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Out of sight, but not out of mind
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October 2013 - Welcome to the latest edition of The Payroll News. As always, please feel free to forward this newsletter to your friends and associates who are interested in keeping up with the latest changes in the Payroll industry. Or better yet, subscribe them for free using the Tell Others About Us link.
What's New in Canadian Payroll
Listed here are recent changes in legislation on Federal and Provincial levels that may impact your payroll calculations. Please view the following list for changes that affect your region.
October 31, 2013 - Canada's Safest Employers Saluted - The Honourable Dr. K. Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, congratulated the winners of Canada’s Safest Employers Awards at the 3rd annual gala in Toronto. Canada’s Safest Employers Awards recognize employers who demonstrate exceptional health and safety practices in industries ranging from manufacturing and health care to hospitality and transportation. The Government of Canada Labour Program develops, administers and enforces workplace legislation and health and safety regulations, such as the Canada Labour Code, for federally regulated workers and employers. (Full Story)
October 8, 2013 - Minister Kenney calls for action to strengthen Canada's labour market - Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development stressed the need for greater coordination and action by the private sector, provinces and territories and post-secondary institutions to connect Canadians to jobs. Nearly 1.4 million Canadians are unemployed while 216,100 jobs remain vacant. Recent initiatives by government focus on more directly involving employers in decisions regarding job creation and skills training. (Full Story)
September 23. 2013 - Interest rates for the fourth calendar quarter - The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) today announced the prescribed annual interest rates that will apply to any amounts owed to the CRA and to any amounts the CRA owes to individuals and corporations. These rates are calculated quarterly in accordance with applicable legislation and will be in effect from October 1, 2013 to December 31, 2013. All interest rates have increased by 1% since last quarter, except for the rate regarding pertinent loans and indebtedness. (Full Story)
September 9, 2013 - Canada Employment Insurance Commission announces 2014 Maximum Insurable Earnings - Further to the Government of Canada’s announcement that it will freeze the Employment Insurance (EI) premium rate for employees at the 2013 level of $1.88 per $100 of insurable earnings for 2014, and additionally that the rate will be set no higher than $1.88 for 2015 and 2016, the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC) today announced that the EI Maximum Insurable Earnings (MIE) for 2014 will increase to $48,600 from $47,400 in 2013. (Full Story)
September 27, 2013 - Government of Canada marks fourth annual Essential Skills Day - Essential Skills Day brings attention to the importance of essential skills training to strengthening Canada’s workforce. "Our Government’s top priorities are creating jobs, economic growth, and long-term prosperity", said the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister for Employment and Social Development and Minister of Multiculturalism. "Employers, community organizations, and governments all have a role in ensuring that Canadians have the skills needed to successfully secure jobs and succeed in the workplace." (Full Story)
October 25, 2013 - Business leaders to help improve job opportunities for Albertans with disabilities - Only 17 per cent of Albertans in the Persons with Developmental Disabilities (PDD) program have some level of employment, even though 60 per cent of those in the program are assessed as having low-needs and could obtain some level of employment. Associate Minister Oberle is creating an employer advisory council so more Albertans with disabilities can improve their lives through meaningful job opportunities. (Full Story)
October 10, 2013 - Premier calls for salary disclosure in Alberta - In Alberta, questions are being raised around employment and severance contracts for current and previous government employees. In response, Premier Alison Redford issued said "These contracts are covered under Alberta’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) law, and no politician is involved in decisions on their release, including me. Anyone who suggests otherwise is flat-out misleading Albertans." (Full Story)
October 1, 2013 - WCB Electronic Invoices - The Alberta WCB wants to remind you that paper is good, but electronic invoices are even better. If you aren’t already receiving electronic invoices through myWCB, now’s the time to start. Not only is this an environmentally-friendly option, but as a WCB Account Administrator, you can save and retrieve your online invoices and reports for up to seven years. Signing up for an account userID is easy and your information is safe and secure. (Full Story)
September 9, 2013 - Workplace safety fines include employees for first time - Alberta is implementing a new system of workplace safety fines, cracking down on workers for the first time, as well as their employers. When the new system takes effect - Oct. 1 for the administrative penalties and Jan. 1 for the on-site tickets - it will mark the first time Occupational Health and Safety has had the capacity to issue monetary fines. It also gives officers an enforcement tool midway between issuing a stop-work order and taking a violator to court. (Full Story)
