Benefits & Compensation Questions of the Week

What Are the Benefits of Total Compensation Statements?

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Question:

What are total compensation statements and why should I consider them for my employees?

Answer:

Most of the time, an employee’s pay and benefits spread far beyond the base pay.  A total compensation statement can be anything from a simple, computer-generated spreadsheet to an elaborate, in-depth analysis with charts or graphs.  Providing total compensation statements is an easy way to share with employees how much the company has invested in them.

Total compensation statements typically include, but are not limited to:

  • Base pay, bonuses and commission
  • Paid leaves, PTO
  • Car/phone allowance
  • Employer contributions for Medical, Dental, and Vision coverage
  • Employer contribution for Flexible Spending, Retirement, etc.
  • Employer contribution for Life Insurance and Short-Term and Long-Term Disability Insurance
  • Stock options
  • Tuition assistance
  • Training and development opportunities
  • Travel expenses
  • Company discounts
  • On-site child care

Why should an employer consider total compensation statements?

The use of total compensation statements has proven that an extremely high percentage of employees now have a greater appreciation for the value of their employer paid benefits.  This boosts employee satisfaction, which in turn, leads to retention.  

Tips:

  • Include a letter from the president of the company or Human Resources.  By doing this, you are creating a message with a purpose.
  • Highlight benefits or programs that are often forgotten by many employees.
  • Be available for questions from employees or hold a meeting to address these questions.

strategic HR, inc. offers assistance with a variety of Benefits and Compensation needs including total compensation statements.  Contact us now for more information and to talk about how we can help you create total compensation statements.

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Unemployment Voluntary Contribution

Question:

We just received the Unemployment Tax Notification.  Should I pay the voluntary payment to reduce my rate? How do I calculate if a voluntary payment is beneficial?

Answer:

A voluntary payment to reduce your annual unemployment tax rate can be a great option for tax contributing employers. It gives you the opportunity to make a onetime payment to Job and Family Services to lower your annual unemployment rate.

To calculate the benefit take the difference between your current rate and the optional reduced rate and multiply it by your taxable wage base. If the number is higher than the voluntary payment, it is a good idea to seriously consider making a voluntary payment.

Example: Your 2017 Total Contribution Rate is 2.5%, if you pay $962 you can reduce your rate to 2.3%. Your taxable wage base has been increasing and last year’s (07/01/2015 through 06/30/2016) was $234,761

2.5% – 2.3% = .2% x $234,761 = $469.52 which is LESS than the $962 cost to buy down. In this scenario a voluntary contribution would not be recommended unless the taxable wage base is expected to increase to over $481,000 (voluntary contribution/difference in rate = $962/.002= $481,000).

Additional things to consider:

  • Is your taxable wage base increasing or decreasing? This will impact your savings. The higher your taxable wage base, the higher potential savings
  • Have you looked at Common Rating? If you have more than one unemployment account number, Common Rating may provide even further savings
  • What states are you located in? Unemployment discount opportunities vary state by state—voluntary contributions and Common Rating may or may not be good options in your state

If you have any further questions or would like a free analysis of your tax rate notice(s), please contact Katie Jones at 513.351.1222 or kjones@matrixtpa.com. Most states require you to take action before December 31.

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Health Insurance – Premium Only Plan

Question:

Our company has a Section 125 – Premium Only Plan – so we can take employee’s health insurance contributions out on a pre-tax basis.  Do all employees have the ability to elect that their premiums come out pre-tax or only certain groups?

Answer:

Employees of regular corporations, S corporations, limited liability companies (LLCs), partnerships, sole proprietors, and non-profits can participate in a Section 125 POP.  The Code does prohibit sole proprietors, partners, members of an LLC, and individuals owning more than 2% of an S corporation from participating.  Each person electing to participate must sign off on the election (typically during open enrollment) and must keep that election for the entire year, unless there is a qualifying event.

Regardless of who can participate, these plans are a great opportunity for employees to save up to 40% on their federal income taxes and employers benefit by reducing their tax liability.  A plus for both employees and companies!

Remember that to have an eligible plan, the company must have a plan document and summary plan description in place.  These documents must be kept on file with the employer.

Strategic HR, inc. is ready to assist you with any of your challenging situations around Benefits and Compensation. We offer assistance with everything from job descriptions to policy development to help address your difficult issues that impact employee compensation or benefits. Please visit our Benefits and Compensation for more information on how we can assist you.

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Notice of Creditable Coverage

Question:

My husband just received a “Notice of Creditable Coverage” at home from his employer.  As a Human Resources professional, I’m not sure what this is and I am wondering if I am supposed to be distributing something to my employees?

Answer:

Yes!  The Medicare Modernization Act requires entities, employers with prescription drug coverage, to notify Medicare eligible policyholders annually as to whether their prescription drug coverage is creditable coverage.  Basically, we must tell those covered if the company plan is “as good as” the standard Medicare prescription drug coverage. There are two disclosure requirements:

  1. The first disclosure requirement is to provide a written disclosure notice to all Medicare eligible individuals annually who are covered under its prescription drug plan, prior to October 15th each year.  There are other times when notification is necessary (such as upon joining the plan) but the 10/15 deadline is important because open enrollment begins for Medicare eligible individuals.
  2. The second disclosure requirement is for entities to complete the Online Disclosure to CMS Form to report the creditable coverage status of their prescription drug plan. The Disclosure should be completed annually no later than 60 days from the beginning of a plan year.

For sample, creditable coverage notices and model language, refer to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

 

Providing adequate employee Benefits and Compensation are key to recruitment and retention of employees and having the right polices can make or break a company. strategic HR, inc. understands this critical need and can help you with any of your tough benefit and compensation questions. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on how we can assist you with creating a strong Benefits or Compensation package.

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FMLA and Benefits

Question: 

I have an employee out on FMLA.  They were paying for their portion of the health premium, but for the last month, they did not.  Should I cancel their health insurance?

Answer: 

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), a covered employer is required to maintain group health insurance coverage, including family coverage, for an employee on FMLA leave on the same terms as if the employee continued to work.

This is not true, however, when:

  • an employee informs the employer of an intent not to return to work at the end of the leave period;
  • the employee fails to return to work when the FMLA leave entitlement is exhausted; or
  • if the employee’s premium payment is more than 30 days late and the employer has given the employee written notice at least 15 days in advance advising that coverage will cease if payment is not received.

Bottomline, if the employee is more than 30 days late in paying their portion of the premium and you have given them a 15 day notice, you can cancel their coverage.

Strategic HR, inc. has the answers to all of your tough Benefits and Compensation related questions. Whether you need a job analysis of your positions or need to update (or write) job descriptions, strategic HR, inc. can do the job. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information.

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Marketplace Subsidy Notices – What do they mean?

Question:

I just received a Marketplace subsidy notice notifying me of employees enrolled in the Marketplace. What are these documents and what do they mean?

Answer:

Employers began receiving Marketplace subsidy notices in late June/early July from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notifying them that they have an employee who applied for a subsidy through the Marketplace program.  These notices do not mean that an employer will automatically be assessed penalties under the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate (applicable to large employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees). These notices mean that an employer could be assessed a penalty. If an employer does not believe the employee is eligible for a subsidy or the individual is not actually employed by the employer, they should file an appeal.

This is HHS’s process to verify subsidy eligibility.  The IRS is the agency that will actually assess any penalties. Employers will also have the opportunity to appeal penalty determinations should they receive one from the IRS.  However, filing an appeal with HHS now may prevent frustration in the future because HHS is responsible for notifying the IRS about individuals receiving financial assistance.  In short, employers should respond to these notices if appropriate to prevent the subsidy notice from going to the IRS. However, if they miss a notice or fail to respond, the HHS notice is not the final determination on penalties.

THANK YOU to HORAN for providing the content for this Question of the Week. HORAN has an evaluation process to assist clients in evaluating marketplace subsidy notices and taking appropriate steps as it relates to these notices. Please contact your Benefits Account Manager or HORAN for additional information.

Strategic HR, inc. has the answers to all of your tough Benefits and Compensation related questions. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information.

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Exempt or Non-Exempt? A Loaded (and potentially costly!) Question

Question:

With all the hype over the DOL changes to FLSA, I’m trying to evaluate our staff.  What is the difference between exempt and non-exempt? Is it the same as hourly and salary?

Answer:

You are right, the Department of Labor has released the changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) that is having a huge impact on the exemption status of employees.  The biggest change is that an employee cannot be “exempt”; if their salary is less than $47,476 (a few exceptions – i.e. outside sales).

FLSA provides details on an exemption analysis you can do to determine if an employee is exempt from compliance with the law.  Details about each exemption are provided on the FLSA government website.  The exemptions are based on the duties the individual performs.  The second test that has to be done is a salary test.  In the past, a salary of less than $23,660 had to be non-exempt regardless of whether the job role met any of the exemptions.  Now this threshold has been moved to $47,476.

