Focusing on Temp Workers’ Safety

November 25th, 2016

With the U.S. staffing market set to grow to record sizes in the coming years, the industry is rolling out a major initiative aimed at boosting worker safety.

By Julie Cook Ramirez

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The staffing industry has come a long way since William Russell Kelly coined the iconic term “Kelly Girl” to describe his legions of bright young women eager to take on short-term secretarial and clerical assignments in downtown Detroit beginning in 1946. These days, more than 3 million temporary and contract workers are employed by America’s staffing companies, working part-time and full-time in virtually all occupations in all sectors, including professional/managerial; clerical/administrative; engineering/information technology/scientific; health care; and industrial.

The U.S. staffing market was projected to grow 6 percent in both 2016 and 2017 to reach a record revenue of nearly $150 billion, according to an April 2016 update from Mountain View, Calif.-based Staffing Industry Analysts. Along with that growth have come concerns over temp worker safety, as the industry has evolved to encompass jobs in which injuries are more common.

“Safety hazards don’t care if you are full-time, part-time, or a temp,” says Howard Mavity, a partner in the Atlanta office of Fisher & Phillips and founder and co-chair of the firm’s workplace safety and catastrophe management practice group. “Often, temps present the biggest safety threat because they are very much eager beaver types who are pushing to do more. The supervisor may not realize these [individuals] don’t have the same safety background [as a traditional employee] and that’s how some of the more terrible death cases have occurred.”

The very nature of temp work is often problematic because host companies don’t realize safety training is necessary for this particular population, Mavity says. Or they have a hard time justifying the expenditure when the person in question may only be on the job for a short time.

“It does catch a lot of employers off guard and it’s pretty rough because if they’re going to bring someone on for just a few days, they may spend a disproportionate amount on training,” says Mavity.

In 2014, the Arlington, Va.-based American Staffing Association approached the Itasca, Ill.-based National Safety Council to help develop and administer a program focused on temporary worker safety. The partnership resulted in the Safety Standard of Excellence program, launched in October.

The program is designed to help reduce the rate and severity of temporary worker injuries, illnesses, and fatalities through the adoption of best practices and encouragement of continuous safety improvement. One key facet of the SSE is an increased focus on coordination and collaboration between staffing firms and host employers.

This begins with an upfront conversation about the staffing firm’s expectations with regard to safety, according to Amy Harper, NSC Journey to Safety Excellence and workplace strategy director. Typically, she says, the staffing firm is responsible for general safety training, such as hazard communication and blood-borne pathogens, while the host employer bears responsibility for site-specific and job-specific training. Such responsibilities must be clearly delineated in a written contract, according to Stephen Dwyer, general counsel for the American Staffing Association.

“The burden on the host employer is to ensure the temp is trained and works safely,” says Mavity. “If OSHA comes onsite and the temp hasn’t been adequately trained, they may cite the staffing provider, but they are principally going to go after the person directing the work.”

When it comes to inherently dangerous jobs, employers may want to reconsider relying on temps at all, says Dave DeSario, founding member of the Brooklyn-based Alliance for the American Temporary Workforce and executive producer of A Day’s Work, an award-winning documentary on temporary work. He cites figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stating that temporary workers accounted for 782 workplace deaths (nearly 17 percent) in 2014, often because they are “sent to do the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs,” he says. (According to the BLS, 734 contract workers died as a result of work-related injuries in 2013, up from 715 in 2012 and 542 in 2011, when the agency first started tracking such figures.)

 

DeSario recently participated in a media briefing with the San Diego-based National Council for Occupational Safety and Health focused on the claim that temp workers are not only at a significantly greater risk of injury or death, but that the staffing industry is more focused on boosting its image than temp safety. He cites specific language in the SSE program guide related to the purpose of enhancing “the image of the industry with respect to job seekers, staffing clients, the government and media.”

“On the outside,” DeSario says, “this program appears to be for the purpose of protecting workers, but it’s all about enhancing the image of the industry. That’s really worrisome because more workers are going to be injured and killed because they falsely believed it was safer than it really was.”

Dwyer, however, bristles at DeSario’s accusations, countering that the SSE is merely the latest in a long line of initiatives aimed at ensuring safe working conditions for temporary employees. He points to numerous ASA-created books, newsletter and magazine articles, videos, and speaking engagements, all focused on educating staffing firms and host employers of their responsibilities to keep temp workers safe. ASA has also formed an employee safety committee comprised of safety experts from its member companies and established an employment law certification program through which member staffing firms demonstrate their mastery of employment and occupational safety concepts.

