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# Thursday, November 19, 2009

During interviews with potential employees, ask probing questions requiring detailed responses, not just “yes” or “no” answers.  It probably goes without saying that the goal is to evaluate whether the applicant is capable of and willing to perform the job requirements.  Utilize what you learn on the job application, resume and through testing to ask very specific questions associated with the job requirements.  Some things to keep in mind are:

 

·         Before the interview (and really testing) determine what skills and personality traits would be well suited for the position.

·         Review the application and test scores to determine what traits the applicant has that fit with the requirements of the job and what traits do they have that just don’t?  Example; you generally would not want a timid salesperson or a finance person that was not detail oriented.

·         Just because the applicant was working in a similar position before doesn’t mean they were capable of doing the job.  Ask very specific questions like:

o    How did you perform your job?

o    What skills do you have that made you well suited for the work you were performing?

·         Ask “How have you handled _____ in the past?” type questions related to the job requirements and necessary skills to perform the job.

·         You are looking for a skill set and the right person for the job might not always have the most experience.

·         Look for accomplishments that the applicant has had in the past not just activities performed.  Accomplishments should really be about results.  Example; I worked in an outbound call center and my call rate was ___ per hour compared to the company average of ____ and I converted ____ calls to sales.  Then ask a follow up question regarding how they were able to accomplish it.

·         Get a feel for how well the person’s personality fits with the rest of the group.  

 

This is really just a sample of the types of questions you can ask and evaluations you should be making during the interview process.  Some skills tests will actually give you probing questions that should be asked and an indicator of how the person’s personality will fit in certain types of professions.  To learn more, go to www.panpowered.com, where you can find a multitude of tests to fit your needs.  Remember, extra care on the front end to hire the best match can save on unemployment costs on the back end.  The average claim will cost an employer about $4,500 in benefit charges. 

 

Tammy Mullin

Thursday, November 19, 2009 12:11:04 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [0] -
Unemployment Cost Mgmt
# Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The importance of testing skills can’t be under-estimated in terms of making sure you hire people who are capable of doing the job.  I a lot of cases, a former employee will be able to collect unemployment even if they were let go because they couldn’t do the job.  Making sure you have the right fit is absolutely essential and the first line of defense in controlling unemployment costs.

 

It’s important not only from the employer’s perspective, but if you think about it, it makes more sense from the job seekers perspective as well.  Most job seekers are looking for opportunities where they can contribute to an organization’s success and make a difference.  At the very least, they are looking for a place where they can be happily employed and I’m fairly certain they don’t want to work in an environment where they are failing and are just waiting to be fired.  It’s demoralizing for the employee and increased churn can also hurt the remaining employees’ moral and possibly hurt employee retention, further increasing unemployment costs and causing an additional litany of problems within the organization.  Right now I hear from employers that employee retention as the economy improves is their #1 concern.

 

So how do you deal with this?  Well, if specific skills are required in the job (such as typing, dictation, cash register use, etc.) develop a way to test these skills prior to hiring.  Be sure the tests you administer are valid and represent the actual content of the job. All tests should be uniformly given to all applicants for a position. It is your responsibility to find out as much as possible about an applicant's abilities and attitude before deciding whether to hire the individual. 

 

Having a consistent testing plan is perfectly acceptable.  Employers start getting into trouble when they inconsistently apply testing in the hiring process and if testing is the sole basis for evaluation.

 

To learn more view this free eSeminar “Recession Proofing your Selection System: Cost-effective Use of Assessments in a Weak Economy”

Tammy Mullin

Tuesday, November 17, 2009 10:06:07 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [0] -
Unemployment Cost Mgmt
# Monday, November 16, 2009

Hiring the right individual for a job is one of the first ways in which you can control your unemployment compensation costs. Failing to hire an individual suited for a position may ultimately lead to his/her discharge, because he/she lacks the ability to perform the job duties. If this person files for unemployment compensation, he/she could be awarded benefits, which may be charged against your company.

 

Therefore, in an effort to minimize future unemployment costs, you should carefully review the individual’s job application before hiring.

 

Review the Job Application

 

Does this applicant’s work experience and/or educational experience meet the requirements of the position?

 

• Was a reference check performed?

 

• Did the applicant follow instructions when completing the application?

 

• Was the application thoroughly reviewed?

 

• Are all areas on the application completed?

 

• Are there any unexplained breaks in employment history?

 

• Are the reasons for leaving past jobs clear?

