Category Archives: Benefits

sick employee wiping nose

Flowers, Hay Fever, and Intermittent Absences: What’s a Manager to Do?

Spring is a time of renewal, and coincidentally, intermittent absences in the workplace. Plenty of people suffer from allergies, which can be a valid excuse for having to call in sick (especially if the Hay Fever gets out of hand or you’re a chronic sufferer). It’s a part of life and nothing that should surprise the average manager. Continue reading

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.
overtime clock concept

What the new overtime law means for you

Previously I discussed a potential new overtime law that would require employers to pay certain staff overtime for working more than 40 hours per week. Well, that law passed. Now, most employees who earn between $455/week (old standard) and $913/week (new standard) must be paid overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours during a week. I can honestly say, this is the largest wage and hour change I’ve experienced professionally and my head is still reeling from it!

Continue reading

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.
piggy bank

Total Compensation

It’s easy to only measure employees’ pay in purely financial terms and their salaries. However, their total compensation is much more than that — and something that neither employee nor employer should overlook. Total compensation includes health benefits, Social Security, disability insurance, worker’s compensation, vacation days, sick days, etc. Sure, some of it is federally mandated, but a lot of it is paid out of the employer’s pocket as a way to protect the employee, both physically and mentally.

Your employees may sometimes forget that all of that is part of their compensation, so it’s good to remind them of everything that we pay on their behalf, including those government-mandated insurance accounts. These payments are insurances, to protect those who are important to us: our employees and, in some cases, their loved ones. For example, my company provides worker’s compensation insurance, all we ask in return is that they are safe on the job. We pay disability insurance, so if they become sick or injured, we can continue to contribute financially as they heal.

While these are all vital in creating a healthy work environment where your employees feel protected, wanted, and necessary to the company, it’s well worth your time to add up the costs you’re paying for all the included benefits you provide and show your employees that dollar amount. Explain how that amount is in addition to the amount on their paycheck. They may be pleasantly surprised to see how much you’re paying to keep them safe and protected.

And don’t forget their Social Security, which is being paid into their OASDI account every paycheck. Plus, your company may offer supplemental benefits — things like 401Ks, simple IRAs, and any of those voluntary insurances like Aflac, Colonial Life, Allstate. While many of these benefits are employee paid (except for any retirement match), it’s you is making these opportunities available to them.

Also, let’s not forget the other perks you can offer your employees to show that they are a valuable part of the team. For example, if you have free coffee in the break room every day, saving your employees a daily trip to Starbucks, you could be saving them five to ten dollars a day. Five days a week, 52 weeks a year, minus two for vacation—that’s a savings of $1,250.00–$2,500.00 in coffee alone. Outside the office, you can throw a company picnic or party, offer paid time off, help subsidize transportation into the office, etc. All of these things add up and are of both financial and emotional benefit to your workers.

For more tips on how to highlight employees’ total compensation, visit stopknockingonmydoor.com and schedule your free consultation.

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.
open office space

Don’t Fear the DOL’s Proposed New Regulations

I’m sure I’m not alone in having worked more than 40 hours a week a time or two. But as a salaried employee, I don’t earn extra money if I stay late or go in early. However, that may change for some of your employees under new U.S. Department of Labor regulations affecting white-collar exemptions. The DOL are reviewing comments from employees and employers about the proposed changes that would increase the minimum salary of certain employees, but here’s what to remember: it all comes down to the job description and tasks, not the title.

Currently, to qualify for an executive, administrative or professional (EAP) exemption from overtime, employees must: be paid on a salary basis; be paid at least a fixed minimum salary per week; and perform job duties that qualify for the claimed exemption. (Other exemptions exist, but  these are the basics.)

According to an article in The Business Journals, new regulations that the DOL are proposing could increase the minimum salary for the EAP exemptions from the current $455 per week (about $23,600 a year) to (projected) $921 per week (about $47,900 a year). The new salary amount, based on data from 2013, represents the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for full-time salaried workers, and the DOL projects that the salary would actually be $970 per week (about $50,400 a year) in 2016, when final regulations would likely take effect.

But what brought on these changes? The DOL felt that employees in lower-level management positions may be classified as exempt even though they spend a significant amount of time performing nonexempt work. The Department cited California’s requirement to spend more than 50 percent of one’s work day performing exempt duties to retain that classification.

