WASHINGTON—U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has reached the congressionally mandated cap on H-2B visas for temporary nonagricultural workers for the first half of fiscal year 2020.
Nov. 15 was the final receipt date for new cap-subject H-2B worker petitions requesting an employment start date before April 1, 2020. USCIS will reject new cap-subject H-2B petitions received after Nov. 15 that request an employment start date before April 1, 2020.
USCIS continues to accept H-2B petitions that are exempt from the congressionally mandated cap. This includes the following types of petitions:
Current H-2B workers in the U.S. petitioning to extend their stay and, if applicable, change the terms of their employment or change their employers;
Fish roe processors, fish roe technicians, and/or supervisors of fish roe processing; and
Workers performing labor or services in the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands and/or Guam from Nov. 28, 2009, until Dec. 31, 2029.
U.S. businesses use the H-2B program to employ foreign workers for temporary nonagricultural jobs. Currently, Congress has set the H-2B cap at 66,000 per fiscal year, with 33,000 for workers who begin employment in the first half of the fiscal year (Oct.1 – March 31) and 33,000 (plus any unused numbers from the first half of the fiscal year) for workers who begin employment in the second half of the fiscal year (April 1 – Sept. 30).
Staffing agencies within the hotel industry perform many important functions. Therefore, hotel staffing compliance is important. Supplemental labor can help balance the needs of a property while maintaining a stable level of service throughout high and low seasons. Staffing agencies often have access to a qualified pool of talent and can also help streamline the hiring process. Also, since employees from staffing agencies work for the agencies not the hotels, unemployment costs are the responsibility of the agency. Often they can find employment for that worker elsewhere so this is not an issue.
Hotel and resort staffing agencies are not however, a way to skirt existing rules and regulations from the IRS, the Department of Labor, or a myriad of other state and local regulating bodies. In fact, using staffing agencies in this way could endanger a hotel brand and bring severe penalties in the form of fines and brand degradation.
Most hotels and resorts are not intentionally trying to break the law. They are trying to run a business in the most economically competitive way possible. In fact, when a hotel is working with a staffing agency that is not following rules about labor classification, background checks, and work status, they often do not know that they have been in violation until it is too late:
Here are some warning signs that a staffing agency may not be compliant with all the rules and regulations from local, state, and federal bodies:
A low bill rate might seem like a good thing. However, when you look at state and local minimum wages, these bill rates might indicate that workers are not being properly classified. If a staffing agency is paying workers and issuing a 1099, they are misclassified. The lower taxes that employers are paying allows them to give lower bill rates by skirting tax obligations. This however is illegal. It is also harmful in the long run to employees who could potentially face penalties from the IRS, since they have no clue that they now have different tax reporting responsibility.
Many staffing firms work in the marketplace until they run afoul of rules and regulations, declare bankruptcy and open under a different name. This is a warning sign that their internal practices may be corrupt, and partnering with these types of agencies should be avoided.
Staffing agencies should partner with hotels and resorts to help reduce worker injuries. This helps reduce costs, improve productivity, and increase worker retention. If an agency has no safety team, protecting against injury is no more than a hope or prayer. It is easy to say that safety is a concern but backing up that claim with real action is something else.
Why Is This Important Now?
As the labor market tightens and we near universal employment, the business of staffing looks extremely lucrative. Hotels and resorts as well as other businesses are relying on staffing agencies to access an ever-shrinking pool of talent. Making sure hotel staffing compliance is crucial. In addition, the use of contingent labor has grown tremendously in the last 10 years. For these reasons, new players have entered the market.
New competition is not a bad thing. However, many of these new players may not understand the intricacies of the business. After all, the impact for bending or breaking rules may not come for months or even years.
In addition, these new players may not push back against clients who: believe that staffing agencies shield them from liability when it comes to misclassification of labor, little or no background checks, or worker eligibility. Agencies like OSHA and the Department of Labor are very clear on the responsibilities of staffing agencies and the places of employment. It is the responsibility of agencies and hotels to follow these rules and regulations as partners.
It is a critical time for this industry because while the staffing business is booming, there are many chances for serious missteps that could it tarnish it.
“I think a big concern that I have has to do with the number of staffing agencies that have started business recently. They’re driven by the market demand but don’t necessarily understand the needs of the hospitality industry. They also may not have the long term branding concerns that we have either, they may not care to improve hotel brand reputation. This can lead to cutting corners on things like background checks and employment eligibility. As an industry we need to guard against this trend.”
