Read the latest news and blogs surrounding access control, time and attendance systems and integrated security solutions with Tensor plc.
Time Management Horse Sense
Every horse race has a first place winner and a runner-up, second place contender. It is not uncommon for the first place horse to earn twice the prize as the second place finisher. Curiously, the number one horse did not have to run twice as fast or go twice as far as the competition to get twice the money. It only had to be a nose ahead of the competition to reap twice the rewards. Time management, personal productivity, and success in life are a lot like the horse race metaphor. To get twice as much in life, in any of our many dimensions, health, family, financial, intellectual, professional, social, and spiritual, we do not have to double our effort and input. We only need to get a nose ahead of where we are now to realize significant increases in our results. Five suggestions, when applied, can help us to get a “nose ahead.” First, plan your day, every day, preferably, the night before. Then, when arriving at work and clocking in, there is a plan of action to direct us forward. Without a plan, temptations may draw us into unproductive avenues where we may serve the loudest voice that demands our time rather than dealing with the most productive opportunity. A simple plan consists of a list of all the items we ideally might want to accomplish during the next day. Prioritize those items in order of their importance. (#1 for most important, #2 for next most important, etc.) Begin the most important item first, then go to the next most important item, etc. Typically, it is unlikely that all items on the list will be completed, but that is fine. Success has little to do with how much was left undone at the end of the day but, rather, what was actually accomplished. We will always leave undone more than we do get done simply because we all have more to do than time permits which says a lot of good things about how good we really are, to have so much entrusted to us by so many! Second, overplan your day to take advantage of “Parkinson’s Law” which teaches that, “a project tends to take the time allocated for it.” If you give yourself one thing to do during the day, it will likely take all day to complete it. If you give yourself two things to do during the day, you will likely accomplish both. If you give yourself twelve things to do during the day, you may not get all twelve done, but you may complete seven or eight items. Having a lot to do creates a healthy sense of pressure on us to naturally become better time managers. With a lot on our plate, we tend to be more focused, we tend to suffer interruptions less so, and we delegate better. Third, work with a clean desk and work environment. There is truth in the saying, “Out of sight; out of mind.” Equally true is the reverse, “In sight; in mind.” When items are in our field of vision, we cannot help but be distracted and pulled in the wrong direction where we may major in the minors, busy all day long, but accomplishing little of significance. Fourth, restrict meetings. During any typical business day, there are reportedly 17 million meetings being conducted in the United States. A meeting is two or more people getting together to exchange common information. Simple enough, but probably one of the top institutional time wasters. Always ask, “Do I contribute anything to this meeting?” and “Do I get anything of value from this meeting?” If the answer to both questions is “no,” try to find a way out of attending the meeting. Finally, handle paper just once. Get out of the “shuffling blues” when paper is looked at and relooked at again and again while deadlines slip through the cracks as we get buried under a blizzard of paperwork. As you encounter each new piece of paper, if it can be responded to quickly, in a minute or less, respond then and there. If it will require a longer effort, schedule it for a time when you will get to it and then put it away.
Do Your Employees Qualify for Overtime?
