HR Newsletter: DOL Addresses Pay for Employee Travel and Training

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)

On Nov. 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published two new opinion letters providing the DOL’s official position on how the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) applies to employee pay when there is work-related travel or employee training.

Voluntary Training Programs – The FLSA requires employers to compensate their employees for all hours of work. While the FLSA does not define what qualifies as “work,” the U.S. Supreme Court has determined that employees should be compensated for any time that “is spent predominantly for the employer’s benefit.” One of the new DOL opinion letters, FLSA2020-15, addresses six different scenarios that exemplify how DOL regulations apply in situations where employees participate in voluntary training that is related to their work, both within and outside working hours.

Travel Time for Non-exempt Employees – The FLSA requires employers to compensate their employees for any time they are “suffered or permitted to work.” Compensable time may include time spent walking, riding or traveling if it is related to the employee’s principal activities. However, an employee’s commute to and from work is not typically compensable. FLSA2020-16 addresses three different scenarios where employees are required to travel to complete their work assignments. For each scenario, the opinion letter outlines the process the DOL uses to determine whether travel:

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HR Newsletter: 5 Ways to Manage Poor Performance Among Remote Workers

Poor Performance

Successful business is all about accountability. Each worker’s individual contributions build on one another and culminate into something greater, to the benefit of the company and its customers. Conversely, when some individuals struggle with their performance, the entire organization can suffer.

Unfortunately, addressing poor performance isn’t always easy. This is especially true amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as remote working often makes accountability more complicated. This article offers five tips to help employers manage poor performance in the workplace, even while everyone is working from home.

  1. Address the problem quickly
  2. Have difficult conversations
  3. Follow up on progress
  4. Keep a detailed report
  5. Seek additional manager training

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HR Newsletter: Forging Stronger Virtual Connections Among Employees

Virtual Connections

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, remote work was a fringe benefit at many organizations. Now, nearly 40% of employees have transitioned to remote working arrangements. This signals the new workplace reality: Remote work is here to stay.

Unfortunately, that’s not a welcomed change for many people. Namely, some employers are concerned about burnout and dwindling employee connections. Considering that impromptu hallway talks and quick chats after meetings are effectively gone, this sentiment is understandable. With workers virtually isolated, it can seem like entire teams have been broken up into individual silos, no longer operating in tandem.

However, remote work doesn’t need to come at the cost of human connections. With a little effort, employers can help foster virtual connections among their employees. And that’s important, especially given that 43% of workers consider team building and collaboration as critical workplace aspects.

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HR Newsletter: Workplace Virtual Holiday Parties

Virtual Holiday Parties

At the end of the year, workplace holiday celebrations are experiences that many employees look forward to. However, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are evaluating how to engage employees safely this holiday season. Leaders find themselves tasked with deciding whether they should cancel or postpone celebrations, or offer an amended version that prioritizes safety—with many choosing to offer a virtual holiday party.

Considerations for Employers – Holiday celebrations can positively impact employee engagement, but benefits should be weighed against other factors such as financial costs and concerns over safety. For employers choosing to offer a celebration, an event can be comprised of a variety of activities—with many options that can take place virtually.  These include a:

  • Secret Santa gift exchange
  • Virtual mixer
  • Gingerbread house contest
  • Ugly sweater contest
  • Holiday karaoke
  • Online escape room
  • Trivia contest

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Can Your Employer Punish You for Traveling During the Holidays?

HR expert discusses employers’ rights and responsibilities this holiday season

COVID TravelMany employees were asked to sign waivers promising their employers that they would not travel or attend mass gatherings this Thanksgiving season. As we head into another round of holidays, it is expected that even more employers will ask employees to refrain from traveling or gathering with their families. But do employers have this right, and to what extent can companies enforce these COVID-19 policies?

“Yes, employers have the right to ask employees not to travel, and to even formally discipline if they do so,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and human resources expert. “For example, we have seen cases in which a worker has posted examples of their risky behavior on social media, such as going to a bar and not wearing a mask, or having a large party with friends indoors. When this is brought to the employer’s attention, they have the right and even the responsibility to discuss this problematic issue with the employee and cut the worker’s hours or take them off the schedule until they are proven virus-free.”

This will be happening a lot as we get deeper in the holiday season, says Wilson, and employers should become well-versed on how to handle employees who boldly refuse to limit their social interactions.

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The PTO Time Bomb That Will Explode by Dec. 31st

HR expert Rob Wilson comments on how employers can avoid ending up with a skeleton crew this holiday season  

Cancelled TravelWith the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were forced to cancel their vacations, weddings, cruises, and other planned leisure activities. As a result, workers across the country have collected many days’ worth (or even weeks’ worth) of paid time off, which will need to be used by year’s end or could be potentially lost forever.

Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and human resources expert, comments on this breaking topic below:

“The COVID-19 shutdown impeded workflow in many ways, but it also created a situation in which employees could no longer travel or engage in their planned vacations. As a result, we saw many employees simply forgo their time off, and instead work through 2020 without a designated break. But this has now led us to a serious HR quandary: All of these workers who didn’t use their PTO have an impending deadline of December 31st, by which they need to use their paid time off or possibly see it disappear.”

As a result, says Wilson, workplaces could be looking at many empty desks for the next few weeks, as employees shoehorn their PTO onto the holiday season.

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Can Your Employer Require You to Get the COVID-19 Vaccine?

Human resources expert Rob Wilson weighs in on COVID-19 vaccines and the workplace 

COVID-19 VaccineQantas Airlines made global news this week when their CEO said they would require international travelers to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

“It’s called a digital vaccination passport, and we are expecting many airlines will follow suit and require their passengers to submit proof of their immunization,” says Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and human resources expert. “Of course, this means that not only will internationally-bound passengers on Qantas Airlines need to be immunized,  but so will their employees.”

This raises one of the most pressing and complicated human resources issues of our time, says Wilson. Can employers require their employees or prospective employees to be vaccinated if they want to retain or attain a position at their company?

“Well, the short answer is yes,” says Wilson. “There is a precedent that has been set which allows for healthcare employers to require their medical staff to be immunized, and the same is true for those who work in the armed forces or in certain federal or state jobs. But, until now, most employers outside of these branches have not issued company-wide requirements for immunizations.”

However, Wilson says, that’s about to change.

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