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June 2018

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Is Your Construction Business I-9 Compliant?

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If you’re a small business owner, you probably already realize that one of the main factors for expanding your company is being able to attract and keep exceptional employees. But regardless of the number of high-quality workers you may have, your business is still at risk if it’s not I-9 complaint.

The I-9 form is what businesses use to confirm that their new hires are legally allowed to work in the United States. Unfortunately, too many small business construction contractors don’t understand the importance of being an I-9 complaint, and as a result, their businesses suffer.  Because the Trump administration has placed even more attention on immigration issues and not employing undocumented workers, I-9 compliance is even more critical now.

Here are some basic guidelines for ensuring your business is I-9 compliant, along with a few considerations and warnings.

What Is the I-9 Form?

Maybe you’re unfamiliar with Form I-9. This is the form used for confirming employee identification and authorization for workers hired in the United States. All American employers are required to have everyone they hire for employment complete this form.

The I-9 Is Not the Same as E-Verify

A common misconception is that the E-Verify form is the same as the Form I-9, but this is not true. These are actually two very different, although related, processes. While the Form I-9 is used to verify and identify employment authorization, E-Verify is an internet-based system used for determining employment eligibility.

Another difference is that Form I-9 is mandatory for all employers, while E-Verify is not a requirement for federal contractors and employers in every state. What’s more, Form I-9 doesn’t require an employee’s social security number, but E-Verify does. Additionally, Form I-9 is completed by both employees and employers. On the other hand, E-Verify is electronically submitted by an employer.

Be Sure All Your New Employees Fill Out Section 1 of Form 1-9 

Section 1 of Form I-9 form needs to be completed by all new employees or others you hire on their first day of work. However, it can’t be done before a potential employee has been presented with a job offer and has accepted it.

Section 2 of the form must be filled out by you, the employer. You need to complete it within three business days after a new employee begins his or her employment at your business. If you hire someone for less than three business days, Section 2 has to be completed on an employee’s first day of work.

Set Up an I-9 Compliance Strategy

Although there’s no guarantee your company won’t be audited by ICE, the best way to make sure you’re I-9 compliant is to create a compliance plan. Assign one or more compliance officers to manage and enforce your compliance plan. Be sure anyone you designate with this responsibility thoroughly understands the I-9 procedure.

Your compliance plan should include methods on how to solve documentation that looks suspicious. It should also include storage and maintenance procedures for I-9s.

Conduct Internal Audits

It’s essential that you conduct internal audits on a regular basis. This is important for ensuring that all your forms are in order and accurate. If there are any mistakes, you’ll need to correct them before your business is forced to undergo an ICE investigation.

Don’t File I-9s with Your Employees’ Personnel Files

Your I-9s need to be in a separate location and not filed with your employees’ personnel files. Usually, I-9s are stored in an electronic file or hard copy. They can also be kept in a binder that’s available to very few people, such as in a human resource department.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Except for independent contractors, all employees must have a valid Form I-9 on file. Another exception is people who only do periodic domestic work, such as within an employer’s home.
  • Even when employees leave your business, their I-9s still need to stay on file for a period of one year after they’ve left your company.
  • All I-9s need to be kept for three years or more after the date that an employee is hired.
  • Since January 22, 2017, employers are required to use the new version of I-9.

As a small business owner, you have enough on your plate without having to worry about I-9 compliance. That’s why more and more construction business contractors are turning this job over to a PEO (Professional Employer Organization). Compliance support is only one of the many services a PEO offers to make running your business easier while saving you time and money. Please contact us at Harbor America and learn more about how a PEO can add more hours to your workday for running your business.

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Your Construction Business NEEDS a Safety Plan: Here’s Why

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Construction site safety is a hot topic of conversation lately. Everyone seems to have something to say about how to accomplish it if the number of articles and blog posts published online are any indication. From must-implement procedures to DIY safety plan templates, the spectrum seems to be covered – except for one question.

 Why does my business need a safety plan?

If your business is in the construction industry, and you do not already have a safety plan, here are a few of the biggest reasons you truly need one.

 1. Safety plans prevent avoidable accidents.

Not every construction accident is avoidable, but a safety plan helps to lower the overall risk of them occurring on a job site. Start by identifying the most common types of accidents and the steps necessary to stop them from happening. Add procedures for others as necessary. As your workers follow procedures, the number of these accidents will decrease.

 2. Keeping your workers safe helps your bottom line.

This does not just apply to your budget for a specific job you are working on. It applies to your entire business. Workers will not stay long with a business that cuts corners and puts them in danger just to save a few dollars here and there.

Some employees may find it irritating to have to continually sign forms saying they understand and will follow the safety procedures for whichever site you send them to. However, they would rather do that than get hurt because there was no safety procedure to stop it. You, on the other hand, may have to go through the hassle of generating the paperwork your workers need to sign off on, but that is nothing compared to the costs you may incur if an accident happens.  Besides, with a streamlined and efficient safety plan, there should be minimal time or paperwork involved.

 3. Safety plans lower your insurance rates.

Implementing a safety plan will help you save money on insurance down the line. Why? An effective safety plan reduces the potential for accidents on the job. The fewer accidents there are, the more willing your insurance company will be to lower your rates. The lower your insurance rates, the more money you have to expand your business.

 4. You need to protect yourself.

Safety plans do not just protect your employees. In certain situations, they protect you as well. A thoroughly written and effective safety plan puts procedures in place that everyone agrees to perform before starting the work. A written safety plan and signed documents from all the workers on the project takes some of the liability off of you if an accident occurs.

5. Safety plans help your business’s reputation.

People are attracted to businesses that actively work to keep their workers safe – potential customers and employees alike. If you want to be known as a safe and reliable construction business, setting a safety plan into motion is a step in the right direction. Word of mouth is a power machine, and it will build your reputation as a business that values safety. Customers and quality workers are drawn to that, and they will be drawn to you.

6. Your bids stay competitive.

Do you have to include a safety plan when you send in your bid? Not necessarily, but worksite safety is becoming more of a concern all the time. Companies are starting to add safety plans to the list of required documents in a bid package. Creating a safety plan now and including it in future bids will help you stay in the running for more of the jobs you want to get.

Ready to take the next step and create a safety plan for your business? Harbor America can help with this and many other HR and compliance tasks – click here to get started today.