The answer to this question may suprise you. There are a number of reasons employers may give to the question of whether an employee qualifies for overtime, however in many cases these reasons are not legally valid. It’s something that business owners have been learning the hard way. Indeed, the number of overtime lawsuits has exploded over the past couple of years, even surpassing discrimination cases as the most widespread workforce class action. In 2005, the Department of Labor collected $166 million in back wages, most of which was overtime pay – an increase of 26% since 2001. Large companies, including Cingular Wireless, have been hitting the headlines as they are forced to pay out millions of dollars in back overtime wages. Smaller companies have faired no better. The litigation has been fueled, in parge part, by changes to the Fair Labour Standards Act in 2004. This antiquated piece of legislation was updated by the Department of Labor in order to eliminate references to outdated jobs and establish guidelines for contemporary workers. Among other changes, it was determined that employees must make at least $455 a week to be ineligible for overtime pay, a sharp increase over the previous benchmark of $250 a week. As a result of this change in the legislation, 1.3 million workers suddenly qualified for extra pay. It is only now, a full two years after the legislation was updated, that the effects of those changes are being felt. Not only are more workers aware of their overtime rights, but employment lawyers are increasingly looking out for potential overtime suits. Employers have been caught off guard by the rise in overtime disputes. As is often the case, the value of spending time on these issues does not become apparent until it is too late. Many employers realize they’re in violation of the revised overtime laws only after they’ve been contacted by the Department of Labor. Most audits are the result of a complaint from a single worker that blows up into a companywide investigation. Audit results are rarely good news for companies. Those found to be in violation must pony up two years of back overtime wages, in addition to fines for repeat offenders, and lawsuits are even more damaging. To stay out of trouble, consider paying a labor attorney a few thousand dollars to vet your pay policies. In addition, you may want to take a hard look at what your employees do all day, regardless of their job descriptions. If they don’t make many independent decisions, there’s a good chance they qualify for overtime pay. Flexitime hours sometimes seem like a good idea, but be wary: if an employee with a flexible schedule works more than 40 hours in a given week, regardless of how much he or she worked the previous or following weeks, that person may qualify for overtime. Of course, you might not like what you discover. And correcting overtime mistakes isn’t easy. Workers will probably ask about back wages when they find out they are eligible for overtime. To avoid a pricey lawsuit and bad press, some companies bite the bullet and hand over two years of back wages and pay overtime going forward. With changes in legislation an inevitable part of the future, you may wish to consider investing in a time and attendance system, which automates the process of recording and paying overtime to your employees.
Attendance and Punctuality
If you have ever simply watched people at work you will find that many often come in late or miss work entirely for days on end. We may be able to draw a connection in our reasoning that says all these people showing up 10 minutes late can add up to lots of lost revenue for the company. The problem is how to control attendance issues and still treat everyone fairly? A CCH study on unexcused absenteeism indicates that 83% of employers feel that unexcused absenteeism will continue to rise. The problem is that absenteeism costs have been growing which now range around $800 per employee per year. It doesn’t seem like much but when this cost is multiplied by 10 or 20 employees the numbers speak for themselves. Absenteeism and Punctuality Policies Having an absenteeism and punctuality policy is important for any business with employees. Such policies help keep records on missed work time, encourage employees to attend work, and set a case for dismissal when an employee fails to follow the obligation of his/her work terms. The right kind of policy can save your company vast amounts of money as the years go by. The first thing an owner has to determine is what status his employees fall into. Salaried and professional employees are typically considered “exempt” while hourly workers are “non-exempt”. Exempt means that the employees are not based upon their time at work but on the function of their job. They can work longer hours without paying overtime. Non-exempt employees are paid for each minute they are at work and are entitled to overtime pay. Hourly or non-exempt workers can have their pay reduced for anytime they miss from work while salaried or exempt workers cannot. For example, if a salaried worker misses 4 hours a day but has worked any part of that day, their pay cannot be affected. The only time a salaried worker can have his/her pay adjusted is when on a leave of absence or when an entire day is missed for personal reasons. To punish the lateness of a salaried worker by adjusting pay creates a risk of entitling them to overtime. Attendance policies vary from company to company and from state to state. However, the best policies usually have a progressive component to them. For example, verbal warning, written warning, suspension and termination would be part of a progressive discipline policy. The other method that could be used is the point system. As the worker receives points for attendance he/she will incur increase discipline. Once he/she has reached the threshold he/she will be terminated. The use of an absenteeism policy that is progressive ensures that all workers are treated fairly. They are warned each time they are disciplined and cannot claim ignorance. Furthermore, the documentation provided at each level of the discipline gives an appearance of professionalism on behalf of the organization and a sense of fairness to the employee. Salaried workers can be under the same progressive attendance system as an hourly worker. The difference is that they cannot have their pay deducted. One must also consider that salaried workers should be given notes-to-file instead of employee counseling reports (discipline) so that their “at-will” status is not in jeopardy. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics a total of 2.8 million workdays a year are lost due to illness or injury. Recent statistics have shown that the cost of a single employee absent for a day is around $200, a figure that doesn’t include the cost of the actual profit you would have lost due to not getting your products or services finished. Methods of Reducing Absenteeism No-fault attendance policy Progressive discipline Incentives for good attendance Make the workplace more fun Pre-employment physicals and drug tests Conduct employment history investigations before hiring Value the attendance and contribution of each worker Attendance should be included as one of the criteria for raises/promotions Request medical documentation for all unexcused absences Keeping track of your employees’ attendances can be a tough task so you may wish to consider investing in a clocking system, which automates the process of recording the attendance and punctuality of your employees.