An employee can be paid hourly or salary and be classified as non-exempt and any hours the employee works over 40 per week must be paid as overtime.  An exempt employee can only be paid a salary and is not entitled to overtime based on the FLSA as long as they meet the job duties and salary test mentioned above. This is a big change for many organization that have had employees (i.e. managers) making less than $47,476 but paid as salaried exempt.  You’ll want to review all your exempt employees to see who may be impacted by this change.  There are many ways to “fix” but the basics are moving the employee to non-exempt and begin paying them overtime for hours over 40 OR keep them as exempt and raise their salary above $47,476.

It’s never ending. Just when you thought you had a handle on recent regulatory changes something new crops up. There isn’t enough time in the day to keep on top of everything! That’s where strategic HR, inc. can help. We stay on top of the changes so you don’t have to. Ask us for assistance with any of your benefits, compensation or other regulatory needs.

Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Pre-tax and Post-tax on Benefits

Question:

I have always taken my employee’s premiums for benefits out of their pay check on a ‘pre-tax’ basis.  It was my understanding that was something I was allowed to do.  Recently, I was told I am not technically allowed to do that.  Is that true?

Answer:

You ARE allowed to take premiums out of an employee’s check pre-tax, assuming it meets the required criteria.  Pre-tax benefit premiums are a great benefit to employees and employers.  HOWEVER…employers need to remember that in order to offer their benefit pre-tax (no Social Security, Medicare, Federal, or State withholding), a plan document must be in place so you are able to take the deduction pre-tax.  That document / plan is a Section 125 plan.  Without that plan in place, you are not technically able to deduct employee premiums, pre-tax. The most common deductions take pre-tax with the document are: Group health, dental, vision, flexible spending accounts, dependent care accounts, and health savings accounts.

Strategic HR, inc. offers assistance with a variety of Benefits and Compensation needs, including understanding how DOL regulations affect your business and helping craft creative compensation plans. Please visit our Benefits and Compensation page for more information.

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Should Employers Offer Telemedicine to Their Employees to Stay Competitive?

Question: 

My broker just introduced the idea of telemedicine to me for my employees.  Are many employers really starting to offer this benefit?

Answer:

In the 2016 Medical Plan Trends and Observations report released by DirectPath and CEB, telemedicine was just one benefit that was reported on.  That report indicates that almost two-thirds of the reporting organizations are offering or plan to offer some type of telemedicine program by the year 2018.  There are many different plan options out there so make sure you do your research and clearly understand how you are going to be billed for offering the service.  Telemedicine is answering the need of many patients today offering 24/7 access and many times without an appointment.  It is becoming more widely accepted and it is a huge driver to help with cost control in high deductible health plans.

It’s tough having to navigate the ever-changing FLSA laws and other federally mandated rules and regulations. Strategic HR, inc. can help. Ask us for assistance with any of your benefits and compensation needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Do You Allow Your Employees Time Off to Vote?

Question:

Do I have to allow employees time off to vote?

Answer:

Although technically there is no state (or federal) law that requires employers to grant paid or unpaid time off to vote, there is verbiage that may cause you to allow such time off. The language many states use is that you do not have to allow time off as long as the employee’s regular schedule provide “sufficient” time to vote. What is “sufficient” can vary based on the state and even some times the election. The safest thing to do is allow an employee a reasonable amount of time off to perform this civic duty if there is a conflict with their work schedule.

Strategic HR, inc. has the answers to all of your tough Benefits and Compensation related questions. Whether you need a job analysis of your positions or need to update (or write) job descriptions, strategic HR, inc. can do the job. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information.

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Will the Cadillac Tax Be Delayed?

Question:

I heard news before the holidays that the Cadillac tax was delayed. Is it true?

Answer:

As everyone was guessing, yes, taxes related to the ACA and other fees related to the law continue to morph. On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 which delayed the effective date of the 40% excise tax (Cadillac tax) to 2020. There were other small changes that impacted tax and insurance fees. See the related article from The Hill (www.thehill.com) regarding the repeal of the tax for additional information. Your insurance broker could also provide you with details on how it may impact your organization.

Do you know you need help but don’t know what type of help is best for your situation?  strategic HR, inc. can help. To learn more, contact us at 513-697-9855 or visit our website for details on our services.

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Do I Have to Allow Employees to “Opt Out” of Pre-Tax Deductions?

Question:

If I have an employer that has a premium only (pre-tax / IRS Section 125a premium deduction plan) – do I have to allow employees the opportunity to “opt out” of the pre-tax deduction?  In other words, they want the premium to come out post-tax….do I have to allow that?

Answer:

Yes, employees must be given the option to participate in the pre-tax deduction and may elect to opt-out of this annually.  Depending on who you have your plan with, many offer an election form that should be completed annually opting “in” or “out” of the program.  If not, be sure employees put the request in writing so it cannot be questioned later.

Strategic HR, inc. is ready to assist you with any of your challenging situations around Benefits and Compensation. We offer assistance with everything from job descriptions to policy development to help address your difficult issues that impact employee compensation or benefits. Please visit our Benefits and Compensation for more information on how we can assist you.

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How Do I Keep Up With the Constant Flexible Spending Changes Each Year?

Question:

How do I determine what the maximum amount employees can contribute to their flexible spending accounts?  I understand it changes each year, how can I access this info so I make sure I notify employees and our payroll provider?

Answer:

Each year, the IRS issues an annual Revenue Procedure which contains the annual limits for health flexible spending accounts, medical savings accounts, qualified transportation benefits, adoption assistance benefits, long term care premiums, and retirement plan limits.  They are typically announced in the fall for the next calendar year so you can plan accordingly.  Health care savings account maximums were released earlier this year.

The information on the changes for spending accounts and transportation benefits can be found at the following link:

https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/In-2016-Some-Tax-Benefits-Increase-Slightly-Due-to-Inflation-Adjustments,-Others-Are-Unchanged

The retirement plan maximum information can be found at the following link:

https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Announces-2016-Pension-Plan-Limitations%3B-401(k)-Contribution-Limit-Remains-Unchanged-at-$18,000-for-2016

It’s never ending. Just when you thought you had a handle on recent regulatory changes something new crops up. There isn’t enough time in the day to keep on top of everything! That’s where strategic HR, inc. can help. We stay on top of the changes so you don’t have to. Ask us for assistance with any of your benefits, compensation or other regulatory needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Divisions Email Service

Question:

At a recent HR meeting we were encouraged to sign up for the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Divisions email service. Why would we want to do this?

Answer:

The DOL provides the opportunity to receive free e-mail notices when new information is available on the website that includes over 100 different topics, in 17 categories, including Wage and Hour. The website www.dol.gov/dol/email.htm allows users to select notifications relevant to their interests.

As all HR professionals know, one of the challenges we face is keeping current on legislative changes, findings, and interpretations. Often the communications are sent in the form of opinion letters, or interpretations of the rules, by various DOL officials as they address issues brought up by other companies. These opinion letters do not provide legal guidance in administering DOL rules, but use court decisions as the basis for the opinion. They provide insight into how the officials think about a particular section of regulation or statue and sometimes even mirror some of the issues you may have at your worksite.  In a climate where legislative changes seem to be occurring daily, receiving a regular “heads-up” can only help our efforts to stay on top of it all.

Strategic HR, inc. offers assistance with a variety of Benefits and Compensation needs, including understanding how DOL regulations affect your business and helping craft creative compensation plans. Please visit our Benefits and Compensation page for more information.

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Am I in Compliance with the Affordable Care Act?

Question:

My insurance broker and my payroll provider have reached out to me ensure I am complying with the most recent Affordable Care Act reporting requirements.  What are these and what do I need to do?

Answer:

They are right…2016 is right around the corner and planning for the reporting requirements is essential!

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) added two new sections to the Internal Revenue Code to assist the government in administering the requirements of the individual mandate, the employer mandate, and premium tax credits (subsidies) offered through state and federal marketplace programs which results in recordkeeping requirements for employers.  These two new code sections are: · 6055 Reporting of Health Insurance Coverage (individual mandate), and · 6056 Certain Employers Required to Report on Health Insurance Coverage (employer mandate). The forms used to report under these new code sections are Forms 1094-B and 1095-B (individual mandate) and Forms 1094-C and 1095-C (employer mandate) and must be submitted in 2016 for all applicable large employers (ALE).

HORAN Associates, offers an outstanding Q&A providing general information about the reporting requirement.  Visit their site below for FAQ regarding the requirements as well as a recorded version of an informational seminar they conducted.  If you have further questions regarding ACA reporting please contact a HORAN representative or your payroll provider.  Keep in mind, most payroll providers who are offering these recordkeeping services for 2016 have an October deadline for registration.

HORAN FAQ Regarding Affordable Care Act Reporting:  http://www.horanassoc.com/Portals/horanassoc/1_Reporting%20FAQ%20final%20(4).pdf

A special thank you to HORAN Associates for allowing us to reprint this compliance notice.

It’s never ending. Just when you thought you had a handle on recent regulatory changes something new crops up. There isn’t enough time in the day to keep on top of everything! That’s where strategic HR, inc. can help. We stay on top of the changes so you don’t have to. Ask us for assistance with any of your benefits, compensation or other regulatory needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Paying to Get Ready for Work

Question:

I have an employee telling me that I should be paying them for the time it takes them to go to their locker and get ready for work.  Is that true?

