End-of-the-Year HR Tasks

Year-end is fast approaching, and we want to make sure employers are making a list and checking it twice! This is the perfect time of year to ensure your organization is compliant and prepared for all the changes the New Year will bring. The following checklist is a great place to start to make sure your organization can welcome 2016 ahead of the game.

  1. Make sure your employee handbook is up to date. Has your employee handbook been reviewed by an HR Professional in the last year? If not, this is a great time to make sure all of your policies and practices are compliant and up to date. Key legislative changes have been made in several states about how an employer may access and use Social Media in its employment practices. There have also been key changes to the Federal Family Medical Leave Act related to military service members. In addition, we recommend you review your Anti-Harassment and Anti-Bullying policies for compliance as well. Ultimately, year-end is the best time to make sure your employee handbook is up to date and ready to distribute to your employees in 2016.
  2. Update Job Descriptions: An-up-to-date job description is critical for every position in your organization. Compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other legal requirements depend on effective Job descriptions. Essential functions described in the job description will be a key indicator not only of whether an employee is performing according to the organization’s standards, but also will serve useful when evaluating requests for accommodations under the ADA. Also, when deciding whether a position is exempt on non-exempt, job descriptions are useful for comparing the duties to the federal exemption requirements. Finally, they help your organization benchmark its jobs with those in the external labor market.
  3. Audit Your Personnel Files for Compliance: Your organization will want to be sure it is retaining appropriate records according to state and federal compliance regulations, and also that information stored in a personnel files doesn’t contain protected information, which should be stored separately. For example, any record that includes protected and/or non-job related information such as date of birth, marital status, dependent information, Social Security Numbers, medical information, immigration status, national origin, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, criminal history, financial history, subjective statements or accusations, etc., should be filed separately from a personnel file. If the document contains any protected information, file it separately from the employee’s personnel file. When determining whether or not to place information and documents in a personnel file, be sure to consider relevance: Would the information be relevant to a supervisor who may review this file when making employment decisions? Is the information related to the employee’s performance, knowledge, skills, abilities, and/or behavior? If it is, then it should be placed in the employee’s personnel file. Finally, be sure that these files are limited to those who “need to know” only-typically this is just the Human Resources staff.
  4. Complete Annual Performance Evaluations: Now is the time to complete year-end performance evaluations for each of your employees. An effective performance evaluation will provide an accurate picture of each employee’s performance and will monitor and measure results and behaviors.  Evaluations should include both positive feedback for a job well done and constructive feedback when improvement is needed. They may also provide training and development opportunities for improving performance and ensure that employee work plans support the strategic direction of the organization. They can help identify areas of poor performance and establish plans for improving performance. Finally, performance evaluations provide legal documentation to demonstrate that the employer did its due diligence if legal challenges related to terminations arise.
  5. Conduct an Organization-Wide Wage Analysis. Minimum wages have risen in several states, and your organization will want to be sure that these changes are in effect to avoid any wage and hour claims. However, you will also want to ensure that your more highly-paid employees are receiving a competitive salary as well; or they might take the New Year as an opportunity to find greener pastures. To get started, reevaluate your compensation philosophy: An employer can choose to lead, lag, or match the market. Being a market leader means that you pay more for jobs than your competitors do. An organization typically does this to gain an advantage over or to attract talent away from its competitors. If an employer decides to match the market, it is paying roughly the same as its competitors, and if an employer is lagging the market, it means it is paying less than its competitors for similar jobs. Generally speaking, an employer does not intentionally choose to lag the market. It is usually discovered after market research indicates that an organization is paying less than the rest of its competitors for jobs. Once you have completed the wage analysis in comparison to your organization’s compensation philosophy, you will be able to determine if any wage increases are warranted.
  6. Make sure your Holiday Party is Inclusive and Compliant: Employees might get too friendly with a colleague, few employees might have a little too much to drink, exchange heated words or even participate in a physical altercation. Unfortunately, your organization could be liable for the inappropriate conduct of its employees in these situations. For example, case law sets a precedent that legal liability can occur when an employee drives drunk after a company-sponsored holiday party. This liability can be significant, and employers are encouraged to take these risks very seriously. Finally, you will want to be sure your Holiday Party isn’t excluding or offending any employee’s religious beliefs. It’s recommended to call your annual celebration a “Holiday Party”, and to keep themes and decorations neutral: snowflakes, poinsettias and snowmen for example. The goal is to make sure each employee feels included in the celebration.
  7. Be Sure to Recognize your Employees in a Compliant Way: Remember, high employee moral (or lack thereof) directly affects your bottom line. Generally, happy employees are performing at their highest potential. Tell your employees that you appreciate their hard work, and don’t underestimate the power of positive recognition when it comes to employee morale and retention. The end of the year is a great time to look back over the last 12 months and identify the positive contributions that your employees have made, perhaps highlighting a few at your holiday celebration. Your organization may also chose to provide year-end bonuses, and if you do, you will want to make sure you are doing so in a consistent, nondiscriminatory way. For example, employers should set the same bonus criteria and percentages for each department or job group. The Sales Department and the Customer Service Department may have different bonus percentages and criteria for example, but each employee in those departments should be held to the same standards for receiving a bonus as their peers in that group.

By taking the above steps, you can be sure that your organization is well on its way to meeting the challenges the New Year will bring.

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