Top 5 Ways Fax Automation Will Increase Small Business Productivity

Today, most small to medium sized organizations understand outbound fax automation as the ability to send faxes with their computers using the email or internet. This is only the tip of the business productivity iceberg. Outbound fax automation is about saving time and money by eliminating manual fax creation and submission. It is the use of a computer based faxing solution in a specific manner for sending outbound faxes. All computer based fax solutions ARE NOT created equal. The selection of the best solution will depend on budget, fax volume, identified fax workflow inefficiencies and future eDocument Delivery initiatives.

For outbound faxing, the top 5 ways to increase the productivity are:

  1. Automated Desktop Faxing
  2. Fax Broadcasting
  3. Sending Faxes using Email Distribution Groups
  4. Fax-Enabling Billing and Invoicing Applications
  5. Outbound Fax Management

Automated Desktop Faxing

Most office administrators or office managers are involved in the mailing or faxing of documents. These documents typically include reports, newsletters, invoices, announcements and marketing literature. The manual mailing and faxing of these types of documents is labor intensive, cost prohibitive and significantly time consuming. Automated desktop faxing eliminates printing, mailing and faxing of reports, form letters, newsletters, announcements etc by hand. Automated desktop faxing happens directly from your computer. Faxing tools are installed within your document processing applications Microsoft Word, Crystal Reports etc as well as your contact database applications (Microsoft Excel, Access, Goldmine, Maximizer, etc).

Fax Broadcasting

Fax broadcasting is another form of automated outbound fax automation. It significantly reduces repetitive steps and increases the speed of delivery of documents. For many SMB’s fax broadcasting is a vital part of their ongoing marketing, product announcement and customer communication strategies. With the influx of email spam and spam filters, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to reach your own customers. Sending a fax often eliminates this concern, because unlike email, faxes are always read and delivered when recipients are properly identified. When selecting a fax broadcasting solution ensure it is capable of performing the following steps:

  1. Ability to create a highly legible faxable document.
  2. Ability to create or use an existing database list from a variety of formats (CSV, TEXT, EXCEL, ACCESS, SQL,)
  3. Ability to map database fields to the content of the fax document for personalization.
  4. Ability to manage the entire process easily. Management includes tracking, monitoring and modification and resubmission.

Sending Faxes Using Email Distribution Lists

Fax automation is about leveraging existing technologies and resources. Sending faxes using email distribution groups allows you to use a centralized phone book or recipient list. It eliminates the need to create or maintain separate phone books. In addition, third party applications and other databases have links directly into email contacts or distribution groups. The most common locations for prospect or existing client records and detailed information are contained within a contact manager, sales application or Microsoft Outlook Contacts.

Note: Sending faxes using email distribution groups IS NOT the same as sending faxes through email. While sending faxes through email provides a central repository for most electronic communication methods, there are also several drawbacks including:

Sending faxes through email eliminates the real-time transaction process or benefit of sending a fax.
Each fax sent directly from email creates an individual email message with a [FAX] recipient type which is subsequently stored on your local machine and email server.
Depending on size fax recipient lists, sending faxes through email using distribution lists may significantly slow down your email server or network.
Addition disk space is used in sending faxes through email.

Fax Enabling Billing and Invoicing Applications

Outbound fax automation is about improving cash flow through improved accounts receivables and reduces costs. Traditionally, accounts receivable departments have manual data entry systems to which purchase orders are entered and processed. Once processed, invoices are manually printed and mailed to clients for payment. Printing, envelope stuffing and mailing of invoices is also a labor and resource intensive task. In addition, USPS mail costs 0.39 or greater for deliver and takes on average 48 hours for delivery and payment of the invoice generally occurs several days later. All of these manual processing steps and consumable costs are eliminated through outbound fax automation. Your billing and invoicing application can be fax-enabled and with a simple push of the key on your keyboard, invoices are be delivered to clients in seconds – with confirmation receipts!

Outbound Fax Management

Outbound fax management helps businesses grow in several areas simultaneously. Paper intensive SMB’s use outbound fax on a daily basis to market, generate and close business. It is rare that a day will go by without sending a fax. Fax management involves the management of all outbound fax transmissions. This includes the review of fax usage (by department) in terms of transmission time, delivery destinations (by area code and/or recipient) and subject matter (invoice, P.O., expense report, announcement, newsletter).

