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Last updateTue, 22 May 2018 8pm

Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES)

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Dear Working Wise:

I just hired a new person to work in our office. She hasn’t started work yet, but she seems like a good fit. She knows the software and has a great personality—but I’m a little worried. She uses a wheelchair to get around and I’m a little concerned about any costs I’m going to have to incur to accommodate her disability. The economy isn’t great right now and my bottom line has never been thinner. Did I make the right decision? Signed, Concerned  

 

Dear Concerned:

It’s always a gamble when you hire any new employee. Most times, they work out fine and your latest hire is no different.

 

One in seven Albertans has a disability including those with invisible disabilities, such as learning disabilities or mental health issues.  You may already employ someone with a disability and not even know it.

 

Regarding your concern about extra costs associated with accommodating her physical challenges, you may be surprised how little it costs.

 

A Job Accommodation Network survey of more than 1,000 employers found that 56 per cent of disabled employees required accommodations that cost nothing at all. Employers reported the average cost to accommodate an employee with a disability at $320 and 95 per cent said that it was a one-time cost.

 

You will also be pleased to know that the Disability Related Employment Supports (DRES) program helps Albertans overcome their barriers to employment. The DRES program can be accessed by your employee to help offset the cost, at least in part, of worksite modifications or assistive technology.

 

That’s of course if she needs any modifications at all. Many people who live with physical disabilities have become experts in overcoming the challenges of daily living, including work. They’ve often developed systems and tools that enable them to get the job done.

 

The fact is your new employee is more valuable than you think. Employees with disabilities bring to your company a number of competitive advantages.

 

Expand your customer base — employees with disabilities can identify with a diverse range of customers and anticipate their wants and needs. Anything you do to “accommodate” your new employee, may help make it easier for seniors and people with disabilities to access your business, e.g., automated doors.

 

Solve problems creatively — people with disabilities have lots of life experience thinking of innovative solutions to daily problems and challenges.

 

Improve your public image — hiring people with disabilities shows your customers and staff that your company is an inclusive organization that values everyone’s contributions.

 

Increase the talent pool — the economy may have slowed down recently, but that will not last forever. Opening your doors to all Albertans gives you more choice to hire the best people. Job seekers with disabilities have historically been an untapped labour source, but technology and increased access to post-secondary education is allowing people with disabilities to reach their full potential and compete side-by-side with everyone else.

 

Prepare for the future workforce — as the population ages, employers will need to know how to meet the needs of their aging customers and employees. People with disabilities have lots of expertise in this area.

 

Reduce staff turnover — people with disabilities have better work attendance and stay longer with their employers than the average worker.

 

For more information on hiring people with disabilities, check out www.workink.com.

 

For more information on the DRES program, visit www.employment.alberta.ca/dres or speak to a Career and Employment Consultant at your nearest Alberta Service Centre. For the office nearest you, visit: www.employment.alberta.ca/offices

 

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.

 


Working in the cold

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Dear Working Wise:

I have a new job as a framer, but I’m a little worried about working outside all day during the winter. It already feels cold and I know it’s going to get worse. Do you have any tips on staying warm? Signed, Freezing Framer

 

Dear Freezing:

Yes, working in the cold can be uncomfortable and even dangerous.

 

Under the law, employers are responsible for the health and safety of the workers on their work sites. Working in the cold is a hazard. Your employer should be monitoring the outside temperature and taking steps to protect you.

 

However, you also have a role to play in protecting yourself and the people you work with. The person most likely to notice frostbite, hypothermia or dehydration is you or one of your coworkers. Here are some tips to help you stay safe and warm this winter.

 

Dress in layers—Layers allow you to adjust as the temperature, wind and your physical activity level changes. This prevents you from getting too cold or hot—causing you to sweat. Damp clothing wicks away body heat and causes you to feel colder faster.

 

Stay out of the wind—a mild 20 km/h wind can make -20 C feel like -30 C. If you can’t work inside, try building a wind break.

 

Take frequent breaks—employers should provide a heated rest area. A schedule of regular rest breaks, based on the conditions, should be established to allow workers to warm up. Workers should be allowed to decide how often they need to take breaks—the schedule is just to ensure they don’t forget to stop and warm up.

