The year of the employee?

By Tom Delaney

All employers understand that their most valued resources are their employees. While some employees may be more critical in your operations than others, each and every employee is an asset. Over the past few years, the economy has caused some businesses to have to downsize and function with fewer employees, while other companies have hired overqualified workers who they suspect will probably leave when better jobs become available.

2013 does look to be the year of the employee. In an online survey of 2,249 adults ages 18 and older, conducted within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Glassdoor, a career community, a third of workers said they are considering a job change in next year even if there’s no improvement in the economy. Along with more of a revolving door, employers will see more changes in employment requirements — in the areas of health care and the minimum wage, to name a few. Some important areas employers in the landscape industry should pay close attention to are as follows:

I-9 forms

With the current focus on illegal immigration, Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) has stepped up its auditing of employers, particularly in industries that employ seasonal workers. Audits of employer I-9 forms increased from 250 in fiscal year 2007 to more than 3,000 in 2012. From fiscal years 2009 to 2012, the total amount of fines grew from $1 million to nearly $13 million. So, it’s important to make sure your I-9 forms are in order should ICE come knocking.

Minimum wage

Automatic minimum wage increases designed to compensate for inflation have steadily pushed up salaries in some states, even through the recession, expanding the pay gap between areas that make annual adjustments and those that don’t. Of the 10 states that increased the minimum wage (see table below), nine did so automatically to adjust for inflation. Make sure you are following all the wage and hour requirements in your state.

States that raised minimum wage

New minimum wage

  • Washington (increase .15¢) $9.19
  • Oregon (increase .15¢) $8.95
  • Vermont (increase .14¢) $8.60
  • Ohio (increase .15¢) $7.85
  • Arizona (increase .15¢) $7.80
  • Montana (increase .15¢) $7.80
  • Florida (increase .12¢) $7.79
  • Colorado (increase .14¢) $7.78
  • Rhode Island (increase .35¢) $7.75
  • Missouri (increase .10¢) $7.35

Health care

A large number of business owners are becoming more concerned about the new health care law. It is complex, making it difficult to understand and to know its full impact as regulations are being written and changes are yet to be finalized. Even if you, the employer, will not be required to provide health insurance, the employee will still have to secure the insurance and will immediately feel its impact in their paycheck.

Lyme disease

In the United States, Lyme disease is subject to voluntary reporting, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have noted a steady increase of the number of cases. In the last 15 years, the number of cases has risen by 101 percent. The CDC states that these figures “underscore the continued emergence of Lyme disease and the need for tick avoidance and early treatment interventions.” It is important to educate your employees about the threat of tick bits and the symptoms of Lyme disease.

As an employer, you have a responsibility for your staff, so each company must have HR policies and procedures — even if it doesn’t have an HR department — and a person dedicated to this area of the business.

Many employees do not know what benefits have been provided to them by their employer and the value and/or cost of those benefits. In the same way that you consider the well-being of your company, be sure you consider the well-being and safety of all your employees. These go hand in hand.

Tom Delaney is director of government affairs at the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).


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