 

• Does the employment history on the application match the resume, if one is provided?

 

• Is the applicant willing to work the hours required for this position?

 

Tammy Mullin

Monday, November 16, 2009 3:08:23 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [0] -
Unemployment Cost Mgmt
# Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We've had a few questions regarding tier eligibility for HR 3548 in each state.  The following table should help you. 

Federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC)

State Tier III Effective Date Tier IV Effective Date
AL On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
AK On 11/8/2009    
AZ On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
AR On 11/8/2009    
CA On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
CO On 11/8/2009    
CT On 11/8/2009    
DE On 11/8/2009    
DC On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
FL On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
GA On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
HI On 11/8/2009    
ID On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
IL On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
IN On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
IA On 11/8/2009    
KS On 11/8/2009    
KY On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
LA On 11/8/2009    
ME On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
MD On 11/8/2009    
MA On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
MI On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
MN On 11/8/2009    
MS On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
MO On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
MT On 11/8/2009    
NE        
NV On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
NH On 11/8/2009    
NJ On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
NM On 11/8/2009    
NY On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
NC On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
ND        
OH On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
OK On 11/8/2009    
OR On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
PA On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
PR On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
RI On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
SC On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
SD        
TN On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
TX On 11/8/2009    
UT On 11/8/2009    
VT On 11/8/2009    
VI On 11/8/2009    
VA On 11/8/2009    
WA On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
WV On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
WI On 11/8/2009 On 11/8/2009
WY On 11/8/2009    
All states eligible for Tier I and Tier II - up to 34 weeks
50 states eligible for Tier III - up to 13 weeks
29 states eligible for Tier IV - up to 6 weeks
EUC is 100% federally funded
Source: USDOL (11/8/2009)

We provide free legislative updates to employers so they can be informed about changes impacting the states in which they do business.  Click here to sign up.

Tammy Mullin

Wednesday, November 11, 2009 9:24:46 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [0] -
Unemployment Cost Mgmt
# Tuesday, November 10, 2009

 

After much discussion over the past several weeks, additional federal funding for unemployment benefits has been signed into law.  The additional weeks will give much needed support to families struggling through these hard economic times.  As an employer though, here is how the new legislation will impact you.

 

Situation

 

President Obama signed HR 3548, the Worker, Homeownership, and Business Assistance Act of 2009, into law on Friday, November 6, 2009.  The legislation provides for additional weeks of federally funded unemployment benefits.

 

What Employers Need to Know

 

The federal unemployment benefits extension program, known as Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC), originally went into effect in July 2008 and was later extended in November 2008.  The EUC program provided for up to 20 weeks of additional benefits in all states (Tier I) and up to an additional 13 weeks in high unemployment states (Tier II).

 

The newly enacted legislation modifies Tier II benefits and establishes Tier III and Tier IV of EUC.  Originally, Tier II allowed for up to 13 weeks of EUC in some states, but now will provide up to 14 weeks of benefits in all states – it basically adds 1 additional week to this level of EUC.  Tier III provides for up to 13 weeks of federal extended benefits in states with a total unemployment rate (TUR) of at least 6.0% or an insured unemployment rate (IUR) of at least 4.0%.  Tier IV provides up to 6 additional weeks of EUC in states with a TUR of at least 8.5% or an IUR of at least 6.0%.

 

All EUC benefits are being federally funded from general revenue, meaning no employer (tax contributing or reimbursing) will be directly liable for the extensions.  However, HR 3548 extends the 0.2% FUTA surtax, set to expire at the end of 2009, through 2010 and for the first 6 months of 2011 as an offset to the general revenue funding of the EUC extensions.

 

HR 3548 does not extend the effective date of the EUC program.  It is still set to expire December 31, 2009, so EUC claims would need to be filed by the end of this year for benefit entitlement under any of the tiers.  EUC claims established by the end of 2009 will continue to be paid until May 30, 2010.  In addition, the new EUC extensions are only authorized for weeks subsequent to HR 3548 being enacted; there are no provisions in the new law for retroactive EUC weeks.  

 

Note: The federal EUC legislation is separate from state extended benefits (EB) provisions contained in all state unemployment laws.  Thirty-nine states are paying EB, subsequent to any federal EUC entitlements.  Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah have not currently triggered on state extended benefits.

