National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Declared in 1988 by the United States Congress (though its roots go back to 1945 when Congress urged employment for WWII servicemembers with disabilities) , NDEAM is a good occasion for us to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities to workplaces and the economy. We also recommend taking this time to better understand employer obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and consider how to be more inclusive and accommodating than what the law strictly requires. 

The DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy is commemorating NDEAM this year with the theme “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” This theme “reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

We’re glad to see this.

People with disabilities (1 in 4 adults in the United States) are at greater risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19. At the start of the pandemic, workers with disabilities lost their jobs at a higher rate than the general population. As the pandemic continued, those with intellectual disabilities were six times more likely to die from the virus than other members of the population. Helping people with disabilities stay safe and succeed as the pandemic continues will be essential to a full recovery, and employers can play a huge role in that. 

Supporting employees with disabilities may also be vital to the success of individual employers—now and after the recovery. According to a CNBC poll, nearly 80% of workers say that they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. With roughly half of small businesses struggling to fill roles, competition for talent is fierce. Employers who don’t appear to believe that it’s important to include and support employees with disabilities put themselves at a huge disadvantage. 

What can you do to help?

First, make doubly sure you understand your compliance obligations related to applicants and employees with disabilities. We have lots of resources for you on the HR Support Center. If you search disability in the search bar, you’ll find articles, forms, guides, law summaries, letters, policies, Q&As, videos, and more.

Second, as the pandemic continues, do what you can to accommodate employees with disabilities who may be at greater risk of severe illness or death. Accommodations to consider may include remote work for those who can do their jobs from home and extra PPE (e.g., N95 masks, face shields, gloves) for those who need or want to work onsite. Other possible accommodations are different shifts, job changes to reduce physical proximity or public interaction, extra breaks (for handwashing or mental health), permission to keep a minifridge or other personal storage device at one’s workstation, and extra cleaning supplies. All in all, when an employee requests an accommodation, do what you can to try to make it work. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.

Third, stress to everyone that respect and empathy are nonnegotiable values. Employees who need extra support so they can do their jobs well aren’t going to ask for it if they believe their concerns will be dismissed or that they’ll be ridiculed or looked down on by coworkers. If they don’t feel like they can ask for an accommodation, they’re more likely to look for a job elsewhere. And if they stay, it’s unlikely that they will be as productive or successful if they feel unsafe and stressed out. That’s a lose-lose. But it’s a win-win when employees feel safe asking for accommodations and those accommodations enable them to succeed.

What is the difference between exempt and non-exempt employees?
Exempt and non-exempt are classifications under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). That’s the federal law requiring that most employees receive at least minimum wage for each hour worked and overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Usually, employees who are entitled to both minimum wage and overtime are called non-exempt. Those who are not entitled to both are called exempt. 

Any position can be non-exempt, meaning that employees in that position are entitled to both minimum wage and overtime pay. But if you would like to classify a position as exempt, it would need to qualify for one of the exemptions listed in the FLSA. 

The most commonly used exemptions, particularly in office settings, are the executive, administrative, and learned professional exemptions. These are part of a group of exemptions often referred to as “white-collar exemptions.” Employees who are properly classified this way are not entitled to minimum wage or overtime. But, to qualify, each position must pass a three-part test: 

Duties: The employee must perform specific tasks (such as managing at least two people) and regularly use their independent judgment and discretion. Each exemption has its own duties test.Salary level: The employee must make at least $684 per week (under federal law, a few states have higher minimums)Salary basis: The employee must be paid the same each week regardless of hours worked or the quantity or quality of their work, with a few limited exceptions. If a position meets all the criteria under one or more of the white-collar exemptions, the employee may be properly classified as exempt and will not be entitled to minimum wage or overtime pay. If the position does not meet all the criteria under a specific exemption, the employee must be classified as non-exempt and paid at least minimum wage and overtime when applicable. 

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What is concerted activity?

In general, concerted activity takes place when employees act as a group (in concert) for their mutual aid or protection. This includes activities like discussing the terms and conditions of their employment, such as pay, benefits, treatment by management, dress codes, workplace policies, or scheduling.  

