How to start the HR compliance conversation with your small business clients

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As a trusted financial advisor with an understanding of the laws and regulations that play into HR functions, you can help your small business clients understand their HR responsibilities, obtain the HR tools and resources they need, and focus on the growth of their businesses.

Small business owners without a designated HR manager feel overwhelmed by all of the HR responsibilities that come with having even just one or two employees. According to the latest Paychex Small Business Survey, 21 percent of today’s small business owners lack confidence in their organization’s ability to keep current with HR compliance.

While addressing your clients’ HR challenges isn’t typically a function of accounting, their lack of HR compliance can result in financial inaccuracies and costly penalties or fines that can all impact the work you do for them.

To make the appropriate recommendations to your clients, you must first understand their current level of HR compliance—what they’re doing now, what they should be doing, what processes they have in place, and how they execute on those. A couple key questions to get started: Is your client aware of the federal employment laws that impact his or her business? How about the state and local laws in each location in which they operate?

According to the business owners polled, the top three employer regulations they’re either not complying with or not aware of are: youth employment standards (42 percent), employee classification laws (37 percent) and overtime laws (36 percent). On the flip side, the majority of small business owners report being aware of and complying with the following laws: minimum wage (76 percent), OSHA and workplace safety (75 percent), non-discrimination (74 percent), and retaining employee time and pay records (72 percent). Gauging your clients’ level of awareness and compliance in each of these areas can help guide your HR recommendations in terms of solutions and providers who offer trainings and can lift some of that compliance burden.

HR processes, tools and resources are how businesses maintain HR compliance. Knowing how your client approaches key areas of HR will help give you both an idea of what’s needed moving forward. Start from the beginning of the employee journey and work from there. What are the tools your client currently uses for recruiting, onboarding, employee file and record retention, training and development, benefits administration, performance management, and employee relations? What works for them with these tools and processes? What could be more efficient and how?

So far, this HR discussion has centered on upper management, but HR as a function is all about employees. HR policies and procedures mean very little if not effectively communicated across the company. For example, is the employee handbook up-to-date and easily accessible to everyone? If a self-service form completion system is in place, do employees know how to access and utilize it?

Automation is one way to increase confidence when it comes to key HR functions. Paychex’s study revealed only 30 percent of small businesses rely on technology to automate the onboarding process. Additionally, 38 percent of those surveyed report tracking time and attendance manually rather than via an automated system. Embracing automation to accomplish such critical tasks not only saves time, but can also reduce the risk of human error.

Upon starting their business or hiring their first employee, small business owners can struggle with where to start when it comes to HR. By asking a few critical questions, you can help your small business clients assess their HR needs and better understand how to get their HR functions up and running efficiently. At the same time, you’ll be securing yourself a place as a trusted business adviser by gaining a deeper understanding of your clients’ business needs and ensuring the HR processes leading up to tax filings and other financial decisions are accurate and compliant.

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