Posts

Showing posts from 2017

Revised Form I-9 Released by Citizenship and Immigration Services

Last week, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a newly-revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, which will be made mandatory starting Sept. 18, 2017.

Employers may use the revised version immediately (revision date of 7/17/17 N), but may also continue to use Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 N through Sept. 17.

Changes to the revised form include:

A new name for the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices, which has been changed to the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER).The changed language in Section 2, which now reads: “Employers or their authorized representative must complete and sign Section 2 within 3 business days of the employee’s first day of employment.”The List of Acceptable Documents includes the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) as a List C document.All certifications of report of birth issued by the U.S. Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350 and Form FS-240) h…

Construction Industry Could Lead the Way on Closing Gender Pay Gap, RICS Says

The construction industry could become a leader in closing the gender pay gap, according to a new survey.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) found that nearly half of construction workers predict the gap will be less than 15 per cent by April 2018. It is currently 18.1 per cent.

More than one in ten respondents said they thought that there will be no gender pay gap at all by April 2018, which marks the end of the UK Government’s mandatory gender pay reporting period.

However, this positive sentiment is markedly absent in the nation’s capital, with Londoners in the construction sector predicting an average pay gap of 21 per cent

Despite a positive outlook, the research found that businesses still need to do more to tackle gender inequality and sexism in the industry.

Nearly a third of women surveyed said they thought sexism holds them back from pursuing senior roles in construction, whilst 38 per cent of men said their skills are better suited to the sector than women.

New Homes Will Now Require Solar Panels in South Miami, a First in Florida

Image
July 18, 2017

Anyone building a new house in South Miami — or in some cases renovating existing ones — will have to install solar panels after the city commission approved a groundbreaking law Tuesday night.

The measure, the first of its kind in Florida, will go into effect in two months on Sept 18.

The ordinance passed 4-1 Tuesday night, with commissioner Josh Liebman dissenting.

Under the rules, new residential construction would require 175 square feet of solar panel to be installed per 1,000 square feet of sunlit roof area, or 2.75 kw per 1,000 square feet of living space, whichever is less. If the house is built under existing trees, the shade may exempt it.

Home renovations that replace more than 75 percent of the structure or extend the structure by more than 75 percent would also have to follow the new ordinance.

South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, a biology professor at Florida International University, has championed this measure. His entire home runs on solar and he drives …

Flexibility and Culture Creates Happy Employees

Finding and hiring good employees is hard enough with the lower unemployment rates the country is experiencing. Once found, retaining those key employees can be just as challenging. Losing talented employees doesn’t just affect your company’s productivity; it can also impact team morale, causing other employees to question whether the grass might be greener outside your organization. Once you have found the right person, it’s important to think about creating an environment that doesn’t have them thinking about leaving after only a short time.

First, be sure to clearly spell out the benefits your company offers in employee manuals and in offer letters. Clearly define what the benefits are – such as health insurance, retirement plans, health savings accounts, etc. – and explain what the company’s contributions toward those benefits will be and what the responsibility of the employee will be. Also include information on working hours, travel, leave, time off and vacation time accrual and…

Contractors: Don't Ignore Your Chief Financial Officer

It's a frightening truth. Construction company failures are often unpredictable and, in most cases, the accounting people saw it coming. The chief financial officer of a business often plays multiple roles, including steward of the company's assets and strategist in the use of funds and credit. After 30 years researching the causes of construction-business failures and participating in the resolution of hundreds of distressed firms, I came to the conclusion that there was another role played by the CFO: ignored.

The problem: When a construction CFO sounds the alarm, no one may be listening. Some CFOs are isolated or considered a necessary but unimportant function of the business. In discussing the issue with contractors, I've been told: "They don't know anything about construction."

And a common response from the CFO is: "And you don't know anything about accounting or finance."

A construction company has three primary functional areas: get the …

The Heat Is On! 6 Tips to Beat the Summer Heat

The long, hot days of summer will be here before we know it. In fact, most of the United States is expected to be hotter than normal June through August 2017, according to the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center.

That means heat safety should be top priority in any industrial work environment. To keep your talent safe and productive, employers must educate employees and supervisors alike about the potential dangers of heat stress and heat stroke.

Managing the Risk

Heat stress occurs when the body in unable to regulate itself by sweating and the core body temperature rises to critical levels. Heat-related illnesses occur when the body is not able to lose enough heat generated by physical work and external heat sources. It is a medical emergency that can lead to cramps, exhaustion, stroke and in severe cases, death. In 2014, 2,630 workers suffered from heat illness and 18 died from heat stroke and related causes on the job, according to OSHA.