September 3, 2013 - Work Safe Alberta Awards - The Work Safe Alberta Awards recognize excellence in the field of occupational health and safety. Sponsored by the Government of Alberta and the OHS Council, the awards focus on those organizations and individuals that have exemplary practices and are leaders in their industry. After a three-year hiatus, the awards have been refocused and enhanced based on feedback to align with the priorities of the OHS Council and Work Safe Alberta. (Full Story)
October 29, 2013 - 2013 Small Business Profile now online - According to the 2013 Small Business Profile, B.C. has the most small businesses per capita in Canada, at 83.5 per 1,000 people. The Small Business Profile is a statistical report highlighting the major role that small business plays in B.C. and its impact on job creation, economic investment, exports and contributions to the province’s gross domestic product. One highlight was that of the 385,900 small businesses operating in the province in 2012, 82 per cent of had fewer than five employees. (Full Story)
October 11, 2013 - Resource industry job numbers encouraging - B.C.’s primary industries added jobs in September with an increase of 8,400 jobs in forestry, fishing, mining and gas extraction, and 4,200 jobs in construction. Overall, B.C. gained 2,900 full-time jobs in September. This gain was off-set by a decrease of 8,200 part-time jobs, resulting in an overall loss of 5,400 jobs. Compared to last month, there has been an increase of 12,800 private-sector jobs. Private-sector gains have also been strong over the last five months. Since April of this year, private-sector employment is up 48,900 jobs. (Full Story)
October 1, 2013 - Worksafe Magazine - The latest issue of Worksafe Magazine is available for download form the WorkSafeBC website. WorkSafe Magazine is published by the WorkSafeBC (Workers’ Compensation Board of B.C.) Communications department to educate workers and employers about injury and disease prevention, promote positive safety culture, and provide links to WorkSafeBC resources for safer workplaces. (Full Story - PDF)
September 9, 2013 - Western provinces discuss skills and labour demands - B.C. leaders met in Vancouver to look at unprecedented opportunities across the region - those come with challenges on the skills and labour front. Skills development, advanced education, and Aboriginal skills training were front and centre at the meeting with the province committed to ensuring there are jobs for Western Canadians and that they have access to training to be the first in line for those jobs. (Full Story)
September 6, 2013 - August job numbers show modest growth - British Columbia experienced modest growth in employment in August. The province had a net increase of 6,200 jobs, with part-time employment increasing by 16,000. This gain was offset by a decrease of 9,800 full-time jobs. Since August of last year, employment is up by 8,400 in the Vancouver Island and Coast region; down by 1,500 in the Lower Mainland/Southwest; up 5,200 jobs in the Kootenay region; and up 3,100 in the North Coast and Nechako region. B.C.’s overall unemployment rate decreased from last month, from 6.7 to 6.6 per cent. (Full Story)
October 29, 2013 - Province Partners With Local Film, New Media Industry To Create Good Jobs, Grow The Economy - An economic impact study released today by On Screen Manitoba reports that Manitoba’s media production industry supports over 6,000 jobs - this means it has has emerged stronger than ever from the 2008 economic downturn thanks to support from the provincial government’s media-based corporate tax credits, Premier Greg Selinger said today. The five-year period has seen the industry rebound with the launch of new companies generating good jobs, according to the study. (Full Story)
October 15, 2013 - Consumer Protection Office Action Leads To Refunds For Manitoba Payday Borrowers - As a result of inspections and the investigation of consumer complaints, the Consumer Protection Office has determined that Cash Store Financial Services Inc., operating as The Cash Store Inc. (Cash Store) and Instaloans Inc. (Instaloans), was in violation of Manitoba’s maximum legal cost of $17 per $100 on payday loans. (Full Story)
October 1, 2013 - Province Celebrates Economic Contribution Of People With Disabilities - The province will celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities to the workforce and the economy during Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade Minister Peter Bjornson announced today. Throughout October, dozens of Manitoba businesses in the arts, broadcasting, health care, education and medical fields will open their doors to help young Manitobans with disabilities explore career options. (Full Story)
September 26, 2013 - Province Announces Minimum Wage Increasing To $10.45 An Hour Oct. 1 - The province is increasing the minimum wage on Oct. 1 to $10.45 an hour, as detailed in Budget 2013, Entrepreneurship, Training and Trade Minister Peter Bjornson announced today. This is an increase of 20 cents over the current minimum wage. "This increase will help the lowest wage earners in Manitoba and keeps pace with expected increases in the consumer price index," said Bjornson. (Full Story)
