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Published on Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Quick Hits - August 21, 2019

Salary budgets may be static for 2020:  U.S. employees hoping for larger pay raises next year may be disappointed. A new survey by Willis Towers Watson reports that U.S. employers plan to hold the line on budgeted pay raises in 2020. The 2019 General Industry Salary Budget Survey, conducted by Willis Towers Watson Data Services, found salary increases are expected to hold steady in 2020 for exempt, non-management employees (3.1%), management employees (3.1%), nonexempt hourly employees (3.0%), and nonexempt salaried employees (2.9%). Companies are budgeting slightly smaller increases for executives (3.1% in 2020 versus 3.2% this year). Virtually all companies (96%) plan to give raises next year, the same percentage as this year; however, more companies are formalizing their promotional increase budget (30%), which is up significantly since last year. Pay raises have hovered around 3% for the past decade. The last year employers provided larger increases was 2008 (3.8%).  Companies continue to reward their star performers with significantly larger pay raises than average performing employees. According to the survey, employees receiving the highest possible rating were granted an average increase of 4.6% this year, 70% higher than the 2.7% increase granted to those receiving an average rating. Source:  CCH 8/13/19

Meetings with caregivers fall under FMLA:  The DOL issued an opinion letter indicating that the FMLA covers an employee’s attendance at a school meeting where their child’s individualized education program (IEP) will be discussed.  The child in question received “pediatrician-prescribed occupational, speech, and physical therapy provided by their school district.” Periodically, the parents, school administrators and the child’s speech pathologist, school psychologist, and therapists had IEP meetings to “review the child’s educational and medical needs, well-being, and progress.” The DOL determined that the employee’s attendance at the IEP meetings constituted “care for a family member … with a serious health condition.” Care for a family member includes both physical and psychological care. As noted above, “to care for” a family member with a serious health condition includes “to make arrangements for changes in care.” 29 C.F.R. § 825.124(b).  Source:  Breazeale Sachse & Wilson LLP 8/9/19

Unused PTO being used to pay off student loans:  Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall, a not-for-profit community hospital with campuses in Newburgh and Cornwall, N.Y., rolled out the new benefit at the beginning of the year, but just publicly announced it.  Through the new program with student-loan benefit provider Tuition.io, MSLC’s 2,000 employees can transfer their unused paid time off to the repayment of their student debt, including federal and Parent PLUS loans. Eligible employees can convert 30 to 75 hours of unused PTO into payment against student debt, which will be distributed semi-annually, with a maximum of $5,000 annual contribution, the company says. The program is now available to non-union, full-time, and part-time employees, and the hospital says it soon plans to expand the initiative to include unionized employees. The program already has garnered positive feedback and results, says Dan Bengyak, MSLC’s vice president of administrative services, especially because those working in the medical field are especially saddled with debt. More than 50 participants so far have signed up for the program, and nearly $90,000 has been paid out in the first window this year.  Source:  HR Executive 8/8/19

Cobotics is changing the workplace: A recent estimation put 40% of the world’s jobs at risk of automation over the next 15 years. Throughout history, advances in technology have replaced human jobs time and again. Between 1947 and 2014, for example, the number of U.S. workers employed by the railroad industry dropped by 86% as a result of new technology and automation. At the same time, this technolgy dramatically increased productivity, allowing the amount of freight being moved to increase by 182%.  Today it’s the field of robotics — or rather, “cobotics" — that’s changing the way we work. Instead of replacing humans altogether, robots will become more like coworkers, handling repetitive, menial tasks — especially those that are prone to human error.  And it’s not just low-skill roles that the "cobots" are being integrated into. They’re already revolutionizing industries like medicine, finance, and law. It’s been well established by now that lower-skill occupations are more likely to be replaced by automation.  However, white collar jobs and all industries can be affected.  There is a positive to cobotics: automation tends to actually create more jobs than it wipes out and increase salaries overall. Many displaced workers will need to undergo retraining to find a new role.  Source: Linkedin Talent Blog 8/8/19

What is a good HR to employee ratio:  Many HR professionals don't calculate the ratio correctly. Here's how to do it right: Divide the number of HR full-time equivalent (FTE) positions by the total number of employees (FTEs), then multiply the outcome by 100.  For example, the ratio of a 6-person HR department at a 250-employee company would be 6/250 x 100=2.4 ratio.   "The ratio is very helpful if you know what you're doing," says James Hatch, a partner with PricewaterhouseCoopers' Saratoga Institute, which specializes in HR metrics. "But it can be very dangerous if you don't know what you're doing." HR professionals often include or exclude the wrong HR jobs in the formula. The ratio should include HR professionals who work as generalists and those in areas such as benefits, compensation, labor relations, and organizational effectiveness, says Hatch. The ratio should exclude payroll and training-and-development employees. Per the SHRM Human Capital Benchmarking Study, the ratio should be for up to 100- 2.70; 1.26 for 100-249; and 1.07 for 250-499.  Source:  The HR Specialist May 8, 2018

5th Circuit Court of Appeals throws out EEOC’s guidance on background checks:  In Texas v. EEOC, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission exceeded its authority when it issued a guidance that limited criminal background checks in hiring.  The EEOC guidance stated that Title VII prohibits employers from evaluating a job applicant on his or her criminal background under a “disparate impact” theory of liability because it disproportionately affects African Americans and Hispanics. Statistically, those groups have higher rates of arrest and criminal conviction. Under the guidance, employers must assess each applicant’s criminal record and evaluate the nature and gravity of the offense, the amount of time since the conviction and the relevance of the offense to the job being sought. The 5th Circuit found that the EEOC overstepped its bounds and had no authority to make the Title VII interpretation. As such, the EEOC cannot enforce the criminal background check guidance.  However, it would be worthwhile to work with your legal counsel to ensure that your background check policies are not targets of liability.  Source:  Phelps Dunbar LLC 8/7/19

OFCCP to send out 500 focused review letters on veteran reviews: On August 7, 2019 the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), hosted a town hall session in Washington, D.C. The event, which was intended to expand the department’s outreach to the veterans community, was attended by over 70 federal contractors, veteran service organizations, employer associations, and consultants.  During the four-hour interactive session, OFCCP Director Craig Leen shared that 500 scheduling letters would be going out on Veteran’s Day for VEVRAA Focused Reviews. He also discussed that the agency would put an emphasis on the under-employment or non-employment of veterans with disabilities, as well as military spouses.  Source: DirectEmployers 8/12/19

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