There is no doubt that the ongoing pandemic has significantly changed the workplace. An increasing number of employees are working remotely, and there has been a high level of turnover in connection with the “Great Resignation”. We also have seen the federal government, many states—including Connecticut—and cities pass employment laws that provide greater employee rights that are reshaping the workplace.
In the dawn of this new era, employers would be well-advised to conduct a comprehensive review of their policies and employment practices. An HR audit can help an employer determine whether it: (a) is complying with the ever-changing laws; (b) is following best practices; (c) has the policies, practices and forms that it needs to run the business; and (d) has the benefits, compensation structure, and policies to competitively recruit and retain talented employees.
By examining these questions, employers will have a better understanding of what is working well, what needs improvement and where changes need to be made. Start with these major areas:
Hiring – Employers should review recruiting practices and postings to ensure compliance with discrimination laws and that they further the principles of DEI. Job descriptions should be updated and list truly essential job functions. Employment applications should be vetted for inappropriate questions and include all appropriate disclosures and notices. Employers should provide written offers of employment that include basic information about the job, an at-will statement, and indicate whether employment is subject to any contingencies such as a drug testing and/or background check. 1-9 forms must be completed, and employees should be given confidentiality and/or non-compete agreements when the offer is extended.
Wage & Hour – Employers must ensure that there is an accurate process for recording work hours. Employers should review wage payment policies, how PTO is accrued, carryover time, and whether PTO is paid out on separation of employment. Employees must be paid on at least a bi-weekly schedule and within eight days after the end of the payroll period. Exempt/non-exempt and independent contractor classifications should be closely scrutinized. Bonus plans should be written, clear, and scrupulously followed. Employees must be paid for all compensable time worked including on-call, training, and traveling time.
Review of Personnel Policies – With recent new laws, updating the handbook is crucial. This review should include, among others: that EEO policies include new protected classes; anti-harassment policies are legally compliant; there is a proper FMLA policy; drug testing policies account for legalized marijuana; PTO policies comply with the sick leave law; and employees have signed an acknowledgement of receipt.
Posting, Record-Keeping, and Required Documentation – Ensure records are maintained for the required period. Personnel, medical, immigration and investigation files should be maintained separately. Electronic files also should have limited access and be controlled. Confidential records must be secured, marked as confidential, and disclosed on a need-to-know basis. Postings are required for FMLA, non-discrimination/harassment, electronic monitoring, OSHA, workers’ compensation, sick leave, pregnancy accommodation, and wage and hour. Employers should have toolkits for administering the FMLA and other medical leaves, and for addressing employee performance.
Analysis of the Termination Process – Having a thoughtful protocol for the termination process is critical. It is helpful to review a liability checklist, consider severance pay, address benefit information, and return of all company property.
Believe it or not, these are just some key areas to audit. A comprehensive HR audit is a smart and cost-effective way for companies to minimize their legal exposure by pro-actively managing their workforce.
This information is for educational purposes only to provide general information and a general understanding of the law. It does not constitute legal advice and does not establish any attorney-client relationship.