September 13, 2013 - New WCB Initiatives Enhance Fairness for Workers and Employers - The Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba (WCB) is pleased to announce a number of new initiatives that will enhance the fairness of the WCB's experience rating system for workers and employers and strengthen injury and illness prevention in Manitoba. These initiatives are part of a response to a report released earlier this year by Mr. Paul Petrie, an external consultant tasked with reviewing the impact of the WCB assessment rate model on fair compensation for workers and equitable assessments for employers. Additionally, the WCB is currently reviewing its administrative penalties related to claims suppression with a view to seeing those penalties increased in the fall of 2013. (Full Story)
October 31, 2013 - One-Job Pledge initiative helps create 34 new jobs in Moncton region - The provincial government is investing more than $745,000 in the Moncton region to grow the economy and help create up to 34 new jobs. Under the initiative, eligible New Brunswick businesses receive a one-year wage incentive when they hire a permanent, full-time employee who graduated from a post-secondary institution in the past four years. These businesses must pay a minimum salary of $14 per hour. The initiative will allow for the reimbursement of 70 per cent of the salary to a maximum of $10 per hour for 52 weeks. (Full Story)
October 22, 2013 - WorkSafeNB Decreases 2014 Employer Assessment Rate - Most of New Brunswick’s employers will receive a reduced bill for their assessment rates in 2014. The average assessment rate will be reduced by 23 cents from $1.44 in 2013 to $1.21 in 2014 per $100 of payroll. The rates, effective January 1, 2014, represent a 16% reduction. A continued decline in accident frequency helped secure WorkSafeNB’s fully-funded position of 126.7%. The provincial accident frequency rate has continually declined over the past few years. The rate has dropped from 3.52 per 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) in 2006 to 2.99 in 2012. (Full Story)
October 4, 2013 - WorkSafeNB's Rehabilitation Centre awarded highest level of accreditation - WorkSafeNB’s Rehabilitation Centre (WRC) has once again been awarded the highest level of accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) International. The WRC’s comprehensive occupational rehabilitation programs and vocational evaluation services were accredited for a three-year period. In their report on WorkSafeNB’s performance, CARF commended the WRC for the specially developed treatment protocols carried out by highly-skilled clinicians, as well as for the meaningful services developed to meet client needs. (Full Story)
September 13, 2013 - Mariner to create 60 information and technology jobs - The provincial government is investing up to $750,000 towards an expansion project at Mariner Partners Inc., creating 60 new information and communications technology jobs. Funding of up to $750,000 will be provided to Mariner through a payroll rebate to create 60 new jobs over a three-year period. The new jobs include: project manager, architect, business analyst, senior programmer analyst, intermediate programmer analyst, programmer and tester. (Full Story)
Newfoundland and Labrador:
October 25, 2013 - Consultations Taking Place on Potential Changes to Federal Skills and Employment Programs - The Provincial Government is holding public consultations in nine communities across Newfoundland and Labrador next week to gain a clear view of how employers and other stakeholders feel about potential changes to federal skilled trades and employment program funding. Under the potential changes, the Federal Government would divert as much as $600 million in funding from existing programming to the Canada Job Grant. There is a further concern that a requirement of businesses to contribute to the proposed Canada Job Grant in order to participate would leave the majority of small and medium-sized businesses excluded. (Full Story)
October 16, 2013 - Safety Symposium for employers and workers- a ‘key’ to injury prevention - On Thursday, October 17, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (the Commission) hosted a safety learning symposium in St. John’s. Approximately 220 employers and workers from around the province registered to participate in this one-day event designed to promote education and awareness on occupational health and safety through a variety of workshops. (Full Story)
September 26, 2013 - 2013 Client Service Satisfaction Survey - Beginning the week of September 30, 2013 the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission conducted its second quarterly client service satisfaction survey of 2013. This was part of the Commission’s strategy to further improve client service. A random sample of injured workers and employers were contacted. If a client was selected for surveys, they were assured they will only be called once per year. The surveys gauge satisfaction levels among clients. The outcomes of the surveys are made public annually, and used to develop action plans and enhancements to programs affecting client services. (Full Story)
September 19, 2013 - Pension Plan Reform Discussions Underway; Retiree Pensions Protected - Following productive meetings last week between the Provincial Government and representatives of the Public Service Pension Plan (PSPP) and Teachers’ Pension Plan (TPP) to discuss pension reform, government today announced that the pensions of retirees will not be affected as a result of ongoing pension reform discussions. There are 25,000 retirees in the PSPP and the TPP. In addition to ensuring there will be no changes to retirees’ pensions, including maintaining the current indexing program, government is maintaining a health plan for retirees. (Full Story)
