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June 22, 2021

HR audit: 7 point checklist

The rapidly changing legal and regulatory landscape is a primary motivation for performing a regular HR Audit. With so many rules, regulations, and laws at all levels of government, it’s incredibly difficult to maintain compliance. Before you know it, you’re out of date. So, performing a comprehensive annual HR audit is extremely important.

7 Point checklist to help make sure your audit is complete and effective

1. Job Vacancies: The first order of business.

All federal contractors, which includes 25% of all employers, have additional job posting requirements, including the pay transparency requirement. Employers have to use the stated requirement exactly how the language reads on all vacancy announcements, career sites, career pages, or any other posting location.

Businesses also need to disclose that they are Affirmative Action employers.  Job vacancy announcements for all employers must also be ADA compliant and use “gender neutral” language.

Whether employment applications are online or on paper, companies must make sure everything is accurate and current. This includes “ban the box,” meaning any reference to criminal records must be crossed out or removed. Drug test information must be clear to the applicant and candidates need to thoroughly understand the FMLA policy. 

2. Make sure to properly vet candidates

According to the Workplace Violence Institute, negligent hiring costs U.S. businesses more than $18 billion every year.

Thoroughly interview within the legal limits.

To be safe, ask questions that focus on the job. Talk about the job requirements, but don’t ask about the consequences – only the conditions. For example, don’t assume a woman with children will not be able to work extended hours. Make sure that all candidates understand the requirements of the job.

Asking about actions outside of the job can create trouble. Even something as benign as asking about a hobby can lead to protected information such as religious beliefs.

Extreme care needs to be taken on how questions are asked. For example, if an applicant graduated from the same high school as the interviewer, asking, “What year did you graduate” can identify the applicants age and that can be construed as discriminatory.

When Googling a candidate use caution or just don’t do it at all. Sometimes vetting goes beyond reference and background checks. Checking a candidate’s social media accounts is where HR could potentially see things that can’t be unseen. Make sure “disqualifying criteria” is firmly established ahead of time to ensure there is no question about rejecting a candidate based on the search. It is recommended that if an organization chooses to social search, only one person within the organization does so.

What about conditional offers of employment?

  • Make sure the drug testing policy is clearly stated. And don’t rely on outside sources to do background checks without HR involvement.
  • If the company requires signed non-compete or non-disclosures, put that in the conditional offer as well.
  • Make sure Fitness Requirements are realistic and specific. For example, if the ability to lift a particular weight has been stated as part of the job description, make sure the weight has been tested and verified.

Reference checks often times provide limited value. References are not going to say bad things about the candidate. Also, be careful doing assessments. If the company is testing, make sure the vendor tests are applicable to the job. Companies have been sued because of faulty tests.

3. Pay attention to what happens after the candidate has been hired.

If your company has created and maintains a respectful workplace, you are miles ahead. 

HR must report on new hires, so be sure to take care of:

  • Reporting the size of your organization if it will change any time in the near future
  • Reporting employees to the State Garnishment via the Minnesota New Hire Reporting Center
  • Unemployment
  • Payroll reporting
  • Affirmative Action Plan (VETS 4212, which used to be VETS 100)
  • EEO-1 (Even if the current regulation stays in force, how this is done will change. Specifically pay information to ensure no discrimination of pay level)
  • Harassment training
  • Manager training

4. Be mindful of what goes into the Employee Handbook.

Some employment law attorneys urge companies to limit their handbook to no more than 30 pages. Remember, the employee handbook not only articulates the expectations of the employer and the employee, it can depict your corporate culture.

What should be in the handbook?

  • At-will statement
  • Harassment and discrimination policy
  • Compensation policy
  • Your state’s-specific laws       
  • Sick leave 
  • OSHA
  • Technology policy: Social media, Data security, Harassment, sexual or otherwise
  • Drug-free workplace
  • FLSA: Exempt & non-exempt, Independent contractors
  • Job Descriptions
  • FMLA 

5. Carefully consider how to handle employee discipline?

Ideally, employers want to make sure employees never need to be disciplined, but if the situation arises, ask yourself:

  • Does your handbook include standards of conduct and disciplinary measures?
  • Are managers trained to ensure that company standards are being followed prior to disciplining or terminating an employee?
  • Is appropriate documentation being kept?

6. Make sure reviews are standardized and timely.

If you’re going to do reviews, do you have a standard process for measuring and reviewing performance with employees? Reviews need to accurately reflect performance, so HR needs to address performance issues as they arise and the company needs to thank employees when they do good work. Don’t wait for the end of the year. Reward or critique as it occurs.

7. What else should you be doing (as if you had all the time in the world)?

  • Checklists
  • Technology policy
  • Workplace violence policy and training
  • Workplace bullying policy and training
  • Manager training
  • Onboarding
  • Give feedback – formal/informal
  • Mentoring
  • Pay and incentive programs
  • Safety training
  • Emergency training
  • Record keeping
  • Employee survey
  • Track turnover
  • HR metrics
  • Develop HR department mission statement (purpose/values)
  • Does HR have an organization chart that defines the functional responsibilities of each role and who employees can contact for help
  • Do you have employment practices liability insurance coverage?
  • Checklist of process that lives in your head (so when you’re promoted, it’s all written down for your successor)

For more information about conducting effective HR Audits, contact a MMA Human Resources Consultant.