Summary

When the best outbound fax automation solution is implemented, organizations will see high productivity gains and tangible results in lead generation, customer response, accounts receivables, decreased manual labor burden costs and increased worker productivity. Outbound fax automation also provides insight to other organizations deficiencies and in many cases leads to the implementation of other eDocument initiatives.

Five Things an Employer Needs to Know About Employment Law

It is an unavoidable demand of running any business that an employer must have a good knowledge of employment law whether they are self employed and/or employ other staff. They should have an awareness of the rights of the employee, the employer themselves and where each party stands in the unfortunate event that the normal working relationship breaks down. This article addresses the five key areas that employers and HR departments need to consider when dealing with employment law in the UK.

1. How You Define Employees and Employers
It is important, before delving into the intricacies of employment law to have a clear idea of the parties that are involved and how their roles should be defined.

  • Employed vs Self Employed: This distinction can be less apparent than you may think. If a worker has agreed to provide a service/work under contract for an organisation then they will be a worker employed by that organisation unless the organisation is actually employing the services of that individual’s business, in which case the worker is self-employed and thus not a direct employee of the organisation. An example of such a scenario would be a contractor who offers his services to an employer via his own business rather than agree a direct contract of employment himself.
  • Part Time vs Full time: This is a heavily contextualised concept as the hours a full time employee works in one organisation could be the same as the hours worked by a part time employee in another. Once an organisation has set the hours that a full time employee is expected to work, a part time employee is defined as a worker employed on the same contractual basis but for reduced hours. The key thing to remember here is that part time employees should not be treated any less favourably in comparison to their full time counterparts purely because of the difference in hours that they work, unless their hours are a justifiable factor in the decision process. For example, pay should always be awarded on a pro-rata basis for part time workers in comparison to an equivalent full time role. Employees have the right to challenge and demand written explanations if they think that they are being treated differently on this basis alone.
  • Temporary vs Permanent: This distinction depends upon the contract of employment which we will discuss later on. The temporary or fixed term worker will have a contract which agrees their employment for a fixed period of time as opposed to an ongoing permanent relationship. As with part time workers, temporary workers must not be treated any differently to their permanent counterparts purely on the basis that they are on fixed term contracts.

2. Statutory Rights
These are the rules that govern and provide the framework for how you will need to deal with your staff from the start of the recruitment process to the cessation of the contract of employment. They cover not only the definitions of employment types mentioned above but every other area of individuals’ rights in the work place. They are too broad and detailed to discuss in their entirety here but, in summary, include:

Pay

  • Minimum Pay – Rates for over 16s, varying for different age groups
  • Equal Pay – Contracts for women employees must include the same pay and benefits as that of a man in an equivalent role
  • Pay Slips – To be itemised and provided before or on the date of pay
  • Discrimination – Employees must not be discriminated against based upon “protected characteristics” such as age and sex. Provisions must be in place for disabled workers
  • Equality Act 2010 – Employers do have the right to choose between two candidates of equal ability on such a characteristic if it is under-represented amongst their staff

Working Hours

  • Maximum Working Week – 48 hours, regular breaks etc. Opt outs can be agreed but not demanded
  • Flexible Working – Parents of children up to 18 years old have a right to apply to changes to their hours and work location which an employer can only refuse if specific circumstances are met
  • Parental Leave
  • Maternity Leave – 26 weeks ordinary and 26 weeks additional entitlement
  • Paternity Leave – 2 weeks entitlement with additional 26 weeks when mothers return to work

Absence

  • Sickness – Statutory sick pay entitlement etc
  • Compassionate Leave – Employees have a right to time off (but not pay) if they have illness or death in the immediate family

Whistleblowing – Protection for some disclosures in specific circumstances which would otherwise breach the employee’s contract.

Workplace Health & Safety (see below)

Redundancy – When an employee’s role is no longer required.

  • Statutory Pay
  • Notice Period
  • Relocation Opportunities

TUPE – Conditions of employment must be transferred in the event of a take over.