Answer:

Paying employees for the time they work seems pretty straight forward, however, the activities that they perform before or after their shift to ‘get ready for work’ can create a lot of question as to whether or not the time spent must be paid time by the employer.  The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides guidance but the topic is still very murky and in some instances require a consult with your attorney to make sure you get it right.

The ‘go-to’ document to provide you guidance is the Portal to Portal Act and verbiage around compensation for all time spent within a continuous workday.  The topic that becomes most questionable is what activities are deemed “integral and indispensable” for the job and it is verbiage that many times is interpreted by the court and is specific to the industry and even sometimes the job.  Those activities that are deemed integral and indispensable are those that must be paid time for the employee.  As an example, if the employee is REQUIRED to wear certain clothes or certain equipment, the time spent in putting those items on must be paid time.  If it is something they prefer to wear, it is not necessarily work time or time that is paid.

As an employer, you need to look carefully at what employees do before or after they clock in or clock out for the day.  If they cannot perform their jobs without wearing certain items or equipment, it should be paid.  Dive in deeper to determine what it is that they are doing and then make a determination on whether or not it should be paid or not.  And as always…keep in mind that outside of the legal requirements, payment for such activities may just be “the right thing to do” in your workplace.

Are you hesitant when it comes to navigating FLSA and other federally mandated rules and regulations? strategic HR, inc. understands your uncertainty. Ask us for assistance for any of your benefits and compensation needs including evaluating the exemption status of your jobs relative to the proposed changes. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Are you familiar with the Portal-to-Portal Act?

Question:

If I need to send an employee to “cover” at a worksite other than where they are regularly schedule to work, am I required to pay them for the time it takes them to get there?

Answer:

It depends! Luckily, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) addresses this issue specifically. Section 29 CFR § 785.38 (Portal-to-Portal Act) tells us that time spent traveling to work before the start of the workday or home from work after the workday is over is not considered hours worked or paid time. However, it does also tell us that the time an employee spends traveling from one worksite to another during the same workday, it is considered hours worked and thus they should be paid for the travel time. In your question, it would depend on when they were sent to the other site. For example, an employee arrives at their normal work location on Monday morning only to discover that they are being asked to cover at another location because they are short staffed. Because the employee already arrived at their assigned work location and you are asking them to go to another location after their arrival, the time spent traveling to the other worksite would be hours worked. IF you called that employee before they left their home and asked them to go straight to the different location, that would NOT be hours worked but rather considered time traveling to work under the Portal-to-Portal Act. For more information on travel time during the work day, visit www.dol.gov. The site also has a great resource, a fact sheet that provides information about hours worked. It can be found at : http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs22.pdf 

It’s tough having to navigate the ever-changing FLSA laws and other federally mandated rules and regulations. Strategic HR, inc. can help. Ask us for assistance with any of your benefits and compensation needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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How to Make Employees Smarter Health Care Consumers

Question:

How can I get my employees to be smarter Health Care Consumers?

Answer:

To make smart health care decisions you have to be a savvy consumer. Your employees can save money by shopping around and comparing prices, the same way they would for other purchases. So what can you do to help guide your employees to make sound decisions? You can start by educating them.

Now this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Being a smart health care consumer takes effort. Your employees will need to do some research to find providers who will save them money. And you’ll need to do some research to find the tools employees can use to point them in the right direction.

 During annual enrollment:

  • Open employees’ eyes to the fact that not all providers cost the same. In fact, costs can be dramatically different among providers, even though the quality is the same.
  • Make sure employees understand the cost they pay under a copay plan is much lower than the “real” retail cost.
  • Strongly encourage the use of “health plan comparison” or “run your own scenario” tools.
  • If employees are moving from a copay plan to a high deductible plan that requires them to pay the full retail cost:
  • Provide direct links to your prescription administrator’s site where they can find average retail costs.
  • Tell them to take their list of monthly prescriptions to their local pharmacy and ask for the current retail cost. (Prescription out-of-pocket costs are usually the biggest shock to new enrollees in high deductible plans.)
  • Offer links to health plan service/procedure estimators.
  • Suggest they reach out to their caregivers to determine the full retail cost for services.

After annual enrollment

  • Continue to educate employees throughout the year on topics including:
  • Asking health care providers questions.
  • Requesting generics versus brand-name drugs.
  • Using provider selection tools on your health care administrator’s website.
  • Choosing urgent care versus emergency room care.
  • Be sure to use a variety of communication vehicles such as newsletter articles, blog postings, brown bag meetings, Q&A forums or one-on-one coaching sessions.

The better employees understand how to access and use their plan, the more positive they’ll feel about the plan, and the more money they can save. They may not become smart health care consumers overnight…but knowing where to go to get reliable information is a good first step.

A special thanks to Elizabeth Borton, President of Write On Target, for sharing her expertise with us.  Sign-up on her website at to receive future communication blogs at www.writetarget.com. Or, you can contact her with questions at EBorton@WriteTarget.com or 937.436.4565 at extension 28.

Providing adequate employee Benefits and Compensation are key to recruitment and retention of employees and having the right polices can make or break a company. Strategic HR, inc. understands this critical need and can help you with any of your tough benefit and compensation questions. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on how we can assist you with creating a strong Benefits or Compensation package.

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Smartphone Usage After Hours

Question:

Many of our employees have smartphones. Do we have to pay them for every time they use it outside of regular working hours?  I tell them not to respond until work hours but many of them still respond to emails and texts outside of work hours.  What do I do?

Answer:

This issue has exploded as of late!  Most employers and employees use smartphones, an ideal tool to improve efficiency, productivity, and accessibility for their employees.  It does, however, become an issue, because non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked…this includes hours responding to emails, phone calls, and texts outside of “regular” work hours.  This is probably one of the most common violations that Wage and Hour auditors are finding.

So what to do?  As an employer, you need to have a policy in place requiring tracking of smartphone usage, even restricting use outside of regular business hours, and make sure to tie it into your overtime policy.   That being said, managers then cannot email employees during those off times, and expect an immediate response, or even a response first thing in the morning.  IF you find out employees are replying outside of regular work hours you need to (1) address the issue in terms of performance and (2) make sure you pay them!

For exempt employees, smartphone usage can be less of an issue, however, it can pose a problem.  If these employees are working any part of the workweek, they must be paid for the entire week.  Some companies make it a policy that employees must relinquish all smart devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) when they are going to be off but honestly, this can be somewhat unreasonable if you need to touch base on a client issue or a “quick question”.

Consider these issues when you create policy and determine how you will handle such issues with  employees – whether exempt or non-exempt.  The Department of Labor website, www.dol.gov offers guidance for managing these types of concerns and making sure you are paying employees for actual hours worked.

Strategic HR, inc. has the answers to all of your tough Benefits and Compensation related questions. Whether you need an audit of your exemption statuses or a job analysis of your positions, strategic HR, inc. can do the job. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information.

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Fiduciary

Question:

What is a fiduciary and is it possible that I could be one for our 401(k) plan?

Answer:

If you “touch” the 401(k) plan, you may very well be!  Even someone who enters or send the information in for a new hire into the 401(k) plan could be a fiduciary.  A plan fiduciary is someone who has any type of control over the plan’s operations or administration or they exercise discretion.  Whether it is the trustee of the account, the investment advisor, or a plan administrator…any one of these individuals can be a plan fiduciary based on their professional responsibilities.  All plan documents must designate a fiduciary for the plan, however, even if the plan doesn’t name you one, your true status is based on what you do for the plan…not just your title.  It is important to note that attorneys, accountants, and actuaries are generally not fiduciaries when acting solely in their professional capacities.  The key is determining whether or not they are exercising discretion or control over the plan.

So I’m a fiduciary, does it matter?  Absolutely!  As a fiduciary, YOU can become personally liable for actions taken within the plan.  The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requires plan fiduciaries to act prudently and solely in the interest of the plan’s participants and beneficiaries.  It prohibits self-dealing and as noted above, provides legal relief when violations of the standards cause harm to plans. Fiduciaries have important responsibilities because they are acting on behalf of participants in the plan and must be sure to act in the best interest of those beneficiaries.

If you are looking for more information on your responsibility as a plan fiduciary, the Department of Labor has a great reference tool.  The tool can be found at:  http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/publications/fiduciaryresponsibility.html

Strategic HR, inc. offers assistance with a variety of Benefits and Compensation needs, including understanding how DOL regulations affect your business and helping craft creative compensation plans. Please visit our Benefits and Compensation page for more information.

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FLSA Safe Harbor Provision

Question:

I keep hearing people reference the “safe harbor” provision of the Fair Labor Standards Act and that I should have language included in my handbook about it.  What is the FLSA Safe Harbor Provision?

Answer:

Under the old FLSA provisions (pre-2004), if an employer made an improper deduction from an exempt employee’s salary, the employee would lose their exempt status and the employer would be required to treat not only the impacted employee but EVERYONE with the same title as though they are non-exempt.  Under the current FLSA rules, if an employer makes an improper deduction but follows the safe harbor provisions, they can correct the error but the employee and those with the same title DO NOT lose their exempt status.

