What Employers Need to Know About Successful Second Chance Hiring

With today's unemployment rate at the lowest it's ever been, many companies are beginning to explore untapped talent pools and unlikely candidates. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Between the First Step Act bill being passed and SHRM's efforts towards Getting talent back to work, there are a lot of discussions opening up around second chance hiring. Before, it was pretty standard to assume that if you checked that box of "have you been convicted of a felony," you weren't going to get the job.

Today, our unemployment rate is the lowest it's ever been - forcing companies to explore untapped talent pools and unlikely candidates. As the Founder of a staffing agency for second chances, this makes me very excited. But it also frightens me.

I have worked with inmates, felons, and people in recovery over the past five years by helping them find their passion and meaningful employment. It is not as simple as making a decision to hire people with a criminal background. With this being such a hot topic, I thought I'd give a few tips for those considering hiring people with a criminal background.

1. Non-violent drug charges aren't always the safest bet.

I hear it all the time. And usually people who have never been arrested or spent time in prison. They talk about just hiring people who have non-violent drug charges. In my personal experience, those are usually some of my more difficult cases. A lot of people with non-violent drug charges have one of two addictions: 1. making fast money OR  2. doing drugs. Relapse for either of these are more likely if an individual isn't seeking proper treatment or counseling. A job opportunity alone isn't always enough to keep someone on the right path. I have noticed that my best employees are the most unlikely and most overlooked: Those who lost the most. AKA: People who spent time in prison for harsher charges such as assault, robbery or murder.

2. People who spent time in prison are great manipulators.

Manipulation is a skill best learned in prison. Inmates are very resourceful and know how to get what they want. This is why the formerly incarcerated individuals who are reformed make amazing sales people, debt collectors or call center representatives. But we won't always have a reformed person with a change of heart sitting across from us as we are interviewing for a position. Even your greatest "people-reading" employee can be tricked into making the wrong hire if they are not educated on what to look for and what to ask in the interviewing process. Making the right second chance hire can grow your business tremendously but only if you make strategic hires and give the right second chances to the right people. Not everyone wants to change and we have to accept that as a possibility for responsible hiring.

3. Second chance hiring isn't charity.

When people talk about giving a second chance, it always sounds very charity or philanthropy-like. While I'm glad these discussions are happening, I'm disappointed people speak about second chance hiring like it's a favor to someone. It's actually a favor to your company to bring in a hungry, hard-working, loyal employee that will be grateful you gave them a chance. Growing a team of second chance employees can literally grow your business faster. Your second chance hires will go the extra mile, stay late and come in early. Not for a raise or recognition, but to help grow the company that helped grow them. An organic tea company came to us to make their first official second chance hire a year ago. Today, they've hired 70 people who have a criminal background.

When I first started my company, a for-profit staffing agency for second chances, people thought I was crazy. (I am, proudly) But it seemed like a far-fetched goal to bank on the success of felons. I knew how effective second chance hiring would be, so instead of starting a non-profit and spending my time raising money, I wanted to raise men and women through meaningful job placements. I have seen first-hand the successes and failures when it comes to helping people coming out of prison find employment. My biggest fear is that we are going to successfully create an awareness for second chance hiring and see poor results because of lack of education or tools. This could hurt the reputation of what we are trying to do and hurt the reputation of people who really do deserve real opportunities and have transformed their lives.

SOURCE: Garcia, C. (4 April 2019) "What Employers Need to Know About Successful Second Chance Hiring" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/what-employers-need-to-know-about-successful-second-chance-hiring

This post is the first in a series for Second Chance Month, which highlights the need to improve re-entry for citizens returning to society and reduce recidivism. One of the primary ways to do this is by providing an opportunity for gainful employment. To sign the pledge and access the toolkit with information on how to create second chances at your company, visit GettingTalentBacktoWork.org.  


Making the Case for Pay Transparency

Is your organization increasing pay transparency? According to this article from SHRM, pay transparency is a strategic move that delivers measurable business benefits. Read this blog post to learn more.


Recommending to senior leadership that your organization increase pay transparency can be a difficult sell for HR professionals. However, pay transparency is a strategic move that delivers measurable business benefits – and it’s an issue on which HR should lead.