Pensions – Most employers must offer employees a stakeholder pension provision.

Dismissal & Disciplinary

  • Unfair Dismissal – The employer must have a fair reason (e.g., employee conduct) to dismiss an employee with 1 years employment and must follow a fair dismissal procedure. Some reasons for dismissal will qualify to be considered as automatic unfair dismissals such as union action, time off for parenting etc
  • Wrongful Dismissal – Notice must be given by all parties (unless a fixed term contract is lapsing) as set out in common law
  • Constructive Dismissal – If an employer breaks the terms of a contract and consequently forces an employee’s dismissal

Retirement – The Default Retirement Age is ultimately due to be scrapped by Oct 2011 although there are certain measures already in place to reach this end (Retirement is therefore no longer a fair reason for dismissal).

One of the most essential things to remember with statutory rights is that they are regularly changing. As an employer or HR worker you must remain familiar with the latest developments.

3. The Contract
Perhaps the most important element of any employer-employee relationship is the contract of employment. All parties will have certain statutory rights as mentioned above but the finer details and practicalities of the relationship will be contained in the employment contract. The contract will determine the procedures to follow in the event of staff under-performance or disciplinary proceedings, any employee benefits and concessions above and beyond their statutory entitlements (e.g., maternity leave, compassionate leave) and ultimately the conditions and processes of releasing staff either through dismissal, redundancy or resignation.

4. Trade Unions
If you are an employer of more than 21 individuals you may be approached by a trade union seeking recognition from your organisation. The Trade Union needs to show that it has a 10% representation in your workforce and that those members wish your organisation to acknowledge it. You will have 10 days to respond to the request otherwise you will have effectively rejected the approach. In the event of rejection the Trade Union can apply to Central Arbitration Committee to force you to accept their approach for recognition. Once a Trade Union has been recognised, an employee is entitled to take part in industrial action organised by the union (for a period of up to eight weeks) if the industrial action was called for by an official Trade Union ballot. Any dismissals resulting from this action would automatically qualify for unfair dismissal.

5. Health And Safety
An employer is obliged by common law to provide a safe working environment and to ensure that their workers are fully competent in the roles they are filling. However employers are also bound by statutory requirements which reinforce these obligations and the fact that all employees must, at all times, be fully capable, be trained in the safety procedures that they must follow and be aware of the Health & Safety Act 1974.

To this end employers are also required to perform regular assessments of the risk in the workplace, not only to their own employees but any other individuals who may be affected. Employers of at least five members of staff must document these assessments and are in addition required to produce a documented health and safety policy which is communicated to all members of staff.

There are many more requirements that an employer must be aware of to fulfill these objectives and specific additional regulations which apply to particular industries and workplaces.

As you can see employment law is a very broad and nuanced topic and it takes a fair amount of effort and time to become familiar with it. Therefore, if you are in doubt, or you need guidance on a specific circumstance you should seek advice from a qualified employment law specialist, such as Employment Solicitors Basingstoke to make sure you take the easiest and most economical path to a resolution.

Personal Finance Series: No 17 – Fun, Fear, and Car Salesmen

The mind can play a number of tricks when it comes to buying a car, but one thing that rarely features in the decision making is any consideration to the personal finance budget.

People don’t need a financial planning calculator, or even an affordability calculator when it comes to buying a car, although they are still the single biggest financial commitment beyond a mortgage. Of the 14 different ways the brain compartmentalises spending, Acquiring Transport is one of the biggest undertakings and covers brand new as well as second hand cars, motorcycles and mopeds.

Acquiring Transport usually requires considered thought, common sense suggests consulting the family budget worksheet, the personal finance spreadsheet on the basis of affordability, but that’s not what happens in reality.

Acquiring Transport: The Secret Manipulations Of The Car Showroom

Whether it be brand new, or second hand vehicles, most people have a sense that car salespersons have a stereotypical image. It doesn’t matter where in the world, the first thing which greets a prospective customer is a wall of teeth, an outstretch hand, and an open question designed to find out your budget – thus qualify early and set the stage for what happens next. These professionals have but one objective – to sell, and the variety of manipulations are boundless.

