Monthly Archives

May 2018

employee onboarding construction site

The Best Employee Onboarding Tips for Construction Business Owners

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Onboarding new employees is often a time-consuming process. Even if you hire workers who have been in construction for years, they still have to learn the specific procedures that are unique to your business. Employees who aren’t given time and the proper information to adjust to their new position may struggle to complete their job appropriately or fail to note important procedures that will help keep them safe on the job–and it’s even more important that you take the time to properly onboard employees who haven’t worked in the construction industry before.

Tip #1: Assign a Mentor to New Employees

Ideally, you want your mentor to be an employee in a similar position to the new employee, rather than a supervisor or an individual who already has increased responsibilities across the job site. You do, however, want to choose an experienced, responsible employee who will explain things properly to a new hire, rather than hazing them or asking them to accomplish unrealistic things.

Tip #2: Hire a PEO

Working with a PEO can help smooth out the onboarding process and ensure that your employees are in a better position to move easily into their first day on the job site. As you work with your PEO, they’ll take care of the paperwork and basic safety training, freeing your employees up to handle those early days with a new hire on the job site.

Tip #3: Check-In Regularly

In a perfect world, new employees would be willing to come to you whenever they have a question. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Checking in on a weekly basis allows you to get a better idea of how employees are doing, gives them a chance to asks questions, and lets you tackle potential problems before they turn into serious issues.

Tip #4: Provide Appropriate Training

In the construction industry, you’re faced with hazardous activities every day. Because of the nature of the business, it’s important to provide appropriate training to all of your employees. This includes:

  • Strategic review of the company handbook to be sure that new hires understand all of the necessary policies and procedures
  • Specific training in safety regulations
  • Careful training in how to use new equipment or take care of jobs that this particular employee hasn’t done in the past
  • Comprehensive safety and risk management processes

Tip #5: Get to Know New Employees

During the onboarding process, take the time to genuinely get to know new employees. Talk with them to develop a better understanding of their past experience and how that has shaped their current abilities. Make sure you have a strong understanding of the experience that employees already have so they don’t end up with a job that’s over their heads–especially with no one to help.

Tip #6: Observe

Whether you put the superintendent of the job site in charge of observing new employees or check-in yourself, it’s important that you take the time to observe new employees to see how they’re doing on the job. Look for signs of insecurity or that employees are taking unnecessary chances. These observations can be addressed immediately if they are causing safety hazards or left until your weekly meeting if you need more time to discuss how to address your worries.

When you’re onboarding a new employee, you want to make sure that you get it right. Careful attention to the entire process, including assistance from an outside firm or from employees within your organization, can help ensure that you have everything you need on hand, whether you’re onboarding a single employee or working with a cast of dozens thanks to a construction hiring boom.

For more information on how Harbor America can make employee onboarding a snap, contact us today. Our comprehensive HR solutions include recruitment and screening, onboarding, payroll, compliance, and more, allowing you to focus on running your business.

commercial insurance construction company

Does Your Construction Company Have Adequate Commercial Insurance?

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As a construction company, you want to be sure that you have the right insurance to help cover any eventuality. Insurance helps protect you, your employees, and your customers, providing the necessary funds that will cover any problems outside your control on the job site. Accidents happen, both on the job site and off, and you want to make sure that they won’t pull your business under. Inadequate commercial insurance can bring your business crashing down around you–but the right types of insurance can transform your success and ensure that your goals aren’t derailed by an accident.

Step One: Checking Kinds of Insurance

As a construction company, there are several kinds of insurance that you’ll need to carry in order to protect your business and your employees. Commercial insurance often isn’t a one-size-fits-all policy, and one type of coverage won’t protect you from other types of accidents. For this reason, it’s important to make sure that you have all of your bases covered.

Workers’ compensation insurance: When you’re in charge of a construction company, you know how easy it is for accidents to occur on the job site, even with proper safety precautions in place. Unfortunately, some of those accidents can put your employees out of work for a while or result in significant medical charges. By procuring workers’ compensation insurance, you’ll ensure that you have the funds on hand to pay those costs.

General liability insurance: A member of the general public walks across a construction site and is injured by unsecured equipment. You accidentally drop something off of the roof, and someone is injured. Perhaps you make a mistake that results in a costly repair that’s needed for the building. General liability insurance helps ensure that your company is covered in these situations.

Auto insurance: Whether you’re in a company vehicle or you have employees who are heading out to purchase items for the job site–or even to pick up lunch for the crew–it’s important that you carry adequate auto insurance. In the event of an accident when they’re driving, the costs could come back on you–or someone who has been hurt could sue your company. Auto insurance helps bear that weight and protects both you and your employees.

