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  • On October 17, the E-Verify employment eligibility verification system resumed operations following the resolution of the United States government shutdown.
    The government shut down on October 1 and as a direct result, the E-Verify system’s features and services became unavailable. Now, the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) is addressing certain issues that will direct Americans on how to proceed now that the services are back up and running.
    The agency already announced that it would, in fact, accept late I-129 petitions under the H-1B highly skilled guestworker, H-2A agricultural guestworker and H-2B low skilled, nonagricultural guestworker programs.
    Employers must also create an E-Verify case for each employee hired during the shutdown by no later than November 5th. Employers are being told that when they are prompted to provide a reason for the late case, they need to select “Other” from the drop-down list of reasons and enter “federal government shutdown”.
    If an employee was not able to resolve a TNC because of the shutdown, employees will need to add 12 federal business days to the date printed on the “Referral Letter” or “Referral Date Confirmation.” Employees will have until the new date to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA), or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), to resolve their cases.
    During the shutdown, federal contractors weren’t able to enroll or use E-Verify, which is required by the federal contractor regulations. If an organization missed a deadline because the services were unavailable they are to follow instructions provided by their contracting officer.
    HR experts are predicting that E-Verify support customers will probably experience long delays in response times when requesting assistance. Customers are being urged to consult the government website first to see if any of their questions are answered to avoid as much frustration as possible.

  • The Government is officially considering an incentive programme for employees of corporate companies that whistleblow. The Home Office is hoping that the idea of an incentive will encourage more workers to report cases of fraud, bribery and corruption within their workplaces.
    This decision could potentially echo certain characteristics of the American system. Some Americans have received millions of dollars in incentive money for bringing to light information that exposed situations of fraud.
    The consideration comes simultaneously with the launch of the United Kingdom’s new National Crime Agency. Additionally, the Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards has also been looking at whether or not whistleblowing should be rewarded.
    Some human resource and government experts explain that while they are definitely in favour of such a programme, the United Kingdom simply cannot just replicate what the United States is doing.
    One human resource expert explained that currently, the law in the UK offers more disadvantages for whistleblowers than advantages.
    “Rewarding whistleblowers with hefty payouts might encourage spurious claims or lead to questions over the credibility of witnesses.”
    If this new system were passed, hopefully the communication between employers and staff would increase as well. A common concern about this potential whistleblowing campaign is the expressed concern amongst employees who do not understand how an incentive would actually protect them against retaliation.
    This concern remains prevalent, even though employers in the UK have a legal responsibility to protect whistleblowers against detrimental treatment and bullying by colleagues and management.

  • The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) called in more than 800 Office of Aviation Safety employees responsible for field inspections and certification of critical products, in order to cope with the prolonged partial government closure.
    The agency also called in a designated amount of physicians and support staff in its Office of Aerospace Medicine to support industry drug and alcohol testing programs.
    While the United States government shutdown has officially ended, FAA experts said that the Administration had no other option other than to react. This statement could not be any truer, especially since the shutdown lasted far longer than any experts thought it would.
    During the shutdown, aircraft ownerships could not legally change hands, new planes could not be registered and existing registrations could not be renewed. The shutdown affected major airliners like Jetblue and US Airways who had Airbuses stranded in Hamburg and Toulouse awaiting paperwork that would clear them for delivery to their carriers. Both airlines were scheduled to take possession of their crafts about two weeks ago.
    Thankfully the government shutdown has come to an end but if it persisted the Department of Transportation did have a plan to incrementally reintroduce about 2400 inspectors (and other key staff) over a 2-week period to make sure that business would operate as usual as much as it could.
    Furloughed workers were due back to work last Thursday, according to multiple news outlets.

  • United States registered business jets saw a notable decrease in the number of nonfatal accidents in the first nine months of this year versus last year, according to AIN Online. While the number of fatal accidents remains stagnant, the number of fatalities fell during the most recent nine-month period.
    Last year, there were 23 nonfatal accidents involving N-numbered business jets in the first three quarters of the year. This year, there were only 6. Both of these time periods saw the same number of fatal crashes, 4. The number of actual deaths, however, decreased by 4 from last year.
    The United States turboprop fleet also saw fewer nonfatal accidents in the first nine months of this year, with 21 to 27 last year.
    These statistics seem to reverse themselves, though, when we look at non-US registered business jets. These jets saw two more mishaps in January to September this year when compared to crashes from last year.

