If you’re interested in making sure that your business runs smoothly, you’ve got to make sure that all of your internal rules are followed. Even beyond that, you also need to make sure that you follow the basic laws of employment. This means avoiding HR violations, even if doing so means changing the way you do business. Dealing with HR issues is something that you’ve got to train yourself to do – and it’s often best to start out by looking at problems that tend to occur within other small businesses.
Avoiding HR violations
There are many very good reasons to try to avoid HR violations. The most common is avoiding punitive fines, of course, but doing so will also help you to have a more harmonious workplace. As a small business owner, it’s up to you to ensure that your team works well, and that means creating an environment that values everyone equally. Below are a few of the most common HR problems encountered by small business owners, along with the most common solutions.
You cannot refuse to hire someone because of age, race, sex, religion, or a disability. While it’s true that you ultimately have the final say in who works for your business, it’s important not to use any of those classes above to bar someone from employment. Likewise, you cannot use those qualities as reasons to fire someone or to deny them promotions and/or raises. Always make sure to document any reasons why you are making your decisions, include your HR team when deciding upon hires, and to make sure that the actions you take do not have a discriminatory rationale that could be used against you later.
There are certain questions that simply cannot be asked during an interview. While you might mean to ask these questions without any malice or ulterior motives, that doesn’t meant that the questions can be asked. It’s a good idea to include someone on the HR team in every interview, not only to weigh in with his or her opinions on a new hire but also to make sure that everything remains above board. Make sure that anyone trained in a management or hiring position knows what is acceptable to ask and what needs to be avoided in order to steer clear of HR violations.
Harassment is a hot button issue, and one that your human resources team should learn about. Harassment is never okay in the workplace, no matter to whom it is directed and from whom it is coming. Your business should have a strong anti-harassment policy and it should be covered with everyone on your payroll no matter how long they have worked for you. All harassment claims should be investigated thoroughly and neutrally, hopefully in a manner that will cause minimal distress to the individual claiming harassment. The more attention you turn towards prevention, though, the less you should have to worry about enforcement.
Your payroll process can be tricky, but it must be handled properly. It’s important to know the laws of your state when it comes to issues like maximum working hours for students or at what point certain employees are owed overtime. Failing to adhere to the rules can put your business in danger of getting a visit from the Department of Labor, which can end up being quite costly. Instead, make sure that anyone handling payroll is briefed one how hourly requirements should be handled and that you have an internal process for handling any kind of payroll discrepancies efficiently.
Some HR violations are actually legal issues. There may be specific problems posed by certain members of your staff – underage employees that can’t handle certain materials, for example, or employees that need special accommodations – and it’s your job to make sure that those special circumstances are cared for in a legal manner. Your HR department should be briefed on these issues, as should anyone who is a position of authority or management. Your business should never be in danger of being fined or punished because some of your employees acted without the necessary knowledge to do things correctly.
As you might expect, it can be tricky to fire an employee. Even if he or she has been a model employee for years, there may be situations in which letting someone go is inevitable. It is important, though, that you always let employees go in a way that is consistent with the rules of your workplace and that don’t violate any laws. Make sure that every employee is familiar with the employee handbook and procedures, and that any procedures that lead to termination are followed to the letter.
While your small business may be small enough that it doesn’t legally have to deal with insurance benefits, benefits issues actually compose a fair number of potential HR problems. Making sure your employees get the benefits to which they are entitled and that issues with payroll don’t cause interruptions should be a priority for your business. Not only should their always be documentation about benefits available, but someone in on your HR team should always know how the employee can contact the company administering those benefits directly if and when problems do occur. Your employees pay for their benefits, so don’t put them in a position where they don’t get what they deserve.
Social media blunders
An increasing number of businesses are now having to deal with the fallout of employees’ social media use. Whether you’re dealing with risque pictures, over-the-top political statements or even confrontations with customers, you know that these out-of-work problems can reflect on your business. As such, it’s a good idea to have a policy in place and to go over social media use in your employee handbook with every new hire. Letting employees know that their extracurricular internet use can have an impact on their working lives is often enough to install most employees with a great sense of caution online.
Knowing the problems you need to avoid is the first step towards creating a better business environment. Over time, you’ll learn how to deal with these challenges and to create systems that make doing so even easier. Always stay alert, though, and make sure that you keep up with the issues that are common within your area and your industry. If you’re able to do that, you’ll be able to avoid many major HR violations and problems. To learn more about HR and other small business issues, make sure to sign up for the PayTech newsletter.