Business Guidance

Workplace Assessments: What you Don’t Know CAN Hurt You!

Much like in assessing our own physical health through an annual checkup, businesses need to monitor their health, too. Particularly in matters pertaining to their employees. Whether you have a dedicated HR function or not, your company’s HR practices and procedures play a significant role in your ability to manage workplace related risk and attract and retain talent. Are your policies and practices in compliance with statutory regulations? Do you know? When was the last time you pressed “pause,” and took the time to review them?

In today’s environment of a more self-educated workforce, employees’ sensitivity to their rights, and rapidly escalating issue creation via social media (Me Too, BLM, etc.), employers need to be proactive in understanding their HR obligations, and maintaining the integrity of their people-related policies and procedures.

In smaller company environments, credible HR guidance is typically not available in-house, and those who are tasked with HR oversight tend to be highly talented in their areas of specialty, yet without formal HR training or experience. This creates risk and exposure to the constant presence and oversight of entities such as the IRS, the Department of Labor, or the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Employers should expect that with these agencies, just like with any legal infraction, “ignorance of the law is no defense” certainly applies when faced with an audit, an investigation by a government agency, or even litigation. This is particularly true when areas of ignorance include critical HR practices, such as employment practices, compensation, benefits and workers compensation. Uninformed decision-making by an internal non-HR focused team member can result in serious consequences.

According to published EEOC litigation and resolution statistics, perhaps the most convincing data point in compelling employers to focus on their HR practices is the amount of money recovered from employers in 2019 for sexual harassment claims – a total of $68.2 million. This represents a 20% increase from the previous all-time high of $56.6 million set in 2018, and is nearly double the total from just five years previous ($35 million in 2014).

Many of the landmines related to employment litigation, harassment or otherwise, are chronic to subordinating HR coverage to another in-house department or individual. Much of this risk can be avoided through careful advance planning, and, most importantly, by seeking outside help. Univest HR Consulting provides broad HR support and employer risk-management services for smaller companies, including HR assessments, handbook development, payroll and benefits administration, as well as one-off issue support through our HR Helpline.

Our process starts with an informal conversation about your HR pain points, and a Q&A session covering a variety of common HR challenges in smaller company environments. We then report back our findings, and depending on the level of HR process and procedural gaps we uncover, we may propose moving forward with a more comprehensive HR assessment. Our prioritized approach is developed from both a timing and content standpoint; balancing more immediate resolution of higher risk areas with minimizing business disruption.

To schedule an appointment, please email Jim Devine at


Insurance products offered through Univest Insurance, LLC. are obligations of the issuing insurance companies, not obligations or deposits of or guaranteed by any bank and are not insured by the FDIC or any other agency of the United States.