Manage their time and tasks and, at the end of the day, don’t be afraid of these changes — just be sure to classify your jobs correctly and pay your people accordingly. Visit stopknockingonmydoor.com to schedule your free consultation and to learn more about correctly classifying your jobs.

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.
man calculating finances

The White Collar Exemption Situation (or nightmare if you so choose!)

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve written a legislatively motivated blog! However, I feel VERY strongly that you don’t know about this pending legislation that could cost you a great deal in payroll dollars! Perhaps I’m being dramatic calling it a nightmare but if that got your attention, then my goal is accomplished!

Let’s have a quick review on “exemptions”: These are exceptions or exemptions to the Fair Labor Standard Act overtime requirements. There are several “basic” exemption categories. [1]

The difference between exempt and non-exempt? Exempt employees receive the same wages every pay (regardless of whether they work 1 hour or 60 hours during the week;) they are NOT eligible for overtime. Being classified as exempt is based on the TASKS of the job – not the title. The Fair Labor Standards Act has even provided checklists that you can use to evaluate your job descriptions. (Email us and we’ll gladly send you a set – karen@hrresolutions.com.)

Our society has long viewed “exempt” as a promotion and a move away from a “blue collar” job. An exempt status enables an employee to have better control over work-life balance by having the ability to “flex” their work schedule to attend an afternoon school program or visit a doctor if/when they, or a family member, are ill. All good things, right?

The VERY FIRST test for each level is called the “salary” test. At the present time, the minimum is $455.00 per week. Well, my friends…

That is increasing, sooner than you think. The Department of Labor has forwarded recommendations for changes to this salary test to the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) – the last step to becoming law! The new salary test is $921.00 per week or $47,892.00 annually. That is in excess of a 100% increase! When’s the last time YOU received a 100% increase? I would venture to guess ~ never. In addition to the ridiculous notion of a 100% increase:

  • Confusion already exists over the salary tests versus the tasks of the job – increasing the “salary” test will further complicate the issue – which wins out? The duties or the salary?
  • The change will actually minimize and/or eliminate promotions in many small businesses. Many employees in small organizations MUST demonstrate independent thought (another criteria in the “tests”) on a daily basis but the business can in no way support a minimum salary of almost $48,000.
  • The proposed rate is higher than the Federal Wage rates for individuals with a Masters’ Degree [2] – will the Federal Government be applying the same “tests” that will be imposed on private sector?
  • Arguments are being made that the wage cost can be passed along to the consumer – which, in turn, will erode the wage increase that was just provided to the worker.

In just one of our clients’, after an average of 7 years of being an “exempt, skilled professional,” employees will now be required to punch a time clock, including for their breaks and lunches as well as schedule vacation and personal time if they need to visit the doctor, dentist or attend a school event. How have we enriched/improved their lives? And this is just one, small example.

I’m sure you have examples as well of how this will impact YOU and or your business.  That’s where you can help – you CAN make a difference. Reach out to your government. In PA, Senator Toomey and Senator Casey have been elected to represent MY best interests. Please reach out to your Senators – write, call, email – you can locate them here. And, to make things even easier for you, I’ve drafted the following Sample Letter that you are more than welcome to use! “Sample White Collar Letter”

Boy, I don’t often ask, but PLEASE reach out – use your voice – be heard – make a difference! (Don’t forget to also reach out to your local Chambers of Commerce, State Chambers and the US Chamber as well – they’ll all be glad to help!)

[1] http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fs17a_overview.pdf
[2] US Chamber Comments on RIN 1235-AA11, pg. 26

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.
hand holding a small plant

Holiday Bonuses

As the holidays approach, there is often office whispering regarding holiday bonuses and yearly pay raises. While many companies would love to give pay increases every year, we are not always in a position to do so. In an economy where growth is not always a guarantee, raises and bonuses are often very challenging for employers. Instead, we must look for creative ways to increase the value and show appreciation for our employees.

Find out what’s important to your employees. Do they want more education? Do they want to attend a seminar or professional development workshop? It makes sense to add these things to their total compensation package.