To meet the requirements of the safe harbor provisions, the employer must do the following:

  • Establish a clearly communicated policy prohibiting improper deductions and including a complaint mechanism;
  • Reimburse employees for any improper deductions in a reasonable time frame; and
  • Make a good-faith commitment to comply in the future.

This does not protect employers who are frequent abusers but does allow a safety net to those who made the deduction in error.  Employers should create a safe harbor policy and communicate it to employees through the employee handbook.  For additional information, go to the Department of Labor website and review their safe harbor policies on the FLSA page.

It’s tough having to navigate the ever-changing FLSA laws and other federally mandated rules and regulations. Strategic HR, inc. can help. Ask us for assistance with any of your benefits and compensation needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Long Term Disability and Health Insurance

Question:

I have an employee that is on long term disability.  How do I handle their health insurance benefits since they are no longer actively employed?

Answer:

Ideally, employers should address this in their employee handbooks prior to such an event happening so they have a clear practice in place, before such a stressful situation arises.  Determining how benefits are handled while someone is out on any type of leave should be clearly defined.

In most instances, employers continue to carry employees on health insurance for a pre-determined time period after going on a leave.  There really is no “typical” time period, but regardless of what you choose, insure that your insurance carrier will allow the continued coverage.  Some employers terminate coverage as soon as the disability is approved; others after 6 months of LTD; and even some that agree to cover those on disability up to one year.  In these situations, employers typically require the employee to pay their “normal” employee contribution for health care and the employer handles them just like an active employee – subject to the carrier agreeing, of course.

Keep in mind, after coverage is terminated, if you are subject to COBRA you must offer COBRA coverage for the employee as well.

Regardless of the length of time you agree to continue coverage, be sure to get approval from your insurance company and be consistent in your application of the continued benefits.

It’s never ending. Just when you thought you had a handle on recent regulatory changes something new crops up. There isn’t enough time in the day to keep on top of everything! That’s where strategic HR, inc. can help. We stay on top of the changes so you don’t have to. Ask us for assistance with any of your benefits, compensation or other regulatory needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Basic Health Care Offerings

Question:

I’m wondering what companies are offering these days in terms of health insurance. Is it common for companies to pay 100% of the premiums for the employee, but to exclude the employees spouse and dependents? I alway thought that the norm was to pay a portion of the premium, regardless of the employee’s dependents. For example, the company absorbs 2/3 of the premium, and the employee pays 1/3 (for individual, or family plans). On average, what do most US companies offer? If you have any insights on European companies, specifically the UK, then I’d like to know your thoughts as well.

Answer:

The short answer to your question is the typical HR response “it depends”. What size company are you talking about? What industry? What is the company philosophy or culture around taking care of employees (i.e. we’re a family and do as much as we can or we’re a business and do what we need to) – Does the company have a budget for benefits?

Benefits costs, as you probably know are on the rise. For example, my husband’s company just got back a 25% increase for 2012 when they had an equal or higher increase last year. To handle this, they had to cut back what was paid and offered to employees. So, you asked what is common. It really does depend on all the things I mentioned above. Some companies won’t even offer medical coverage because of the cost and others may get a group plan together but require employees to front the entire cost of the premiums. It is probably more typical for a company to at least pay a portion of the employee coverage (i.e. 75%). However, some companies will do more. Generally dependents will be eligible for coverage; however, the company doesn’t always pay for it. (You get into is it fair to pay single for one employee and family for another. Or, what if I don’t need insurance, are you going to give me the payment in cash?) In larger organizations or extremely competitive (for talent) industries, you may see a percent of coverage for both individual and family. For spouse, we have seen an increase trend in companies charging an extra fee for a spouse to be on the plan ESPECIALLY if they have coverage offered to them by their employer. For the UK, it is socialized medicine. Some companies buy extra insurance for the executives to give them better coverage. We just had this conversation with an employee from the UK that works for my husband’s company. Insurance is just very different over there. If you are sending someone to the UK but keeping them on the US benefits, you might see a company do more for them because they are taking an overseas assignment.

 

Providing adequate Benefits and Compensation for your employees is key to the recruitment and retention of a well performing workforce, and having the right policies in place can make or break a company. Strategic HR, inc. understands this critical need and can help you structure your benefit and compensation system to meet today’s competitive market. Please visit our Benefits and Compensation page for more information on how we can help get you competitive today.

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Paying for Smartphone Usage

Question:

Many of our employees have smartphones. Do we have to pay them for every time they use it outside of regular working hours?

Answer:

This is becoming a much bigger issue, as more companies are using smartphones as a tool to improve efficiency, productivity, and accessibility for their employees. When talking about nominal usage outside of regular working hours, i.e., a few minutes a couple of times a week or month, it’s not an issue. However, typically, smartphone usage outside of regular business hours can extend well beyond that. You’ll want to carefully consider who really needs to have a smartphone or similar device for business purposes. If there is not a valid reason, reconsider issuing one to avoid potential problems.

Non-Exempt Employees – yes, you have to pay them for that time. This is probably one of the most common violations that Wage and Hour auditors are finding. To avoid a problem be sure to have a policy in place requiring tracking of smartphone usage, even restricting use outside of regular business hours, and make sure to tie it into to your overtime policy. That being said, remember that managers then cannot email employees during those off times, and expect an immediate response, or even a response first thing in the morning. Be sure to explicitly state this policy and remind your managers.

Exempt Employees – smartphone usage can be less of an issue, however, if the individual is off work or considered on leave, they must be restricted from working. For salary exempt employees, if they work any part of the workweek, they must be paid for the entire week.  Some companies make it a policy that employees must relinquish all smart devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.) when they are going to be off work. This can be especially problematic when an employee is still expected to be available for contact while on FMLA leave. If you are contacting them for work related reasons, it cannot be counted as FMLA leave, and they must be paid for the time.

Strategic HR, inc. offers assistance with a variety of Benefits and Compensation needs, including understanding how DOL regulations affect your business and helping craft creative compensation plans. Please visit our Benefits and Compensation page for more information.

 

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Volunteer Time

Question:

Can my employee volunteer time to my non-profit organization or an event sponsored by the employer?

Answer:

For an exempt employee, ABSOLUTELY! There are no concerns regarding payment for an exempt employee under the FLSA, and they can actually be required to assist as part of their job, if it is part of their position.

For non-exempt employees….MAYBE. Under the FLSA, a non-exempt employee must generally (depending upon your State) be paid time and one half their regular hourly rate for hours worked in excess of forty in a workweek. The question becomes, does time spent by an employee volunteering their time to their organization (or event) count as hours worked?

In Opinion Letters issued by the Department of Labor some general guidelines were issued to eliminate the confusion of payment for “bona fide volunteer efforts for charitable purposes”. In general, volunteer status can be met when the following criteria is met:

  • Designation of “volunteer” status is not done unilaterally by the employer and it is truly a voluntary act with no coercion by the employer in an attempt to avoid minimum wage or overtime requirements;
  • The volunteer time must be for a civic, charitable, or humanitarian purpose without any promise, expectation or receipt of compensation by the employee (though a nominal fee may be provided);
  • The employee’s volunteer activities cannot not be similar to the job they perform as part of their regular employment; and
  • The volunteering must be performed outside the employee’s normal work hours.

IF a non-exempt employees meets this criteria and are willing to volunteer it may be best to have them sign a volunteer agreement – just so there are no concerns down the line.  Remember…that employee may be happy to do it now but when they get mad later, you could have quite a mess on your hands, even if it was determined to be voluntary.

** Be sure to wish Robin a Happy Anniversary – May starts our 20th year providing outsourced HR Solutions **

Strategic HR, inc. has the answers to all of your tough Benefits and Compensation related questions. Whether you need an audit of your exemption statuses, a job analysis of your positions or just need help defining your comp and benefit policies and procedures, strategic HR, inc. can do the job. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information. 

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Wellness Certification

Question:

Since I’ve been working on a corporate wellness program I am thinking about getting the certification. I have been considering The Corporate Health and Wellness Association (CHWA). Can you provide your insight on whether one credentialing program is more highly regarded than another?

Answer:

There’s been a surge of wellness certifications popping up over the last couple of years. This is probably due to the fact that there is an increased emphasis on employee health as more companies recognize that good health can impact employee productivity and decrease their health care costs, ultimately impacting the bottom line. Providing a certified program lends value to the wellness program. Certification instills confidence, lends a degree of professionalism and provides knowledge and experience with important tools for tracking return on investment and success.

A Certification program you might consider is the Chapman Institute (www.chapmaninstitute.net). Folks in the industry really recognize Larry Chapman as he has a long standing credibility in the industry. We have not taken his certification but it was said that most of what Larry does is solid and best practice. He is also quite savvy at making lots of money!!!

Another good program is the Health Management Resource Center (HMRC) at the University of Michigan (www.hmrc.umich.edu). Dee Edington, director of the HMRC, is another respected name in the wellness industry who has evolved to the point of talking about the importance of culture. This center is an excellent resource.

Plus, you should consider a membership with the Wellness Council of America WELCOA (www.welcoa.org) to be able to plug in to all the free webinar trainings offered. They offer some great stuff these days; great value for the investment and they refresh topics all the time. Its a continuous learning model. They also provide access to a wide scope of free resources, including surveys, etc.