Insuring your equipment: When you have expensive equipment sitting out at the job site, you want to be sure that it’s protected. Insurance helps protect against vandalism, natural disasters, and other potential problems that could destroy your important equipment.

Cyber insuranceToday’s world is highly digital, and there’s a lot of information in your systems. What will your business do in the event of a cyber attack? How will you handle it if your data is compromised? Cyber insurance helps provide protection in the event of those disasters.

Umbrella/excess insurance: Sometimes, the cost of an accident, injury, or other problem will exceed the payment offered by your existing policies. Umbrella or excess insurance helps pick up those costs, ensuring that you won’t be hit hard by the disaster.

Step Two: Ensuring Adequate Insurance

It’s always better to be over-insured than under-insured. In order to determine whether or not you’re able to protect your business adequately with your current insurance, take a look at these factors.

  • What’s the highest level of damage your company is likely to cause? Is your insurance adequate to covering that eventuality?
  • Does your policy cover the details of the construction business? Working with a company that is familiar with construction companies will help provide you with better protection than picking up general liability plans from companies that offer a wider range of services.
  • What’s your deductible? If it’s higher than the ready cash you can put into a problem, you’ll need to increase your coverage.
  • What does a disaster have the potential to do to your company? Are you adequately protected against it?
  • Do you have all the types of coverage necessary for a construction company, or are you missing insurance that could lead to a disaster?

Having adequate insurance coverage is critical for your construction business. While it’s a considerable weight on your budget, it’s also the best way to protect your finances in the event of a disaster. If you’d like some guidance with choosing commercial insurance coverage, managing payroll, or a wide variety of other HR-related services, give Harbor America a call today.

construction risk management

6 Risk Management Tips for Your Construction Company

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Your construction company’s success and reputation hinge upon your ability to provide high-quality services while simultaneously minimizing risks for your employees. You can mitigate risks for your construction company by investing in the proper training, equipment, and best practices established by leaders in the industry. Here are six risk management tips for your construction company:

1) Conduct thorough background checks on all employees

The path to successful risk mitigation begins with thorough employee background checks. Hiring well-trained workers with a proven track record of success in the construction industry is important. However, many employers overlook the importance of conducting a background check and contacting references. Make sure that you carefully check references and ensure that you hire workers who are known for their commitment to adhering to industry safety standards.

2) Provide regular safety training and require all employees to participate

Providing employees with proper safety training helps to ensure that they are adequately prepared to handle problems that may arise on the job. Make sure that employees receive ongoing training and continued education throughout their tenure with your organization, as industry guidelines are often subject to change.

3) Ensure that employees have the proper protective gear at all times

Protective gear helps to shield workers from workplace injuries that can result from tripping, slipping, or being injured by falling debris. Some key examples of protective gear that employees should always have on hand include the following:

  • A well-maintained safety harness that is securely attached to an anchor
  • hard hat to help provide protection from falling debris or possible head injuries
  • Work boots with excellent traction to help keep employees grounded

 4) Resist the urge to schedule projects in bad weather

Inclement weather can significantly increase the risk of injury for construction workers. Falling rain and snow can impede visibility and increase the likelihood that a worker could slip or fall. Be sure to monitor the weather before committing to that day’s project schedule.

5) Do not allow employees to work on projects alone

While it may be tempting to send one worker to complete a small project, this practice is risky. If an emergency should strike or the sole employee is injured, there will not be anyone to provide assistance or call for help. When scheduling a phase of a project, make sure to send a minimum of two workers, even if the project is small in scope.

6) Instruct employees to keep the work area free of debris

Maintaining a clean work area is vital to preventing injuries and accidents. Rusty nails, screws, drywall, and old construction materials can increase the likelihood of trips, falls, cuts, and other injuries. Train all employees to keep each project site neat and free of debris at all times.

What is the best way to manage risk for your construction company?

Following the tips above will provide a strong foundation to help your construction company manage risks. However, the most important step you can take to mitigate risks is to seek the guidance of a leader in the safety and risk management industry. By enlisting the support of an expert in accident prevention strategies and safety compliance, you can make your company a safer, more desirable place to work.

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Compliance Tips for Construction Companies in the Middle of a Hiring Spree

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Construction companies around the country are in the middle of hiring booms for a variety of reasons. In some areas, it’s a simple case of increased demand for homes due to population increases. In others, it’s the need to rebuild following natural disasters. Whatever the case, you want to be sure that your construction hiring and payroll practices are up to standards during that hiring boom. Taking a few extra steps to ensure compliance at this stage of the process will help protect you down the road.

