Sometimes employees have work-based issues and problems but the company is small or they do not have Human Resources (HR) staff. Workers need someone to confide in and seek help or assistance in addressing common problems.
Problems With Not Providing HR Support
It's certainly possible and more common than it should be for companies of any sort to reach 50 employees with no dedicated HR person. Unfortunately, many companies that do begin to have an HR staff person do so by simply assigning a worker to that position. Usually, this person was already performing some HR functions such as paying employees. Often this assigned staff is from the finance department.
They have no real training in HR but try to take on the responsibilities anyway. HR does far more than issue payroll checks, but without an experienced person on board, it's tough to know what you need to do. Only an experienced HR person understands and can accomplish the full breadth of the job.
Requirements With 50+ Employees
Several laws kick in when a company employs 50 or more people. One example is the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Once you have 50 employees within a 50 miles radius, you're subject to those laws, even if no one knows what these laws are or how to administer them.
Of course, you, as an employee, can't make your bosses see the value in a dedicated HR manager, but just because there isn't one, doesn't mean that the functions aren't done. For instance, just because you have no HR manager doesn't mean that if you have a baby or get cancer, you aren't entitled to take up to 12 weeks off for recovery.
HR and Harassment Problems
A particularly large area of risk is not having a trained Human Resource person and facing charges of harassment. If a coworker is sexually harassing you, the company is still obligated to stop the harassment, even without an HR manager to conduct the investigation. In other words, not having an HR manager is a pain in the neck for the management team, but it shouldn't be for the employees.
Ad-hoc management doesn't always work correctly which is why you should think about dedicated HR before you reach 50 employees. This lack can leave the employees feeling they have nowhere to turn.
Using Bosses as the HR Manager
While it's nice to have an HR manager, they aren't the saviors for bad management. A good HR manager will listen to employees, investigate problems, and ensure proper application of all relevant laws. But, an HR manager only has as much power as their boss gives them.
So, if an HR manager says to the boss, “The scheduling is unfair and a violation of federal law because men are given the best shifts,” and the boss says, “Well, I don't care,” there's nothing they can do about it other than report it to the proper federal or state agency.
In many companies, even with HR departments, the first step for any problem is the direct supervisor and then the supervisor's boss. In your case, since there is no HR department at all, you must use this reporting technique.
If your direct supervisor is the problem, you can report the issue to their boss, all the way up to the president of the company. If the company president won't address the problem, remember, they probably wouldn't do it if an HR manager existed either.
If your company does not have a designated Human Resource person the best thing you can do is to educate yourself on labor issues. While HR managers are really there to protect the business, good ones know that a business is most successful when the employees are treated well. Without that help, you can feel alone. It's possible to educate yourself on your rights.
One source that is highly recommended is employment attorney, Donna Ballman's book, Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired: Resolve Workplace Crises Before You Quit, Get Axed or Sue the Bastards. Ballman's book should be on every employee's bookshelf, but especially on yours, since you have no HR department. Another excellent resource is the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) website.
Someone Must Handle HR Responsibilities
Even if your business is without an HR manager, somebody has to do those HR tasks. Somebody has to make job offers and determine salaries. Someone has to fill out the leave of absence paperwork or respond to unemployment and workers' compensation claims.
Somebody has to make the decision on company health insurance. That person should be the most knowledgeable about what is going on, even if they aren't well versed in what an HR manager should do. Go ahead and speak to that person about your concerns and questions. You may find that their experience can help you.
Hopefully, the management at your company will realize that whatever money they save by not paying for an HR manager, they are losing in not having a skilled person running the people side of things. Just one lawsuit can cripple a small business, possibly forever—far more than paying a professional to handle the HR tasks.