Tag Archives: benefits

DOMA’s Dead – So What Does That Mean for HR?

As a result of the DOMA ruling, gay couples married in states that recognize domestic partnerships will have a clear path to benefits on par with their heterosexual colleagues. But what about those states that don’t recognize domestic partnerships?

Employment lawyers agree that we’re still in a complicated area. Some large companies have been moving forward, well in advance of federal rulings, in offering extensive LGBT benefit coverage. But DOMA may have a stronger impact on smaller companies, who don’t already have such offerings in place. Workforce.com looks at some changes to come.

The Supreme Court ruling will also push employers toward what had been a small but developing trend of offering a tax gross-up of health insurance benefits for domestic partners, Solomon said. Domestic partners will also qualify for estate tax exemptions and head-of-household deductions. Gay spouses can also file their federal tax returns jointly and can qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act to care for an ill spouse. Domestic partners married to legal residents can apply for green cards and visas.

Need some help? Get C4CM’s comprehensive audio CD, DOMA’s Done: What Employers Need to Do for Benefit Compliance for Same-Sex Couples, to learn the steps you need to take now to comply with the ruling.

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Part-Time Shrinks, Thanks to ACA

It was bound to happen. As the ACA starts to kick in for employees of 30 hours or more, some employers are shrinking their part-timer’s schedules to fall below that 30 hour threshold.

Overall, an estimated 2.3 million workers nationwide, including 240,000 in California, are at risk of losing hours as employers adjust to the new math of workplace benefits, according to research by UC Berkeley.

Many part time workers are typically not covered currently by an employers healthcare plan. A recent survey showed that only 15% of part time workers are offered health insurance, with only 8% getting covered. So adding coverage for them is definitely a step up in costs for their employers.

Readers, what are your plans for part-time employees at your firm? Will you keep them on at 30 hours or above, or do you plan to trim their schedule to keep their hours down and avoid paying for their health premiums.

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Employee Retirement Fears on the Rise

According to a February 2012 article in USA Today, U.S. workers in the United States are, on the whole, very concerned about their retirement prospects. In fact, workers are so worried about not having enough money in retirement that approximately 55 percent of workers indicate they would be willing to give up some portion of future increases in pay in order to instead have more guaranteed retirement income. Another 50 percent of the workers surveyed indicated they’d be willing to give up a portion of their wages in exchange for guaranteed health benefits.

These figures likely reflect the uncertainty of the stock market over the last several years, as well as fears about rising healthcare coverage and a threat of lost benefits in the future. Surprisingly, it is the younger workers who are most worried, as shown by a 70 percent increase in the number of workers under 40 who would be willing to trade pay for retirement benefits.

Considering Your Compensation Plan

The fact that so many workers place such a high premium on retirement and are so concerned about the future may be important information to have as you structure compensation packages. It may be worthwhile to look into the economics of providing workers with the opportunity for additional retirement benefits rather than pay raises over the time they work for your company.

Not only may this be a more cost effective option in certain cases, but it may also help you to retain workers over the long-haul as they value the security you provide and want to stay at the job as they get closer to the retirement age.

New 401K Plans

The Treasury Department is also considering taking steps to address the concerns of workers by making investing 401K money in an annuity a possibility. Employers need to be aware of any potential changes to the rules regarding employee 401K benefits and need to educate employees about changes that could potentially provide them with more peace of mind.

The Takeaway

By keeping abreast of the concerns of workers and responding to address those concerns, you can help to boost employee morale, reduce turnover and attract top talent in the field. Today, those concerns are retirement concerns, and looking for ways to act to improve employee retirement security may be a wise investment of time.

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Managing Unemployment Benefits

According to a recent New York Times article, many businesses are struggling to understand their unemployment obligations during a time of increased joblessness. The New York Times tells the story of small business owners who found their unemployment premiums rising as a result of claims from employees who were laid off more than a year before. In order to manage and combat these problems, the Times advises taking steps to understand what your obligations are and making smart hiring decisions that minimize your unemployment obligations.

Your Unemployment Obligations

According to The New York Times, both federal and state rules impact the amount you will pay in unemployment. The general rule is that employers pay a base rate of .6 percent of the first $7,000 paid to employees in wages annually. However, when states do not pay the loans made by the federal government to cover unemployment costs, rates rise for employees. This, for example, explains why Michigan employers now pay .9 percent in unemployment costs.

In addition to federal costs, states also charge employers for unemployment insurance. These charges are based on your company’s unemployment history. The more unemployment claims made by former employees, the higher your premiums will be.

Because of the way that most states determine unemployment costs, it is important to minimize the number of claims made. The best way to do that is, of course, to be careful in your hiring. Don’t hire people if you aren’t certain you’ll be able to keep them and make sure to screen new hires carefully to determine if they are a good fit. If someone is hired and it appears that the person won’t work out, acting quickly is key. Since an employee typically won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits unless he or she has worked for at least 30 days, if you have any suspicion that the employee won’t make it for the long haul, you should act within this 30 day period.  

