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A voluntary arrangement whereby an employer allows an employee paid or unpaid leave for a specified duration of time in order for the employee to pursue a course of advanced training, teach or perform a public service. In education, it is a period of time college or university teachers are allowed to stop their usual work in order to study or travel, usually while continuing to be paid (typically every seven years).


Safe Harbor Regulations

Guidelines regulated by the Department of Labor, which, when fully complied with, may reduce or limit the liability of a plan fiduciary.


Safety training

A teaching tool used to help employees become more safety-conscious in all aspects of safety.


Salary compression

Pay differentials too small to be considered equitable. The term may apply to differences between (1) the pay of supervisors and subordinates; (2) the pay of experienced and newly hired incumbents of the same job; and (3) pay-range midpoints in successive job grades.


Salary grade

A compensation level expressed as a salary range, which has been established for each position within the organization.


Salary range

A range of pay rates, from minimum to maximum, set for a specific pay grade.


Salary structure

A structure of job grades and pay ranges established within an organization.  May be expressed as job grades or job evaluation points.


Sales compensation

A compensation system designed for individuals employed in managerial sales or sales representative positions. Individuals are paid on a commission or percentage of sale basis, in accordance with achieving specified sales goals.



Refers to paid union organizers who apply for jobs with an employer for the purpose of organizing the employer’s workforce.


Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 was enacted to increase accountability of corporations to their shareholders in the wake of recent accounting scandals. There are many financial provisions that are not germane to HR basics. Two provisions are of special interest to HR professionals--the whistleblower protection provision and the 401(k) blackout notice provision.



The degree to which a computer application or component can be expanded in size, volume or number of users served and continue to function properly.


Scanlon Plan

A gainsharing program in which employees share in specific cost savings that are due to employee effort. The Scanlon Plan involves much employee participation, predating quality circles with most of the same techniques.


Schedule interview

An interviewing format in which each candidate is asked for the same exact information.


School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994

A national effort to develop a school-to-work system to assist students in making the transition from school to the adult workforce. The goal of the Act is to create well-marked paths students can follow to move from school to good first jobs or from school to continued education and training. The Act focuses on broadening educational and career opportunities for all students by encouraging state and local partnerships between businesses and educational institutions.


S corporation

Business enterprise allowed by the IRS for most companies with 75 or fewer shareholders, enabling the company to enjoy the benefits of incorporation while being taxed as if it were a partnership.



Usually the first step taken during the interviewing process, involving reviewing prospective candidate applications/resumes, verifying information supplied by the candidate, conducting interviews and examining test results.


Search firm

An organization or individual consultants working on a retainer or fee basis who provide the service of searching and screening potential candidates for prospective employers. Typically search firms are retained for higher-level professional or managerial positions.


Selection process

Any step, combination of steps or procedure used as a basis for any employment decision, including, but not limited to, informal or casual interviews, unscored application forms, paper and pencil tests, performance tests, training programs, probationary periods and physical, education and work experience requirements, as well as the decision-making process used in determining whether or not to hire or promote.


Self-directed teams

A multi-skilled, cross-functional group of employees possessing full empowerment who share responsibilities for producing a particular service or product.



An individual who has earned income for the current or preceding year from self-employment, within the meaning of I.R.C. §401(c) (2), or an individual who would have had such income, except for the fact that the relevant business did not incur a profit for the year.



A benefit plan whereby the employer assumes all the risk, paying out for claims but saving the cost of any associated premiums.



A facilitator-directed meeting or conference consisting of groups of individuals gathered to study a specific subject matter.


Semi-skilled Worker

Semi-skilled workers have to be able to read, write and communicate but are usually not required to have educational or apprenticeship credentials to qualify for jobs.  Training time is short, task specific and generally doesn’t require much in terms of reasoning skills. 



Status determined by the length of time an employee has worked for a specific employer, department or position within the organization.


Sensitivity training

A form of individual counseling geared toward increasing self-awareness and sensitivity to others. It aims to assist key employees in developing their leadership skills surrounding issues of diversity and harassment prevention.


Serious health condition

An illness, injury, impairment or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care in a hospital, hospice or residential medical care facility; or continuing treatment by a health care provider.


Service award

Part of a formal or informal recognition program that rewards employees based on length of service.


Severance pay

A form of short-term salary continuation awarded to employees who are being terminated. Severance payments often equal one week's pay for each year of service.