It is important to understand that most executives in America today rose through organizational ranks that viewed compensation as a private matter. Few within organizations had access to salary information, and even fewer talked about it. As a result, many leaders still believe it is appropriate to dissuade or prohibit employees from discussing their own compensation with other employees.

Yet we now understand these outdated cultural norms have contributed to the wage gap for women and minorities, among other negative outcomes. Pay transparency can help close those gaps and produce benefits for both employers and employees.

For example, providing employees with pay ranges for their current position and those positions in their career path sets realistic expectations. This is crucial, as many employees hold unrealistic expectations based on internet salary searches for job titles that often do not account for or accurately reflect important factors such as experience level, geography, company size, actual tasks and responsibilities, or other types of compensation. These unrealistic salary expectations create serious challenges, including employee disengagement, low morale and retention problems.

Clearly communicating your company’s pay ranges facilitates an open dialogue about how those ranges are set, when and why they change, and how employees can move up within them. These discussions in turn increase mutual trust and engagement and foster productive compensation communication — all of which help retain employees, which is especially important in today’s tight labor market.

Increasing pay transparency also helps businesses attract and retain a more diverse workforce, which numerous studies have demonstrated translates into better business results. Sharing compensation data advances this effort by ensuring women and minorities have a clearer picture of the going rate for their skill sets, education, experience and performance. While many factors contribute to pay gaps, women and minority groups may have accepted lower compensation in the past because they could not access the information necessary to determine what they should be making based on what they bring to the table.

While recommending greater pay transparency to senior leadership in your organization may seem daunting, it is an important discussion to have and a compelling case for HR professionals to make. In a highly competitive labor market, businesses that make the right strategic move of increasing pay transparency will ultimately attract and retain the best talent and come out ahead of those that do not.

SOURCE: Ponder, L. (4 April 2019) "Making the Case for Pay Transparency" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/making-the-case-for-pay-transparency-0


DOL Focuses on ‘Joint Employer’ Definition

On April 1, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a proposed rule that narrows the definition of "joint employer" under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more about this proposed rule.


The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced on April 1 a proposed rule that would narrow the definition of "joint employer" under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The proposed rule would align the FLSA's definition of joint-employer status to be consistent with the National Labor Relations Board's proposed rule and update the DOL's definition, which was adopted more than 60 years ago.

Four-Factor Test

The proposal addresses the circumstances under which businesses can be held jointly responsible for certain wage violations by contractors or franchisees—such as failing to pay minimum wage or overtime. A four-factor test would be used to analyze whether a potential joint employer exercises the power to:

  • Hire or fire an employee.
  • Supervise and control an employee's work schedules or employment conditions.
  • Determine an employee's rate and method of pay.
  • Maintain a worker's employment records.

The department's proposal offers guidance on how to apply the test and what additional factors should and shouldn't be considered to determine joint-employer status.

"This proposal would ensure employers and joint employers clearly understand their responsibilities to pay at least the federal minimum wage for all hours worked and overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek," according to the DOL.

In 2017, the department withdrew an interpretation that had been issued by former President Barack Obama's administration that broadly defined "joint employer."

The Obama-era interpretation was expansive and could be taken to apply to many companies based on the nature of their business and relationships with other companies—even when those relationships are not generally understood to create a joint-employment relationship, said Mark Kisicki, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Phoenix.

The proposed test aligns with a more modern view of the workplace, said Marty Heller, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Atlanta. The test is a modified version of the standard that some federal courts already apply, he noted.

Additional Clarity

Significantly, the proposed rule would remove the threat of businesses being deemed joint employers based on the mere possibility that they could exercise control over a worker's employment conditions, Heller said. A business may have the contractual right under a staffing-agency or franchise agreement to exercise control over employment conditions, but that's not the same as doing so.

The proposal focuses on the actual exercise of control, rather than potential (or reserved) but unexercised control, Kisicki explained.

The rule would also clarify that the following factors don't influence the joint-employer analysis:

  • Having a franchisor business model.
  • Providing a sample employee handbook to a franchisee.
  • Allowing an employer to operate a facility on the company's grounds.
  • Jointly participating with an employer in an apprenticeship program.
  • Offering an association health or retirement plan to an employer or participating in a plan with the employer.
  • Requiring a business partner to establish minimum wages and workplace-safety, sexual-harassment-prevention and other policies.