October 2013 - 2014 Maximum Assessable Earnings set at $56,000 - On January 1, 2014, the maximum assessable / insurable earnings will increase from $54,400 to $56,000. This figure is used by the Board to determine the maximum benefit payable to injured workers in 2014, and also represents the maximum assessable earnings per worker to be reported by employers on 2014 payrolls. The maximum is set by the WCB at 135.7% of the Average Industrial Wage in Nova Scotia, and is effective January 1st each year. The 2014 maximum is based on information collected during the period April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013. (Full Story)
October 2013 - WCB Announces 2014 Employer Rates, Stability within the system continues - Workplaces that focus on developing successful occupational health and safety, and return-to-work programs will continue to improve their rates for workplace injury insurance, the Workers’ Compensation Board announced. WCB assessment rates remain relatively stable for 2014. For the tenth consecutive year, the average rate is holding steady at $2.65 per $100 of assessable payroll. Of the 18,800 employers covered by the WCB, 56.5 per cent will see their rate go down or stay the same and 43.5 per cent will see an increase. (Full Story)
September 6, 2013 - Apprenticeship Hours Earned in Other Provinces will Continue to Count - The province is reassuring apprentices working in other provinces that their hours will count toward certification in Nova Scotia. "There has been some recent confusion and concern from Nova Scotians who are interested in pursuing a skilled trade through the apprenticeship system, especially those working outside our province," said Labour and Advanced Education Minister Frank Corbett. "I want to let apprentices know that their hours earned in another province will be counted toward their certification once they come home. This has always been the case, and will continue to be." (Full Story)
August 2013 - Helping Nova Scotians Get Work Experience, Jobs - More Nova Scotians are getting valuable on-the-job experience, helping them get good jobs here at home, through the province's START program. The province announced today, Aug. 7, plans to expand the program, which encourages businesses to hire and provide work experience to Nova Scotians. Beginning next year, the province will increase funding to support recent graduates to get experience they need to launch careers here. START has connected 557 young people, recent graduates, apprentices and unemployed Nova Scotians with work experience. (Full Story)
October 4, 2013 - Department of Human Resources launches new website - Minister of Human Resources Glen Abernethy announced the launch of a redesigned and improved website. "We are proud of the human resources programs and services offered to employees and clients," said Minister Abernethy. The site features a fresh look, easy navigation and a focus on client needs. The user-friendly environment also includes dynamic search and document management systems. The redesigned website helps fulfill the commitment made in the 20/20: A Brilliant North – NWT Public Service Strategic Planto have the right tools to effectively communicate with employees and clients. (Full Story)
September 27, 2013 - News Release: Northwest Territories works with provincial and territorial partners on proposed Canada Job Grant - Minister of Education, Culture and Employment Jackson Lafferty attended a provincial/territorial labour market ministers meeting this week to discuss the importance of maintaining critical funding under existing labour market agreements. Established in 2008, these agreements provide supports, training and opportunities for underrepresented groups in labour markets, including youth, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal people, recent immigrants, social assistance recipients and long-term unemployed and older workers. The federal government is proposing a new Canada Job Grant program to replace the labour market agreements when they expire in April 2014. (Full Story)
August 2013 - GNWT launches new careers website - GNWT Careers, a new website from the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT), makes it easier to learn about and apply for positions in the territorial public service and encourages workers throughout the NWT and Canada to balance life and experience living as a GNWT employee. The GNWT Careers website allows individuals to receive automated updates when jobs in the areas they are interested in are posted as well as information on how to apply on a GNWT job, résumé writing and interview tips. (Full Story)
October 25, 2013 - Supporting Auto Jobs in Kitchener - Ontario is helping PWO Canada Inc. invest in new machinery and expand production while creating 20 new jobs and retaining 245 existing jobs in Kitchener. The company makes metal components and assembly structures for the automotive industry. Modelled on the proven Eastern Ontario Development Fund, the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund is helping to create jobs and diversify the economy by encouraging regional businesses to pursue innovation and new markets. Together these two funds have created and retained more than 22,000 jobs and strengthened local economies. (Full Story)
