In this episode of PeopleWork, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Chris Swan from Swipeclock, our long-time partner for all things Time and Attendance. Chris discusses the importance of keeping and maintaining accurate leave & absence management data, especially during the unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic in which we all find ourselves. Enjoy!
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Joe Peluso: Hey everybody. Welcome to another episode of People Work. Of course, this is the series where we interview practitioners and professionals and experts in all areas of human capital management for the benefit of anybody who is in charge of managing a workforce, operating a business, anything where helping people is what you do. So I am very, very happy to finally have Chris Swan from SwipeClock as my guest.
Joe Peluso: SwipeClock has been a partner of Complete Payroll's for a very long time. We are resellers, proud resellers of the software that they produce for managing time, tracking time, scheduling employees, things of that nature. It's been a very long and fruitful partnership for us and I don't see it stopping anytime soon. So Chris, thank you so much for taking a few minutes to join me.
Chris Swan: Perfect. Good morning everybody. Thank you so much. Very happy to be here. Great that we could actually produce this in these kind of strange times. I did my hair this morning-
Joe Peluso: I love it.
Chris Swan: So we're good to go.
Joe Peluso: I love it. I had a similar hairstyle for a while. I called it the calculated mess. it's a little bit messy, but it's, it's supposed to be.
Chris Swan: Yep. Yep, yep.
Joe Peluso: Yeah. So as you mentioned, obviously I'm coming to you from my apartment in North Buffalo, a very safe social distance of 1900 or so miles from where you are in Utah. Is that right?
Chris Swan: Yep.
Joe Peluso: That's kind of the reason I wanted to speak with you. A week or so ago, I saw a blog post that SwipeClock put out regarding absence management. I forget the other word, but yeah, absence management and essentially how to pay and how to manage employees that have been quarantined.
Joe Peluso: Obviously, it's extremely relevant and pertinent right now. I know very little about it so I wanted to bring on an expert and, and, and talk about it, and hopefully it will help clear that area of this gigantic mess that we're in up for people. So Chris, if you could just briefly talk about what absence management is.
Chris Swan: Yeah. Absolutely and it is a great topic for these times. So absentee management is basically tracking when your employees are absent from their scheduled work environment, right? If I'm supposed to be to work Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 9:00 to 5:00 and on Friday, I'm not there at work, well, that needs to be tracked for a variety of different reasons that I'm sure you're probably going to want to get into. But that is one of the areas that our systems actually specialize in tracking.
Chris Swan: And in today's environment, again, I'm sure you're probably going to get into that, but in today's environment that becomes even more critical as we take a look at some of the new regulations and/or stimulus packages that have just come through Congress to help us out during this, what I call the COVID period, right?
Chris Swan: Things like that Family First Act where it now provides for emergency paid leave. Well, we here at SwipeClock allow for the tracking of that type of information so that you as the employer can provide that paid leave to your employees and then get reimbursed for it. So yeah, we're here to handle all that for you.
Joe Peluso: Okay. Well yeah, let's start with, let's start with that. You mentioned the FCRA, what are some of the other regulations that have been passed that you're sort of talking about it and that SwipeClock has solutions for.
Chris Swan: Yeah, absolutely. So I think before we dive into them, I think there's something that is pretty important to understand when you're talking about tracking time and paying employees and that's what most employers out there already know. But it's the difference between an exempt employee and a non-exempt employee and the regulations that have to go around. Specifically today we're going to talk about non-exempt employees. Those FSLA regulations that are required basically stating that an employee must be paid for the actual time that they work.
Chris Swan: Therefore, you have to track that time that they're actually working. And then if their core and teens, you can actually generally start out by requiring them to utilize their PTO or vacation time, but I recommend to everybody out there that they check with their legal advisors, check with your CPAs, check with your attorneys. Make sure you understand what those FLSA rules are on exempt versus non-exempt.