"The proposed changes are designed to reduce uncertainty over joint employer status and clarify for workers who is responsible for their employment protections, promote greater uniformity among court decisions, reduce litigation and encourage innovation in the economy," according to the DOL.

The proposal provides a lot of examples that are important in the #MeToo era, said Tammy McCutchen, an attorney with Littler in Washington, D.C., and the former head of the DOL's Wage and Hour Division under President George W. Bush.

Importantly, companies would not be deemed joint employers simply because they ask or require their business partners to maintain anti-harassment policies, provide safety training or otherwise ensure that their business partners are good corporate citizens, she said.

Review Policies and Practices

Employers and other interested parties will have 60 days to comment on the proposed rule once it is published in the Federal Register. The DOL will review the comments before drafting a final rule—which will be sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review before it is published.

"Now is the time to review the proposal and decide if you want to submit a comment," Heller said. Employers that wish to comment on the proposal may do so by visiting www.regulations.gov.

"Take a look at what's been proposed, look at the examples in the fact sheet and the FAQs," McCutchen said. Employers may want to comment on any aspects of the examples that are confusing or don't address a company's particular circumstances. "Start thinking about your current business relationships and any adjustments that ought to be made," she said, noting that the DOL might make some changes to the rule before it is finalized.

"The proposed rule will not be adopted in the immediate future and will be challenged at various steps by worker-advocacy groups, so it will be quite some time before there is a tested, final rule that employers can safely rely upon," Kisicki said.

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L. (1 April 2019) "DOL Focuses on ‘Joint Employer’ Definition" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/labor-department-seeks-to-revise-joint-employer-rule.aspx


The HR tech disconnect: Are there too many digital tools?

According to a new survey of more than 500 HR employees, 87 percent of HR professionals reported that having tools that integrate with existing technology is key. Continue reading this blog post from Employee Benefit Advisor to learn more.


Investing in new technology that combines with current systems looks to be a priority for HR departments.

That’s according to a new survey of more than 500 HR employees from Reward Gateway, which found that 87% of HR professionals say having tools that integrate into their existing technology is key.

That priority is likely due to the fact that HR technology is siloed, the employee engagement technology company found. Many employers use separate platforms for tasks relating to employee communication, recognition, applicant tracking, onboarding and performance management.

More than a fifth of companies use 10 or more different systems and applications at work, and roughly 60% are using more than five systems every day. In addition, HR professionals spent 512 hours a year, nearly two hours a day, manually checking, responding to and keeping up with multiple HR applications, Reward Gateway says.

“Many companies have systems-of-record in place with up-to-date details on their employees,” says Will Tracz, chief technology officer at Reward Gateway. “Creating and maintaining data in other systems, outside of this, often takes time and is prone to error, particularly in fast-moving businesses.”

The new survey echoes similar findings, which indicate that while employers may be increasingly using HR tech, they may not be doing so efficiently. For instance, research from the Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants found that HR departments could be dropping the ball when it comes to using HR technology.

Karen Greenbaum, president and CEO of AESC told Employee Benefit News in November that total digital transformation is about more than just implementing new tech in the office.

“It’s not just, ‘Do they understand what artificial intelligence means,’ or what augmented reality means,” she says. “[It’s] ‘Do you really have an organization that can adapt to a new world?’”

Still, HR leaders are turning to tech solutions. Data from global talent acquisition and management firm Randstad Sourceright found that HR departments are going on a tech “buying spree.” The vast majority (92%) of those in the Randstad survey of more than 800 C-suite and HR leaders and 1,700 professionals believe that technology enhances the attraction, engagement and retention of talent.

Reward Gateway received similar responses. HR teams are hoping new tech will not only integrate with existing systems, but also help them achieve their goals, which include higher employee engagement, increased productivity and attracting talent.

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (29 March 2019) "The HR tech disconnect: Are there too many digital tools?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/hr-tech-disconnect-are-there-too-many-digital-tools?brief=00000152-146e-d1cc-a5fa-7cff8fee0000


DOL proposes new rule clarifying, updating regular rate of pay

The Department of Labor (DOL) recently released a proposal that defines and updates what forms of payment employers can include and exclude in the time-and-one-half calculation when determining overtime rates. Read this blog post to learn more.


