askanne-annewilliams-probationaryperiod

Dear Anne: I hear that new Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations regarding accident and injury reporting requirements for employers went into effect in August of this year. How do I make sure that my company is complying with these new rules?

The good news is that implementation of the proposed regulations has been delayed until November 1, for a number of reasons. The National Association of Manufacturers and other employer groups and interested parties filed a suit against the OSHA based upon a number of troubling provisions in the new regulatory requirements. They are numerous and far too detailed to go into here. But, in my opinion, the most serious of those requirements entails the public disclosure of a company’s accident and injury records on the OSHA’s website. Becuase accident and injury reporting will be required from any company with more than 10 employees (and from all companies in the instances of death and other certain types of injury and illness), such public disclosure could seriously and unfairly injure the reputation of a company. For example, such information could be used to disqualify a company from a particular bidding process or contract. In my experience, employers consider the maintenance of a safe workplace as a very serious priority. I don’t think that the OSHA has shown a public need or provided a justification for the public disclosure of such information. You may even want to contact your legislator for more information and to provide your opinion.

 

Dear Anne, I have always heard that it’s a good practice to have a 90-day probationary period for employees. Is that accurate?

Businesses should seriously consider whether or not to have a probationary period. This is particularly true in an at-will employment state, such as Missouri. In Missouri, the typical employer can terminate a person’s employment in most circumstances for any reason, or for no reason at all, so long as the termination does not violate some provision of law and does not violate the terms of an employment contract. Sometimes, the existence of a probation period (whether it’s 90 days or otherwise) can actually make it more difficult to terminate employment, particularly after the expiration of the probationary period.

What makes a “probationary” employee different from a “regular” employee? If you can’t answer that question and can’t express the reasons for having a probationary period, perhaps you shouldn’t have one.

 

Dear Anne:  My small business is doing well, but I feel my employees aren’t engaged. What can I do to get them there?

Let’s see — are they overworked, unappreciated, or underpaid? If so, please remedy that soon.

There are a few key benefits to having an engaged staff, including a better rate of retention (loyalty) and overall productivity improvement. It’s not that hard to get people highly engaged in your business. Try some of these strategies:

  • Recognize really good work performance with immediate praise. It results in more good work.
  • Listen to what employees say about the work. Their views are worthwhile.
  • Instill a bit of fun into the workplace. It doesn’t have to be serious all the time.
  • Share results with your staff. Everyone likes to know how business is going.

Honest feedback is essential if you’re wanting to improve business culture. External consultants can run a survey to learn what your staff really thinks of you and your business.

Lastly, all business owners should take heed of and commit to improved communication, confidence, and urgency. If you choose not to engage with your staff, they will disengage from you.

 

Anne Williams is the president of JobFinders Employment Services. She is not an attorney. All content in this column is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality and is not to be construed as legal advice.

 

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