Welcome to a discussion of HR requirements and strategies for the small to mid-sized business.

You know that your employees are the key to your business success, but being an employer or being “the boss” can get complicated at times. Focusing on your business and your customers is the top priority. It can be a challenge to also make time to develop expertise in improving employee performance and reducing employer risk.

Through my consulting business, First Thing Tomorrow Human Resources Consultants, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work alongside many gifted business leaders.

I welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to contact me at info@firstthingtomorrow.com.

Monday, November 12, 2007

New California Law Requires Leave for Military Spouses

Effective immediately, all California employers with 25 or more employees are required to provide up to 10 days of unpaid leave to an employee whose spouse has been deployed to a scene of military conflict and is home on leave from the Armed Forces, National Guard or Reserves. Qualified employees are those who work an average of 20 or more hours per week and have provided advance notice to their employer within two business days of having received official notification of their spouse’s leave from deployment.

The full text of the statute, AB 392, may be found here: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/asm/ab_0351-0400/ab_392_bill_20070920_enrolled.pdf

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cell Phones: Staying in Touch and Staying Safe

As our businesses have become more global and our workforce has become increasingly mobile, cell phones are no longer considered optional tools of the trade in many work environments. Our bosses, customers and co-workers want to get in touch – now! Today, in many circles, email and voicemail are no longer viewed as tools which best support the desire for immediate contact and decisions. Cell phones enable our employees to be better connected, as well as increasing their productivity while away from the office.

As with any technological advance, there are risks if the tool is not always used appropriately. With cell phones, the primary risk comes if an employee uses one while operating a motor vehicle. If an employee is using a cell phone while driving on company business, the potential risk to your business is very real. Should the unthinkable happen – your employee is involved in an automobile accident and was using the cell phone at the time – the employee AND the company may both be found liable for damage or injury which occurs as a result.

There have been many studies regarding the reduced attentiveness of drivers using cell phones. While federal law is silent on the matter, some states (including California) have already passed legislation restricting cell phone usage and other states are currently studying the matter. Effective July 1, 2008, California drivers may be fined for using cell phones without handsfree technology, such as headsets. While there are limited exceptions to this law, including calls requesting emergency assistance, the law will apply to the vast majority of individuals using cell phones while on the road.

To those businesses which are planning to implement a new policy addressing cell phone usage on July 1, 2008 to coincide with the new law, I respectfully suggest that you strongly consider making this change now. To those of you outside of California and therefore not covered by state law in this area (at least, not yet), I offer the same suggestion. With or without a state law mandating such regulations, driving while using cell phones can be dangerous – period. If your employees must use a cell phone while in transit, it should be clear to them what the employer expects in terms of safe driving practices.

Several leading employment law experts are endorsing the adoption of policies regarding cell phone usage now. If such a policy clarifies for employees the expectation for safe practices and can potentially limit the company’s liability should an accident occur, why would you wait? Taking steps now to create and communicate an appropriate policy will serve you and your employees well in the long-run.

A few of the points you may want to consider when drafting a policy include:

¨ Do you want to allow employees to use the phone if they have a handsfree device or require that employees pull off of the road if they need to use the phone?

¨ Should calls be limited to business purposes only or are personal calls allowed?

¨ How do you expect your employees to handle tasks, such as speaking, dialing, searching for a phone number and sending or receiving text messages?

¨ Should employees handle the phone differently if driving in heavy traffic or in inclement weather?

¨ Does it matter if employees are driving company owned vehicles or their own vehicle?

As with any new policy, you may chose to write your own policy or do so with expert guidance. However you choose to proceed, the safety of your employees as well as the safety of others on the road should be at the forefront of your mind. The time to act is now.

Stay in touch and stay safe.