For the first time in 50 years, the Department of Labor has proposed changing the definition of the regular rate of pay.

The proposal, announced Thursday, “defines and updates” what forms of payment employers include and exclude in the time-and-one-half calculation when determining workers’ overtime rates, according to the DOL.

The regulations the DOL is proposing to revise govern how employers must calculate the regular rate and overtime pay rate, including the types of compensation that must be included and may be excluded from the overtime pay calculation, says Tammy McCutchen, a principal at Littler Mendelson and former administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

The regular rate of pay is not just an employee’s hourly rate, she says, but rather includes “all remuneration for employment” — unless specifically excluded by section 7(e) of the FLSA.

Under current rules, employers are discouraged from offering more perks to their employees as it may be unclear whether those perks must be included in the calculation of an employees’ regular rate of pay, the DOL says. The proposed rule focuses primarily on clarifying whether certain kinds of perks, benefits or other miscellaneous items must be included in the regular rate.

The DOL proposes that employers may exclude the following from an employee’s regular rate of pay:

  • The cost of providing wellness programs, onsite specialist treatment, gym access and fitness classes and employee discounts on retail goods and services;
  • Payments for unused paid leave, including paid sick leave;
  • Reimbursed expenses, even if not incurred solely for the employer’s benefit;
  • Reimbursed travel expenses that do not exceed the maximum travel reimbursement permitted under the Federal Travel Regulation System regulations and that satisfy other regulatory requirements;
  • Discretionary bonuses;
  • Benefit plans, including accident, unemployment, and legal services; and
  • Tuition programs, such as reimbursement programs or repayment of educational debt.

The proposed rule also includes additional clarification about other forms of compensation, including payment for meal periods and call back pay.

The regulations will benefit employees, primarily, ensuring that employers can continue to provide benefits that employees’ value — tuition reimbursements, student loan repayment, employee discounts, payout of unused paid leave and gym memberships, McCutchen says.

“Remember, there is no law that employers must provide employees these types of benefits,” she adds. “Employers will not provide such benefits if doing so creates risk of massive overtime liability.”

Knowing when employers must pay overtime on these types of benefits, how to calculate the value of those benefits and overtime pay are all difficult questions, she adds. “Unintentional mistakes by good faith employers providing valued benefits to employees is easy. With this proposed rule, the DOL is embracing the philosophy that good deeds should not be punished.”

She notes the proposal does not include any specific examples of what reimbursements may be excluded from the regular rate.

“One big open question is whether employers must pay overtime when they provide employees with subsidies to take public transportation to work — as the federal government does for many of its own employees — I think around $260 per month in the DC Metro area,” she adds.

The DOL earlier this month proposed to increase the salary threshold for overtime eligibility to $35,308 up from the current $23,660. If finalized, the rule would expand overtime eligibility to more than a million additional U.S. workers, far fewer than an Obama administration rule that was struck down by a federal judge in 2017.

Employers are expected to challenge the new rule as well, based on similar complaints of administrative burdens, but a legal challenge might be more difficult to pass this time around.

SOURCE: Otto, N. (28 March 2019) "DOL proposes new rule clarifying, updating regular rate of pay" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/dol-proposes-new-rule-on-regular-rate-of-pay-calculation?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


To check or not to check: Managing blood sugar in diabetic employees

There's been a growing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the U.S. over the last 20 years. This chronic condition significantly impacts employees, their family members and even employers clinically and financially. Read this blog post to learn more.


Over the last 20 years, there’s been a growing prevalence in the U.S. of Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that significantly impacts employers, their employees and family members clinically, financially and through quality of life. With that comes an increase in the use of insulin for people with Type 2 diabetes to better control blood sugar to reduce long-term complications, which includes eye, kidney and cardiac disease, as well as neuropathic complications.

Most of these patients manage their condition with oral medicines versus insulin, and it’s estimated that 75% of patients with Type 2 diabetes regularly test their blood sugar, even though doing so may not be needed. Blood sugar testing is an important tool in managing diabetes as it can help a patient be more aware of their disease and potentially control it better. But it also can be painful, inconvenient and costly.