The good news is that he…

Additional Insureds

Additional insureds are typically required on Commercial General Liability (CGL) policies of prime contractors and subcontractors. An owner may require the prime contractor to name them as an additional insured on their CGL policy. Similarly, a prime contractor may require the roofer to add the prime as an additional insured on the roofer’s CGL policy. When either of these situations take place, the additional insured (whether it be an owner or the prime contractor) receives two primary benefits. First, the additional insured receives added coverage without having to pay the insurer directly, because only the named insured is required to make payments on the premium; however, the cost of additional insured is usually passed on to the customer. Second, generally, an insurer may not pursue a subrogation claim against any additional insured because an insurer cannot sue its own insured for indemnity (although there are exceptions). In other words, if a customer was partly at fault for a …

Trump's Infrastructure Plan to Include Prevailing Wage Requirements

Prevailing wage rates are often higher than contractors, especially smaller ones, would normally pay. Advocates of prevailing wage say it levels the playing field during the bidding process, keeping contractors from lowering wages as a way to trim the overall cost of the project. Opponents, on the other hand, argue that the union wages used as the regulation's benchmark don't always fall in line with regional pay rates.

Last year, National Association of Home Builders First Vice Chairman — now Chairman — Granger MacDonald testified before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance that Davis-Bacon prevents smaller construction firms from competing for some federally funded projects.

Chao's indication that Trump's massive infrastructure plan will include Davis-Bacon wage rates is sure to draw pushback from Republicans and many construction industry groups, such as the Associated Builders and Contractors, who have consistently lobbied for the repe…

Metrics and Employment Agreements Address Productivity Issues

Short of monitoring employees in the field, it can be difficult to know if they are working to the highest level of productivity. Contractors should consider employment agreements for their employees that spell out expectations and include performance metrics tied into bonuses. In the case of salespersons, it is somewhat easier to know how much of their time is productive as their compensation is directly tied into the number and dollar volume of jobs sold. The salesperson’s employment agreement should specify whether he or she earns a salary plus commission or commission only.  Developing annual sales goals for the team is the best metric to evaluate productivity and whether each person is performing optimally. With multiple members on the sales team, it will be easy to identify underperformers and address the issue. It’s much harder to monitor productivity of other employees, such as installation crews, project managers, and field supervisors. This is where performance metrics that ti…

High Demand and Limited Supply Drive Construction Labor Costs Up

The law of supply and demand is one of the basic drivers of construction economics. It is integral to cost and profit for any construction business from materials suppliers to on site labor and contractors. Labor supply is closely tied to the demand side of the curve and the supply of skilled craftsman is fast becoming an issue that will drive the cost of labor up until a solution can be found. Today we are witnessing the long-term results from those programs that encouraged more students to go to college and discouraged students from taking those courses that lead to the building trades. A recent article in one of the Houston area community newspapers pointed out just how difficult the labor supply issue is becoming in Katy located on the west side of Houston and one of the fastest growing suburbs in the region. As the article titled, “Katy’s cost of construction” reports, “Fewer technical students, undocumented labor play role in ongoing labor shortage.” The article is a good overview o…

OSHA Suspends Rule Requiring Firms Report Injury and Illness Data Electronically

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration just delayed the compliance deadline for a rule requiring employers submit worker illness and injury data electronically to the agency.

The Labor Department on Wednesday suspended an Obama-era rule requiring that companies electronically report their injury and illness records, a move that effectively keeps these records from being publicly disclosed for the immediate future.

Several business groups, including the Associated Builders & Contractors, Associated General Contractors of America and the National Association of Home Builders, had challenged the 2016 Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule in court and lobbied the administration to jettison it on the grounds that it could unfairly damage the reputation of some of their members.

Companies have been required to maintain worker injury and illness logs since 1971, and between 1995 and 2012, OSHA had required about 180,000 establishments in high-hazard industries suc…

Court Gives A Boost to Builders in Construction Defects Battle

Industry now could begin to meet pent-up demand

In a ruling that could stir near-dormant condo construction in Colorado, the state Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a homeowners association was wrong to sue a builder after disregarding bylaws that require binding arbitration to settle claims of construction defects.

The association's key misstep, the court said in a 5-2 ruling, involved its bid to change the rules to allow litigation without getting the consent of the development's builder.