Good luck on your wellness journey!

A special thanks to Karen Campbell with the Tri-State Workplace Wellness Collaborative (www.tristatewwc.org) and Denise Flickner with Healthworks (www.cincyhealthworks.com) for sharing their expertise with us. Please visit their respective websites for more wellness information.

Having healthy employees is a key reason for developing a company wellness program; but also consider the cost savings. Not only does a healthy workforce impact costs related to ever increasing healthcare expenses, but also impacts other expenses that are being trimmed as the economy necessitates a tightening of the belt in all areas of the company. Visit our Health, Safety & Security page to learn how we can assist you with creating a wellness program in your company.

 

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Snow Storm Pay

Question:

What do you pay when a snow storm hits?

Answer:

This winter has been one for the record books, and with nearly two months of winter left to go there is a good chance that companies will be faced with this question. Fortunately, two Labor Department opinion letters help clarify the confusing issue of how to treat the hours that EXEMPT employees miss because of inclement weather. It is important to note that while opinion letters don’t carry the weight of law, courts are deferential to them and they provide an idea of how the Labor Department might rule in similar circumstances.

If the Workplace Remains Open

If the workplace is OPEN during inclement weather and an exempt employee misses work for his own (non-illness) reason, a full-day deduction from the employee’s salary can be taken. Additionally, the employer can require the employee to use vacation time or other accrued leave to cover the time off.

NOTE:  You can deduct only full-day absences from exempt employees’ salaries. Docking pay for partial-day absences could destroy the person’s exemption. An exempt employee who shows up for part of the day should be paid for a full day, regardless of how long employee is there.

If the Workplace Is Closed

Organizations always have the option of closing their doors during inclement weather. If the workplace is CLOSED, exempt employees can be required to take vacation time or use other leave, but you can’t insist on leave without pay.

NOTE: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t require employers to provide vacation time. Employers are free to administer leave programs in any nondiscriminatory way they see fit. Employers may charge time off as leave even in amounts less than a day as long as the employee’s salary remains the same. The key is that the employee’s salary can’t be affected.

What about non-exempt employees?

Of course, the rules are different for non-exempt (hourly) employees. Generally, if a non-exempt employee does not come to work for whatever reason, the employer does not need to pay the employee. If the workplace is closed an entire day due to inclement weather (or other emergency), the employer does not have to pay the non-exempt employees. However, in this situation employees are missing work for reasons that are not their fault. Employers should consider paying employees for the day or part of the day. This gesture cements relationships and communicates effectively that the employer is committed to its employees’ well being.

If an employer closes the company mid-way through a day, employees must be paid for hours worked. In some States, an employer must pay employees a minimum number of hours if they have reported for work – be sure to check the regulations for your particular State.

It is wise for employers to develop a policy that covers handling employee work hours and pay in the event of bad weather or other emergencies. An inclement weather policy should cover:

  • What constitutes an inclement weather day,
  • How employees will be paid,
  • How work responsibilities will be covered,
  • How employees will be notified, and
  • Guidelines for when an employee cannot make it to work because of bad weather.

A good policy makes the facts known so that employees know what to expect when inclement weather or other emergencies occur. It also provides managers who must make the decision whether or not to close for inclement weather, guidance for their decision making.

Are you hesitant when it comes to navigating FLSA and other federally mandated rules and regulations? Strategic HR, inc. understands your uncertainty. Ask us for assistance for any of your benefits and compensation needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensations page for more information about our services.

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Confusion Over FSAs versus HSAs

Question:

What is the difference between an flexible spending account (FSA) and a health savings account (HSA)?

Answer:

A recent article published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) points out that most employees do not understand the difference between flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). The SHRM article cites a recent survey by Fidelity Investments that found “two-thirds (65 percent) of Americans who make household health-benefit decisions simply do not understand how an HSA works.” A full 73 percent of respondents said an HSA is pretty much the same thing as a health FSA or were unsure and the “use it or lose it” provision of FSAs was one of the most commonly misunderstood differences between the account types. Unlike an FSA, HSA balances carry over from year to year, allowing account holders to accumulate their savings for qualified health care needs. Yet, 69 percent of respondents incorrectly believed they would lose unspent money in an HSA at the end of the year.”

As more employers are moving to high deductible plans with HSAs, it’s important to educate employees about how an HSA works and the triple tax advantages they provide. At the same time, employees who stay in lower deductible plans, should understand how they can use an FSA to their advantage.

What can you do?

  • Be clear about which plans can be used with an FSA and which are connected to an HSA.
  • Explain both types of accounts in clear, concise terms, using everyday language.
  • Provide examples of how the high deductible plan with HSA compares in total out-of-pocket costs to other plans. Include the cost of coverage in your examples and feature scenarios for light, medium and heavy users of health care services. These “people like me” scenarios can help employees to determine which plan might be right for them.
  • Offer online or onsite meetings to explain both accounts and answer questions on the spot.
  • After annual enrollment, provide plenty of easy-to-pull information and tools on your benefits website for employees to use. For example, we recently produced a three-part animated video explaining a high deductible plan, the HSA and how the two work together when an employee goes to the doctor and gets a prescription filled.
  • Point employees to online information from your FSA and HSA administrator as well as general information, such as this video on the USA Today site.

As we move employees to take more responsibility for their health care decisions, it’s important that we provide the tools and education they need to make smart decisions.

A special thanks to Elizabeth Borton, President of Write On Target, for sharing her expertise with us.  Sign-up on her website at to receive future communication blogs at www.writetarget.com. Or, you can contact her with questions at EBorton@WriteTarget.com or 937.436.4565 at extension 28.

Providing adequate employee Benefits and Compensation are key to recruitment and retention of employees and having the right polices can make or break a company. Strategic HR, inc. understands this critical need and can help you with any of your tough benefit and compensation questions. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on how we can assist you with creating a strong Benefits or Compensation package.

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Voluntary Classification Settlement Program

Question:

What is the new Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) and what, if anything, does my company need to do?

Answer:

The new Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) was developed by the IRS to provide payroll tax relief to employers that reclassify their workers (as employees) for future tax periods. Part of the Fresh Start initiative created by the IRS, this program aims to increase compliance and reduce the tax burden for employers. Under the VCSP employers will pay 10 percent of the employment taxes that would have been due for the most recent tax year on the workers being reclassified. Employers also avoid interest and penalties on the payment and will not undergo an audit for tax purposes in prior years.

To take part employees in question must have previously been treated as independent contractors or other non-employees. Employers need to file an application with the IRS at least 60 days before beginning the treatment of these workers as employees. Employers will be notified whether or not they are eligible to participate and in doing so, the IRS will not share the reclassification with the Department of Labor.

It’s never ending. Just when you thought you had a handle on recent regulatory changes something new crops up. There isn’t enough time in the day to keep on top of everything! That’s where strategic HR, inc. can help. We stay on top of the changes so you don’t have to. Ask us for assistance with any of your benefits, compensation or other regulatory needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Tip Credit Regulations

Question:

What can you tell me about the tip credit regulation issued by the Department of Labor in 2011?

Answer:

The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor states that, effective May 5, 2011, a tip is the sole property of the tipped employee regardless of whether the employer takes a tip credit.  The difference between the hourly rate paid by the employer and the standard federal minimum wage is what we call a tip credit.  Further, the employer is prohibited from using an employee’s tips, whether or not it has taken a tip credit, except as a credit against its minimum wage obligations to the employee, or in furtherance of a valid tip pool. This amendment results in major changes to the existing tip-credit-notice regulations, specifically in regards to the ownership of employee tips, pooling tip arrangements, and required communications to employees.  The tip credit provision was originally created through the 1966 amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act, and specifically permitted employers to credit a portion of their employees’ tips against their minimum wage obligations.  Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employers are allowed to pay their servers below minimum wage as long as their tipped employees receive tips that amount to at least $30 a month.

The sudden change to tip credit requirements caught the restaurant industry by surprise. The major industry trade groups requested a 90 day delay for implementing the new rules, but the DOL did not acquiesce to this appeal.  They felt that the amendment came at an inopportune time due to the weak economy paired with rising commodity costs.  The National Restaurant Association, The Council of State Restaurants, and the National Federation of Independent Business sued the Department of Labor in June 2011 because the agency did not allow restaurants to comment before the provision went into effect.  The NRA also noted that the DOL only gave restaurants 30 days to communicate the changes to employees comply with the new regulations.  The DOL counters that there was plenty of forewarning through the 2008 release of original regulations, and the agency felt that the amendment needed to be put in place as soon as possible due to the sheer number of alleged violations and lawsuits.

Strategic HR, inc. has the answers to all of your tough Benefits and Compensation related questions. Whether you need a job analysis of your positions or need to update (or write) job descriptions, strategic HR, inc. can do the job. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information.

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What is a Fiduciary?

Question:

What is all this talk about being a “fiduciary” to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan? What is it? Am I one?

Answer:

A fiduciary is any individual or entity that has, or exercises discretionary control over the management of the ERISA 401(k) or 403(b) plan or the plan’s assets. Fiduciaries should always be named in the plan document or in a committee charter. These individuals are owners, board members, human resources employees, attorneys, accountants, advisors, etc.