Blood sugar testing can be an important tool in managing diabetes, and there are two types of tests. The first is a test conducted at home by the patient that shows the blood sugar at a specific point in time. The second type is called HA1c (a measure of long-term blood sugar control) that shows the average blood sugar over the last two to three months. The value of at-home testing is now thought to be questionable.

In 2012, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute began a study to evaluate the value of daily blood sugar testing for people with Type 2 diabetes not taking insulin. The endpoint for the study was whether there was a difference in HA1c levels for those who did daily testing and those that did not. The conclusion of the study found that there were no significant differences between those two populations.

In response to these findings, the institute developed an initiative called Rethink the Strip that involves stakeholders including primary care practices, healthcare providers, patients, health plans, coalitions and employers. Given the cost for test strips and monitors for patients with Type 2 diabetes who test their blood sugar daily, it’s important to adopt an evidence-based patient-centered approach around the need for and frequency of self-monitoring of blood glucose.

As employees and employers cope with the costs associated with blood sugar testing, there are several strategies that should be considered to better manage this issue. They include:

1. Support shared decision-making. Like all interventions within healthcare, it’s important to weigh both the benefits and the risks of daily blood sugar testing in a thoughtful manner between the patient and their provider.

2. Managed benefit design. Employers should pay for daily blood sugar test strips in cases where it brings value (e.g., Type 1 and Type 2 patients who are taking insulin as well as patients that are either newly diagnosed or are going through a transition period, for example, post hospitalization or beginning a new medication regimen).

3. Involve vendors. To ensure alignment in all messaging to plan members, ask health systems and/or health plans and third-party vendors to align their communication, measurement and provider feedback strategies on when it’s appropriate for daily blood sugar testing.

These strategies can help employees with diabetes understand how their daily activities (nutrition, exercise and stress) and medications impact their condition. This benefits the employee in reaching treatment goals and feeling their best, while also helping employers and employees reduce the need for unnecessary and costly test strips.

SOURCE: Berger, J. (14 March 2019) "To check or not to check: Managing blood sugar in diabetic employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/managing-blood-sugar-in-diabetic-employees?brief=00000152-146e-d1cc-a5fa-7cff8fee0000


Goodbye, suits and ties. Hello, sneakers

As the workplace evolves, one thing many managers have in common is that they are throwing out their traditional business dress code. Continue reading this blog post from Employee Benefit News to learn more.


Casual Friday? Try casual Monday through Friday.

As the modern U.S. workplace evolves, one thing many office managers have in common is that they are throwing the traditional business dress code out the window.

About 88% of employers today offer some type of casual dress benefit, up from 81% five years ago, according to the 2018 employee benefits survey from the Society for Human Resource Management.

The most recent company to join the ranks of the suit-and-tie-less workplace is banking giant Goldman Sachs. The decision — once believed unthinkable for such a straight-laced organization — comes as the company looks to keep up with “changing nature of workplaces,” according to a Goldman memo last week.

“Casual dress attire at work is just one of the many ways employers are trying to retain and attract top talent in this competitive job market,” says Amelia Green-Vamos, an employer trends analyst with Glassdoor. “The unemployment rate is at a historic low, and casual dress attire is an inexpensive perk creating a more approachable and comfortable culture for new and existing employees.”

All employers want to attract the best possible talent and in today’s job market that talent is younger. Indeed, more than 75% of Goldman Sachs’ employees are members of the millennial or Gen Z generations. When it comes to hiring younger talent the more traditional companies — such as big banks — are competing against tech giants and hedge funds that are offering a different kind of workplace.

Facebook, for example, has had a relaxed dress code since the beginning. “We don’t want our people to have a work self and a personal self,” says Facebook spokesman Kyle Gerstenschlager. “That aspect of our culture extends to our lack of a formal dress code.”

Google is another company with a simple dress policy. “You must wear clothes,” was the response Susan Wojcicki — current CEO of YouTube — gave in a 2007 interview with Bay area media outlet The Mercury News. She was VP of ad services at Google at the time.