One of my clients has office space above a gym. The CEO went ahead and got a corporate account at that gym and offered membership to her employees. Not only did it reinforce wellness and stress management, it showed that the boss was listening to them.

Professional memberships can be very important to your employees’ professional growth and development. They’re also a good way to be recognized within your industry or profession. Paying for employee membership in a professional organization is a great bonus and can be part of the total compensation package when you’re bringing them on board. While there’s a cost associated, you’re also increasing the value of your employee and investing in their success. There’s value to your organization as well – who knows what prospects may be a member of the same organization or association.

Often, yearly bonuses are more about recognition and gratitude than monetary compensation. Don’t forget the power of a personal thank you note and public recognition at the next corporate wide meeting. You’ll find that often has more meaning to some employees than a monetary gift.

Need help with ideas on making your company more competitive to keep the best people? Contact us today for a free consultation www.stopknockingonmydoor.com

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.
work and vacation illustration concept

It is Vacation Time!

Sounds relaxing, doesn’t it? Do you look forward to the time away from work? Do you recognize how relaxed you will be when you return? Are you ready to tackle those new projects with 110% of your energy and focus?

Or, are you like lots of people that worry more about time OUT of the office than they worry about hours IN the office? A majority of employees face their greatest stress during the first few days back from vacation or the few days leading up to a vacation. All the work we attempt to handle in anticipation of our vacation leads to longer hours/extra days. Then, when we return, no one was doing our work while we were out so we have last week’s work to do ALONG WITH this week’s work! Or, worse yet, the blackberry and laptop become just another family member when we’re away.

Even the definition of vacation (thank you Merriam-Webster) sounds relaxing: “a period spent away”. For your own peace of mind, for your health and for the good of the Company – take your vacation! Set your self up for success while you are out and when you return – take advantage of “extended” voice mail message options; use the “out of office” automatic response in your e-mail systems. If you feel you MUST take calls, have one person take ALL your calls and only forward URGENT/CRITICAL calls to you. Only turn the phone on once a day or every other day.

Employers – encourage your employees to USE this benefit – it’s good for them AND it’s good for YOU by providing more relaxed, better focused employees who have had the opportunity to take a break! Anyway – didn’t you know? It’s vacation time!

Can’t decide whether you should convert to a PTO (Paid Time Off) process or an accrual system? We work through these every day and would be glad to have a conversation with you about your current program. Contact us for a free review of your vacation policy and we’ll send you a pre-published chapter from Karen Young’s new book “Stop Knocking on My Door – Drama Free HR for Your Growing Business!” coming out in the fall of 2015!

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.
man clocking in workplace

Ready or Not – Here They Come!

Most employees WANT to be exempt, right? They generally view it has having arrived – they no longer have to punch the clock. That’s a good thing! Well, according to the government, we’re depriving too many people of a right to overtime pay. Here what you need to know right now:

Exempt/Non-exempt is based upon a few things. For clarification because it’s easy to get them confused: Exempt means exempt from overtime pay, flat/same salary every pay period no matter how many (or few) hours they work. Non-exempt means they are NOT exempt from overtime – so, any hours over 40 MUST be paid at time and one-half of their regular rate.

Before we even get to evaluate the tasks that a position performs (no, not the title of the job…), the very first “test” is the Salary Basis review. Several years ago now, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), established in 1938, updated the salary basis test and stated that employees had to earn at least $455.00 per week. If they didn’t earn that, there was no need to move on to evaluate the tasks of the job. If you could get beyond that, you had to evaluate the primary duties of the position.

The best rule of thumb is to consider the amount of independent thought – yes, REAL independent thought that goes into the position. (Not the creativity of addressing the customer’s complaints by skipping lines in your established procedures.) Does the position TRULY have something to do with impacting the business? Now, managing MAY actually be managing critical functions of the business, not necessarily managing people but managing people makes it a little easier. (Um, if they are working right beside the people they are managing…) There are a slew of other questions you need to evaluate before coming to the final conclusion that the position is exempt or non-exempt.