 

What You Can Expect

 

Although individuals could technically collect up to 99 weeks of unemployment payments, taking into account regular benefits (up to 26 weeks),  federal EUC (up to 53 weeks for all tiers) and state EB (up to 20 weeks ), realistically the number of payments weeks will likely fall somewhere in the middle.

 

Industry officials anticipate Congress will propose more unemployment insurance (UI) amendments, since many of the Recovery Act provisions regarding the UI program are set to expire at the end of 2009.  TALX will continue to monitor and report on any developments.  

 

We provide free legislative updates to employers so they can be informed about changes impacting the states in which they do business.  Click here to sign up.

Tammy Mullin
Tuesday, November 10, 2009 8:48:51 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [0] -
Unemployment Cost Mgmt
# Monday, November 09, 2009

Situation

In 2005, due to a law change, the state of Washington changed the way they determined the amount of unemployment benefits claimants were eligible to collect; however, they did not change the way the benefits were charged to each employer. These are the benefit charges used in the employer’s rate calculation. As a result, employers may not have been charged for the full amount of the benefits collected by former employees. It has been determined that this practice is not in conformity with federal unemployment law.

What Employers Need to Know

To make the state benefit charging practices conform to federal law they have made adjustments to benefit charges going back to 2005 that will be used in your 2010 rate calculation. You will be receiving a statement titled "Change in Benefit Charges Summary" detailing the changes made to your specific account.

What You Can Expect

These adjusted benefit charges will only be used in rate calculations for the 2010 rate year and beyond. No amended rate calculations will be made for prior years.

Tammy Mullin

Monday, November 09, 2009 10:55:53 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [0] -
Unemployment Cost Mgmt
# Friday, November 06, 2009

For employers, all unemployment hearings begin with the same initial questions regarding the former employee's employment. The questions, though not apparently crucial to the final outcome, can establish or destroy the witnesses' credibility with the administrative law judge. The questions asked are:

  • The former employee's position
  • Rate of pay
  • First date worked
  • Last day worked and last day employed if different

If a witness' testimony is uncertain or incorrect on these basic facts, the remaining testimony may be questioned as to its truth and/or accuracy and credibility.

Unemployment insurance hearings are informal, administrative proceedings designed to be fact-finding, non-confrontational in nature. Though informal in nature, remember that the administrative law judge is responsible for gathering the relevant facts regarding the cause(s) of the former employee's job separation.  Often times, there is conflicting testimony and the administrative law judge will have to rely on who they feel is the most credible.  For more information on unemployment hearings, see What Not to do at an Unemployment Hearing.

Tammy Mullin

Friday, November 06, 2009 7:32:00 AM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [0] -
Unemployment Cost Mgmt
# Thursday, November 05, 2009

Unemployment hearings require first-hand testimony to the facts and/or events under consideration. Therefore, persons with direct knowledge of the issues that caused the job separation, especially those relating to the final incident, are needed to participate at the hearing.

While some states will permit hearsay testimony and accept notarized statements from non-appearing witnesses, this type of information is never sufficient to overcome direct, first-hand testimony from either the claimant or the claimant's witnesses.

So, even if your state does allow hearsay testimony or accept a notarized statement, it is best to be on the safe side and send the witness.  Remember a lost case will cost on average about $4,500 so its worth the time to attend.  You wouldn't want to end up paying for a claim where the claimant wouldn't otherwise be entitled to unemployment benefits under state regulations just because you didn't show up. 

Tammy Mullin

Thursday, November 05, 2009 11:38:40 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [0] -
Unemployment Cost Mgmt
# Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Ever want to know what the unemployment insurance tax rate is in your state and how that compares to what you pay or what employers pay in other states?  How about average duration of an unemployment claim or the exhaustion rate for claimants collecting unemployment?

The DOL issues a quarterly report that can tell you this and much more about what is happening in the states in which you do business.    It’s sad to say, but I find it an interesting read.  I thought maybe you all would too.  Check it out at http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/content/data.asp.

While you might not be able to do anything directly to influnce the statistics for your state, being informed can help you plan for the future.  Understanding whether your state has outstanding federal loans or how much revenue (tax collections) they take in can be an early indicator of what to expect to happen with your tax rates in the upcoming year and can help with forecasting.  I'm sure most companies are going through budget season right now and are just loving every minute of it. 

If you have an unemployment cost management service provider I would encourage you to talk to them about forecasting your rates for 2010.  If not, be aware and do your homework.  We provide legilative updates to employers (free of charge - how often do you hear that?).  Click here to sign up.

