Patricia “Patra” Frame is an experienced management consultant, speaker and author on human capital issues at Strategies for Human Resources. Patra will be presenting “Hiring Smart” on April 3, 2012 at Alexandria SBDC; register here and come to this must-attend presentation for all small businesses and nonprofits who have limited Human Resources staffing.
As business owners, we worry often about the health of our business, but how frequently do we worry about having healthy employees? Sure, it gets attention when an employer contributes to health care insurance. If employees are absent because of sickness or a condition such as carpal tunnel syndrome that limits their productivity that affects the bottom line, and the prosperity of the business. However, even if employees show up for work, they may be suffering from health conditions which reduce their ability to do their best.
How can a business owner help maintain the wellness and health of employees, so that everyone benefits from a healthier business, both financially and otherwise? Prevention is clearly key. This is why employee washrooms in restaurants always have the sign “All Employees Must Wash Their Hands before Returning to Work.” Maintaining a healthy workplace and encouraging employees to adopt and maintain healthy habits go a long way. Leading by example is very effective. If the boss is seen smoking — and known not to exercise — then employees may read the hidden message that it is okay for them to do the same. On the other hand, if the boss brings a gym bag to work (as she stops off at the gym either before or after work), then this sends a completely different message. If the boss discusses engaging in sports activities (and not just watching sports on the television) whether as an individual, or in family activities, then this becomes a conversation topic among coworkers.
As small business owners, we may not be able to pay for gym memberships, but we can provide incentives for employees to lead a healthy lifestyle in other ways. Large companies can organize weight loss, smoking cessation or healthy eating workshops, and encourage employees to attend, and sometimes provide incentives for doing so. Small companies can create some challenges to employees and provide some tools to get started, such as a notebook for tracking exercise routines, food intake or other measurable criteria. An inexpensive pedometer can go a long way to help track distance walked or jogged during a lunch break or outside office hours. A business owner can reward an employee who participates in a wellness workshop in their free time, or achieves individual fitness and health goals. The key is to provide motivation that appeals to the employee.
We all want to stay healthy, both on and off the job. Having healthy and productive employees is surely an indicator of a successful business. Motivating employees to maintain their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, or whatever the individual goal might be, will send a sure signal that they are valued beyond their work performance. Hiring and training new employees is much more expensive than retaining existing staff, and so wellness encouragement reduces overhead and management time spent on these issues. A few hours or a few dollars dedicated to focusing on employee wellness now can pay dividends in the future.
For suggestions on incentives or rewards for an employee wellness program, please visit our website at www.oxfordpromos.com or call Oxford Communications at 703-922-4193.
Photo courtesy of USACE Europe District
- CFOs slowly seeing link between employee wellness and productivity (medcitynews.com)
- Workers Want Employers to Help Them Stay Healthy (livescience.com)
- Build an Office-Wellness Program in 4 Easy Steps (openforum.com)
Non-competition agreements, or non-solicitation agreements, are generally clauses within employment agreements which limit employees’ ability to enter into employment or to start a business which competes with a former employer. Under Virginia law, non-competes (sometimes called or written plainly “noncompetes”), though viewed as a restraint of trade, are enforceable if the three prongs of the non-compete–time, geography and function–are properly limited. The non-compete terms should be broad enough to protect the employer’s business interests, but not so broad as to prevent the employee from earning a living and should not violate public policy.
Many times the focus on non-compete agreement terms fall on the time and geography prong. In November, the Virginia Supreme Court squarely refocused the discussion on the function prong of the non-compete. In Home Paramount Pest Control v. Shaffer, the Court reviewed a non-compete agreement that it had approved 22 years ago in Paramount Termite Control v. Rector. This time the Court declared that the function provision, which the company had not changed in the ensuing time, as overly broad and the entire agreement as unenforceable.
The Court held that the language which stated that the former employee could not engage “directly or indirectly. . . in any manner whatsoever in the carrying on or conducting the business of exterminating, pest control, termite control and/or fumigation services as an owner, agent, servant, representative, or employee, and/or as a member of a partnership and/or as an officer, director or stockholder or any corporation or in any manner whatsoever . . .” was not reasonable because the clause effectively prohibited the employee from holding any type of job in the industry. The reasonableness of the time and geography prongs were insufficient to save the agreement. Under the Home Paramount, if a business wants to preclude an employee from performing any work for a competitor, then it must be ready, willing and able to prove a “legitimate business interest” to do so. That’s not necessarily an easy task.
So, to ease the process for small businesses, now is the time to review any non-compete clauses used in your business. Be wary of non-competition agreement forms or templates. What terms are permissible in a non-compete clause in Virginia may not work at all in California – and vice versa. Terms permissible 20 years ago or even 6 months ago in Virginia are no longer workable. Court decisions over time can and do change the law. The laws of individual states evolve over time and the laws of each state differ.
All three prongs of the non-compete must be appropriately limited, reasonable and related to the position in question. The function prong cannot be so broad that it effectively precludes the employee from performing any job in the industry from CEO to janitor or even from owning stock passively in a multinational, publicly held corporation.
Law Office of Paula Potoczak
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