October 9, 2013 - Ontario Helps Communities Grow and Create Jobs - The Southwestern Ontario Development Fund is celebrating its first year of strengthening local economies, helping to create and retain more than 6,300 jobs in the region. To date, 11 projects have received support, helping to create over 1,300 new jobs and retain more than 5,000 existing jobs. October also marks the anniversary of the act that made the Eastern Ontario Development Fund permanent. Together these funds have created and retained more than 21,000 jobs in Ontario across a wide range of sectors including auto parts, aerospace, food processing, pharmaceuticals and tourism. (Full Story)
October 2, 2013 - WSIB transforming and improving financial sustainability - The Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) confirmed that significant progress has been made to strengthen its financial future, improve its efficiency and raise the bar on customer service. The WSIB has turned its finances around largely through enhancements to its Service Delivery Model, Work Reintegration Program and Health Care strategy that are driving improved return-to-work and recovery outcomes for injured workers and employers. As a result of investing in these areas, today 92% of all injured workers are back to work within one year of their injury with no wage loss, compared to just 85% in 2008. (Full Story)
September 26, 2013 - Helping Social Enterprises Grow and Create Jobs - Ontario has launched a new plan that will help social enterprises start and grow their businesses while supporting the creation of 1,600 new jobs in the sector. Impact - A Social Enterprise Strategy for Ontario is the province's plan to become the number one jurisdiction in North America for businesses that have a positive social, cultural, or environmental impact while generating revenue. (Full Story)
September 23, 2013 - New Trade Strategy to Expand Ontario's Exports and Create Jobs - Ontario is helping expand the province's presence in global markets, grow the economy and create jobs through a new trade strategy. As part of Ontario's plan for jobs and growth, the Going Global Trade Strategy will help more companies -- especially small- and medium-sized business -- export to global markets, helping to create jobs in Ontario. (Full Story)
September 6, 2013 - Ontario Gains 43,600 Jobs in August - Ontario's economy continued to gain strength as the provincial government continued its focus on job creation and economic growth. In August, the province gained 43,600 jobs, the second largest gain made in a month since 2009. Youth employment rose by 13,300 jobs. Employment in Ontario has increased by 477,300 net jobs from a low in June 2009, with full-time employment up 442,200. (Full Story)
Prince Edward Island:
October 18, 2013 - Government to hold information sessions for employees - Upcoming information sessions will provide public sector employees with clear, factual information about the changes to public sector pension plans, says Finance, Energy and Municipal Affairs Minister Wes Sheridan who said "There is some misinformation circulating about what these changes will mean, I want to reassure plan members that their base pension will be maintained and that changes to the plan will not be retroactive. We looked at many options when deciding upon a plan that would be fair to current employees, those close to retirement, retirees and taxpayers" said Minister Sheridan. (Full Story)
October 15, 2013 - New WCB Online Service- Registration for New Employers - The WCB is pleased to offer new employers the option of registering for WCB coverage electronically through Online Services. Simply click on the "Employer Registration Form" link in Online Services section of the WCB website and submit your firm's information. This new service is one of many Online Services for Island employers who prefer the convenience of conducting WCB business electronically. (Full Story)
15, 2013 - Action is required to keep public sector pension plans sustainable
and affordable - The PEI Government says it must take measures
to ensure Prince Edward Island’s public sector pension plans are
sustainable and affordable, says Premier Robert Ghiz. Since 1993, in addition
to its regular employer contributions, the Province of Prince Edward Island
has made special payments into its pension plans totalling millions of
dollars. Even with this extra funding, it has been unable to offset the
October 1, 2013 - Workers Compensation Act to be amended - Following a recent review, the Department of Environment, Labour and Justice will bring forward a series of amendments to the Workers Compensation Act, says Minister Janice Sherry. Following a series of consultations and reviews carried out by an advisory committee in 2012, the department is proposing legislative changes that would maintain fully funded status for the Workers Compensation Board. The changes would also reduce the wait time for claims from three to two days; increase wage loss benefits to 85 per cent of net insurable earnings from 80 per cent; and increase the indexation of benefits from 75 to 80 per cent of the Consumer Price Index (CPI). (Full Story)