But, it’s not just the Silicon Valley tech companies that have embraced a more laid back attire policy. When Mary Barra — current CEO of General Motors — was vice president of global human resources at the automaker, she set out to replace the company’s 10-page dress code exposition with two words: “Dress appropriately.”

It’s a simple idea, but Barra was perplexed when she received pushback from HR and one of her senior-level directors, she explained at the 2018 Wharton People Analytics Conference. But this actually led to what Barra called an “ah-ha” moment, giving her better insight into the company and teaching her a lesson about making sure managers feel empowered.

Office culture has been evolving for decades, with offices with sleep pods and ping-pong tables now commonplace. But it’s practicality rather than entitlement that is leading offices to adapt their dress codes.

“I have a hard time imagining a position where wearing a tie could be considered an essential part of the job’s responsibilities,” says SHRM member Mark Marsen, director of human resources at Allies for Health + Wellbeing. “Even using arguments that it contributes to or enhances corporate image, client perceptions, or establishing a form of respect. What matters at the end of all, for everyone concerned, is that a successful service was rendered.”

SOURCE: Shiavo, A. (12 March 2019) "Goodbye, suits and ties. Hello, sneakers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/goldman-sachs-embraces-casual-dress


Pay transparency: A new tool to boost employee engagement

Some companies require new hires to sign an agreement promising not to disclose their pay to co-workers. Continue reading this blog post to learn more about pay transparency.


For many companies, discussing salaries has always been taboo. Some firms even required new hires to sign an agreement swearing they wouldn’t disclose their pay to co-workers. 

This “loose lips sink ships” approach is largely illegal, of course: Employees are generally free to talk about pay rates as part of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

Nonetheless, for years, companies held salary information very close to the vest.

But times are changing. Many firms have now gone to a policy of transparency in matters of compensation.

2 separate approaches

Stephanie Thomas, program director of the Institute for Compensation Studies at Cornell University, writes that pay transparency comes in two flavors: salary disclosure and pay process transparency.

1. Salary disclosure: In this approach, the company distributes a spreadsheet listing employees, their titles and their salaries.

This approach can be tricky. There are always going to be cases where an employee asks, “Why is Stephanie paid more than me? We have the same title and the same duties.”

Whole Foods explains the rationale for adopting its policy in a statement on its website:

“Salary information for all –including the company’s leadership – is available to all inquiring team members. Wage transparency helps promote inclusiveness and ensures our compensation system is fair.”

2. Pay process transparency: The second approach explores how compensation decisions are made, and explains to individuals why they’re making what they are and what they need to do to earn more.

This involves having detailed discussions with employees, either individually or in a group, about the overall compensation plan – salary ranges and midpoints, goals and objectives that need to be met, performance metrics, etc. Most companies prefer this approach because it focuses the conversation away from rankings of employees toward individual performance.

Both approaches signal a new trend in employee engagement – helping workers understand the inner workings of their organizations.

SOURCE: Mucha, R. (15 February 2019) "Pay transparency: A new tool to boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/pay-transparency-a-new-tool-to-boost-employee-engagement/


7 ways to reduce stress this tax season

Does tax season leave you stressed out? Tax season is here, leaving many employers face-to-face with a number of demands. Continue reading this post from Employee Benefit News for seven ways employers can reduce stress during tax season.


Tax filing season is here, which means many employers will come face-to-face with a number of demands. Whether they do their own taxes, use online tax software or meet with a trusted tax adviser, there are many useful resources out there that will help employers work smarter, not harder.

Here are seven ways employers can reduce stress during tax season.

2019 U.S. Master Tax Guide

The U.S. Master Tax Guide contains timely and precise explanations of federal income taxes for individuals, partnerships and businesses. This guide contains information including tax tables, tax rates, checklists, special tax tables and explanatory text.

Legislative resources

Find a trusted, reputable resource for the latest news, opinions and laws regarding healthcare. Many companies in the industry have a designated section on their website that is dedicated to providing employers with updates and trends in the health insurance industry and how it will affect taxes.
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Payroll calculators

Employers can use payroll calculators to determine gross pay, withholdings, deductions, net pay after Social Security and Medicare and more. Calculator types include salary payroll calculators, hourly paycheck calculators, gross pay calculators, W-4 assistants, percentage bonus calculators and aggregate bonus calculators.