Fiduciaries must:

  • Act solely in the interest of the plan participants,
  • Be prudent when acting on behalf of the plan,
  • Be prudent when selecting investments and take appropriate consideration,
  • Follow the terms of the plan document,
  • Diversify Plan investments,
  • Appoint appropriate trustees and fiduciaries and review performance at reasonable intervals,
  • Comply with all ERISA Reports and disclosures, and
  • Carry a fidelity Bond(s).

A compliant plan and its fiduciaries will have all documents to the plan organized and up-to-date in a “Fiduciary File”. Use this checklist Organizing Your Fiduciary File to help prepare your file.

A special thanks to Joanna Hankey, CFP®, REBC®, RHU®, Senior Account Executive for Investment/Retirement Plan Consulting with HORAN, for sharing her expertise with us. You can contact her with questions at JoannaH@horanwealth.com or 513-745-0707.

 

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When to Offer a Part-Time Employee Company Benefits

Question:

How quickly do we need to offer benefits once a part-time employee is working 40 or more hours per week? The employee is regularly scheduled to work 30 hours per week and is ineligible for coverage. However, the employee is currently working on a major project where the hours worked tend to often exceed the full-time threshold. Our company policy manual states there may be periods when a part-time employee is permitted to work more than 40 hours but does not alter an employee’s part-time status.

Answer:

This situation can be looked at in many ways. Depending on how you’ve handled it in the past and what’s in your summary plan description or company policies really determines what you need to do.

In a nutshell, the individual is a part-time employee regularly scheduled 30 hours per week and, according to your plan, is ineligible for insurance. There are occasions when the individual is asked to work 40 hours, but as long as it is not a ‘regular’ occurrence, it does not change the employee’s eligibility for benefits.

Your company has the task of defining the term ‘regularly’. If the employee is not pursuing the issue of not receiving benefits, there really is no “hours policy” trying to determine whether the employee is eligible or not. One suggestion is that your company take a stance that, for example, an employee who works 40 hours or more per week for over 50% of the weeks in the previous year, would be deemed eligible for benefits coverage.

Keep in mind that there may be a problem if, or when, the employee comes back and DOES have an issue because benefits were not offered but the employee feels like he/she should be eligible. If that is not the case right now, it would be wise to take action and define what you consider to be ‘regularly.’ If you do start working the employee for 40+ hours regularly, then make that employee full time. It’s the right thing to do. And when the Healthcare Reform is active in 2014, the answer will be entirely different.

Strategic HR, inc. has the answers to all of your tough Benefits and Compensation related questions. Whether you need an audit of your exemption statuses or a job analysis of your positions, strategic HR, inc. can do the job. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information.

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Am I Required to Offer COBRA?

Question:

How do I determine if I have to offer COBRA to our employees for their health insurance? We are ‘on the bubble’ with 21 employees this year, but some are part time. 

Answer:

According to the Department of Labor, group health plans for employers with 20 or more employees on more than 50 percent of its typical business days in the previous calendar year are subject to COBRA. Both full and part-time employees are counted to determine whether a plan is subject to COBRA. Each part-time employee counts as a fraction of an employee, with the fraction equal to the number of hours that the part-time employee worked divided by the hours an employee must work to be considered full-time.

Providing adequate Benefits and Compensation for your employees is key to the recruitment and retention of a well performing workforce, and having the right policies in place can make or break a company. Strategic HR, inc. understands this critical need and can help you structure your benefit and compensation system to meet today’s competitive market. Please visit our Benefits and Compensation page for more information on how we can help get you competitive today.

 

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Preparing for Health Care Reform

Question:

The Health Care Reform Buzz Is Growing. Are You Prepared?

Answer:

The buzz about Health Care Reform is starting to grow, and your employees are paying attention.

Time magazine’s “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” is about to become its best-selling cover issue in two years. Time even summarized the challenges in a terrific infographic, for those who don’t have the attention span to read the 35-page article. CNN’s broadcast of the award-winning documentary, “Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare,” was followed by a 30-minute discussion moderated by Dr. Sanjay Gupta on how Americans can cut through the red tape to save money and increase their access to health care.

Media coverage will continue to grow as we near the 2014 effective date for individual mandates, exchanges and so forth. On one hand, the increased coverage is a good thing. It increases awareness and spurs important conversations. On the other hand, mixed messages from various sources can, and will be, confusing.

It’s important that you prepare now. You’ll need to help your employees to navigate through the information and understand how the upcoming changes will specifically impact them. The following are a few suggestions to consider:

Dedicate a portion of your benefits website to health care reform so employees have a centralized spot to access accurate information. To build awareness, promote the site throughout the year in all the benefits communications you post or distribute.

  • Create easy-to-understand definitions for common terms such as exchanges, individual mandate, affordable coverage, essential health benefits and premium subsidies.
  • Post frequently asked questions and update them as new decisions are made or guidelines are issued. You’ll also need to frequently update the FAQs in response to employees’ questions as they near the enrollment process.
  • Be VERY clear about your company’s coverage options for 2014 and the choices employees can make. For example, will you allow employees to qualify for a subsidy or not? If not, better tell them as soon as possible to avoid misunderstandings. Disgruntled employees can do a lot of damage to the image of your benefits program.

Unlike past years when health care reform changes were pretty minimal, 2014 will be a big year. You can’t wait until annual enrollment to communicate your company’s decisions. Start now to create your communication tools and resources, then add materials throughout the year. The important thing is to be clear, concise and straightforward. If you don’t have all the information or decisions at this point, say so. But promise you will update the site as information becomes available.

There’s no doubt that the health care buzz will be loud and confusing at times. But it will also be your opportunity to stand out as a reliable and trusted resource for your employees.

A special thanks to Elizabeth Borton, President of Write On Target, for sharing her expertise with us.  Sign-up on her website at to receive future communication blogs at www.writetarget.com. Or, you can contact her with questions at EBorton@WriteTarget.com or  937.436.4565 at extension 28.

Nothing is more important to your employees than their Benefits. Make sure your employees get the information they need in a timely, concise and complete manner by communicating effectively. Strategic HR, inc. has years of experience writing for a targeted audience and creating communication plans that aim to accommodate a variety of communication styles. Visit our Communications page to learn how we can assist you with various communication-based projects.

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Equal Pay Day

Question:

What is Equal Pay Day?

Answer:

Equal Pay Day symbolizes the point in the year that the average woman would have to work for her salary to catch up to the average man’s salary from that previous calendar year. Equal Pay Day in 2013 is on Tuesday, April 9th.

According to the National Committee on Pay Equity and their most recent findings:

Women’s earnings were 77.0 percent of men’s in 2011, compared to 77.4 percent in 2010, according to Census statistics released September 12, 2012 based on the median earnings of all full-time, year-round workers. Men’s earning in 2011 were $48,202 and women’s were $37,118, a difference of $11,084.

Additionally, the National Women’s Law Center reports:

  • The wage gap persists at all levels of education. In 2011, the typical woman in the United States with a high school diploma working full time, year round was paid only 74 cents for every dollar paid to her male counterpart. Among people with a bachelor’s degree, the figure was also 74 cents. In fact, the typical woman who has received an associate’s degree still isn’t paid as much as the typical man who only graduated from high school.
  • A typical woman who worked full time, year round would lose $443,360 in a 40-year period due to the wage gap. A woman would have to work almost 12 years longer to make up this gap. A typical woman working full time, year round who starts, but does not finish, high school would lose $372,400 over a 40-year period, an enormous amount of money for women who are typically paid $21,113 a year. A woman would have to work over seventeen years longer to make up this gap.

Providing adequate employee Benefits and Compensation are key to recruitment and retention of employees and having the right policies in place can make or break a company. Strategic HR, inc. understands this critical need and can help you with any of your tough benefit and compensation questions. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on how we can assist you with creating a strong and competitive Benefits or Compensation package.

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FMLA Expiration and COBRA

Question:

We have an employee who is on FMLA to receive an organ donation and the leave is expiring soon. At what point do we offer the employee COBRA, and for how long?

Answer:

It is generally required by employers to offer health care coverage under COBRA law when the employee is:

  • No longer eligible to receive benefits of employer-provided group health plan
  • No longer protected by federal or state leave laws

It is common for employee coverage eligibility to expire after 12 weeks of leave under FMLA and any additional leave where the employer is reasonably accommodating the employee under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Strategic HR, inc. has the answers to all of your tough Benefits and Compensation related questions. Whether you need an analysis of your current benefit offerings or are looking to create a cost-effective recognition and rewards program, strategic HR, inc. can do the job. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information.

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Taking leave to care for adult children – FMLA Ruling

Question:

One of our employees has requested FMLA time off to care for their child who is mentally disabled but is of an independent age.  Do we need to allow the time off under FMLA?

Answer:

On January 14, 2013 the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor issued guidance on the definition of “son or daughter” under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In that interpretation they define a son or daughter to be “individuals 18 years of age or older and incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability”.  The individual being cared for must meet four requirements in addition to the other requirements the employee must meet under FMLA. The son/daughter needing care must:

  • Have a mental or physical disability as defined under the ADA and ADAAA,
  • Be unable to care for himself because of the disability,
  • Have a serious health condition,
  • Need of care because of the serious health condition.

