, are caring for someone who is in quarantine or isolation, or for those who have children who’s schools or childcare facilities are closed or a caregiver is unavailable during this health emergency).

Employers with less than 50 employees may be exempt from this mandate, particularly if the “viability of the business” would be in jeopardy as a result of providing this benefit.

  • Paid Family Leave – Private sector employers with less than 500 employees and government employers are required to provide up to 12 weeks of paid Family and Medical Leave (FMLA) to employees who have worked more than 30 calendar days to care for children when schools are closed or childcare facilities are unavailable or when they are unable to work remotely.

After 10 days (2 weeks, or 80 hours) of leave that would satisfy the paid sick leave requirement outlined above, eligible employees will receive 2/3 of their regular rate of pay.

Private employers with less than 50 or more than 500 employees are exempt from this mandate.

  • Unemployment Benefits – The federal government is encouraging all states to be more flexible with eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits. They are projected to provide $1 billion in additional funding to provide UI benefits to affected employees, and states have been authorized to extend the provision of benefits beyond the standard 26 weeks of payment.

The Department of Labor is actively working on finalizing the specifics to each of these components of the bill, specifically regulations that would assist small employers in navigating through this process, particularly if they are exempt from these mandates.

Nearly every organization has been adversely impacted by this national health emergency. We are actively working with our clients and colleagues to assist in answering questions regarding the employment status of their workers, modifying sick leave and time off policies, and providing any assistance as needed as we work through this situation. There are countless additional exceptions, provisions, and factors to consider when applying these mandates to specific businesses. For additional information regarding how this bill affects your organization personally, please contact us for a consultation and guidance.

We will keep all of our clients personally updated as additional regulations are finalized. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions regarding House Bill 6201, its provisions, and how to implement these new protocols within your organization.

We are all in this together and wish you all health and safety during this time.

Telecommuting – Yay or Nay?

Telecommuting and providing flexibility in work schedules are benefits that employees are increasingly seeking and are incentives that really don’t take that much effort or cost (relative to other benefits) to implement. Not only is the opportunity to work remotely appealing to employees as it provides them with an opportunity to manage both their home and work lives efficiently, but there are a number of benefits for employers as well, including:

  • High Levels of Morale = Low Levels of Stress – (A + B = C) When your employees have higher levels of morale, they are less stressed about their work, are more motivated to perform at their best, and will in turn produce quality work. Employees who are happier and healthier often have a sense of autonomy over their work, and providing them with this opportunity will help keep them engaged and reduce burnout.
  • Retention and Reduction of Turnover – For many employees, when the desired work-life balance is met, there is no need or desire to seek work elsewhere as they are content in the stability they’ve established in their position. Recruitment is expensive. Employees who have flexibility are proven to be less likely to leave an organization, with this benefit often outweighing the offer of more compensation elsewhere.
  • Productivity and Work Hours – A huge benefit for employers who have remote employees is the option to extend work hours. With employees working from home, work schedules can be far more flexible (e.g., an employee starting later and working until 8pm versus 5pm) which can benefit your customers and clients, particularly when factoring in varying time zones.

Making the wants and needs of your employees a priority proves to them that you genuinely care about their work and their aspirations. Granted, business needs should always be a top priority, but if you can meet your employees halfway and can offer them incentives and opportunities to grow and perform at their very best, you can reap the benefits of highly motivated, long-term employees who will remain loyal and productive.

 

 

Incentives = Retention

The start of a new year provides employers with a fantastic opportunity to evaluate what is important to them as an organization. A common priority that is universal across various industries are productive and loyal employees. Without efficient employees, you aren’t likely to see the levels of profit and productivity that your organization strives to achieve. So how do you ensure low turnover and long-term employees?

Benefits. Now we aren’t talking about diamond-tier health care packages, or retirement programs that will ensure early retirement. While these benefits with a monetary focus are certainly important, employees are increasingly seeking work-life balance in their jobs which is a perk that can be surprisingly simple to implement and mutually beneficial.

Depending on what you can budget, there are countless benefits that you can offer your employees to help ensure loyalty, longevity, and productivity:

  • Telecommuting and Flexible Schedules – A perk that is becoming more and more desired, particularly with younger generations in the workforce, the option to be a remote employee is something that doesn’t really cost your organization much on the backend, but can result in high levels of engagement and morale.
  • Autonomy in Work and Recognition – Providing your employees with more independence in their work lets them know that you trust them to get the job done. When the job is not only completed, but done well on their end, sufficient praise and recognition does a lot to increase motivation and encourage continued efforts.
  • Opportunities for Growth – When employees are engaged and committed, they always want to do their best to contribute to not only their individual position, but to the success of the organization as a whole. To keep that desire for continued commitment going strong, work with your employees to develop a plan to help them grow within your organization (e.g., mentoring, e-learning, or certifications/coursework).

Taking the time to meet your employees halfway by offering various incentives to keep them motivated and engaged can help reduce expensive turnover. When you factor in the various resources necessary in recruitment, it can certainly benefit your organization to invest in the retention and growth of quality employees. Follow along this month as we discuss in more detail the above options for incentives and perks.