Chris Swan: Diving further into the new regulations that have just been passed, I like to actually talk about the two that are really applicable today, right? There's an Emergency Paid Leave Act and there is the Cares Act that are out there. Both of those tie directly with today's environment. They were passed because of the current pandemic situation where many companies have had to basically close down, right?
Chris Swan: If you're in the New York Metro area and you're ina hospitality restaurant or retail business, you basically had to shut your business down as required by the regulations in those areas. That's true for a lot of different cities nationwide and so these acts were put into place to help those companies stay in business, not having to go out of business.
Chris Swan: Instead, they have this stimulus package that will help them to keep their employees onboard, keep paying those employees through some very low interest rate loans from the actual government and/or those loans can actually be forgiven as long as they're following the requirements based in these two acts.
Joe Peluso: Okay, great. So when an employee can't go to work because of this pandemic, what are some things that employers need to consider and what are some actions that they need to take to legally accommodate that? All of this stuff, obviously like advice, this is not legal advice. We need to obviously consult like you said with your counsel. But from your perspective, Chris, like what are some considerations that they need to make?
Chris Swan: Yeah, yeah. Actually and as you just stated, I'm not an attorney, I'm not a tax CPA, anything like that. We are in the software business that actually provides tracking of this information and we just because of what our products do, we play a role in this. But again this is how we interpret it.
Chris Swan: So the first thing, let's talk about the Emergency Paid Leave Act, which is an act that requires, that allows actually employers to pay their employees in this emergency paid up to 80 hours of paid leave for their full-time employees. There are also special considerations for the part-time employees. Again, this is an area where SwipeClock actually plays a heavy role as well in that our systems can actually make those determinations for not only the full-time employees, but the part-time employees and help you get the average hours for those part time employees.
Chris Swan: It also goes on to provide 12 weeks of job protected leave when it's related to the caring of a family member or a child in regards to this whole COVID situation. And there's some other things that go along with that, including requirements of health insurance companies to provide the free coronavirus testing in there. So what do employers need to qualify that? Well, they need to provide their employees with a special allocation of qualified PTO, right?
Chris Swan: So you can't just go ahead. If today, let's say you provide your employees with two weeks of normal PTO to qualify for this Emergency Paid Leave act, you need an additional bucket is what I'll call it. And you need additional accruals for that bucket set up. Again, this is an area where we actually specialize more than special vice. We're actually providing free assistance to all of our partners just like complete out there so that their clients can have this put into place.
Chris Swan: They must track the employees use of qualified PTO from differently or separately from the regular PTO and they must report on that qualified PTO in order to stay compliant with the tax filings, that are going to have this additional information put into place. So that's just one of the areas in regards to what's going on with the special acts that are out there for companies in today's environment.
Joe Peluso: Thank you. So talk about FMLA and how that applies to this situation. Does FMLA apply to I mean like family members who can track coronavirus?
Chris Swan: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So assuming that the employer or the FMLA already applied to that employer, if either their employees or any immediate family members of that contract, the COVID-19 or the coronavirus out there than FMLA, absolutely does apply to them. Again, going to make the recommendation to talk with your legal advisors about the FMLA regulations. But yes, it does actually play a role in the select.
Joe Peluso: So what about PTO? You said earlier that some people are being forced to use PTO. How does this whole thing affect even just, I guess the nature of paid time off and that benefit? Because it stands to reason that a number of people are going to have to exhaust that through no fault of their own. If you could speak on that a little bit.
Chris Swan: Yeah, yeah. And again, I'm making the recommendation that you talk with your legal advisor out there, but the Emergency Paid Leave Act was basically put into place for those that don't have any PTO. There are lots and lots of companies out there that don't provide PTO in there. What's important to remember is that you need to track and measure the employee's absence regardless of whether it's regular PTO or if it's for the Emergency Paid Leave Act in there. You want to make sure that you have a reliable system. I would say a reliable time keeping system that will accurately track the employees schedules and absences when they fail to show up for work, right?