It is important to note that the age of the onset of the disability (for the dependent) is irrelevant in determining if they qualify for FMLA care. 

Too many new Labor Law changes to keep up with? Let strategic HR, inc. help you navigate the employment law minefield. Ask us for assistance with any of your Legal Compliance needs. Please visit our Compliance page for more information or call us if you have a specific question or need.

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Can I backdate FMLA paperwork?

Question:

Can I backdate FMLA paperwork to the date at which the employee went on Workers’ Compensation?

Answer:

In a word, “no” – FMLA cannot be backdated. That’s why it is so critical that HR is on top of any types of absences that may qualify for FMLA. If an injury that falls under Workers’ Compensation also qualifies as a “serious medical condition” under the Family and Medical Leave Act, any time missed can be counted against the 12 week leave allotment an FMLA qualified employee is entitled to receive. When such an event occurs, send the appropriate notifications (found on www.dol.gov), and make sure you document that you have done so.  Then follow up appropriately for the certifications. The clock does not start ticking on FMLA until the notifications have been sent – whether it is immediately after the incident, or two months later. Keep in mind, if an employee returns to work on light duty, from a Workers’ Comp injury, that is no longer time counted against Family Medical Leave.

The world of employee leave is a complex one, often involving Family Medical Leave, Workers’ Compensation and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Many times, the different types of leaves overlap. Make sure you consider all appropriate legislation when an employee is absent from work before taking any type of adverse employment action.

FMLA, the ADAAA and other labor laws can be difficult to interpret, let alone enforce. That’s where strategic HR, inc. has you covered. We bring years of experience and know-how to the table. We can assist you with your tough compliance issues and help you sleep more soundly at night. Visit our Compliance page to learn more.

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Co-op and Intern Exemption Status

Question:

We would like to add a co-op student to our staff this year. Are Co-ops and Interns considered exempt or non-exempt? How do you determine this?

Answer:

According to the Department of Labor (DOL), it appears that interns who work in for-profit companies in the private sector are typically considered non-exempt: http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm.

However, whether or not student interns are covered under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FSLA) depends on the circumstances of the activities. If the work activity that the intern is to perform is an extension of the student’s academic programs, then the student might not be considered an employee.

To help determine if a student’s work is an extension of their academic program, these six criteria must be met:

1.     The training, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to that which would be given in a vocational school;

2.     The training is for the benefit of the trainee;

3.     The trainees do not displace regular employees, but work under close observation;

4.     The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the trainees and on occasion the employer’s operations may actually be impeded;

5.     The trainees are not necessarily entitled to a job at the completion of the training period; and

6.     The employer and the trainee understand that the trainees are not entitled to wages for the time spent in training.

If all six of these criteria are met, the intern may not be considered an employee to the employer requiring compliance with FLSA or even pay. For more details, visit http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs71.htm.

It’s tough having to navigate the ever-changing FLSA laws and other federally mandated rules and regulations. Strategic HR, inc. can help. Ask us for assistance with any of your benefits and compensation needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Social Security & Unemployment

Question:

We want to lay off an employee who is currently drawing Social Security. Would the employee be eligible to apply and receive unemployment benefits while they are on Social Security?

Answer:

It depends. Depending upon the state that you are in, social security benefits would not necessarily make them ineligible for benefits (based on the reason for dismissal) but it may offset the benefits they are eligible for. The link below, provided by the National Employment Law Project, has a helpful chart showing the state by state social security offset rule – http://www.nelp.org/page/-/UI/Development_of_social_security_offsets_Nov_2007.pdf.

Strategic HR, inc. knows that keeping abreast of legal compliance issues can be daunting, especially when the laws keep changing. We can help you stay compliant by fielding your questions and offering resources to help you identify and mitigate compliance issues. Visit our Compliance page to learn about our auditing services which can help you identify trouble spots in your HR function.

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Payroll Recordkeeping

Question:

I recently received a letter from my payroll provider reminding me to download my payroll records from last year before they were purged. I thought payroll records had to be retained for a certain number of years?

Answer:

You are correct – payroll records need to be maintained for at least 5 years following termination. However, it is the employer’s responsibility to maintain these records and not the payroll provider. We have heard various accounts of the length of time a third party payroll company will keep such records. To be safe, check with your provider to learn their policy on keeping records and don’t assume they are following the federal guidelines – they are not legally required to do so. Then make sure you are keeping sufficient copies of these records in accordance with federal law.

We asked our payroll provider – Think Pay – how they handle payroll recordkeeping.  Think Pay confirmed that they are not required by law to maintain records for clients beyond one year. However, they have not purged any client records in the 10 years that they’ve been in business. Plus, they send clients a CD at the end of each year containing all records for the year (including quarterly reports, tax filings, and W2s).

Recordkeeping is full of “if this, then that” situations. You will often hear us say “it depends” when asking about personnel files and recordkeeping. Keep the guesswork out of keeping your files in order and up-to-date. Strategic HR, inc. has a handy desktop reference ready to guide you on the documents you can keep together in an employee file and how long you need to keep them. Visit our HR Store to request a copy of our Recordkeeping reference.

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Annual Enrollment Communications

Question:

As we prepare for our annual enrollment materials, how should we plan to communicate in order for our efforts to be successful?

Answer:

A recent study conducted by the Guardian Life Insurance Company of America shows that you better use more than one form of communication. Guardian’s study, Benefits & Behavior: Spotlight on the Benefits of an Employee-Centric Enrollment Experience found the following:

  • 70 percent of employees who could receive enrollment information in their preferred channel said they were confident in their benefit selections versus 57 percent of those who did not.
  • Workers want to receive benefits communications through multiple channels. In fact, 20 percent would like six or more options.
  • 80 percent seek the ease and convenience of online enrollment so they can enroll where and when they choose. Nine in 10 workers who enrolled online were very satisfied with the experience.
  • Employees who could get information and enroll through the channel they prefer are more likely to make more informed enrollment decisions, have a higher perceived value of their benefits and ultimately feel more satisfied with their benefits.
  • Benefits satisfaction leads to greater loyalty and retention.

What can you do to ensure adequate communication?

  • Use multiple channels to deliver your enrollment messages (e.g. online, email, text messages, manager speaking points, electronic message boards, video, group meetings, posters, home mailings, webinars, apps and social media). You have a lot of options at your fingertips. Think outside the box and get creative. Be sure to include channels that will reach the spouse, a key decision maker during enrollment.
  • Make sure your enrollment messaging is clear, concise and consistent across all channels. Stick with three key points that you want to get across and hit them in every communication.
  • If you do not have a benefits site on the internet, create one so the information is accessible by computer, smartphones or tablets. We’ve designed sites that house the annual enrollment information as well as a customized plan comparison tool. Once employees are prepared, they simply click on a link to take them to the enrollment transaction site. The benefits site is then updated and used throughout the year for new hires.
  • Ask your employees which channels they prefer. You can add this question to your post-enrollment surveys.

Sadly, the Guardian study found that 63 percent of employers think their benefit communications are ineffective and 6 in 10 workers agree. What would your employees say? Remember, you may be the employer, but employees hold the remote in today’s multimedia world. Use multiple channels and your messages will get through.

A special thanks to Elizabeth Borton, President of Write On Target, for sharing her expertise with us.  Sign-up on her website to receive future communication blogs at www.writetarget.com. Or, you can contact her with questions at EBorton@WriteTarget.com or  937.436.4565 at extension 28.

Nothing is more important to your employees than their Benefits. Make sure your employees get the information they need in a timely, concise and complete manner by communicating effectively. Strategic HR, inc. has years of experience writing for a targeted audience and creating communication plans that aim to accommodate a variety of communication styles. Visit our Communications page to learn how we can assist you with various communication-based projects.

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Summary of Benefits Coverage

Question:

It sounds like the Health Care Reform is requiring employers to distribute Summary of Benefits Coverage documents for plan years beginning September 23. What do I need to know?

Answer:

You are right!  Starting September 23, the Accountable Care Act (aka Health Care Reform) requires employers to distribute the new Summary of Benefits Coverage (SBC’s) documents.

At first glance, the SBC’s seem like an easy task to check off your to-do list. Most health care vendors are filling in the government-designed templates for their clients. All you have to do is hang them on your site or mail to employees. Easy, right?

Well, not so fast.

Since we create and maintain Summary Plan Descriptions for our clients, many have asked us to review the SBC documents sent to them by their vendors. We have found some vendors are providing base documents, but are not including the specific nuances designed into the plans.

When you get your SBC’s, closely check some of the following areas:

  • Penalties: If you have penalty fees, e.g. for not pre-certifying a hospital stay, the fees need to be in the Limits and Exceptions box on the same line where the coverage is listed.
  • Limitations: If your plan has unique limitation amounts, e.g. for speech and physical therapy or home health and hospice service, make sure they are listed correctly, again on the same line where the coverage is listed.
  • Prescription carve outs: If your prescription coverage is carved out from your medical plan, your medical vendor probably won’t complete that section. You will need to complete that part of the template and ask your prescription vendor to review it for accuracy.