  • After having to deliver a narrative verdict concerning the deaths of two of the 228 passengers/crew that were killed on an Air France Flight, coroner Michael Oakley stressed concern about the level of pilot training.
    The flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean on June 1, 2009. Oakley is the coroner for eastern North Yorkshire and feels strongly that pilots are overly dependent on technology. He believes that pilots are so dependent that they aren’t retaining skills that are required to properly fly these massive aircrafts.
    Oakley found that the Air France craft’s difficulties arose from a blockage of the aircraft’s pitot tubes. Even so, he explained that the pilots were not trained adequately enough to handle this aircraft and react safely to this type of emergency situation.
    Unfortunately, evidence of the wreckage was few and far between making it extremely hard to investigate the aftermath of the crash. It took 2 full years for searchers even to find the aircraft’s black boxes (found in May 2011).
    Investigators and aviation expertsconcluded that the plane crashed because of a mechanical failure caused by the pitot tubes being obstructed. This obstruction caused the autopilot functionality to disconnect. However it appears the true issue lay in the fact that the crew had an inability to react to the emergency situation. Oakley feels strongly that if the pilots had had adequate training and less of a dependency on technology, there may not have been any fatalities in this extremely unfortunate accident.

  • New research revealed that United Kingdom businesses are facing £15.4bn in set-up costs if they are to meet all of the requirements of the new auto-enrolment legislation.
    The data analysis comes from the report entitled, Finding Your Way Out of the Auto Enrolment Maze. Small businesses face a set up fee of a minimum of £8,900. This figure almost doubles for medium sized businesses that employ a minimum of 100 employees. HR experts reveal that regional labour costs across the country could see these costs pushed even higher and the predicted bill for the largest firms in London in excess of £28,300.
    Aside from monetary costs, experts explain that the new implementation will cost these organisations lots of time and energy. A total of 33 administrative tasks must be completed in order to comply with the new legislation. Getting ready for auto enrolment could cost each business 103 days with the recurring administration burden taking over 3 days each month for some firms.
    Companies that choose to utilise the National Employment Savings Trust won’t escape these costs or tasks, either. They will need to complete all the preparatory work and will not see any leniency.

  • Abercrombie & Fitch is a company infamous for many things including allegedly provocative messaging and overtly sexual advertisements. Recently, however, the retail giant made news for something else…employee dress code.
    A female associate worked at a sister store of Abercrombie called Hollister. This particular brand is known for its Malibu town home styled stores and laidback style of plaid shirts and skinny jeans. The associate worked at a location in San Mateo, California for four months and was allowed to wear her Islamic headscarf in the workplace, as long as it matched company colors.
    When a District Manager (DM) made a store visit he saw the associate in her hijab and called for her termination, citing a violation of the company’s “Look Policy”. The DM said that her hijab detracted from the company brand and he did not want her working in his store.
    Another female wore a hijab to an interview at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. At her interview, she was asked if she was in fact Muslim to which she replied that she was. She was told that her headscarf would not be a problem in the workplace and the manager gave her a score of 7, high enough to recommend her for hire. However, it was later cited that the applicant did not have the “Abercrombie look” and she was not hired.
    Both of these women took their cases to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed suits on their behalf. A federal court ruled that failing to accommodate the women had been discriminatory and sent the cases to trial. Abercrombie opted to settle and agreed to pay a total of $71,000 to the women.
    The Council on American-Islamic Relations also noted that Abercrombie would have to create an appeals process for denials of religious accommodation requests. Additionally the brand will have to revise their “Look Policy” to note that they are legally mandated to allow exceptions in certain situations. Abercrombie will have to incorporate information regarding requests for headscarf accommodations into all manager-training sessions. The training will explain that managers will have to review all requests at least once per quarter.
    Finally, Abercrombie will be obligated to provide biannual reports to the EEOC and their associate for three years regarding the implementation of these policy changes.

  • Right Management conducted a poll revealing that nearly four out of five workers said their organization’s employees spend more time at work since the recession began in 2008.
    A staggering 67% of employees surveyed said they spend “a great deal” more hours at work than they have in the last 5 years.
    Human resource experts maintain that longer hours without a focus on engagement runs the risk of driving a culture of disengagement. This is a topic that has been the focus of senior management and HR for years. To counteract this disengagement, especially during a time of streamlined operations and continued fiscal belt tightening, engagement is receiving increased focus. This is primarily due to the fact that employers recognize that talent is the only source of a sustainable competitive advantage and if you lose that advantage, you lose the business.
    An atmosphere where employees want to work will ensure their loyalty to the business remains and hopefully prevent employees from looking elsewhere for better work.