This activity—when engaged in by non-supervisory employees—is protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. That means employers are legally prohibited from trying to stop employees from engaging in concerted activity or taking adverse when they do. While supervisors don’t have these protections under Section 7, the term supervisor has a narrower definition than you might expect. To be exempt, supervisors must have real authority and use their independent judgment when wielding it. For instance, the 19-year-old assistant manager who is technically in charge when other supervisors are on break, but who doesn’t have the power to fire, discipline, or respond to the grievances of other employees, almost certainly still has protections under Section 7. 

Employers should also be aware that it’s fairly easy for an employee to be protected under the act if they are discussing the terms and conditions of their employment either physically around co-workers or managers or in the same virtual space as co-workers or managers. While an employee may not be intending to act in concert for the mutual aid of themselves and their coworkers, if they post on Facebook about how they are overworked and underpaid, and several colleagues chime in that they agree, or even just “like” the post, that can become protected concerted activity. 

How Seniors Can Choose the Best Part-Time Job When You’re Ready to Reenter the Workforce
Photo Credit: Rawpixel

Did you spend years dreaming of retirement… only to get there and realize you miss having a job? For previous generations, retirement was considered the end of your working years, but today’s seniors are redefining what it means to live life to the fullest in retirement. In some cases, the need to earn extra money drives retirees to work, while for others, it’s the desire to find a meaningful pursuit or meet other people. Whatever it is that’s driving you to look for work, start your search by asking yourself these questions, provided courtesy of HR Consulting Services. There are limitless opportunities out there (you can even create your own!).

Where do you want to work?

We don’t mean where in terms of specific jobs, but instead, ask yourself the type of work setting you want. Do you want to be in an office that’s fast-paced and exciting, or maybe somewhere low-key and chill? Maybe you love art and would enjoy working in a local museum, or if you love the outdoors, spending your time as a trail guide might be fun. 

On the other hand, you may be ready to spend some time at home after years of going into work. When you first started your career, working from home wasn’t nearly as popular or as feasible as it is today. Now you can find remote work opportunities in all kinds of fields, whether you want a role that was traditionally office-bound, such as sales, marketing, or customer service, or you want to branch out on your own in a freelance role like writing. Most remote positions offer flexible hours, and you get to do something you enjoy from the comfort of home. Best of all, these jobs are easy to find with online job boards, plus most of these search sites also have their own app that you can use from a mobile device.

How important is pay?

Wanting to be compensated fairly for your time is a given, but it’s a simple fact that some jobs pay better than others. The question is – how much weight do you give to the pay compared to other factors like how enjoyable and rewarding a job is? If you’re looking for work because your budget is tight, finding a job that offers higher pay may be a top priority. However, you may be ready for a job that’s less demanding or that involves service, which may not pay as well as other opportunities. 

Pay certainly isn’t the only factor involved, but it’s worth knowing what to expect when you start your job search. Some of the best-paying jobs for seniors are often found in professional arenas, such as being an adjunct professor or a consultant in your field. If you have something else in mind, check out AARP’s top jobs for retirees, which are broken down by average salary.

What skills can you offer?

If you aren’t sure where to start with your job search, think about the skills you have from your career – or even skills you gained while raising children or volunteering. You can often turn those skills into an opportunity that’s similar to your previous job but that’s also more flexible. For example, someone who is good with numbers could become a bookkeeper or tax preparer. If you retired from education, you could be a tutor or a substitute teacher. 

Are you willing to learn a new skill?

Relying on the skills you have is an obvious choice, but what if you want to give something different a try? If you’re willing to learn new skills, there’s no time like the present to start gaining the knowledge you need for a second career. You can boost your skills with continuing education courses, online classes, and certification programs. Many community colleges and public libraries also offer coursework and classes that will help you prepare for a new job.

Do you want to travel?

If you dream of spending retirement as a jet-setter, there’s no better way to fund your travels than to find travel-related work. One option is to use the talents you already have while looking for opportunities abroad. For example, if you have experience working with children, you can find jobs in other countries as a nanny or teaching English as a second language.

Another option is to get into the travel industry. These opportunities can include everything from traditional jobs, such as being a travel agent, to more creative roles like becoming a travel blogger. Many seniors also get jobs working for cruise lines, resorts, or campgrounds. If there’s a locale where you would love to be, chances are there’s an opportunity to live and work there.