Make Sure Your Hiring Process is Compliant

As a construction company, you may be unlikely to hire many individuals with disabilities. That doesn’t mean, however, that you can afford to discriminate. If you’re hiring a new secretary or receptionist, for example, it’s critically important to recognize that you must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). You’ll also need to be willing to make accommodations for deaf employees or employees with certain disabilities that do not prevent them from taking on tasks on a construction site–and ensuring that you maintain those standards will keep you compliant.

Check Your Interview Standards

During an interview, you must present your company as an equal opportunity employer. You want to be sure that you’re offering the same opportunity to anyone who comes into your interview, regardless of their race, religion, family size, or any other factors that aren’t directly related to their ability to do the job. For this reason, it’s important to pay attention to the questions that you ask throughout the interview process and how they shape your hiring choices. While it’s nice to get to know more about your candidates, you can’t base an employment offer on factors outside their ability to successfully do the job.

Write Clear Job Offers

Long past are the days when a job offer could be a simple handshake between a member of your company and your new employee. Instead, make sure you’re producing a clear employment contract that lays out everything that your new employee can expect in their job, including:

  • Whether this is an at-will position, which means that the employee can be fired for any reason at any time
  • Whether or not this is a contract position–for example, an individual who has been brought onto the team to help complete a specific project
  • What the new employee’s salary looks like
  • What benefits go along with the new position
  • Any policies and procedures that are integral to your company

Get Employees on Payroll Immediately

It’s easy to decide that you don’t want to mess with payroll when you’re in the middle of a hiring boom. There are too many other things that you need to take care of! Any money that you give to an employee–bonuses, overtime, and other funds–must go through the official payroll process in order to maintain compliance. Without these standards, you–and potentially your employee–could end up in hot water with the IRS, creating even more problems that you don’t want to deal with.

Pay Close Attention to Overtime

Business is booming and your customers are eager to see their construction projects finished. Some days, it feels like you have more work than you know what to do with, and you’re tapping all of your employees to work extra hours to help meet the demand. If your employees are working overtime, however, it’s important that you keep up with compliance regulations regarding overtime. Make sure that your employees are being compensated appropriately for the time that they’re spending on the job.

Work with a PEO

If you’re struggling to maintain payroll compliance and obligations or to keep up with HR responsibilities in the middle of increased demand for your services, you’re not alone! By hiring a PEO, you’ll put yourself in a better position to keep up with those responsibilities and protect your employees and your business.

Maintaining compliance might not be your first thought when you’re in the middle of a hiring boom, but it’s important that it remains on your priority list. By making sure that you’re keeping up with compliance standards, you’ll be able to better protect your construction company from later damages. If you need help, working with an experienced PEO like Harbor America is the best way to keep your time free from administrative tasks and focused on the parts of your business you’re uniquely qualified to handle.

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Making Sense of Unemployment Claims: Tips for Small Business Owners

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Unemployment claims can quickly become a drain on your business’s finances. You do your best to treat your employees fairly. Chances are if you’ve had to fire or lay off employees, it’s for a good reason. Still, if you want to be sure that you’re effectively managing unemployment claims, make sure you’re following these key tips:

Tip #1: Keep the Paperwork

You already know how important it is to document everything. Proper documentation can be the difference between a lawsuit that’s settled in your favor and one that leads to a costly payout by your company at the best of times–and unemployment is no different. When you’re dealing with your employees, make sure you keep track of everything, including:

  • Reprimands, especially those that could ultimately lead to an employee being fired
  • An employee’s resignation: simply providing proof of voluntary resignation can increase the odds of a claim being settled in your favor by 10-15%.
  • Employee complaints, including those that are seen as being unreasonable by your staff at the time.

When you keep track of employee issues, you’ll put yourself in a better position to deal with the potential for an unemployment claim and raise the odds that you’ll be able to dispute them successfully. If you don’t have that paperwork, on the other hand, your dispute may turn into a serious case of “he said, she said,” which can, in turn, decrease your odds of winning the dispute.

Tip #2: Provide All the Information

It’s easy to gloss over the reason for an employee leaving. “They quit,” you’ll say, thinking that’s the end of it. Failure to provide all of the information, however, can stall the process, making it difficult for employees who do deserve unemployment benefits to attain them or making it possible for employees who don’t deserve them to get those benefits. It’s important, therefore, that you provide all the information once your former employee files a claim. Provide that documentation you were collecting in order to ensure a more effective conversation. This will include any documentation about the reasons an employee was fired, if that’s relevant. You’ll need to prove that you had reasonable cause for firing that employee and that it wasn’t arbitrary or the result of discrimination.