Area GM for three properties on International Drive in Orlando, Hilton
A Matter of Brand Quality
Brands have become more and more important to consumers as they make choices based on internet reviews and broad perceptions. National and international brands are aware of the need to be law-abiding partners in the community. Staffing agencies should stand alongside these brands as partners in success, especially when dealing with hotel staffing compliance. There are no ways to offer a backdoor into unethical or illegal behavior that erodes the spirit behind brand integrity. It is also a tactic that can and will backfire eventually as large scale brands are associated with staffing scandals. In addition, many times branding is associated with a geography: think International Drive in Orlando or the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. These geographies are often home to hotels that have a major impact on that geographic brand. One negative incident at a hotel in those areas could hurt the entire brand experience that relies on millions of visitors every year.
A Matter of Safety
In addition to concerns about branding, safety is another major concern. Staffing agencies that are cutting corners in order to offer an impossibly low bill rate by not properly vetting employees are presenting a safety issues. Hotels must be vigilant about who is working in their hotels, tey need to keep a high hotel staffing compliance to keep guests and other staff safe. It pays to ask what the employee verification process is at an agency and ask to view the process throughout your relationship with the firm.
A Matter of Turnover
Working with a staffing agency that has reputable business practices, such as hotel staffing compliance, will have positive long-term relationships with both employees and hotels. Following these business practices leads to a lower rate of turnover since employees are happy, safe, and fairly compensated. Lower turnover leads to higher quality scores and, often great efficiencies. Staffing agencies can also help reduce overtime by recommending the right number employees to have on staff. When there is hotel staffing compliance, there tends to be lower turnover. This can save money in the long run since hotels are paying less overtime, spending less time recruiting, and are prepared for unexpected call-offs or spikes in demand.
Doing Well By Doing the Right Thing
In the end, good business practices often improve business results. Having a safe, a hotel staffing compliant workplace with low turnover is a pathway to higher quality, better ratings and a greater competitive edge. It also protects against some very serious branding and safety pitfalls that could affect a property on a local and national branding level.
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First, it’s important that hotel managers look at these hiring opportunities with caution. Hiring teams should stick to an overall strategy before engaging in a frenzy of hiring. For example, hotels often use temp staffing in order to hedge against the regular highs and lows of business coupled with unexpected events. As 2017 taught us, the hotel industry is very vulnerable to extreme weather so planning for downturns is important. Advice to hotels hiring Puerto Rican refugees is basically to follow the same playbook that you follow for any other pool of new hires. It’s also important to note that there is still a cost to on-boarding from various hiring events.
Keep An Eye on Costs
Hotels hiring Puerto Rican refugees at various job fairs taking place in the U.S. may not be weighing all of the costs. These costs can range of background and drug screenings to simply interviewing for skills and communicating to candidates in Spanish. A staffing firm can help overcome these challenges.
Ongoing Costs to Employ
Finally, the ongoing cost of employment is another key factor. A windfall of talent may sound like a great problem to have. However, unemployment, payroll taxes, workers comp claims, and other ancillary costs to employment can’t be ignored.
What hotel staffing model is right for you? Plan for the worst to get the best results.
2018 is right around the corner. Most mangers are finalizing their Staffing Model and budget for the new year. 2017 was a tumultuous year for the hospitality industry. Major weather events showed that events that impact one region severely can impact regions untouched. While you may not be able to plan for disasters in the future, you can help prepare your hotel for the highs and lows that might come with severe hurricanes or other natural disasters. Here are 5 ways supplemental staffing (sometimes called temp staffing) can help hotels ride these highs and lows.
1.) Greater Flexibility
A staffing model such as supplemental staffing can help you shrink and grow your staff to fit the needs of your organization at a specific time. This may mean cutting staff after an event or adding staff. However, supplemental labor gives you the opportunity to control your spend with room usage. It can also help reduce the cost of serving your customers. In addition, if a disaster does hit, reducing your staff is less costly in terms of unemployment payments. These are hotel staffing models you should consider to use now in your hotel staffing budget for 2018.
2.) On-demand Hiring
Hospitality is often unpredictable making planning a hotel staffing budget difficult. This can be due to weather or an array of other issues. Needing to add staff and do it quickly can be hard to predict. This is especially true when budgeting 6 months to a year in advance of that need. Contingent labor helps to meet that need when it arises. After all, meeting demand for your property should be a good problem. A great hotel staffing model, supplemental staffing, helps get you there.
Planning Your Hotel Staffing Budget? We'd Love To Help!
Remaining compliant should be in the budget for 2018. Safety concerns along with immigration law are major compliance issues for 2018. Staffing companies like HSS are well versed in compliance issues and can help avoid costly mistakes in the future. They can also help ensure that safety is a top priority with workers. This can help avoid workers comp claims. Compliance issues are not often (but should be) considered in a hotel staffing budget.