  • “Another person wants the car, and is on the way in to view it” is meant to inject fear of loss and scarcity into you, lowering your price resistance.
  • “The price goes up at midnight”, is another one to put pressure on making a decision.
  • “I need to ask the boss”, is a big favour to you as a reward and also allows the 3rd party negotiator to impose on you and the salesman, designed to oblige you in commitments.
  • The Test Drive is all about getting you to future-pace and imagine yourself driving the vehicle all while distracted and answering more open questions from your new buddy to help him close you later in the negotiation.

The strategy for overcoming these and other tactics is to plan in advance, research the dealer price and your budget limit. Work out what you want the car for, and to do and whether the added extras are really worth it. Work up from dealer price not back from advertised price.

Power dress at an equivalent or higher level, and if buying on finance, have your own finance in place before you go. Never reveal your budget and be wary of the information you give out in the ‘chat’

Be prepared to walk away or ‘speak to your partner’ and play the salesman off against the other dealership down the road who offered you a better deal on the same car.

Acquiring Transport: Why People Name their Cars

An old joke says that men give their cars female names because they can be temperamental just like women. The reality of why people name their cars though is probably because they move, because they are seen as active, and because people spend so much time in their cars, they become personalised parts of life.

Over time, cars do develop characteristics depending on how they are driven and these become ‘personalities’ People take a pride in and have personal connection to their cars -the scientific name for this naming relationship is anthropomorphism, but cars and motorcycles mean emotional things rather than only logical things to their owners

Acquiring Transport: Emotional v Logical Spending

There are a number of factors which influence vehicle buying decisions like family recommendations, the main purpose for the car, the lifestage being serviced and the age of the buyer.

Vehicle advertising splits into fun branding, fear branding – focusing on safety benefits, and vanity benefits, focusing on the looks, benefits, and feelings for the buyer.

Acquiring Transport ought to be a logical decision based on cost, monthly repayment plan costs, price, and the benefits to be gained ought to be oriented around travel and comfort only. Unseen, hidden costs however, include customisations to the vehicle, ornaments, gadgets, toys, accessories and other personalisations.

People for whom vehicles have not taken on any personal can be well served in their preparations by using goal setting functions in personal finance software online, and other personal finance online tools which allow to track the money coming in and the money going out to weigh the longer term impact of monthly repayments using a personal finance forecast.

By stepping back and looking at the wider financial picture, it is possible to neutralise the worst manipulations of being a target and still enjoy the experience of buying a new ride. It all depends on the starting position, the attitude to the negotiation, and the presence of a sensible personal finance budget online.

Federal Job Discrimination Laws and Employment Discrimination Protections

Employment Discrimination Protections in the United States Constitution The U.S. Constitution prohibits job discrimination by federal, state, or local government.
Federal employment discrimination laws prohibit employers from discriminating based on race, sex, religion, national origin, physical disability, or age. The laws protect workers from unlawful discrimination, bias, or prejudice, in the following areas of employment:

  • Hiring
  • Harassment
  • Promotion
  • Job assignment
  • Termination
  • Compensation

The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution states that the federal government may not deprive an individual of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. It also assures each person of the right to equal protection under the law.

The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution explicitly prohibits states from violating an individual’s right to due process and equal protection. In employment, the right to due process requires a government employer to provide a fair procedural process, before deciding to fire a worker, if the termination relates to a “liberty interest” (like the right to free speech) or a “property interest” (like the right to retain a position, if dismissal or demotion is only allowed for “just cause”.)

The right to equal protection prevents state and local governments from discriminating, by treating employees, former employees, or job applicants unequally, because of membership in a protected group (such as race or sex).

Federal Statutes
Federal laws prohibit various types of discrimination in private sector employment.

