AVOID COSTS, AVOID TROUBLE
Pay attention to policy.
By Jason Dean
As much as entrepreneurs may think there “isn’t time” for setting policies, taking a moment to stop, think, and write down the rules of the game is critical.
“The times are long gone when a small business didn’t have to worry too much about labor and employment law,” warns labor law expert Kraig Schutter.
The good news is that businesses can start with the basics, but planning is important even when there is just one employee.
SIMPLE TIPS CAN HELP AVOID BIG HEADACHES
While federal labor laws can require as few as 10 or as many as 100 employees before specific passages are applicable to a business, don’t let the variations give you a false sense of security.
“The time to start [putting policies in place] is when the company has any non-owner employees on the payroll,” says Schutter.
Don’t get overwhelmed, though. Policies and procedures don’t need to begin as a document with every issue you may ever face. And there are also many resources, including professionals, at your disposal to help you put the basics in place. Instead of hiring a full- time human resources professional, for example, some businesses work with a consultant who advises them on HR issues.
PUT IT IN THE BOOK
Some areas to consider as your business expands include:
• Channels of communication
• Job descriptions
• Performance management
• Rules and policies
• Training and development
• Rewards and recognition
The key is to just do it. You need an employee handbook both for communicating policies and for satisfying legal obligations. “It provides safe harbor language protecting the business,” Schutter says, adding that labor law firms or HR consultants can provide this service for a reasonable fee.
EVOLVE WITH THE TIMES
Who would have thought there would be a need for Facebook policies 10 years ago? What about Snapchat?
Whatever you do, make sure you review policies regularly to keep employee expectations clear and responsive. Having policies in mind before you need them will make it easier to stay on top of expectations in an ever-changing of office landscape.
“When employees know the ‘rules of the road’ at work and know that they must be followed, the company is on the right path to long-term success with minimal employment headaches,” says Schutter.
When you’re a small business looking to grow, every hire is crucial. Finding someone who shares your vision and passion for your mission goes a long way.
KNOW THE POLITICS OF BUSINESS
“The ever-expanding conglomeration of statutes, regulations, interpretations, and court and agency contested-case decisions at the state and federal levels has created an entangling, intricate web of employment-related rules,” Schutter says.
What does that mean for a small business owner? Government makes the rules we live and work by. Like it or not, it’s in the best interest of entrepreneurs to get involved in the process, and make their voices heard.
Being involved and helping to educate elected officials on employment-related rules may look different to everyone. Some business owners write letters or make calls to government representatives to advocate on behalf of policy. Others schedule meetings with an official’s constituent relations team to discuss issues that they face. Business owners may even invite their elected officials to visit their office, store, or facility from time to time.
To get started, here are a few places to identify Michigan and U.S. legislators to contact, or to read about current business-related legislation:
• Small Business Administration – Of ce of Advocacy: www.sba.gov/advocacy
• Michigan Legislature (House and Senate): www. legislature.mi.gov
• U.S. House of Representatives: www.house.gov • U.S. Senate: www.senate.gov
Just remember to stay engaged and educated.
BE INFORMED OF RIGHTS—YOURS AND THEIRS
When is overtime paid? Any hours worked over 40 within a work week require overtime pay for hourly workers, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Weekends, holidays, and regular days of rest do not qualify as overtime unless more than eight hours are worked on those particular days.
When must service dogs be allowed at work? According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, a service dog must be trained to perform a task or tasks to assist a person with a disability. As no documentation of training is required, the dog should be allowed if it is able to demonstrate its task as it assists in the care of the employee’s disability. Dogs that provide emotional support or comfort do not qualify as service dogs.
Must interns be paid? Hiring unpaid interns requires that the employer provide training that bene fits the intern’s professional development, according to the Fair Labor standards Act. The intern’s presence must not displace regular employees, and the employer should not profit from this mutually agreed upon arrangement.
Be smart. Draft, implement, and periodically review policies to keep your expectations and those of employees aligned.