The Times also advises making sure you have a clear company policy regarding terminations for cause, and stresses the importance of keeping records of warnings or disciplinary action so when an employee is fired for cause, you have a strong case showing that they should not be eligible for unemployment benefits.

By making smart decisions on hiring and keeping careful tabs on your unemployment numbers, you can help keep costs affordable for your company.

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Open Enrollment Changes in the Wake of ObamaCare

While ObamaCare hasn’t brought any sweeping changes to this years open enrollment, Business News Daily recently highlighted some of the additional requirements that business owners must be prepared to meet in 2012 and 2013. The changes over the next several years are all leading up to the big change coming in 2014, but employers will notice some additional requirements- and costs- before this time. 

Changes to Open Enrollment Notice Rules in 2012

According to Business News Daily, starting in 2012, employers with more than 250 W-2 employees will be required to report to employees how much they are contributing to healthcare costs on the employees’ tax documents at the end of the year. This requirement is intended to provide employees more information on the benefits they are receiving and on what their employers’ contribution is to the cost of those benefits. This is believed to be necessary since many employees do not understand their insurance costs or their total compensation package fully.

Another change in 2012 will involve a requirement that employers provide health care summaries giving employees easy-to-understand information about health benefits. The four page summaries will need to be provided not only during open enrollment but also to new hires, eligible dependents, special enrollees and other employees upon request.

Finally, employers must provide notice of any change in benefits to all employees at least 60 days before the change takes effect. This notice must be provided in writing.  

Patient-Centered Outcomes Fee

New notice requirements aren’t the only burden placed on employers by ObamaCare. Starting in September of 2012, employers that offer health care to employees will also be required to pay annual fees that fund research on patient care. The annual fees, which in 2012 and 2013 will be equal to $1 times the average number of people covered under the plan, will provide funding for research on making sure patients make informed choices.  In October of 2013, the $1 fee will increase to a $2 fee. 

Your Requirements This Year

While employers should begin thinking ahead to expected future requirements, the biggest chance planned for 2011 has been repealed. The original ObamaCare plan was a requirement that all business owners submit 1099 forms to any company to whom they made payments of $600 or more. This plan was repealed by Obama amid protests regarding the time and cost associated with preparing the documents. 

For most employers and employees, then, this open enrollment period looks much like any other. The best way to help your employees during this period is to make sure that they make informed choices about what plans are best for them. Giving employees information on benefit calculators and providing as much information as possible about different benefits programs and options can help to encourage employees to make wise choices. When your employers feel cared about and informed, this can also boost company morale. 

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Do You Have What it Takes to Attract & Keep Talent

In an age of high unemployment with millions of people looking for jobs, it may come as a surprise to hear that there are actually employers competing for workers. If you are an employer in certain industries, however, this news won’t be new. According to a September 2011 story in The Economist, many top companies report either a current or expected shortage in talented and trained workers. 

Defining the Need for Talent

The need to attract talented workers is most readily apparent in science and tech industries, where there has always been competition among employers to hire the best and the brightest. This competition will only become worse, however, as one out of every four workers with a science degree in the US is 50 or over. Lockheed Martin, for example, expects to lose as many as 1/2 of its engineers to retirement in 2019, leaving Lockheed with a need to bring on 142,000 new engineers. With US colleges producing only around 60,000 engineering graduates annually, Lockheed Martin and other companies with large portions of their skilled workers retiring will be left with a dearth of good people to hire.  

The competition for trained and knowledgeable staff isn’t limited to science and engineering, however, although chemistry grads are currently commanding premium salaries and are the most sought after. Wal-Mart, for example, also reports that there is a general widespread lack of talented workers across areas, especially in the field of merchandising. 

What Can You Do?

When competing for new employees, employers need to create incentives to attract workers. There are a number of ways to do this, the most obvious of which is, of course, offering more money. However, money is not the only motivating factor to attract talent and for some employees, isn’t even the best motivating factor. So, what can work? 

 

  • Many employees, especially those who are in the younger generation, seek fulfillment from their careers. Giving employees the opportunity to have some autonomy and decision making can be one great way to attract new personnel, especially in light of the fact that a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit indicates that 78 percent of survey respondents cite decision making authority as a key factor in whether they wish to work for a company or not.  Autonomy can also come in the form of letting employees develop their interests at work. Google, for example, allows employees to spend up to 20 percent of their paid work time pursuing projects of interest. 
  • Allowing employees the opportunity to have flexible work schedules or to work from home can help to distinguish your company from others who demand more traditional hours
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit report also suggests that social networking may be a way to tap into and take advantage of global and local talent pools. 
  • Creating a better work/life balance and allowing for socializing and fun activities at work. This is especially important if workers are being asked to put in long hours on the job. 

What works for some companies will not work for others, and ultimately it is up to each HR professional and employer to outline their hiring needs and determine what to offer in the global competition for talent. One thing is for sure, though – if you want to capture top industry players, you need to find some way to compete.

 

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