  • It seems federal regulators are closer to allowing airline passengers use of their popular electronic devices after a recent blessing from a very influential advisory panel.
    The panel, which consisted of 28 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) members, voted to recommend the change during a very secretive closed-door meeting last Thursday. The panel was voting on whether or not passengers should be allowed to operate smartphones, tablets, e-readers and other similar gadgets during takeoffs and landings. The government asked the panel not to speak publicly about this matter as not to draw too much public attention.
    Whilst the panel’s recommendation will be delivered Monday, the FAA will have the final say on whether the restrictions will be lifted. If the advice is taken, the new rule will state that passengers will be allowed to operate electronic devices below an altitude of 10,000 feet although some devices would need to be on airplane mode. Furthermore, downloading data and talking on the phone would still remain prohibited. The only authority allowed to lift restrictions on cellphone calls during flight is the Federal Communications Commission.
    Takeoffs and landings are considered by aviation experts as the most critical phases of flight. Newer aircrafts are supposedly better equipped for electronic interferences but experts complain that safety concerns were behind the original regulations and should be considered during this decision making process.
    An Amazon.com spokesman spoke out on the news saying that this is “a big win for customers and frankly, it’s about time.”
    Boeing 777 Captain and GMR Expert Eric Perle says that he agrees and that the restriction should be lifted.
    “There has been no data to date that says using electronic devices during the first 10 minutes or the last 10 minutes of flight causes issues with the aircraft systems,” Captain Perle said.
    Not all agree with this, though. In the past two years alone Delta said that 27 reports from pilots and maintenance crews were received about possible device interference. None of these 27 reports have ever been confirmed.
    Ultimately the FAA, who created the committee and put several of its employees on the panel, will make the final decision.
    If the agency were to accept the recommendations, airline passengers could see these device restrictions lifted as soon as 2014.

  • More than one third of line managers have yet to be trained in how to supervise people, creating cultural and relationship issues in the workplace.
    The CIPD’s survey called ‘Real-life leaders: closing the knowledge-doing gap’, explains that 24% of managers are often forced to implement the interests of their employer over the interests and wellbeing of their employees. This isn’t necessarily surprising when 48% of the individuals promoted into management were chosen based on their performance record and not due to their people management and/or leadership skills.
    One of the biggest and most destructive, issues is the fact that managers are under a constant pressure to deal with immediate task oriented priorities over people management issues. They act more as firefighters putting out little fires, than addressing bigger pictures like employee retention.   Often times employers’ efforts to foster positive manager behaviours are undermined by the lack of a consistent message of what is actually expected of these managers.
    Additionally, the survey revealed that most of these companies failed to take any action against managers that received poor feedback. Industry priorities, it seems, are beginning to change following the recent cultural crises in public health care and banking. More and more businesses are being urged to strengthen support for line managers. They are being told to offer more robust training and better clarification of the scope and expectations of the job.
    A CIPD research associate said that time and time again it is heard that organisations lack quality leaders. This is followed with the statement that this is partially due to the fact that these same organisations lack commitment to drive quality leaders.
    Overall, the data from this survey should stand as a wake up call to businesses. It is begging for realignment and structure, something human resource experts claim is a make or break point for the health and longevity of an organisation.

  • For more than thirty years contract air traffic control towers have been providing essential air traffic safety services. Personnel have been known to work tirelessly, seven days a week, to manage 80,000 to 100,000 operations each year. This allowed personnel to accommodate corporate and business aircrafts, along with pilot training initiatives.
    When stop-gap legislation was enacted last May enabling the FAA to abandon its budget trimming plan, the agency however, left open the possibility that the towers could be closed when the new fiscal year starts on October 1.
    The budget-trimming plan was originally prompted by sequestration cuts imposed by Congress. The US Contract Tower Association (USCTA) has been leading the industry’s fight to keep the towers open and operational especially now that October 1 is rapidly approaching.
    The issue of funding for these towers, according to many aviation experts, will create significant safety concerns in addition to operational concerns.
    Currently, Congress has not yet approved a budget for fiscal year 2014.