October 24, 2013 - Saskjobs Website Surpasses One Million Visits - Saskatchewan’s hot job market continues to be reflected in the latest figures from the saskjobs.ca website, which saw a 15.5 per cent increase in the number of postings for the month of September. A total of 17,593 job postings were advertised on SaskJobs last month, up by 2,358 over September 2012. Job postings were placed in 324 communities, with the greatest year-over-year increases in Prince Albert (117.6 per cent), Regina (27.0 per cent) and Humboldt (24.8 per cent). (Full Story)
October 21, 2013 - WCB Proposes 4.4% Drop in 2014 Average Premium Rate - The WCB today proposed a 4.4 percent drop to its 2014 average premium rate, from $1.58 to $1.51 per hundred dollars of payroll. The announcement was made today at a Regina meeting with business leaders. The rate reduction is the seventh straight drop to the average premium rate and the lowest rate proposal since 1987. The rate has dropped 26.3 percent since a high of $2.05 in 2004. The 2014 rate proposal means that Saskatchewan could have the fourth lowest average premium rate in Canada next year. (Full Story)
October 11, 2013 - Full Time Jobs Hit Record High In September - The number of people employed on a full-time basis hit a record in September, according to new figures released by Statistics Canada today. Full-time employment was 465,100 last month, the highest ever for the month of September and up 11,800 from a year ago. There were 555,500 people working in the province in September, the highest ever for that month. That’s an increase of 14,700 jobs compared to last September, a 2.7 per cent growth rate which is the second highest among the provinces. (Full Story)
September 27, 2013 - Saskatchewan Workers See Pay Increase - Saskatchewan workers continue to be rewarded with higher wages, according to a report on average weekly earnings released by Statistics Canada today. For the month of July, average weekly earnings in the province were $939.58, the second highest in the nation and well above the Canadian average of $914.25. There was a 1.3 per cent increase in wages on a year-over-year basis, the third highest percentage increase among the provinces. Nine industries had increases, with the highest growth rates in services such as repair and maintenance at 13.9 per cent, construction at 9.1 per cent, and administration and support up 7.8 per cent. (Full Story)
September 6, 2013 - Unemployment Rate Lowest In Canada For The Eighth Straight Month - Saskatchewan’s unemployment rate has been the lowest in the country for the eighth month in a row according to new figures released by Statistics Canada today. In August 2013, the unemployment rate in the province was 4.2 per cent, well below the 7.1 per cent posted nationally. There were 564,900 people employed in the province last month, a record for the month of August and an increase of 15,800 or 2.9 per cent over the past 12 months. Saskatchewan ranked second among the provinces in terms of percentage gains. (Full Story)
October 21, 2013 - Government of Yukon named one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers - The Canada's Top 100 Employers project is a national editorial competition in its 14th year. The 2014 winners were announced this morning in a special editorial feature in The Globe and Mail which also published several lists recognizing the country’s top employers in various categories and regions. The Yukon government offers employees an excellent benefits package, competitive pay and generous vacation time. Flexible work arrangements help employees balance the responsibilities of their job with the demands of life. The territorial government participates in the federal pension plan and pays approximately $1.74 for every $1 paid by employees. (Full Story)
September 24, 2013 - Skills training and labour market agreements focus of provincial-territorial meeting - Minister of Education Elaine Taylor is joining provincial and territorial labour market ministers at a meeting in Toronto today to discuss skills training and the renewal of labour market agreements. Labour market agreements, which are set to expire March 31, 2014, are designed to increase the employability and participation of under-represented groups, including youth, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal peoples, social assistance recipients, older workers and recent immigrants. (Full Story)
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Out of sight, but not out of mind
Strategies needed when dealing with off-site employees
While we often say vacations should be a time when we are "out of sight and out of mind," the same is not true for employees dispersed to work at various off-site locations, working remotely from a home office and/or working mainly from a vehicle. Yet, the syndrome of dispersed workers or those with alternative work schedules is one of the most challenging workplace issues for supervisors and managers as well as employees themselves. From the management point of view, the issue is just how do you keep track of where everyone is, what these employees are working on and what is being accomplished? Such is the dilemma of the new age manager.
Dispersed employees on the other hand, also experience their own challenges. In fact, it can be downright lonely working in isolation from a manager and other colleagues. We often hear complaints from employees about not feeling part of a team and missing out on the fun activities and communication that occurs in a vibrant workplace. For some reason, an email notice isn't quite the same as face-to-face communication when birthday or birth announcements are made.