The Stress of Sickness
A recent study found that workers who called-out sick experienced stress upon their return, and their co-workers were more stressed by the absence as well. More than half (53 percent) of full-time workers surveyed, said their co-workers’ unplanned absences left them with more work to do. In addition, almost six in 10 women (58 percent) and almost half of the men (48 percent) say they felt additional stress after returning to work from an unplanned absence. A lot of people feel that a day off is a good thing. Coming back and really understanding that more than half of the workers feel additional stress was an unexpected result. But it’s an understandable response, as for many employees, their workload often remains the same; they just have one less day in which to complete it. The same can be true for co-workers. It doesn’t mean the work doesn’t have to get done, so someone who is at work has to pick up the slack. Employees and associates are feeling as stressed about it as management is in trying to address the workload. The amount of stress depends on the organization and the job. A hospital, for instance, needs a certain number of nurses and other staffers to do each day’s required work. When someone is absent, someone else must do the work anyway. It does affect other workers and it is stressful. For other types of jobs, such as programmers, managers, and supervisory positions, it’s probably not as critical if somebody misses a day or two because they can make the work up and juggle priorities. In certain jobs, the work itself, the timing of it, is more flexible – whereas for other kinds of job, you are basically there to cover a certain volume of work that comes through the door and get it done. HR executives should make sure their organizations have contingent plans for absence and they should try to manage absence carefully so employees are only taking legitimate absences and not taking the time off when they don’t really need to. Some organizations have labor pools of floaters who can fill in as needed during absences. Some large departments, such as call centers, deliberately tend to overstaff a little bit so managers are assured that the work can get done. Some depend on overtime or temporary services. Also helpful are absence-management tools that allow organizations to track absence and look for patterns, as well as educating HR and managers to ensure workers are offered assistance or intervention, when needed.
ID Thefts Prevalent At Work
Workplace settings have become increasingly attractive for identity theft because criminals are aware of the personal data stored there, such as birth dates, Social Security numbers and bank-account numbers, among others. The annual cost of such identify thefts to corporations and consumers is about $50 billion, and innovative criminals have developed techniques that exclude almost no one from the scourge of stolen information created by the prevalence of personal data. But organizations are becoming more aware of the problem. Just a few years ago a stolen laptop was viewed as a loss of hardware, today, organizations and individuals are acutely more aware that the sensitive data a laptop contains is of different, greater value. HR executives must stop thinking about data protection as solely an IT responsibility. Practitioners need to examine and reinforce physical security practices, both brick and virtual operations. An organization must also be mindful of where sensitive data is stored and who has access to it. Encryption of data, limited access, privacy training and employee-background checks for workers with access to co-workers’ personal information is a necessary requirement. Organizations should also be cognizant of devices that contain personal data, how the data is stored, and even how it’s discarded, Frank notes. By employing data minimization across the organization by collecting only the information you need will help to reduce the risk of ID theft in the first instance. In addition, any collected data should be kept in as few places as is possible and only for as long as is necessary, and disposed of responsibly once it is of no use. Educating employees on appropriate handling and protection of sensitive data is also important. It’s essential that policies, procedures and physical safeguards are in place, understood and enforced. Some individual identity theft solutions offered by organizations as employee benefits are advantageous to employer and employee alike. The employee receives value through access to a solution that helps him recover from the damages of fraud, and the employer is less likely to see productivity slip due to presenteeism. It’s estimated that the average identity theft victim spends 600 hours or more in the course of clearing records, restoring credit and reestablishing credibility. The associated paperwork, phone calls and police reports require an inordinate amount of time, and most of the issues must be addressed during regular business hours. Taking a proactive approach with respect to the potential for identity theft makes the most sense. Pre-breach preparation as a facet of business continuity planning is key to maximizing risk management. Regardless of whether identity theft occurs in the workplace or elsewhere, as individuals grow more expectant of real help as opposed to advice, employer-paid fraud solutions are sure to be recognized as a valuable recruiting and retention tool. If you require further information on access control systems and software, please don’t hesitate to contact us, where a specialist will be onhand to answer your questions.