Tip #3: Factor in the Possibility of Lawsuits

It’s hard enough to fire an employee in the first place–especially if it’s someone who’s been with your company for a long while or someone that you feel sorry for. Denying them unemployment once they’ve filed that claim may feel as though you’re taking away money from their family. It’s important, however, to make sure that you’re not allowing a claim to go through without reason–and not just because of its impact on your unemployment insurance. Allowing an unemployment claim to go unchallenged can also sway future attempts at a lawsuit. For this reason, it’s critical that you cover your back and deal quickly with undeserved claims for unemployment.

Tip #4: Partner with a Professional Employer Organization

Forming the right partnerships long before you have to deal with potential unemployment claims can have a big impact on your business as a whole. A PEO can help you write an effective employee handbook, properly track and document any problems with employees, and deal with unemployment claims when they do come up–all of which can have a big impact on your success if you do have to contest an unemployment claim.

If you’re dealing with an unemployment claim, especially a claim that isn’t justified, it’s important to take action quickly and effectively. The better you deal with those claims, the more you’ll reduce the expenses associated with firing employees–not to mention protecting your business from future repercussions. If you’d like the complexity of unemployment claims and related HR tasks taken completely off your to-do list and added to ours, contact us today.

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5 Top Payroll Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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Your business may be equipped with the latest and best technology, but it can still suffer a financial loss when there are payroll mistakes. About 40% of small businesses pay an average of $845 annually in IRS penalties because or payroll errors-yikes!  To make sure your business isn’t contributing to that statistic, here are five top payroll mistakes and the best ways to avoid them:

Poor Record Keeping

Just a tiny error in your bookkeeping records can mean having to pay a considerable amount of money. When you have mistakes in your payroll records, it can affect the pay-cycle. What’s more, it can result in having to pay penalties. That’s why it’s critical you keep precise and detailed payroll records. To prevent errors in bookkeeping, consider outsourcing to a virtual bookkeeper or an all-purpose PEO.

Failing to Keep Old Payroll Records

Even if your payroll records are meticulous, they won’t do you any good if you destroy them too soon. The United States Department of Labor requires that payroll records must be kept for at least three years.

You may live in a state that requires maintaining payroll records even longer.  Although different states have different requirements governing which specific documents to keep, these documents usually include W-4s, timesheets, pay stubs, and tax forms. Switching to an automated payroll software system or outsourcing to a payroll expert will mean you can access old records easily without taking up precious office storage space.

Being Late on Paying Taxes

Another common payroll error is being delinquent on paying your payroll taxes. In addition to having to pay penalties, late payments also mean accrued interest. To avoid this problem, be sure to check the requirements of your city or state, regarding when income taxes are due. Working closely with an accountant or outsourcing your taxes are excellent ways to avoid late penalties and save time as well.

Misclassified Employees                                                                     

A huge payroll error is misclassifying employees. Misclassifying employees as contractors can mean having to pay enormous IRS penalties as well as back taxes.

To prevent this from happening, you need to determine if someone working for you is an employee or an independent contractor. If someone is classified as an employee, you have to pay a certain portion of Social Security taxes and Medicare on their wages. However, this is only a requirement for your employees as it doesn’t apply to independent contractors.

Not Including Bonuses and Gifts

It’s important you don’t forget to reward your employees with Christmas bonuses and other gifts. Just be sure to record them just as you would any other type of wages.

Make sure to include the correct value of any gifts, awards and other prizes on your employees’ annual W-2 forms. This should be done under the wages section. If you don’t do this, then it’s likely the bonuses and gifts would be considered “under-the-table” wages, which can get you in trouble with the IRS, as well as your state government.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Before you’ll able to invest money in your employees and your business, you need to know the amount of available money your business has at all times.
  • If you’re still using the old-fashioned paper method for payroll, consider switching to digital payroll management because it is much more accurate, not to mention more streamlined and efficient.
  • Be sure to have your business registered long before taxes are due. Also, obtain the correct local, state and federal payroll tax ID numbers because you’ll need to submit filings and pay the government on time.
  • Don’t miscalculate overtime wages. Keep in mind how overtime wages are not the same as regular wages. Failing to pay the right overtime rate can result in having to pay penalties, along with interest and back wages.
  • Be sure your workers are paid on time by running payrolls at least four days in advance.

If you have to process payroll for a business, you probably already know this job can consume most of your time. Why not hand over your payroll management to a PEO, so you can spend more time running your business? Payroll administration is one of the many services provided by a PEO (Professional Employer Organization). Please contact us at Harbor America for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help you save time and give you peace of mind. We provide services to small and mid-sized businesses.