Now that you’ve done all that and you’re happy, your employees are happy, work is moving along nicely, people are independently thinking all over the place. Well…how many of your exempt employees are earning less than $51,000 per year? Guess what? Yep – the salary basis is proposed to move all the way up to $984.00 per week or $51,168.00 per year. Anyone earning less than that will need to: 1) go back to punching a time clock and 2) be eligible for time and one-half of their regular rate for hours over 40. (Do NOT shoot the messenger!)

There are still a few hurdles that the proposal needs to go through before it is enacted as law. Do I know what the future holds with this? No. Can I say that it WILL happen? I’m reasonably confident as are many of my peers that it is going to happen.

Don’t panic yet but be prepared. Are your job descriptions up to date? Have you properly classified them as they stand today? Because…ready or not…

Selected Sources:

Fact Sheet #17G: Salary Basis Requirement and the Part 541 Exemptions Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/fs17g_salary.pdf

After New Overtime Rule, Employers Will Seek Ways to Lower Labor Costs
http://www.shrm.org/legalissues/federalresources/pages/overtime-study.aspx

Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938: Maximum Struggle for a Minimum Wage
http://www.dol.gov/dol/aboutdol/history/flsa1938.htm

Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees; Final Rule
http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/fairpay/preamble_final.htm

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.

No, Obamacare is Not Your New Company Health Plan

healthcare_aca_websiteSo, you’re planning for a successful 2015 at your business and one priority is to improve profit margins and keep a lid on costs. But how? If you’re like many CEOs, especially those in the small business community, one thing you may have considered is to reverse direction on health insurance.

After all, now that the Affordable Care Act is in full swing, you could ask employees to buy insurance directly on an Obamacare exchange and leave the company health plan. You know they’ll get coverage (because it’s guaranteed by law now), so what’s the downside if it saves you money and the employee still has insurance?

A year ago, lots of companies were making this exact move – especially with employees who had chronic conditions or other major health problems. In essence, they were paying these workers a cash subsidy to leave the company’s health plan. Others were planning to cancel coverage entirely and just get out of the business of providing insurance to employees at all, which actually looked attractive even to the employees – if the employees were eligible for ACA subsidies and the employers were willing to pay cash bonuses to employees to assist with the switch.

Well, the federal government got wise to the game and in November 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor released new guidelines that specifically forbid employers from doing this. It’s probably just as well, since employers were always at risk of exposure to employee discrimination suits or to potential IRS penalties, even before the clarification was provided.

Just to be clear, all of the following are formally prohibited:

  • Providing cash reimbursements to employees so that they can purchase individual policies on their own.
  • Providing employees with high claims risks the option of receiving cash in lieu of joining the company’s health plan.
  • Canceling a group insurance policy and then establishing a Section 105 reimbursement plan while allowing eligible employees to access premium tax credits in an ACA marketplace.

It’s also important to note that employers with 100 or more FTEs (including those who possess “the equivalent” in part-time employees) must offer health insurance as of…now. That’s right, from January 1, 2015 forward, the law requires you to provide company-sponsored health coverage if you are at or above the threshold. And the next group – employers with 50 to 99 FTEs – will be required to do the same as of January 1, 2016.

Small businesses (those with fewer than 50 FTEs) are not required to offer employer-sponsored health insurance, but do keep in mind that your company may be eligible for tax credits through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) if:

  • You have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees
  • Your average employee salary is about $50,000 per year or less
  • You pay at least 50% of your full-time employees’ premium costs
  • You offer coverage to your full-time employees through the SHOP Marketplace

And, the credits can be worth up to 50% of your contribution to the employees’ premium costs.

Bottom Line: Dumping employees from company-sponsored health insurance is not only a bad idea practically…it could also be illegal if not done completely. Instead, examine other creative options for reducing healthcare costs or managing them effectively, including the possibility of moving your program to an ACA exchange if you run a small business.

Selected Sources:

Small Businesses Weigh Sending Sick Workers to Obamacare Exchanges
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-01-07/small-businesses-weigh-sending-sick-workers-to-obamacare-exchanges

Feds to Employers: You Can’t Dump Sick Workers Onto Obamacare
http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-12-05/obamacare-feds-tell-employers-not-to-dump-sick-workers

FAQs about Affordable Care Act Implementation (Part XXII)
http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/faqs/faq-aca22.html

SHOP and Small Business Health Care Tax Credits
https://www.healthcare.gov/small-businesses/provide-shop-coverage/small-business-tax-credits/

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.
excited woman in motion

10 (or 11) Things You Need to Do Now for Successful Year-End HR and Payroll Planning

It’s that time of year again. A time for hot cocoa, family gatherings, warm fireplaces, tacky sweaters, and of course, shopping! It’s also time for those of us in the HR and payroll fields to double-shot our espressos and buy a much larger coffee mug, because while everyone else is celebrating the holidays, we’re preparing for…year-end!