Is starting your own business the right move?

More and more retirees are enjoying the benefits of launching their own small businesses. And the perks are pretty compelling. You get to set your schedule, be your own boss, use skills you’ve built up, and do something you really enjoy. There are definitely a lot of pros to starting a business, but there are also some drawbacks. 

You’ll need to have a worthwhile service or product that customers want that can pay the bills. You’ll also need to create a solid business plan, and prepare for potentially high startup costs, as well as steel yourself for long days. This is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s also a possible learning curve that can elicit all kinds of questions like “What is payroll?”, “Do I need an accountant?”, “What type of compliance laws do I need to understand?” It’s a lot. However, if you have the means and the energy, this could be a great way to generate income in retirement. 

The bottom line is that, whatever you choose, this next job should be one you’re excited to go to. That may mean working from your home office… or traveling halfway around the world. The choice is yours – and the options are endless.

Written by guest blogger, Sharon Wagner

Performance Management

Managing employee performance is essential to workplace success, but performance management is so much more than basic yearly evaluations. Performance management should incorporate a few different things; goals, reflections, and rewards. Unlike the standard employee appraisal system, performance management allows employers to take a more comprehensive view of their team’s work. 

Set Effective Goals

To have a successful performance management system, employers should help employees set effective goals. Establishing SMART goals will help employees align their personal goals to company-wide goals. 

Build an Engaged Team

A successful performance management system allows team members to feel open and comfortable during dialogue. A good way to build an engaged team is by establishing weekly team meetings or monthly check-ins. 

Improve Productivity

An effective performance management system can help improve productivity in the workplace. When employees have a solid performance structure, they tend to be more productive which can lead to a successful organization. 

Establish Transparency

To create a successful performance management system, employers should outline the process in advance. Being clear about the motivations behind the performance management process will encourage employees to be more invested in all aspects of work life. 

Plan for Improvement

When employers participate in continuous performance management, employees can understand how they are performing at all times. When this happens, employees can see where they are struggling and they can take the steps towards improvement. 

Having a solid performance management system is important for all employers, AZ HR Hub can help your organization during the process – we’re your #HRPartner, so you can focus on business!

Employee Training and Development

Investing in employee training and development should be a necessary step for employers, it not only motivates employees, but it also helps the company build a skilled staff. In recent years, employee training and development has been taken more seriously and organizations are starting to realize the benefits of it. 

In today’s world of business, it is important to have a  workforce full of skilled individuals. Investing in training and development programs can help employers in many different ways. Here are some benefits of investing in employee training and development:

  1. Retaining Top Talent

Employee training and development is an essential part of the talent management process because employers that offer training and development typically have more satisfied employees. When employees feel invested in and valued they tend to stay with a company longer.  

2. Increase in Profits

Many companies deal with paying for the costs of unskilled employees, some pay billions of dollars each year. Liabilities created by employee mistakes and inefficient workflows are big capital drains for a ton of companies. Investing in employee training and development can help prevent some of these issues from occurring. 

3. Maximizing Job Performance

When an employee is hired for a job, it is because they meet all of the requirements of the job and they have the required qualifications. Even though an employee is qualified for the job, it is still beneficial to offer training and development to offer insight into the employees’ strengths and weaknesses. Identifying strengths and weaknesses can help employers learn about their employees’ top skills and some of the areas where they need to improve.

4. Improve Workplace Productivity

If employees feel like they are supported, respected, and valued in their workplace, they will naturally become more productive and happy with work in general. Building a staff that is engaged and focused in their work is important, employers can help build their staff by investing in training and development to help educated employees. 

5. Boosts Company Profile

Employee training and development is vital for the internal operations of a company, but it also helps boost your company profile and reputation. When a company has a staff that is known for their advanced skills, they will be known as a top company in their respected field. 

Employee training and development is an element of strategy that employers should consider when trying to build a successful company. There are many benefits to investing in employee training and development, if your organization is interested in training and development programs, AZ HR Hub can be your helping hand – we’re your #HRPartner, so you can focus on business! 

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