Tammy Mullin

Tuesday, November 03, 2009 11:48:45 PM (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Comments [0] -
Unemployment Cost Mgmt
# Friday, October 30, 2009

I thought I’d send out some more real content today instead of my opinions about the world around us so here goes…..

When the unemployment compensation laws were originally enacted in the 1930s, the intent was to provide a supplement to individuals who were unemployed through no fault of their own.  However, unemployment laws have eroded (well, one opinion) to the point that even a person who voluntarily quits or is discharged may collect benefits!

A best practice for controlling unemployment insurance costs would be to make a probationary period a part of your company’s policy.  A new employee’s performance should be reviewed during an initial “probationary period.” If the employee does not meet expectations, you should determine whether additional training could bring the employee's work up to standards. If retraining is not a reasonable option and no alternatives exist, consider dismissing the employee as quickly as possible.

Even though most states do not recognize employer probationary periods and may award benefits to an employee if he was discharged for inability to do the job. Your liability for benefit charges is based on the amount of wages you paid the employee. Therefore, if you take immediate action regarding unsuitable employees, your unemployment liability will remain low.

Some states do provide for some type of probationary period within their unemployment compensation laws.  The states and particulars are as follows:

Colorado – The employer’s account is not charged if the claimant earned less than $1,000 (this applies to Merit Rated employers only).

Connecticut – The employer’s account is not charged if the claimant was employed for less than 30 days, whether or not consecutive, or if the claimant worked less than 240 hours for the employer.

Florida – The employer’s account is not charged if the claimant was paid less than $100 during the base period of if the claimant was terminated due to unsatisfactory performance during the initial employment probationary period.  The probationary period cannot exceed 90 days and must be an established plan (Employee must be informed of the plan within seven days of the date hired.).

Georgia – The employer’s account is not charged if the claimant was employed for less than 30 days, whether or not consecutive, or if the claimant worked less than 240 hours for the employer.

Illinois – The employer’s account is not charged if the claimant was paid less than $100 during the base period or if the claimant was terminated due to unsatisfactory performance during the initial employment probationary period.  The probationary period cannot exceed 90 days and must be an established plan.  (Employee must be informed of the plan within seven days of the date hired.).

Kentucky – An employer’s account is not charged if it employed the claimant for less than 10 weeks, whether or not consecutive.

Maine – The employer’s account is not charged unless the claimant worked in excess of 5 consecutive weeks or at least 6 consecutive weeks of employment.

Minnesota – The employer is granted relief of charges when an employee is paid less than $500 in the base period.

Missouri – The employer’s account is not charged if it paid the claimant $400 or less during the base period or if the claimant was employed for 28 consecutive days (calendar days) or less and this was noted on the employer’s wage report to the state.

North Carolina – The employer’s account is not charged if the employee’s employment did not exceed 100 days and termination was due to inability to perform the job.

Oklahoma – The employer’s account is not charged if it paid the claimant $400 or less during the base period or if the claimant was employed for 28 consecutive days (calendar days) or less and this was noted on the employer’s wage report to the state.

Rhode Island – For any new claim filed, if an individual works less than 4 weeks, and in each of those 4 weeks earns less than 20 times the state minimum hourly wage, the employer will not be charged.

South Carolina – The employer’s account is not charged if it paid the claimant less than 8 times the weekly benefit amount.

South Dakota – The employer’s account is not charged if it paid the claimant less than $100 during the base period or if the claimant was terminated due to inability during a 90-day pre-arranged probationary period.

Virginia – The employer’s account is not charged if the claimant was employed for less than 30 days, whether or not consecutive, or if the claimant worked less than 240 hours for the employer.

So, consider the best practice of making a probationary period a part of your company policy and refer to the probationary guidelines when reviewing new employees.   Be sure to review any changes to policy that you plan to make with your Unemployment Cost Management services provider to be sure your policy will meet the requirements in your state. 

Tammy Mullin

Friday, October 30, 2009 1:21:27 PM (Central Daylight Time, UTC-05:00)  #    Comments [0] -
Unemployment Cost Mgmt

IRS CIRCULAR 230 DISCLOSURE: Any tax advice in this communication is not intended or written by TALX to be used, and cannot be used, by a client or any other person or entity for the purpose of (i) avoiding penalties that may be imposed on any taxpayer or (ii) promoting, marketing, or recommending to another party any matters addressed herein.

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