“These associations and their core employers take the issue of temp worker safety seriously,” says Mavity. “They not only comply with OSHA requirements, but propel other companies to do the same, so these initiatives are usually a force multiplier. You get good bang for your buck on them.”

Judge Issues Nationwide Temporary Injunction Blocking DOL Overtime Rule

November 23rd, 2016

ACA Likely to Change Substantially but Full Repeal Unlikely

November 11th, 2016

Employer mandate and Cadillac tax are among provisions being targeted

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Nov 11, 2016

The day after Donald Trump won the U.S. presidential election, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said that the U.S. Senate would move to swiftly try to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “It’s pretty high on our agenda as you know,” the Kentucky Republican told Politico on Nov. 9. “I would be shocked if we didn’t move forward and keep our commitment to the American people.”

But there’s a hitch: advocates of “repeal and replace” of the ACA need 60 votes in the Senate to overcome a Democratic filibuster—and the Nov. 8 election didn’t put that many Republican senators in place (51 Republicans, 48 Democrats, with a runoff election to be held in Louisiana).

“Without a filibuster-proof Republican majority in the Senate, Democrats are sure to make every effort to block any proposal to fully repeal the ACA,” said Chatrane Birbal, senior advisor, government relations at the Society for Human Resource Management.


In light of that challenge, President Trump and GOP congressional leaders are expected to first make a grand gesture of trying to repeal the ACA, and then start negotiating with Democrats on changing the law in ways that can attract enough senators from both parties to pass the 60-vote threshold. Alternatively, Republicans may use the process of budget reconciliation—in which a simple Senate majority is needed to pass measures related to revenues and spending.

Much of the ACA was originally passed by Democrats in 2010 using reconciliation.

“In terms of repeal, even Republicans—including the president-elect—support keeping some parts of the ACA that are popular, such as the insurance market reforms, allowing children to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26 and the ban on pre-existing condition limits,” said Steve Wojcik, vice president, public policy at the Washington-D.C.-based National Business Group on Health, which represents employers.

That said, there are several key provisions that are likely to be targeted for elimination in the absence of full ACA repeal.

Employer Mandate

“The employer and the individual mandate are back on the table,” Wojcik said. The employer mandate requires organizations with 50 or more full-time or equivalent employees to provide ACA-compliant health care coverage to their full-time employees (those working on average 30 or more hours per week) or to pay steep penalties. The individual mandate requires all adults without insurance coverage to buy an ACA-compliant policy or pay a tax penalty.

“Philosophically, employers believe that offering benefits should be voluntary. The mandate goes against that philosophy,” Wojcik said. “But the big issue is that all of the reporting, tracking and other administrative burdens associated with implementing the employer mandate would go away without it,” and these have been an enormous and costly compliance burden for many employers.

Short of repealing the mandate, a fallback could be changing the ACA’s definition of a full-time employee entitled to employer-provided coverage—currently an employee who works 30 hours or more per week—to the more traditional definition of an employee who works 40 hours per week. If that happens, “employers will need to think about whether they are going to take away the benefits that were extended to the 30-to-40 hour people,” said Kim Buckey, vice president of compliance communications at Birmingham, Ala.-based DirectPath, a health care compliance firm.

Eliminating the mandate also would let employers choose whether to offer health benefits as they see fit, and allow them to provide a wider range of offerings including “slim-down plans for part-time employees or in industries with high turnover,” Wojcik explained. The ACA eliminated these so-called “skinny” or “lite” plans that provided low-cost coverage for basic health care but failed to insure against substantial in-patient hospitalization, for instance.

J.D. Piro, New York City-based senior vice president of consultancy Aon Hewitt’s health law group, also expects to see “if not a complete overhaul, certainly a significant revision of the individual and employer mandates.”

How likely is this? “Sixty votes could be hard,” Wojcik said. “If they want to make those changes, they’ll probably have to use the reconciliation process. But they could do it. There is a budget implication for eliminating the employer and individual mandates, as well as some of the taxes that were part of the ACA. I think it’s doable as a result of the election.”

Piro suggest that there may even be enough bipartisan agreement to avoid a nasty fight. “A lot of Democrats have indicated they might be willing to relax the employer mandate,” and some are looking at the individual mandate and whether it has failed to encourage the healthy uninsured to buy health insurance, he noted.

