As another season comes to a close, the relief that comes with bringing the busiest time of year to an end is palatable. It is also tempting to rush to the much-needed downtime and understandably so! There is, however, an opportunity to ensure compliance finishing touches happen and that you pause, reflect and make note of how next year can be improved. There are a variety of tools to leverage and assist you in successfully wrapping up the season.
End of Employment
Winding down the season also means terminating employment of seasonal workers. There are important steps to remember to ensure that the individuals receive the appropriate information and that you document their departure accordingly. It is helpful to turn the following into a checklist that you complete for each employee and keep on file:
- Provide final paycheck and include unpaid vacation, PTO, other benefits
- Provide Final Paycheck Acknowledgment Form, signed by the employee
- Provide copy of Change in Relationship Form, signed by the employee and company representative
- Verify employee’s mailing address
- Provide For Your Benefit (California Employment Development Department Form 2320)
- Provide Health Insurance Premium (HIPP) Notice
- Provide company retirement plan paperwork (if applicable)
- Collect any company equipment (if applicable)
The Change in Relationship Form is an important element in this process, as it not only serves as formal, documented acknowledgement of termination but can also be used to transition workers from full-time status to part-time or on-call status. The form should include options for employer-driven termination, voluntary termination by the employee, transition in status, change in compensation terms, requests for time off and other potential changes of employment. It should be signed by the worker, along with their immediate supervisor and a copy should be provided to the employee for their files.
It is also important to move these employees’ Form I9s into a folder specifically designated for workers that have recently been terminated but do not yet qualify for document disposal. Now is a good time to add appropriate notes to individuals’ personnel files about their overall performance during the season and other information that will assist you in determining whether or not you will consider rehiring next year.
Evaluating Near Misses
Worker safety is always a priority and even with an established, well-rounded written program and systems in place, issues may arise. When a near-miss occurs—an almost-accident—the opportunity presents itself to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the incident. Take the time to review the following:
- What transpired leading up to situation: work being done, location, time of day, weather conditions?
- Who were the parties involved—employees, farm labor contractor employees, family members, other vendors’ staff?
- What training did those workers receive, by whom and when?
- What equipment was used, if any, and who owns and maintains that equipment?
- Does any evidence exist specific to the situation: pictures, video, text messages, witness statements, broken equipment?
In reviewing these facts, consider the steps that need to be taken to prevent this scenario from happening again and actually becoming a full-fledged incident. Update your written program, consider retraining employees to ensure their knowledge is current, and discuss with your vendors the steps they are taking to ensure their staff know how to mitigate potential issues moving forward. In addition, look at implementing steps to ensure the equipment, tools and products being used on the farm are well-maintained and viable, helping to eliminate that potential exposure.
The new year is also the time when most government agencies update the myriad of forms related to employment. Their expectation is that employers do their due diligence to ensure they use the most current form available. As such, it’s a good idea to double-check and make sure that you are using the most current version of the following:
- Form W-4 (IRS)
- Form I-9 (USCIS)
Farm Labor Contractor Registration Application/Renewal Form: WH-520 (USDOL)
It’s also important that you update terms of employment if you will be making any changes, including compensation as minimum wage increases. Employees should receive a current Notice to Employees with wage rates and other applicable benefits. It is also a good opportunity to ask workers if they need to update their Emergency Contact Information, ensuring you have the most current details should a situation arise.
Winding down the busy season can be made much smoother and the start of next year much easier by considering these simple but effective steps. For more information about worker safety, human resources, labor relations, pesticide safety or food safety issues, please visit www.agsafe.org, call (209) 526-4400 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
AgSafe is a 501c3 nonprofit providing training, education, outreach and tools in the areas of safety, labor relations, food safety and human resources for the food and farming industries. Since 1991, AgSafe has educated over 85,000 employers, supervisors, and workers about these critical issues.