Holiday Pay For Reservists
A court has ruled that the significantly longer leaves of absence required by Reservists is the reason that they do not deserve holiday pay during their active-duty period. Federal employees serving as jurors or court witnesses, on the other hand, do deserve holiday pay. Since many federal employees who have been called to active duty are now serving for extended periods of time, they are seeing a lot of holidays pass by while on deployment. The question is: Do their employing agencies have to pay them for all those holidays? No, said the U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit in a recent decision. The Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act does not require agencies to provide service members on active duty military leave the same benefits enjoyed by employees on court duty leave. In Tully vs. Department of Justice, a returned Reservist contended that the Bureau of Prisons should pay him for the 27 holidays that occurred during his two and one-half years of active duty because it provided holiday pay to employees who took paid leaves to attend judicial proceedings as jurors or witnesses. The Merit Systems Protection Board found that the agency did not have to accord him the same benefits enjoyed by employees on court leave, given the substantially different lengths of absences. The board found that the petitioner’s leave for active service was significantly longer than the typical period of court leave for service as a juror or witness. The Federal Circuit agreed, finding that the USERRA entitled service members to benefits provided only to employees who took leaves comparable to the leaves provided for military service. The substantially different expected durations of leaves of absence for military service and court duty supported the MSPB’s finding that the Bureau of Prisons did not owe the petitioner payment for holidays that occurred while he was on leave without pay to serve on active duty in the Army. The court found that the MSPB appropriately relied on the difference in the expected duration of the two forms of leave in determining whether they were comparable. To keep track of your employees’ holiday pay when they are absent from work either due to court or military service, you may wish to consider investing in a time and attendance system, which automates the process of recording and paying holiday pay to your employees.
$172 Million in Back Wages
The Employment Standards Administration’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) within the Department of Labor has recovered more than $171.5 million in back wages for over 246,000 employees in fiscal year 2006. The number of workers who received back wages in the fiscal year 2006 has increased by 2.3 percent over the number in the fiscal year 2005. In addition, the agency concluded 31,987 compliance actions and assessed nearly $7.9 million in civil money penalties. Of the 246,00 employees who have collected back pay, more than 222,000 of these were eligible due to violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Of particular note were the regulations concerning minimum wage and overtime, which when combined, tallied an astonishing total of $135,729,003. Low Wage Industries The WHD have remained true on their stance of pursuing low-wage industries who are notorious for non-compliance with federal and state regulations. Industries such as agriculture, restaurants, and health care are among the worst in the US for employing young and immigrant workers. The fiscal year 2006 has seen the WHD collect nearly $50.6 million in back wages for around 86,700 workers in low-wage industries – an increase of over 10 percent compared to the previous fiscal year. Over a third of WHD enforcement resources are attributed to investigations in nine low-wage industries, which include day care, restaurants, janitorial services, and temporary help. Child Labor A total of 3,723 minors were found illegally employed during the fiscal year 2006. The majority of these violations occurred when workers under the age of 16 worked too many hours, too late at night, or too early in the morning. In total, nearly $3 million was generated in child labor civil money penalties by the WHD. Fiscal Year 2007 Initiatives The long-term reconstruction of the Gulf Coast region will necessitate a strong and continuing WHD presence for the foreseeable future. Throughout the next several years, WHD will continue to allocate enforcement resources to the region, explore new strategies and partnerships to reach vulnerable workers, and pursue all opportunities to meet any new compliance challenges that may arise along the US Gulf Coast. In addition to this effort, each state represented within the WHD has planned regional and local initiatives for the fiscal year 2007. These initiatives utilize the strategies of compliance assistance, partnerships and alliances, and enforcement to increase compliance with the FLSA in low-wage industries. With compliance to state and federal legislation likely to get tougher in the future, you may wish to consider investing in a time and attendance system, which automates the process of recording and paying wages to your employees.