“Whether you have to get to reconciliation in order to beat a filibuster overlooks the fact that there might be some Democrats [in the Senate] who believe there’s a better way to promote coverage than through these mandates,” Piro said. “So we’re a long way from having to make a filibuster or reconciliation determination.”

However, “It’s certainly not too soon for employers to start thinking about the implications that repealing the employer mandate or revising the definition of full-time employees will have on their benefit strategy,” Buckey said. “Once again, there’s going to be a sea-change in employee benefits.”

In the meantime, “the ACA is still the law of the land,” advised Scott Behrens, an ERISA compliance attorney at Lockton Companies, a benefits brokerage and consultancy based in Kansas City, Mo. “Prudent employers will want to continue to comply with the ACA, including the play-or-pay mandate and reporting requirements—Forms 1095-C are due to employees 11 days after Mr. Trump’s inauguration—until formal guidance relieves them of those compliance obligations.”

Cadillac Tax

The 40-percent excise tax on employer-sponsored health coverage that exceeds certain benefit thresholds, set to take effect in 2020, “is perhaps in a category by itself since there is widespread bipartisan support for eliminating it,” Wojcik said. “Employers as well as unions and others oppose this tax as a flawed way to hold down health plan costs. Ultimately, it will just raise the cost of employer-sponsored coverage without attacking the problem, which is the continued growth in health care expenses beyond wage growth and growth of the overall economy.”

“Both Democrats and Republicans have proposed repealing the Cadillac tax,” Piro said.” The upshot: The odds are now greater that the much reviled levy will never be implemented.

But not everyone is certain the tax is dead. “While President-elect Trump expressed support for a repeal of the 40-percent tax on the campaign trail, other legislative priorities including tax reform and the impact of repeal on the federal deficit could result in further delay, modification or replacement of the excise tax,” said SHRM’s Birbal.

For instance, “the tax treatment of employer-sponsored health care benefits could come under scrutiny as lawmakers look to find ways to pay for tax reform and reduce the federal deficit,” Birbal said. Earlier this year, she noted, proposed changes in the tax treatment of employer-provided health coverage were included in the U.S. House Republican’s task force report on health care reform. Trump, however, has not indicated his support for those measures.

Leadership TIP of the Month

November 11th, 2016

Leadership Tip of the Month

“Be grateful for what you have and stop complaining — it bores everybody else, does you no good, and doesn’t solve any problems.”

–Zig Ziglar

10 Things to Do Instead of Complain

November 10th, 2016

10 Things to Do Instead of Complain

Choose Gratefulness

By Linda Sasser

Gratefulness probably won’t appear on any ranking of “Top leadership traits of successful CEOs” (or COOs, or CFOs, or directors, or managers, or line workers, for that matter). But I’m finding that it is a highly overlooked and undervalued characteristic of successful leaders at every level.

Do you struggle with negativity, complaining, or dwelling on what’s not right? Here are 10 habits you can start forming today that will improve your outlook and attitude, and consequently, the outlook and attitudes of those you influence.

  1. Focus on the progress. You want your employee to move 12 inches, and so far they’ve only moved six. Don’t dwell on their lack of progress — highlight the fact that they’ve moved six inches. They’re halfway there!
  2. Do something kind for someone else. Stop focusing on yourself, and turn your focus to helping someone else.
  3. Count your blessings. There is always, always, always something to be grateful for. Clean water, healthy food, safe warm homes … just these basics are things that millions and millions of people in this world do not have and that most of us take for granted.
  4. Take action. What have you done to fix it? Complaining to your boss or co-workers doesn’t count. Be honest with yourself. What are you really doing to fix the problem? And what attitude are you doing it with?
  5. Encourage someone else. You’re not the only one struggling. How do you want to be encouraged? Pass that encouragement on.
  6. Give some grace. You want the benefit of the doubt from your leader. Give your team the same.
  7. Don’t say anything. If it’s petty, whiny, or just pointless negativity, do yourself and your team a favor and keep it to yourself. We really don’t have to voice every negative thought that comes to mind.
  8. Serve someone else. Don’t worry about whether they deserve it or whether they’ve earned the right to be a beneficiary of your time or expertise. Just serve.
  9. Apologize and forgive. That anger or hurt that you’re harboring — at your boss, your teammate, your employee, or your friend — it’s just not worth it. Apologize for any hurt or misunderstanding you’ve caused, and genuinely forgive them (whether they apologize or not.)
  10. Create your own change. It only takes one person with a positive attitude to build positive momentum. Why not you?