Chris Swan: The second thing that I think is really important but very seldom talked about is during these times it's critical that employer stay in communication with their employees. Let's say I see one of my employees is constantly showing up late, right? And they're coming in a half an hour late or whatever. Well, I can't just assume that that employee knows what the regulations are and especially during today's time where so many employees are at home, working remotely like we are.
Chris Swan: We need to make sure that we're staying in communication with those employees and that they understand what our policies and procedures are, that they understand how to utilize today's technologies so that we can track their time and their absentees. And we need to make sure that as employers, we're putting in the proper technologies to do that accurately, right?
Chris Swan: If I want to track my employees tardiness, well then I probably need to know what their actual schedule is for working, right? And I need to make sure my employee knows what their schedule is for working and that way I can compare when they punched in or out versus what they were supposed to punch in and out, those different types of areas. Making sure that I have the tools in place so that I can actually fulfill the requirements based on me as that employer.
Joe Peluso: What are some of the implications, possible implications or consequences of tracking that information in accurately or incorrectly?
Chris Swan: Well, I mean, there's a couple of obvious, right? You're talking to a time and attendance guy, so from my standpoint, I'm going to tell you, you should have been doing this a long time ago anyway. Just for the basis of managing your labor properly, right? As business owners, you're all trying to manage the resources you have in efforts to gain the best return on investment out of those resources, and if you're not doing those with your employees who are probably your most expensive resources that you have, then you're not managing the cost of those resources properly.
Chris Swan: To me, that is a process of putting in those technological tools that allow you to understand when your employees are not behaving as they should be. Meaning coming in late, leaving early when they're not punching in and out from where they're supposed to be, meaning, "Hey, Johnny's down at Starbucks and he had his buddy go into the office early and punch him in. Even though he's still down at Starbucks." Just having knows actual features in place so that you can track the labor properly and get what you need out of your resources.
Chris Swan: That has actually heightened in today's environment, especially with the new acts that have come out to help you as employers, right? If you're not able to provide the proper backup documentation to the government entities that are regulating this, then the chances are you're going to actually end up having to pay for that out of your own pocket instead of having credits applied to your taxes or forgiveness applied to the loans, things like that. It's only behooving you as that employer to make sure you're following the compliance rules and it's not going to end up costing you out of your pocket.
Chris Swan: There are, with these new acts, there are some really, really good benefits that all employers should be taking advantage of here to make sure that their companies are not only surviving, but once we come out of this, they're actually even ready to thrive and that's the position we're taking over at SwipeClock. How can we help the employers out there not only get through this, but get through this in a manner where they're going to continue to grow their business and thrive after this is over.
Joe Peluso: That's great. Yeah, that brings me, well, I did want to ask you about, there was something in the article about a back to work policy, but before that I wanted to ask about, so you mentioned obviously the benefits that like the FECRA and the Cares Act and things like that are making available to employers.
Joe Peluso: Do employers run the risk of missing out on those benefits and on the other end, is it possible that if they are taking advantage of them, could they end up hurting themselves in the long run by not tracking this stuff accurately and reporting it accurately?
Chris Swan: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely on both cases, and again, we've been in this for a little while and as SwipeClock has been doing it's market research out there. We are just about in that process of converting from, okay, this is what we do to help you survive through this too, okay, this is what we now do to help you come out of this even stronger than before, right? To actually thrive.
Chris Swan: There's lots of information that you can find out there on the two on the Cares Act. You'll hear a lot of people talk about the payroll protection program out there, which is the part of the Cares Act and the family or I'm sorry. Yeah, the Family First Act which provides the emergency paid leave in there. Those I would suggest that you take a look at a couple of different areas.
Chris Swan: I find that sba.gov is a great place to actually go ahead and start taking a look at the information in regards to the two acts. There is also the Department of Labor and then if your part of any type of payroll process association out there today, they can provide you with the information that you're looking for.
Chris Swan: Most of your local chambers can provide you with these types of links. There's a lot of information that's going around out there, almost overwhelming at times. Take a moment, digest it, understand what it's about, talk to your legal advisors.