So, what are some of the key priorities you should be planning for as you stare the last six weeks of 2014 down? Here are some top suggestions:

1. Let’s start with the basics. You can’t communicate with your employees effectively if you don’t have their addresses correct. Seriously, when is the last time you updated your employee address records? Maybe it’s time to send a reminder out and ask people to update their records or confirm that you have the correct information.

2. Now that you have the addresses right, it’s time to use them. After all, there are new tax tables; new 2015 W-4 forms applicable if an employee has a major life change such as a marriage, birth of a child, new home purchase, etc.; and so forth.

3. Make sure everyone is clear on how W-2s work, and especially that Box 1 is for Taxable Wages, not Gross Wages. Of course, that means you should explain that Taxable Wages = Gross Wages minus 401K, health, etc. Also, tell your employees that W-2s will be postmarked no later than January 31st but that the exact date is not known (your payroll people will thank you later for pre-empting the normal round of a thousand “When will we get our W-2s?” questions).

4. Since we’re on the topic of W-2s, don’t forget to make sure that Box 3 is not greater than $117,000 and if Box 5 is $200,000 or more, that the Medicare tax taken is 2.35% for any amount $200,000 or more (and 1.45% for any amount less than the $200,000). Also, verify your Box 1 (Taxable Wages) and verify state and local wages.

5. Remember that we’re in Pennsylvania, the state with 2,562 municipalities and 3,195 different entities with the power to levy taxes on your employees. With that many options to choose from, it’s all the more important for you to verify that your local information is properly designated with the correct 2 digit PSD code for each applicable tax collection district. Now is the time to double-check this, while you still have time to make corrections – and while you still have payrolls left in 2014.

6. Get those fringe benefit reports ready and execute them over a range of final payrolls of 2014. This has the advantage of stretching the tax hit over several pays rather than just one or two. This is for things like your Group Term Life policy (the premium on insurance over $50,000), auto fringe, shareholders insurance, etc.

7. Then there are vacations and PTO days. What is your carry-over policy, and do you have accurate records from your department heads and front-line supervisors so that you can count carry-over days for 2015 correctly?

8. Have employees used the funds in their Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)? Remember, under changes approved as part of the Affordable Care Act, employees may carry over up to $500 into 2015 if you have modified your plan documents, but that still means that if they have $1,000 in the account, they lose $500. Instead of inciting a riot, send a reminder!

9. If your company will be providing holiday bonuses, now is the time to get those numbers ready for payroll. Do not show up a day before the final payroll run of the year with a laundry list of surprises.

10. So you’re going to hold a holiday party. Great! What are the expectations and limits? Make sure to communicate clearly and don’t set an accidental precedent. For example, if you want the event to be alcohol-free, make that clear. If not, remind employees that responsible conduct is expected at all times. The point is, a firm reminder now is much better than a major regret later.

11. And last but not least, don’t forget to update your new tax tables for Social Security rates, unemployment rates and thresholds, and more – all prior to processing the first pay date of 2015. Happy New Year! Is a list of ten things just not enough for you?

Are you wondering what the other 89 items should be on your 100-point year-end planning calendar? Do you love details more than decorations, and is your idea of a great holiday knowing that your employee records are accurate and your documentation is near-perfect?

Then please join Karen Young, SPHR of HR Resolutions and Tricia Richardson, CPP, SPHR of Stambaugh Ness for a series of FREE seminars being held throughout Central Pennsylvania in November and December 2014. Learn more and register here today:

2014 Year-End Payroll Seminar Series – York | Camp Hill | Lancaster | Hanover
http://www.stambaughness.com/events-main-page/2014-payroll-update/

Photo Credit: evilerin @ Flickr (Creative Commons)

This entry was posted on by HR Resolutions.