Sex The classification of people as male or female.

Sex Discrimination Act of 1975

The Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits discrimination against individuals based on sex or marital status in areas of employment, education, the provision of goods, facilities and services or in the management of premises.


Sex discrimination

Discriminatory conduct or actions based on sex or pregnancy, as it relates to conditions of employment, benefits, pay and opportunities for advancement.

Sex reassignment Refers to surgical alteration, which is a part of "transition."

Sexual harassment

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.


Sexual orientation

The scientifically accurate term for an individual's enduring physical, romantic, emotional and/or spiritual attraction to members of the same and/or opposite sex, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and heterosexual orientations. (Closeted describes a person who is not open about his or her sexual orientation.)



An individual or corporation that owns shares in the corporation.


Shift differential

Additional compensation, usually expressed as cents per hour, paid as an incentive for employees to accept working a less-then-desirable work shift (i.e., 2 nd or 3 rd shift).


Short-term disability

A benefit designed to provide temporary income replacement for worker absent due to illness or injury, but who is expected to return to work within a specified timeframe.


Sick leave

Paid time off granted to employees who are out of work due to an illness or injury.



An instructional method used to teach problem solving, procedures or operations by placing learners in situations akin to reality.


Situational leadership

A management theory stating that different situations call for different leadership styles and that essentially there is no one best way to lead.


Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a disciplined, data-driven methodology used to eliminate defects and improve processes and cut costs from manufacturing to transactional and from product to service.



Ability to perform a mental or motor activity that contributes to the effective performance of a job task.


Skill-based pay

A salary differentiation system that bases compensation on an individual’s education, experience, knowledge, skills or specialized training.


Skill gap

A deficiency in basic writing, reading, mathematical or oral communication skills.


Skills inventory

A list of skills or competencies possessed by an individual.


Skills training

Training provided to employees to help them ascertain the skills and knowledge necessary to perform their current jobs; also used as a retraining method when new systems or processes are introduced.



False defamation expressed as spoken words, signs or gestures, which cause damage to the character or reputation of the individual being defamed.


Slow learner

A term used to describe individuals with mental disabilities and an IQ of between 75 and 90.

Snowbird program A term used to describe a form of alternative work arrangement whereby  employees (typically retired individuals) move to warmer climents in the winter months and return to work only during the Spring/summer months.  

Social Security

A federal program under the Social Security Act which provides for retirement, disability and other related benefits for workers and their eligible dependents.


Social Security card

A card issued by the Social Security Administration displaying an individual’s full legal name and social security number assigned to the individual.


Soft skills

Skills required to perform a certain job where the job is defined in terms of expected outcomes, but the process to achieve the outcome varies.


Sole proprietorship

A business enterprise in which an individual is fully and personally liable for all the obligations of the business, is entitled to all profits and exercises complete managerial control.


Span of control

A management principle expressing that a limit exists to the number of people an individual can effectively and successfully manage.


Special disabled veteran

A person entitled to disability compensation under laws administered by the Veterans Administration for disability rated at 30 percent or more; or rated at 10-20 percent in the case of a veteran who has been determined to have a serious employment handicap under 38 USC 3106; or a person whose discharge or release from active duty was for a service-connected disability incurred.



A principle stating that, as an organization grows, work within the organization needs to be divided in order to keep jobs from becoming so specialized or complex that they require a greater range of skills that essentially can not be performed by one individual.


Spot rewards

Cash and noncash awards given to employees for ideas submitted or accomplishments benefiting the organization.



The function within an organization responsible for recruitment, screening and selection of employees. Oftentimes, this function may also be responsible for other areas of employment, such as orientation, retention, training and termination of staff.


Staffing metrics

Measures used to determine costs associated with recruitment and hiring, time to fill/start for open positions and recruiter workload/activity.


Staff leasing

The practice of an employer directly hiring an employee on a temporary basis for an indefinite period of time instead of utilizing the services of a temporary staffing agency.



Someone with a vested interest in the successful completion or outcome of a project.


Standard deviation

A statistic used as a measure of the dispersion or variation in a distribution, equal to the square root of the arithmetic mean of the squares of the deviations from the arithmetic mean.


Standard error

Statistical estimate of possible size error present in a test score or other group measure.



Design and implementation of consistent specifications for procedures, practices, materials, machinery or other equipment or other types of products and services.