We know employees and supervisors alike experience challenges when trying to develop the type of "long distance" rapport that facilitates good working relationships and email messages are often misinterpreted. We also often hear about a lack of leadership direction and a lack of follow up resulting in dispersed employees feeling they are, indeed, "out of sight and out of mind."
At the same time, not every employee is suited to working alone in a dispersed off-site location. Those who struggle often do not have the personal discipline to stay focused and to achieve goals and objectives independently. As a result, timelines are missed and projects get waylaid.
Yet, with the growth of the internet, social media and new communication tools, managers have the opportunity and tools available to combine a variety of communication strategies for staying in touch with and overseeing the work of dispersed employees. However, planning for communication shouldn't be left until employees are assigned to an off-site location. Managers must set the stage for effectively managing the entire workforce right from the beginning.
So, where can the manager start? The following guidelines will help to assure an effective workforce strategy for managing an off-site workforce.
Set the stage: Review the nature of the jobs being considered for off-site work and be sure your employees can effectively complete the assigned tasks when working in this manner. Next, ensure off-site employees will have all the resources needed for their job and that all policies and procedures related to this work arrangement are in place. This includes workspace, information technology access, other equipment and tools and access to technology assistance when required. Next, ensure you have the right organizational structure to support an off-site worker operational framework.
Hire the right people: Individuals who work best on their own are very goal-oriented achievers who work well within general guidelines and can structure their own work day. They demonstrate independence and autonomy and will speak up when they need help. Utilize communication and work-style assessments to determine and confirm their ability to work in isolation and be sure to check references of former employers who offered the same work scenario.
Assign the right manager: Not everyone is suited to managing off-site workers as it certainly requires a completely different operating philosophy. In this situation, trust is even more important and must be worked on right from the start. Managers who are right for the job are good communicators with a knack for building teams, who can quickly build trust and show enthusiasm and support for their management responsibilities.
Set specific goals: Work with employees to set specific goals, objectives, timelines and the means to check in at various milestones. Communicate your expectations. Arrange for frequent reporting in a manner that still gives the employee the sense of independence rather than a perception of micromanaging.
Develop routines: Consistent communication and contact helps to create a sense of belonging and teamwork. Off-site workers know they are valued and that contact with them is important. Be sure to touch your off-site employees through as many communication channels as possible and as consistently as possible. Schedule a weekly meeting time and be sure to keep it.
Be available: Since it's so easy to miscommunicate, it's important to make yourself available to discuss issues as they arise. If you cannot be available, ensure there is a backup. Respond to messages quickly even if the response is that you'll reply more fully at a later time. Employees need to know managers are there for them.
Communicate around milestones: Use the milestones as an opportunity for direct communication in order to provide feedback and to stay connected with the employee. Arrange a face-to-face meeting where possible and cost effective.
Reward and recognize: Take time to recognize employee efforts more frequently than if you were working side by side. Send a quick note or make a quick telephone call. If you have a staff newsletter, use it to introduce staff accompanied by photos so that colleagues can get a visual of those they work with remotely.
Take advantage of technology: Technology advances now allow us to hold group meetings through emerging collaboration software, networking and remote-access technology, many of which are accompanied by video capability. This is an ideal and inexpensive way to get people together. Use it frequently to get your team together.
Plan periodic group meetings: Plan to hold bi-annual and/or quarterly group meetings as a means of sharing information and building team spirit. Link these meetings up with team training, group sharing, product knowledge and/or new service announcements. Be sure to hold special event gatherings such as a staff party during the holiday season.
Measure task/project performance: Since individuals are not within arm's reach, supervisors/managers must ensure they establish accurate and well-defined key-performance measures. This means focusing on elements such as project deadlines, content, accuracy, completeness, collaboration and customer satisfaction.
Manage your own discomfort: While some managers start out thinking overseeing off-site workers will not be a challenge, they often find old biases unexpectedly creep to the top of their minds. Learn to recognize your uncomfortable feelings, ask yourself why you're feeling that way and resolve it. Avoid making assumptions and becoming concerned when the employee's telephone is busy. Recognize the biases and old philosophies and rethink your approach.
Telecommuters, home-based workers and/or those who travel a great deal need special ongoing personal attention in order to develop a strong sense of collaboration and teamwork. This requires strong organizational supports and a supervisory style that ensures concrete goals, objectives and task completion remains the basis for employee performance rather than the old fashioned, "bums in the seat" approach.
Article courtesy of Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC, CCP, M.Ed is president of Legacy Bowes Group. She can be reached at email@example.com