Joe Peluso: Sure. So, yeah you're talking about like coming out of this thriving, I think obviously I mean, let's hope this is not a permanent thing. I can't imagine that it is and hopefully it won't be the normal for much longer, but, so yeah. You mentioned the article and I thought that was really interesting about having the importance of having a "back to work process," a sort of re-onboarding sort of thing.
Joe Peluso: What if you can talk a little bit about that and what are some things that employers should consider once people are ready to get sort of back to business for lack of a better term.
Chris Swan: Yeah, absolutely. And I actually believe that that process starts now and it actually starts ... I think our internet connection is having a little bit of a struggle.
Joe Peluso: I'm here. I can hear ya. Are you there still?
Chris Swan: Okay. If you can hear me fine. Great.
Joe Peluso: All right.We had a glitch. It's all right.
Chris Swan: Yeah, so I think that actually starts now today. The number one suggestion I that I would make is don't wait till it's time to get back to work, right? Matter of fact, I would say taking advantage of these programs that are offered out there today is the best thing that you can do in getting back to work. My biggest fear right now is that there are so many companies that have gone out there and furloughed their employees as they wait to go through this. They're not taking advantage of the Cares Act and getting their employees back on payroll.
Chris Swan: Well, those employees are out there looking for other jobs right now, right there that might be hard to find, but there are some actual industries that are out there growing in this particular situation. We see a lot of healthcare-related companies actually growing and I have a story SwipeClock's CEO Coleman Barney, he had talked to some people that had actually been offered to take positions in Seattle, Washington.
Chris Swan: The people he was talking with are both in the healthcare industry and the Seattle Washington area was throwing out these incentives to bring them over into that area and to go to work in, I think it was a couple of hospitals, but it was in the health care industry, right? So they were offering these nurses $200 an hour starting wage plus a $5,000 bonus just to actually come and work in that area.
Chris Swan: So I mentioned that only to make it known that some areas, some verticals, some marketplaces are out there trying to as many employees as they can to help during the situation. Don't let your employees go because you furloughed them. Take advantage of what's out there today. Get them back on your payroll, utilizing the Cares Act, so that you are not going to be stuck in a situation where you have no employees once this is over.
Chris Swan: Let's take the next step, assuming that you actually are ready to get back and up and rolling, you have a plan to go back to work. You have a plan where you bring your employees back into an office space, into job locations, et cetera, et cetera. I think it's critical that you, again, utilize technology as a process for going through that, right? Everybody now is thinking about new ways to improve their business. Well, you need to be able to transmit that information, transfer that knowledge to your employees. Okay? How are you going to go about transferring that knowledge to your employees?
Chris Swan: Everybody now is thinking about new ways to do business that is optimized or more efficient. Okay? Do you have a plan laid out to present that over to your employees? And if you do not, then how do you expect your employees to actually go through the process of working your new plan? Do you have a process of getting them onboarded back up and going into your technology systems that you're using today? If not, you should be taking a look at the technologies that are out there and available.
Joe Peluso: So Chris, do you happen to know of a company or that might be able to provide software that is technologically capable of handling things like that?
Chris Swan: Oh, are you asking if SwipeClock can handle it?
Joe Peluso: That sounds familiar. Yeah.
Chris Swan: Yeah, that's exactly what we do. That's exactly what our business is, right? And so, that's why we love working with Complete Payroll. In essence, they are great at communicating to their client base and their prospective client base what the solutions are once they understand what their perspective clients challenges are, right? And so we are in the business of providing those solutions. Complete Payroll is great at communicating that information over their clients and putting those into place.
Chris Swan: And as I mentioned earlier on, utilizing those tools to help them thrive and get that return on investment. During today's time, I can kind of give you some examples of what some of those tools are that we provide. I'm going to take this based off of a lot of feedback we've had during this COVID situation where employees are now on a remote situation again, like me and you are, well, you still need to be able to track those employees time that they're working.