4.) Broader Pool of Talent
Staffing companies can also help you tap into a broader pool of talent when the need arises. In today’s challenging hiring environment, reaching potential employees can be costly. By planning to work with a staffing company in your 2018 hotel staffing budget you can reduce or even eliminate the cost of reaching new pools of workers.
5) Often Unseen Savings
Downtime costs, costs due to low customer ratings, recruiting, hiring and on boarding — these are all hidden costs that are often not planned for in a hotel staffing budget. In a disaster recovery situation these costs can spiral out of control. Working with a staffing firm reduces these costs both during a disaster and in the ramp up afterwards. A staffing firm also offers these savings during normal operations.
In planning you hotel staff budget for 2018, its worth considering supplemental staffing as a way to add stability to your outlook in 2018. If you are in a disaster prone area or have felt the ripple effects of a disaster, a supplemental staffing model can help you plan for these unpredictable highs and lows in the future.
A much talked about area in staffing (and in particular Hospitality Staffing) is compliance. The article HR Compliance in a Legal Whiplash World does a nice job of summarizing many of the reasons why. A slew of new laws on a local level have coincided with new regulations and greater scrutiny at the federal level. The article makes a valid, if a little self serving, about the uncertainty points to an ever-changing landscape and how hard it is to keep up with changing laws and regulations.
The only guarantee I can make for 2017 is that you’re going to need to know an employment law attorney. Employment attorneys are required to know the laws in their jurisdiction. The need to pay attention at city council meetings, attend hearings at state legislatures, or at the very least follow the #emplaw hashtag on Twitter to keep up are essential functions listed in our job descriptions.
But increased scrutiny of compliance laws and regulations should really be viewed as more than just a passing storm. Compliance will always be an evolving trend. And as more industries adopt contingent labor or outsource various segments of their labor management, compliance is something that must become a matter of procedure rather than a guess. Staffing companies are far better equipped to know about laws coming into effect pertaining to everything from sick leave, to overtime, to documentation requirements. Because these laws are often adopted by states modeling other states, staffing companies can be alerted to what laws may be coming and how they are often enforced.
Compliance in hospitality staffing means ensuring the processes and procedures meet all local, state, and federal laws at all times. Working with a partner that places compliance at its core, means the you can be free to grow your business, knowing that laws are being followed as a matter of standard operating procedure.
While meeting with employment attorneys and following trends on a casual basis can be helpful, working with a partner that can ensure compliance on an ongoing basis is really a more realistic long term plan. Compliance will continue to evolve and staffing partners can ensure processes are in place that not only meet the law, but offers the freedom to grow amid their complexity.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review by David Weill (How to Make Employment Fair in an Age of Contracting and Temp Work), talks through the trends and pitfalls of the increasing use of contract labor. He points out the dangers of the “fissured workplace” where wages, safety, and compliance are split away as a company outsources services.
Firms typically started outsourcing activities like payroll, publications, accounting, and human resources. But over time, this spread to activities like janitorial work, facilities maintenance, and security. In many cases it went even deeper, spreading into employment activities that could be regarded as core to the company: housekeeping in hotels; cooking in restaurants; loading and unloading in retail distribution centers; even basic legal research in law firms.
Weill has an important point, and his article points out some of the pitfalls that major brands face in the hospitality industry. While he focuses on the government policies that have gone into regulating these practices, there is also an important branding point to make. Outsourcing core services that define your brand require the right outsourcing partner. Working with a company that knows the details of housekeeping, janitorial service, food service and a wide range of other hospitality roles, is going to deliver the quality that your customers expect.
There are vast differences in the level of expertise within staffing firms when it comes to industry knowledge as well as compliance with ever evolving regulations. For this reason, working with a staffing partner that has industry knowledge can help ensure that practices support and enhance you brand while simultaneously ensure compliance with government regulations.
Finally, working with a staffing partner with a hospitality specific focus means that the pool of workers that agency works is much more stable than other agencies. This addresses Weill’s point about the treatment of workers in terms of on time pay, mobility, and benefits. An industry specific firm is much more motivated to cultivate relationships with its pool of labor since those relationships form the bedrock of all of the quality standards discussed.
Overall, the trend in outsourcing is one that doesn’t appear to curtailing any time soon. But it’s important for hospitality companies to realize that the move is not strictly about dollars and sense. Outsourcing a core competency and one that your brand image relies on heavily, require a deep consideration on who that competency in entrusted with.