     

  • It was reported by the United States Department of Transportation’s Inspector General that none of the 49 suggestions relating to the hiring and training of new air traffic controllers outlined in the FAA’s independent review panel have been implemented.
    The Federal Aviation Administration plans on hiring and training more than 11,700 new air traffic controllers from now through fiscal year 2021 in order to offset expected retirements. Controllers hired after the 1981 Patco strike are nearing their retirement age and since training can take more than three years, the agency faces a huge challenge to replace these staff members.
    Enough new employees will have to be hired to staff the nation’s 300 ATC facilities, whilst some other concerns include managing contract training resources, maintaining consistent lines of leadership, measuring the impact of training initiatives and improving staffing composition at complex facilities through placement.
    The Inspector General made multiple recommendations to assist the FAA in improving the aforementioned factors, among others, but no action has been made at this time.

  • While many Americans are extremely familiar with the term Obamacare, very few can tell you what Obamacare actually entails.
    More than six in ten Americans admit that they do not have the information necessary to understand the changes the law will bring, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll. The Obama administration may have the grueling task of coaxing 7 million uninsured people to sign up for coverage by the end of March but human resource professional have the task of informing and educating their staff.
    Already, many government ally associations have embarked on public relation campaigns. These campaigns have been put into motion to educate people about health-care plans and the fact that some people will qualify for government assistance in the fall.
    HR experts explain that insurance companies have also been getting in on this action. Health co-op companies have been approaching areas with large populations of uninsured people to tell them what the new laws say and what their options are.
    The Washington Post-ABC News poll reveals this lack of Obamacare education is found across all ages, races, genders, income groups and party affiliation. Additionally, there are differences in understanding depending on what region of the United States is looked at. This is primarily due to the varied levels of promotion and education.
    Unfortunately, there is even confusion among some legislation supporters, even though if a person labeled him or herself as a supporter, one would think they would understand what is going on. White House officials are not necessarily surprised by all of this confusion since health insurance is confusing to begin with. Since Americans will have six months to comply with the requirements it appears some are dragging their feet when it comes to understanding what is being offered.
    White House coordinator for health care reform, Chris Jennings, said that the administration will begin its big public information push after October 1, so that people find out online how the law will apply to them. Jennings explained that the reason for this timing is because most people engage when they need to take action.
    “Their lives are very busy, they have many other priorities in the here and now, and when they engage they want to have the information necessary to make an informed choice,” Jennings said.

  • MGM Advantage released data that revealed 1 in 20 retired people are deliberately misconstruing health or lifestyle conditions when purchasing annuity.
    About 5% of the surveyed population of retired people said they purposely under-estimated the amount of smoking and drinking they did and did not declare one or more medical conditions.
    While some people feel like they can’t discuss personal or medical information with their financial advisor, many of these advisors have put in place telephone interviews with trained specialists who can deal with these kinds of sensitive issues. Anyone approaching retirement needs to be as open as possible because some details can affect the income they receive via their pension.
    Experts suggest that in order to maximise their retirement income, the retiree should look at all their options rather than simply the annuity on offer from the pension provider. The retiree should also consider whether or not they will be providing for a partner, or family, through a guaranteed period or joint-life annuity.
    It is key to always exercise your right to shop around for the best annuity rate. It is possible that the difference can be 30% and sometimes even more. Perhaps the best advice experts offer, is to seek professional financial advice to ensure you get the best option for your needs.

     

  • The last two decades have seen a steady decrease in the number of companies offering retirees health coverage. Left with little recourse, this decrease has left a lot of senior citizens searching high and low, with little education, for plans to supplement their Medicare benefits.
    Fortunately, employers are starting to contract with companies that operate insurance marketplaces. Medicare-eligible retirees can enroll in plans via this marketplace in order to replace what they used to get under employment. These “exchanges”, as they are called, typically work with multiple insurers that offer different products and allow seniors to work with counselors to determine which coverage best meets their needs. This leads to a more personal experience for the retiree since all of the assistance is tailored to them.
    Human resource experts explain that many employers that contract with exchanges, fund part of the coverage by making deposits to their retirees into accounts that are called health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). These experts also believe that exchanges can benefit both the employer and the retiree.
    Furthermore, a third of the employers that are currently offering medical insurance are said to be dropping it in the next five years. If this one third were to do this, about 42% of them would do so without providing subsidies to help retirees buy coverage.