Chris Swan: So we provide web-based clocks, right? We can put out there so that your employees can clock in and out from their computers. If that's not actually how they're working, we have mobile applications where the employee now gets to utilize their mobile phone for punching in and out. That I saw as the biggest change ever since this environment hit.
Chris Swan: Kind of strange, but even for employees that still have to go into a job location, their employers now have them utilize mobile applications so that they're only touching their own personal phones and not touching, let's say a physical clock that many others would be touching as well. We do have actual special instructions for how to go ahead and disinfect any of our clocks and all of our clocks are made with a technology that helps prevent the viruses from being able to survive on the actual clock themselves, but mobile applications have hugely come into play.
Chris Swan: In addition to that, we have a feature called geo-fencing that actually allows your mobile device to track where you're supposed to be. Again, if I'm an employee and I am supposed to be working at, let's just say job location A. And my employer has drawn what we call a fence around job location A within the software, but I go ahead and clock in at Starbucks that's not in that fence.
Chris Swan: Well, my employer's immediately going to get a notification, a text, an email notification that lets them know, "Hey, your employee just punched in but he is not in the area he's supposed to be working." Okay? In addition to that, filtered prompts, the ability to now actually have your employees log where they're actually working, what job they're working on or I heard of a really, really cool use case the other day.
Chris Swan: There was an end user that came back and in the clock prompts, so on the actual mobile device, the employee punches in and then once they punch in, the employer actually has a series of questions come up that are related directly to COVID situation.
Chris Swan: For instance, they asked them if they had measured their temperature that morning. They asked them if they had been in any contact with anybody that had any symptoms and they asked them if they're abiding by the social distancing regulations that they've put into place. All of that's being recorded as they punch in and out for the day. Really, really cool use case for utilizing mobile app with filtered prompts.
Joe Peluso: Yeah. That's awesome. What a great story. Okay. All right. Do you have anything else you'd like to add before we wrap up?
Chris Swan: No, I think this has been awesome and I'm really appreciative that you invited me to do this. I'm happy to have the opportunity to just talk to the marketplace out there.
Joe Peluso: Of course. Yeah. Well, I mean, obviously it's such an interesting ... it's a consideration that you don't necessarily think of right away in terms of how do you track people's time when they're not at the office when they're elsewhere? And just what the importance of being able to do that even especially in a situation like this and keeping accurate records and things like that. So obviously we've trusted SwipeClock to be able to do that for, for years and years. And like I said, hopefully for, for longer.
Joe Peluso: Chris, this has been exactly what I hoped it would be. Super informative. Hopefully other people find it the same way. And obviously if you're watching this and you don't, aren't using these technologies and you aren't tracking, you're worried about whether or not you're tracking this time, your employees time accurately if whether if you're a client, contact your customer service representative to see about adding time and attendance to your package.
Joe Peluso: If you're not we offer most of SwipeClock's products, but certainly all the ones that Chris talked about just now. So Chris, thank you again for your time. I'm sure we'll be talking again soon. It's weird, Vegas was only a month or two ago and it seems like forever was the last time you and I saw each other. So if I don't hear from her in the meantime, I look forward to seeing you in Vegas next February, hopefully under very different circumstances than this.
Chris Swan: Yeah, exactly.
Joe Peluso: Yeah. All right.
Chris Swan: Thank you so much, man. Stay safe.
Joe Peluso: You too. Yeah, keep your hands clean. Do a happy birthday twice or whatever they say.
Chris Swan: Yeah, that's exactly it, man.
Joe Peluso: All right. Chris, thanks so much. Have a great day.
Chris Swan: You too. Talk to you soon.
Joe Peluso: Bye-bye. Thank you so much for checking out this episode. If you have a question for myself or for Chris regarding anything we just talked about, or if you'd like to suggest a topic and/or would like to volunteer yourself to be a guest on a future episode of People Work, drop us a line. Our email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again.