 

Limit your exposure—get your tools and nails ready before you go outside. Work on small projects inside and then carry them outside for installation. Work outside during the warmer hours of the day and work inside during the colder ones.

 

Drink warm liquids—drink coffee, tea and hot chocolate to help you warm up and alternate with water or a sports drink. Caffeine speeds up your metabolism, causing you to sweat and possibly dehydrate and lose electrolytes.

 

Cover your head and hands—the greater the surface area of your skin is exposed, the more heat your body loses. If you are on your knees a lot, wear extra protection on your knees to insulate them from cold surfaces. Be careful, scarves and gloves can get caught in moving equipment.

 

Use enclosures and heating systems when possible—heaters can help take the edge of a cold work area or help you warm up while you’re taking a break, but be sure the area is well ventilated to prevent the build up of carbon monoxide.

 

Know the signs of frostbite—a tingling sensation or skin that looks pale and waxy are the first signs of frostbite. Your hands, face and feet are at the greatest risk, because your body diverts blood away from your extremities first when it starts getting cold.

 

Know the signs of hypothermia—severe shivering is an early sign of hypothermia. A severely shivering worker should be removed immediately from exposure to the cold.

 

Watch out for hazards—snow can hide tripping hazards like extension cords or even icy surfaces. Wear proper footwear and mark or remove hazards.

 

Ask your co-workers—you’ve probably already done this, but the people you work with have learned what works and what doesn’t. Check out what they wear and ask them what they recommend.

 

For more information and tips on working in the cold, visit www.employment.alberta.ca/whs and check out the publication Best Practice—Working Safely inthe Heat and Cold.

 

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.

 

 

Paycheck Deductions

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Dear Working Wise:

 

Can I deduct cash shortages from employee paychecks? The staff at my convenience store are cashiers. They count their floats before they start work and count their floats at the end of their shift. Since they are responsible for the money, can I recover the cash “lost” during their shifts via paycheck deductions? Signed, Missing Cash

 

Dear Missing Cash:

 

Alberta’s Employment Standards Code allows certain deductions to be made from employee earnings: Income Tax, Canada Pension Plan, Employment Insurance and Alberta Health Care premiums, as well as deductions resulting from a court judgment or order.

 

If you want to make other deductions from your employee’s pay, you must get written permission from the employee. Examples could include company pension plans, dental plans, personal charges to company credit cards, and so on. Usually these deductions are discussed and permissions are provided before the employee starts their job.

 

There are some deductions that are not allowed even with written authorization from the employee. For example, you cannot take deductions for faulty workmanship—restaurants can not charge employees for the dishes they accidentally drop.

 

Section 12 of the Code also states that an employer cannot make deductions from an employee’s earnings for cash shortages or lost property if any individual other than the employee had access to the cash or property.

 

This could include other employees, accounting staff, supervisors or managers (including you). It may be difficult to actually find a time when only one employee has exclusive access to cash or property.

 

The only way you can deduct cash shortages from an employee’s pay is if:

·      You can show that they were the only person with access to the cash; and

·      The employee gives you written authorization prior to the deduction.

 

Cash shortages could indicate some other issues that might require further investigation.

 

Your staff may need more cash-handling training and experience or they might be making mistakes because they are too busy. Talk to your staff about the reasons for cash shortages. You may need to step in a take a more active role in ensuring your staff have the proper skills.

 

You could also be experiencing theft in your workplace. Employee theft accounts for around one-third of all retail theft in Canada.   

 

Most employees are honest, though, and deserve your trust. Less than four per cent of employees were caught stealing in 2008 according to the 21st Annual Retail Theft Survey conducted by Jack L. Hayes International. The survey included 22 major U.S. retailers employing a total of more than 2.1 million staff.

 

Talk to your employees and establish a zero-tolerance policy to theft. You might want to monitor things more closely. Perform reference checks before you hire. Ask your senior employees keep an eye out for problems. Install surveillance cameras. If the losses are linked to a specific employee, you might want to involve the police.

 

To review the Employment Standards Code, please visit our website at http://employment.alberta.ca/es.

 

Do you have a work-related question? Send your questions to Working Wise, at charles.strachey@gov.ab.ca. Charles Strachey is a regional manager with Alberta Employment and Immigration. This column is provided for general information.

 


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