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Your Responsibilities as an Employer

Your employees will be relying on you just as much as you rely on them - and failure to meet your obligations under the law can carry significant penalties.

Individuals working in cubicles in a high-tech office.

Becoming an employer for the first time can be a head-spinning experience. You have to assume responsibility for a variety of things that directly impact the physical and financial well-being of other people. Failing to do your due diligence in these areas can result in a litany of potential problems.

Given this importance, let's review the fundamental responsibilities with which any new employer should be familiar.

Safety Regulations

In the U.S., the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is tasked with ensuring employees operate within a safe workplace. Business owners are mandated to comply with OSHA's regulations. Some of the most important regulations include:

  • Ensuring the workplace is safe from hazards
  • Ensuring the workplace complies with all safety regulations
  • Providing medical exams and training when required
  • Designing a safe protocol for dealing with hazardous materials
  • Establishing health and safety procedures for employees
  • Businesses that violate OSHA regulations can be fined or even shut down, so it's important to familiarize yourself with these mandates.

Payroll Responsibilities

If you're going to pay employees, it's critical that you have a solid grasp on payroll fundamentals. You'll need to collect personal tax information such as federal ID numbers and understand how and when tax payments are made. You'll also need to know the difference between a W2 (an employee tax document) and a 1099 (used for contract workers). Learning the basics about payroll reporting requirements is also a necessity.

Additionally, you'll need to explore how state unemployment compensation works, and the responsibilities you assume when paying into this system. You also need to be cognizant of federal, state and local minimum wage laws, and laws that govern overtime compensation. Payment laws vary from state to state, so you may wish to check with your state Labor Department to make sure you're on the right path.

Health Benefits

Under new federal law, companies with 50 or more employees must provide health insurance to at least 95-percent of their employees. The Family Medical and Leave Act also mandates that employees receive time off for illness, family issues or disability. Smaller companies are not required to offer health benefits.

Disability Access

The Americans With Disabilities Act requires that businesses give disabled applicants the same consideration they would give to anyone else -- along with on the job accommodations that do not impose undue hardships. This law also mandates that those with disabilities be given fair consideration when it's time for promotions, bonuses, and benefits.

The Takeaway

Starting a new business comes with a whirlwind of new responsibilities. It's critical, however, to treat these responsibilities with grave seriousness. Your employees will be relying on you just as much as you rely on them - and failure to meet your obligations under the law can carry significant penalties.