Standardized interview

A form of interviewing that uses the same subject matter and identically sequenced questions, then evaluating responses to determine the differences between candidates.


Standardized testing

A written test, the scores of which are interpreted by referencing the scores of a norm group that has taken the test and which is considered to be representative of the population that takes the test.


Standard score

A score derived from the mean performance of a group on a test, as well as the comparative performance of all the individuals who took the test.


Standard operating procedures

A prescribed written procedure outlining how recurring tasks, duties and functions are to be performed organization-wide.


Statute of limitation

Laws prescribing deadlines for filing lawsuits within a certain time after events, which are the source of the claim, occur.


Statutory benefits

Benefits that are mandated by federal or state laws, such as Social Security, unemployment insurance and workers’ compensation.

 Stipend An amount provided to an individual as a partial salary or wage and may include emoluments such as discounted tuition cost, food, lodging and/or transportation.

Stock option plan

An organizational program that it that grants employees the option of purchasing a specific number of stock in the company at a future date.


Stop loss insurance

A contract established between a self-insured employer and an insurance provider providing for carrier coverage if a claim incurred exceeds a specified dollar amount over a predetermined period of time.


Strategic HR

The process of taking a long-term approach to Human Resource Management through the development and implementation of HR programs that address and solve business problems and directly contribute to major long-term business objectives.


Strategic planning

The process of identifying an organization's long-term goals and objectives and then determining the best approach for achieving those goals and objectives.


Strategic staffing

The practice of hiring smaller core numbers of permanent employees and utilizing temporary employees to fill more highly specialized positions within the organization.


Stress interview

An interviewing style whereby the interviewer subjects a candidate to pressure or stress to ascertain how the candidate reacts under such conditions.


Stress management

The design and implementation of workplace programs and services intended to combat employee stress and improve overall employee morale, effectiveness and productivity.



Occurs when employees deliberately refuse to perform their jobs and/or form picket lines outside the employer’s premisses to prevent or discourage others from working in their place or conducting business with the employer.


Structured interview

A structured interview asks the same questions of each candidate, so that valid comparisons of the quality of responses can be obtained. The questions generally take four job-related forms: situational, observational, personal and behavioral.


Subject matter expert

An individual who has expertise in a business process or specific area.


Subordinate appraisal

An appraisal system whereby managerial employees are evaluated by their subordinates.



A company having more than half of its stock owned by another company or is completely owned by another company.


Substance abuse

Defined as a destructive pattern of substance (i.e., narcotics or alcohol) use leading to clinically significant social, occupational or medical impairment.


Succession planning

The process of identifying long-range needs and cultivating a supply of internal talent to meet those future needs. Used to anticipate the future needs of the organization and assist in finding, assessing and developing the human capital necessary to the strategy of the organization.


Suggestion system

A system allowing employees to voice complaints, make recommendations or submit ideas regarding company policies, procedures, working conditions, benefits, etc.


Summary annual report

A summarized report containing information on the financial status of an employee benefit plan.


Summary material modifications

A summary of modifications or changes made to an employee benefit plan that is not included in the summary plan description.


Summary plan description

A written statement that contains information regarding participation, coverage and employee rights for any ERISA-covered benefit plan.

Summer hours A type of compressed work week scheduling arrangement which allows employees to work longer hours Monday through Thursday and fewer hours on Friday during the summer months.

Supervisory/management development

Training provided to employees with the potential for promotion into supervisory or managerial-level positions within the organization or as a remedy for performance-related issues.


Supplemental Unemployment Benefits (SUB)

Typically found in collective bargaining agreements.  SUB pay benefits are taxable payments form a fund which can be combined with state unemployment insurance benefits during periods of temporary layoff to provide a higher level of unemployment benefits during the term of layoff.    



Involving more than one country or having authority which transcends one country, i.e., the European Union is a supranational organization.



A data collection method used to assist organizations with problem identification, measuring employee morale or expectations and determining areas of concern.



A form of disciplinary action resulting in an employee being sent home without pay for a specified period of time (the Fair Labor Standards Act contains stricter rules relating to suspending salaried exempt employees without pay).


SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool used to collect and evaluate information on an organization’s current Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats involved in a specific project or business venture.


Systemic discrimination

A pattern of discrimination that on the surface appears neutral but in reality is systemic or through its application of policies and practices.

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