"Because the unit owners did not obtain the Declarant's written consent to remove the declaration's arbitration provision, the attempted amendment was ineffective," the court majority ruled. "Consequently, the Association remains bound by the arbitration agreement..."

The ruling in the case Vallagio at Iverness Residential Condo Association vs. Metropolitan Homes Inc. has potentially far-reachinf implications for both homeowners and builders. Advocates of homeow…

High Demand and Limited Supply Drive Construction Labor Costs Up

The law of supply and demand is one of the basic drivers of construction economics. It is integral to cost and profit for any construction business from materials suppliers to on site labor and contractors. Labor supply is closely tied to the demand side of the curve and the supply of skilled craftsman is fast becoming an issue that will drive the cost of labor up until a solution can be found.

Today we are witnessing the long-term results from those programs that encouraged more students to go to college and discouraged students from taking those courses that lead to the building trades.

A recent article in one of the Houston area community newspapers pointed out just how difficult the labor supply issue is becoming in Katy located on the west side of Houston and one of the fastest growing suburbs in the region.

As the article titled, "Katy's cost of construction" reports, "Fewer technical students, undocumented labor play role in ongoing labor shortage."

The …

Catching 'Storm Chasers': How Roofing Oversight Rules are Reshaping the Industry

Colorado, Texas, Missouri, and other Midwest and Southern states are known for their heavy storms, bringing wind, tornadoes and hail. Increasingly, they're also becoming known for fraudulent roofing contractors, a phenomenon in which companies prey on homeowners following major storm events and take off with their insurance money.

In Missouri, "it's changed the landscape entirely," said Jason Shupp, president of St. Louis-based Ferguson Roofing and past president of the Roofing and Siding Contractors Alliance (RSCA), a regional association serving Missouri and parts of Illinois. "How any contractor goes to market has changed quite a bit."

Fraudulent storm chasers also generate a sense of urgency among homeowners that isn't always necessary. "They have a sense that they have to move really quickly, which isn't always the case," Shupp said. That's because this kind of "storm chase" knows they must close the deal quickly before …

Immigrants Represent a Growing Share of the U.S. Workforce

Immigrants represent a steadily growing share of the U.S. workforce, a trend that could be affected by efforts to overhaul immigration policy in the U.S., according to Bloomberg BNA.

An annual report released May 18 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the number of foreign-born workers in the U.S. increased to nearly 27 million in 2016—up about 700,000 from the previous year and representing 16.9 percent of the U.S. labor force. That is the highest proportion in records going back to 1996, when immigrants accounted for just 10.8 percent of the workforce.

The report defines foreign-born workers as individuals who reside in the U.S. but were born outside the country to parents who were not U.S. citizens. It doesn't distinguish between legally admitted immigrants, refugees, temporary residents and undocumented immigrants.

The share of immigrants in the U.S. workforce has grown steadily during the past six years after a slight dip during the last recession when foreign-born work…

Automating the Construction Industry

Jonathan Wilkins explains how technologies such as drones and robots are being used to allow for off-site manufacturing and faster builds

The Great Wall of China is regarded as the longest running construction project of all time.

The wall took more than 2000 years and millions of workers to complete. At the time, labourers used only simple machinery to build the wall - a vast difference from the equipment used in construction today.

Automation has already been used by a number of construction companies to make the building process more efficient.

Though house building is an extremely complex and time consuming activity, Swiss prototype robot bricklayer, In-situ Fabricator, can build a house in just two days.

In-situ Fabricator isn't the only example of developments in rapid house building - Chinese 3D printing pioneer, WinSun, claims to be able to print ten houses in just one day using its innovating technology. These developments, however, are yet to become mainstream.

Adopting a…

How Millennials Have Shaped the Construction Industry—for Better and for Worse

Last year marked a milestone for the country's youngest generation of workers, commonly known as millennials: They overtook baby boomers as the largest workforce segment in America. Employers should be ecstatic that elevated rates of retirement are positioned to be offset by an influx of younger, energetic, tech-savvy workers ready to stimulate productivity

But in the construction industry, firms continue to wrestle with skills shortages as older workers in occupational categories such as welding and carpentry retire in large numbers with their potential successors disproportionately pursuing jobs in industries such as finance, professional services and health care. In 2002, 11 percent of construction workers were aged 55 or older, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By 2015, this share exceeded 20 percent, per the Current Population Survey.

What's more, despite massive growth in the population of twenty-somethings in recent years, by 2015 the fraction of co…