March 31, 2014
Know How

Outsource your HR headaches

As an HR consultant with many years of experience, I have seen the HR function outsourced for a number of variables, like: payroll, benefits, 401(k), staffing, COBRA, safety, onboarding and training. But other functions are candidates for outsourcing as well.

Outsourcing HR functions makes sense if you want to minimize the time you spend working in your business. Typically, as a business owner, you have too many priorities. You're at your best when you're working on your business, not in it.

HR consultants are trained to provide expert relief to the business owner. How could you possibly keep up with all the changes to the laws? If you belong to a professional association, you may receive an update to file in a binder. But as in most businesses, it goes into a big pile of stuff to be filed and you don't even read it. HR consultants not only read laws, they pay attention to case studies and legal findings. They attend workshops and acquire training certifications to stay current.

And sometimes, your employees take up valuable time with their problems. What should you do? Here are three options:

• Outsource employee relations. Let HR investigate all the facts, talk to the employees and document findings. At the very least, you'll have a paper trail, citing violations of company policy or non-compliance with the law. The HR consultant will recommend best practices. Seek such guidance so you don't end up in a lawsuit that will cost you thousands of dollars and even more valuable time.

• Outsource staffing. HR will recommend the best type of person to hire. It will encourage a written job description, including requirements to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Perhaps you need a temporary worker to fill a short-term role. Should you really add them to your payroll? Maybe a staffing agency that will charge you a marginal fee and handle the workers' compensation, attendance and taxes is your best option.

If you need to hire a permanent employee, how can you determine if it should be an outsider or a family member? Will this person be exempt, non-exempt, salaried or hourly? A strong HR recruiter will be able to help answer your questions and classify the employee according to the law. Did you know there are criteria that can help you determine whether the employee should be hourly or salaried? It's not a guessing game. Often I hear we will just put them on salary and work them as many hours as we need them. This is wrong and can get you into trouble with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. One misclassification may cost you thousands of dollars in fines.

• Review your employee handbooks. An HR consultant can review your handbook or write you a new one. Did you know that certain laws apply, based on the size of your company? Do you know how to count your full-time employees? What are your practices and how can you protect your business? A well-written handbook, customized to the size and scope of your business, will help you keep employees on track and cover your backside in case of arbitration or a lawsuit.

Nancy Dube is principal of Dube Consulting in Worcester, which advises businesses on human resources issues and social media. Contact her at nancy@dubeconsulting.com.

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