DoL Achieves Million Dollar Payout
A petroleum distribution plant, which has a number of locations across New York, has agreed to pay 767 employees a total of $900,000 in back wages. Chestnut Petroleum Dist. Inc., which has 37 gas station / convenience stores located throughout the state of New York, has also agreed to pay a $100,000 penalty to the federal government. This settlement follows an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division of the DoL, which alleged a number of violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This is the latest in a spate of lawsuits raised by the US Department of Labor, and has revealed that, in many workweeks during the period between April 20, 2003, and May 28, 2006, employees at various locations within the Chestnut Petroleum Dist. Inc. corporation were paid less than the federal minimum wage and were not properly compensated for overtime hours worked. The investigation also disclosed that the employers failed to keep required records that showed, among other things, the hours worked each day, total hours worked each week and rates of pay for many of the employees. The FLSA requires that covered employees be paid at least the applicable minimum wage as well as one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for hours worked over 40 per week. The law also requires that accurate records of employees’ wages, hours and other conditions of employment be maintained. A consent judgment, signed by US District Judge Stephen C. Robinson on March 30, 2007, prohibits the defendants from committing future violations of the minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping and anti-retaliation provisions of the FLSA. Further, the judgment orders the defendants to pay minimum wage and overtime back wages totaling $850,000 combined, plus interest, to the majority of the workers, and to pay $50,000 combined to two employees who were unlawfully fired. Also, the defendants must pay a civil money penalty of $100,000 to the Labor Department. Finally, the court has ordered the defendants to expunge from their employment records all references to the actions taken against the two wrongfully fired employees and to implement a compliance program designed by the Labor Department to ensure their future compliance with all requirements of the FLSA. With compliance to state and federal legislation likely to get tougher in the future, you may wish to consider investing in a time and attendance system, which automates the process of recording and paying wages to your employees.
It’s All About You
One thing users who are nervous about using fingerprint technology often don’t realize is that once their fingerprint is scanned for use in security applications, it is not saved. Only the specific pieces of data are stored, which are used to construct an algorithm. If one were to conduct a survey of technology publications over the past decade or so, it’s a good bet there would be at least one instance in each of those years in which someone declared that “this is the year of biometrics.” Full of promise but long constrained by a diverse set of obstacles, biometrics – or the use of body or physical characteristics for secure authentication and identification – has not yet lived up to the hype. Yet, lest we let 2007 slip by without the required declaration, let it be know that, indeed, this may well be the year biometrics takes hold on a broader scale, particularly its uses in security applications. Widely Varying Attitudes Biometrics is a very sexy technology – the challenge is having a workable, cost-effective system. The opportunity cost can be high, because money could always be spent on other, more proven technologies. The bottom line is, does it really enhance the customer experience enough to make them bother with it? Most folks are probably thinking, ‘I’m perfectly happy doing it the way I already do.’ Interestingly, those consumer attitudes toward biometric technology seem to be very culturally based, with acceptance rates much higher in some countries than in others. In places like Latin America, Europe and Africa, people don’t have this notion of Big Brother watching that Americans sometimes do, to them it’s just a convenience. In the Enterprise Enterprises are also increasingly making use of biometric technologies internally, particularly for access control. While current estimates cite adoption at less than 20 percent of corporations worldwide, the prediction is that in two to three years, that will increase closer to one third. Smart cards and one-time passwords, meanwhile, will reach about 50 percent adoption. In the government, a personal identity verification system is currently being implemented that will require all federal workers and contractors who require unescorted access to present a smart card with a chip on it that includes two fingerprints. Once it’s in place, it is estimated that it will touch six million military staff and civilians. Biometrics in the Future? The market is definitely picking up. As the government implements more programs, people will become more comfortable and familiar with biometrics. It’s a pretty exciting time.