In a recent blog post by Human Resource Manager Laura Manning, the topic of Progressive Discipline was discussed and rethought in a way to help leaders and managers understand the importance of OWNING their role in employee development and performance management. Laura posed rhetorical questions such as, “did you do a poor job of interviewing candidates…did you not explain the workplace rules or processes in a way that resonated with the employee…have you reviewed with that employee the official job description which outline requirements and set clear expectations of the employee?”
The key message to business leaders and managers is simple. Identify the underlined actions directly related to performance deficiencies and what supervisors and managers can do better in the future to ensure employees are performing to their full potential and meeting employer expectations.
As an HR Generalist, one of my responsibilities is to manage what has quickly become one of the biggest financial black holes associated with being an employer: Unemployment claims! Don’t get me wrong, state unemployment programs are an amazing resource that without a doubt help many out of work Americans manage what can be an overwhelming situation. What I want to help you as a business owner or manager with is limiting your liability.
The rules and procedures for administering unemployment claims are anything but simple, and they vary from state to state. However, there is one constant in the unemployment realm; regardless of location or industry, all claims are considered either contestable or non-contestable. To provide a brief background on how an unemployed or underemployed worker qualifies for unemployment benefits, I’ll explain this concept in a bit more detail.
Employers almost always have the right to contest a terminated employee’s claim for unemployment benefits based on the mitigating factors that led to that employee’s separation from work. While this is an immensely valuable avenue for employers to control the overall cost of being an employer and maintaining an adequately staffed workforce, it can be an administrative nightmare if not handled in a proactive manner, starting with new-hire orientation and on-boarding. There are certain categories of employee terminations that simply cannot be contested by an employer: lack of work, reduction in workforce, changes to job duties and/or work location, etc. but these are not the reasons employers face such tremendous financial liability related to unemployment benefits.
Simply put, the main reasons employers are left paying the tab for avoidable unemployment costs are all controllable, and while time consuming, very simple to manage. In the vast majority of claims, the determining factors in a state’s decision to either award or deny benefits is whether or not the employer adhered to and effectively documented the steps taken as outlined in their progressive discipline policy.
Employers, in order to protect yourselves from the unnecessary costs associated with unemployment, answer the following questions:
- Are all of my employees truly qualified for the work they are hired to perform?
- Do all of my employees receive a clear and accurate job description that defines the duties and tasks for which they are responsible?
- Do my supervisors and managers follow my company’s progressive discipline policies and document all verbal and/or written warnings as they occur?
- Am I asking my employees to perform job functions outside of what is listed in their job description?
- Are the company policies defined in a clear and concise manner in an employee handbook? If so, can I prove that my employees were provided this handbook and offered a review of such policies during orientation?
- Does my company appropriately address all employee grievances?
- Am I, as an employer, providing my workforce with a working environment that complies with all state and federal regulations as well as proper ethical guidelines?
If you answered “no” to any of the above questions, you have potentially exposed yourself and your company to what can become a huge monetary liability. In our county’s current climate where unemployment rates bounce back and forth from 6-12%, having a business partner who is able to effectively manage and mitigate unnecessary costs can be the difference between being able to afford to hire that next employee or being forced to maintain an understaffed and overworked workforce.
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