For the initial year, the Department of Labor has indicated it wants to work with plans to get to compliance and is not focusing on imposing penalties. Therefore, you might not be concerned about meeting every regulation spelled out in the government’s 15-page instructions. However, keep in mind that you will probably pick up the same document next year, so it would probably be worth the time and effort to get it as accurate and complete as possible. As is true with most benefits and HR communications, the devil is in the details.

A special thanks to Elizabeth Borton, President of Write On Target, for sharing her expertise with us.  Sign-up on her website at to receive future communication blogs at www.writetarget.com. Or, you can contact her with questions at EBorton@WriteTarget.com or  937.436.4565 at extension 28.

Are you hesitant when it comes to navigating federally mandated rules and regulations? Strategic HR, inc. understands your uncertainty. Ask us for assistance for any of your benefits and compensation needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Improve Employee Communication

Question:

It seems like employees don’t listen to us when we communicate. What can we do to improve our communications to employees?

Answer:

Back in the late 70’s, my first boss at an ad agency used to refer to the “95% Factor,” meaning that 95% of the time when you are communicating with people, they are only thinking of how the information will impact them. Today, folks refer to it as WIIFM or “what’s in it for me.”

Makes sense. You’re probably thinking that same question right now.

So here’s my HR communication tip for the week: use the 95% Factor to get results by doing the following:

  • Use the second person, not third. Don’t speak from the company’s perspective; take the employee’s point of view. Talk about how “you” can access and use your benefits or how “your” performance impacts your pay.
  • Be specific. Focus your communications more on the “what” and “how” and not so much on the “why.” The more specific you are about the actions you want employees to take, the better results you’ll get. It also helps if you can target your communications to specific audiences so folks only get the messages that apply to them. (The last thing you want to do is make people work to figure it out.) Plus, if you can be specific about the personal impact to employees, they will pay closer attention. For example, instead of saying “you can save thousands by switching to this plan,” create versions based on current plan enrollment to say “what would you do with an extra $2,050?”. Believe me, the second version will get more attention.
  • Keep it simple. Not only should you write from the employee’s point of view, you should speak their language. Avoid acronyms and other benefits “geek speak.” Try to write on about a 5th to 7th grade level by keeping sentences short and avoiding words with multiple syllables. Not because your audience isn’t smart enough to understand higher reading levels, but because they only have seconds to scan for the 95% Factor information.
  • Make it relatable. People make decisions based on emotions, then justify with facts. To make an emotional connection, your communications need to be relatable. Use photos or images of folks like your employees. If they are blue collar, don’t use the infamous conference room shot of a bunch of models in slick suits. Show folks who get their hands dirty. When you are trying to explain a complex issue, use examples or stories to illustrate your point. People relate much better to stories of “people like me” than they do to charts.

When creating your HR communications, keep this in mind: whenever employees see or hear any message, all they want to know is three things:

  1. What’s this about?
  2. How’s it impact me?
  3. What do I have to do?

Answer those questions, and you’ll have met the 95% Factor 100% of the time.

Note to AP Stylebook geeks: I realize percent is supposed to be spelled out. I used the symbol on purpose.

A special thanks to Elizabeth Borton, President of Write on Target, for sharing her expertise with us.  Sign-up on her website at to receive future communication blogs at www.writetarget.com.  Or, you can contact her with questions at EBorton@WriteTarget.com or  937.436.4565, ext 28.

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Exemption Status of Inside Sales

Question:

How do you handle the exemption status for Inside Sales employees?

Answer:

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Outside Sales employees are exempt while Inside Sales employees are non-exempt.  (http://www.flsa.com/coverage.html).

To help define inside versus outside sales roles, we researched the Department of Labor (DOL) website. The DOL defines outside sales employees as those that sell their employer’s products, services, or facilities to customers away from their employer’s place(s) of business, in general, either at the customer’s place of business or by selling door-to-door at the customer’s home. Sales made from the employer’s location (inside sales) do not qualify as outside sales. Similarly, work done by mail, telephone or the Internet do not qualify as outside sales unless such activities are in connection with sales made by personal contact. Some employees performing inside sales work in certain retail establishments may be exempt from the overtime pay protections under FLSA section 7(i) – http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/overtime/s1.htm.

Strategic HR, inc. has the answers to all of your tough Benefits and Compensation related questions. Whether you need an audit of your exemption statuses or a job analysis of your positions, strategic HR, inc. can do the job. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information.

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Final Paycheck Distribution

Question:

We recently had an employee terminate employment without giving any notice. He is requesting that he receives his paycheck immediately rather than waiting for the next pay day. Do we have to comply?

Answer:

Federal law does not require that you pay immediately, but you must look at your state laws for further guidance. Some states have statutes dictating when employers have to hand over a final paycheck to a departing employee. For example, California requires payments immediately. In Indiana, employers are required to make the last payment on the next regularly scheduled pay run. Interestingly, some of the state laws do make a distinction between employees who are fired and employees who quit — generally, an employee who is fired has a right to be paid more quickly.

Overall, federal law does not require payment to terminated employees immediately but does recommend employees contact the Department of Labor if they have not been paid by the next regularly scheduled pay check for the time period worked. It is most important to review the State requirements by contacting your State Department of Labor.

Do you find yourself without answers to tough Benefits and Compensation questions? Strategic HR, inc. has the answers to all of your unwieldy B & C related questions. Whether you need an analysis of your current benefit offerings or are needing a review of your salary structure, strategic HR, inc. can do the job. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information.

 

 

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Change In Minimum Wage

Question:

Does the minimum wage go up every year? I recently heard it was recently raised again in Ohio.

Answer:

The national minimum wage is $7.25 – however, each State also has regulations regarding the minimum that can be paid employees. Locally Indiana and Kentucky both follow the prevailing minimum wage set forth by the Federal government. However, Ohio wages are based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index and was just recently raised on January 1, 2012 – now the minimum wage in Ohio is $7.70 an hour. The wage is still $7.25 for employees under 16 years of age and those employers who gross less than $283,000 per year. Tipped employees are paid $3.85 per hour plus tips.

Are you hesitant when it comes to navigating Wage and Hour issues or other federally mandated rules and regulations? Strategic HR, inc. understands your uncertainty. Ask us for assistance for any of your benefits and compensation needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Unpaid Interns

Question:

Our small company is becoming overwhelmed as business picks up. We need extra help, but are not in the position to add more staff. Is an unpaid intern an option for us?

Answer:

An internship can be a great opportunity for a company to fill a gap in the workplace and for an individual to gain valuable on-the-job work experience. Some companies even view an internship as an extended interview; a time to get to know an individual and gain a sense of his/her capabilities outside the parameters and limitations of the usual interview process. Think “try it before you buy it”.

Be careful, however, when using unpaid interns. The Department of Labor has very definite rules regarding unpaid internships; rules intended to prevent companies from using interns for cheap grunt work. For starters, the employer must receive no immediate advantage from what the intern does – the position must be for the benefit of the intern. Additionally, the unpaid intern must not replace the work of a regular employee. The position also has to be focused on the intern’s learning experience. For example, an intern in accounting must be gaining real accounting experience, not just spending time filing and fetching coffee.

For more information about structuring your internship, consult a strategic HR consultant, or visit the Department of Labor website at www.DOL.gov.

Strategic HR, inc. has answers for all of your tough Benefits and Compensation related questions. Whether you are structuring an internship program or need a job analysis of your current paid positions, strategic HR, inc. can do the job. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information.

 

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Paying Employees for Work-Related Activities

Question:

The other day I asked an employee to drop off some paperwork at a client’s on their way to lunch – it was on the way. When the employee turned in their time for the week they included that drive time to the client’s. Do I need to pay employees for their time when they are driving past the establishment anyway?

Answer:

Yes you do. Any time that the employee spends doing work-related activity should be counted as hours worked. According to the Department of Labor’s FLSA Hours Worked Advisor, hours worked includes all time from the work location to the place where the employee finishes their last work-related duty. That means you pay for the employee’s time from your office up to the drop off of the paperwork. The time spent going from the client’s location to lunch is not paid (just as you wouldn’t pay them to drive from work to lunch and back).

Are you hesitant when it comes to navigating FLSA and other federally mandated rules and regulations? Strategic HR, inc. understands your uncertainty. Ask us for assistance for any of your benefits and compensation needs. Please visit our Benefits & Compensation page for more information on any of these services.

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Mileage Reimbursement

Question:

With the recent increase in gas prices, am I required as an employer to increase our mileage reimbursement for employees who use their personal car for business? I don’t think our budget can take that kind of a hit.

Answer:

Mileage reimbursement is intended to compensate employees for gas, insurance, and wear and tear on a personal vehicle. Some companies use the current IRS rate of 55.5 cents per mile to reimburse employees for such expenses – this rate was recently increased July 1 (from 51 cents) to reflect rising gas prices. However, employers are not legally required to do so. In the likely event that actual cost per mile exceeds company policy, especially with current gas prices fluctuating weekly, an employer may either temporarily raise the reimbursement amount (with a clear end date provided) to cover the increase, or employees can check with an accountant about claiming the unreimbursed difference on their personal tax returns.

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