Keep, shred, toss

Now is the perfect time to organize tax records so that they’re easy to find in case they’re needed to apply for a loan, answer IRS questions or file an amended return.

The IRS has some helpful guidance you can share with your clients on what records to keep and for how long. They should remember to:

  • Keep copies of tax returns and supporting documents for at least three years.
  • Keep some documents for up to seven years.
  • Keep healthcare information statements for at least three years. These include records of employer-provided coverage, premiums paid, advance payments of the premium tax credit received and type of coverage.

Make sure records are kept safe — but when it’s time, shred or destroy

Whether they consist of paper stacked in a shoebox, electronic files stored on a device or in the cloud, it’s important to safeguard all personal records, especially anything that lists Social Security numbers. Consumer Affairs recommends scanning paper and keeping records stored securely on a flash drive, CD or DVD.

It’s more important than ever for employers to keep personal information out of the hands of identity thieves. That means not tossing records in the trash or recycling bin. Home paper shredders are often inadequate for large piles of paper, but many communities have professional, secure document shredding services.
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Start as early as possible

A deadline looming always makes the situation more stressful. It’s very important for employers to not wait until the last minute to start their tax return. If they choose to use a tax professional, be sure that they get in early. Tax professionals take on many clients, and only have a short timeframe to get all the work done.

Be honest

It may be tempting for employers to tell a white lie on their taxes to maximize their tax breaks or return, but that comes at a great risk. If they are audited by the IRS, they will liable for whatever was reported.

SOURCE: Waletzki, T. (12 March 2019) "7 ways to reduce stress this tax season" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/how-to-reduce-stress-this-tax-season?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


New tech helps HR pros practice hiring and firing — in virtual reality

A new platform from Talespin allows employees to practice challenging social situations, like the act of hiring and firing an employee, beforehand. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


What if HR professionals could practice hiring and firing someone before they even set foot in the office? Virtual reality and artificial intelligence may be closer to making that a reality for some employers.

Talespin, a developer of virtual reality technology has released a new platform that allows employees to practice challenging social situations. The platform, called its Virtual Human Technology, is meant to mimic typical conversations that an employee might have at work. The software can simulate anything from performance reviews, to leadership training, sales conversations or even firing.

“We’re thinking holistically about the employee life cycle and how spatial computing is going to affect that,” says Kyle Jackson, CEO of Talespin.

Talespin aims to evoke real human emotions and give employees a sense of the best way to handle a difficult situation, Jackson says. The platform demo, for example, puts users in the shoes of an HR manager and asks them to fire an employee named Barry. Barry is an AI-powered virtual character that displays realistic human responses, like anger, when a user tells him that he has been terminated.

Users can be successful or unsuccessful at terminating Barry and the platform provides feedback on how they can improve these skills over time. The system can be tailored to provide responses based on the specific needs of the employer, Jackson says.

“The system can record all sorts of things: from your sentiment, to what you say, what branches did you activate, what different paths of process did you go down. With all that data it’s a question of what’s the learning objective and what’s the learning outcome that you’re looking for?” he says.

While the platform is best used in virtual reality, users can access it via desktop, mobile or audio only. Jackson says the company is deploying the platform with five employers in the telecommunications, automotive, insurance and consumer packaged goods industries. Farmers Insurance is already using Talespin technology to train new hires. Employers using the software pay per monthly active user plus the cost of the module, Jackson says.

Some employers are investing in AI and virtual reality as a way to attract and retain new talent. Pharmaceutical company Takeda, for instance, combined 360-degree photographs and an interactive map of its Cambridge, Massachusetts campus to create a virtual reality office tour for current and potential employees.

Jackson says they’ve heard from employers that poor treatment from a manager has in some cases, led to employee turnover. A VR platform like Virtual Human Technology can help managers develop their soft skills for interacting with employees and potentially improve retention.

“It’s not a technology problem, it’s not an efficiency problem. It’s really a people problem,” he says. “It’s the one area that’s really hard to fix.”

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (8 March 2019) "New tech helps HR pros practice hiring and firing — in virtual reality" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/hr-tech-helps-practice-hiring-and-firing-in-virtual-reality?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000