The Equal Pay Act prohibits the establishment of different wage rates for the same tasks, based on the gender of the employees. This law requires that workers doing jobs involving “equal skill, effort, and responsibility and performed under similar working conditions,” must be provided equal pay.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) prohibits discrimination in many more aspects of the employment relationship. An employer may not treat workers differently, based on race, color, religion, national origin, or sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions). Title VII prohibits discrimination in hiring, termination, discipline, compensation, or terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Employment agencies cannot discriminate in hiring or referring job applicants. Labor organizations may not base membership, classification, or other union privileges, on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1991 provides a worker with the right to file a lawsuit against his or her employer, and seek financial compensation for having suffered job discrimination.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prevents an employer from discriminating, based on the age of a worker who is 40 years or older. The prohibited practices are nearly the same as those outlawed in Title VII. The ADEA explicitly applies to pension, retirement, and benefit plans.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents an employer from discriminating against an individual, because of his or her disability. In addition, the law requires that an employer make certain accommodations in the workplace for a person with a disability, who is otherwise qualified and eligible to do the job.

The Purpose of the Rehabilitation Act is to “promote and expand employment opportunities in the public and private sectors for handicapped individuals,” through elimination of discrimination and through affirmative action. This law applies to federal government agencies, contractors, and other programs receiving federal financial assistance.


The Federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC)
interprets and enforces the Equal Pay Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Title VII, Americans With Disabilities Act, and sections of the Rehabilitation Act. The agency’s enforcement powers are in section 2000e-5 of Title 42 of the United States Code, and its regulations and guidelines are in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations, part 1614.

For victims of job discrimination, both federal and state laws provide protections, rights, and remedies. If the employer is a government agency or the government took significant steps to foster the discriminatory practice of a private employer, the U.S. Constitution, may protect the worker.

Unfortunately, an act of unlawful discrimination may be only the beginning of the emotional and financial hardships for the employment discrimination victim and his or her family. While struggling to cope with job discrimination, a victim may not realize that time is running out to protect his or her rights. Do not make this mistake. Employment discrimination laws are complex. If you or a loved one has experienced employment discrimination, it is important to talk with an employment discrimination lawyer with federal employment law experience.

Contracts of Employment – Advice For Employers

As a vast majority of businesses need employees in order to expand, company directors, sooner or later, have to face the process of recruiting people and familiarize themselves with the employment law. Once the selection of candidates is made and the job is offered, the law comes in the way.

Employment status

There are five categories of employment: self-employed person, worker, employee, director and contractor. As they have different legal, tax and National Insurance Number implications, employers must be aware of the differences and know which category suits their business best. For example, a person can be classified as self-employed for tax purposes but as a worker or an employee for the employment rights benefits.

Contract of employment

A contract of employment is an employee’s acceptance of the terms and conditions offered by an employer, evidence of which is commencement of the work by the employee. The contract is often agreed verbally.

There are three types of contracts: a contract of employment, a contract for the personal performance of work and a contract for services. The person’s employment status depends on which contract has been agreed.

All employers are legally obliged to provide their employees hired for more than one month with a written statement of employment no later than two months of their start date.

The statement sets out what has been agreed between the employer and the employee during the recruitment process, such as job title and description, starting date, place of work, salary, benefits, required hours of work, holiday and sickness entitlement, notice periods, grievance arrangements and disciplinary procedures.

Often employers include in the contracts of employments sections such as confidentiality agreement and non-compete clauses.

It is also a common practice to provide new employees with the company’s Health & Safety policy, Equal Opportunities policy, Data Protection policy and other important company documents together with their employment contracts.

Directors as employees

Usually, an executive director is also the company’s employee through executive service contract. However it is important for a business owner to establish if a director is an employee by analyzing the following key factors:

– if mutuality of obligation exists, for example, an employer’s obligation to provide work or pay during absence from work to the director and the individual’s obligations to perform work required by the employer.

– the degree of employer’s control over the individual.

– the extend to which the director is integrated in the company by adhering to its policies and procedures such as disciplinary and grievance procedures, benefits, sick and holiday pay provision.

– duration of contract.

– exclusivity of the engagement, i.e. permission to work for other companies at the same time.

– method of payment.

– if the equipment and administrative support are provided by the director or employer.

The outcome of the analysis will have impact of the director’s entitlement to his/her employment rights and tax obligations.

Conclusions

Contracts of employment exist to clarify obligations from the employer and employee and should detail benefit and entitlements due to the employee as well as list what is expected from them. It is a legal obligation in the UK for employers to provide employees with a contract of employment within two months of starting work.