Throughout the year, we will develop news briefs to help you stay up-to-date with the most important news that could directly impact your business. These articles contain snippets of news released from Federal and state government agencies. News Brief #4 focuses on an amendment to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act related to pregnancy disability leave and six states that have already announced their 2012 minimum wage rates.
In 2010, bswift launched a benchmarking study to determine the state of automation in benefits administration. Specifically, the study sought to understand what opportunities for accuracy, efficiency and overall bottom line savings were being lost to under-automation of key processes.
In 2011, bswift revisited the question of benefits administration automation to determine how far companies have come. The 2011 study also examines another tactic companies are taking to confront the challenge of spiraling health care costs: wellness programs. The study indicates that an increasing number of employers are leveraging wellness programs and benefits automation to stimulate employee engagement and control health care costs.
The following is a guest blog post by Brendan Nicholls, Sales Manager at PrimePay.
In one of our August blog articles… Final Ruling on Controversial Employee Rights Notification… we reported that employers would be required to post the new employee rights notice as of November 14, 2011.
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has postponed the implementation date for its new employee rights notice-posting rule until January 31, 2012 in order to allow for improved education and outreach to employers, particularly those who operate small and medium sized businesses.
Nevada has now joined the ranks of several other states that limit cell phone usage while driving. The new law, effective October 1, 2011, but not to be enforced until January 1, 2012, generally makes it unlawful to talk or text on a cell phone while driving without the use of a hands-free device. Here are the details.
What the Law Prohibits
The new law makes it unlawful to type or read text messages, emails, or instant messages while driving a vehicle. It also makes it unlawful to make or receive phone calls while driving unless the individual uses a hands-free device. There appears to be an exception for entering in someone's phone number to initiate the call, but the law's language is not entirely clear, and there will likely be some disagreement over how it is enforced.
The following is a guest blog post by Steve Jackson, Vice President, Benefit Services at PrimePay.
Giving your employees the ability to put away pre-tax dollars for medical and dependent care expenses is a huge value-add when it comes to the benefits package businesses offer. A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) allows your employees to set aside a certain dollar amount from each payroll check and pay for qualified health care and dependent care benefits on a pre-tax basis. During the year, employees can use this account to pay for medical expenses that are not covered by insurance.
While your employees realize an increase in their spending power and a substantial tax savings, Flexible Spending Accounts can also save your company thousands of dollars a year on FICA taxes. When employees use tax-free dollars to pay for health care expenses through a flex account, your company saves about 8% (7.65% FICA match) on every dollar your employees contribute to the plan. Depending on the size of your company, offering a pre-tax health care option to your employees can give your business its own substantial tax savings.
After several years of relatively modest premium increases, annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage increased to $15,073 this year, up 9 percent from last year, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Educational Trust 2011 Employer Health Benefits Survey released this week. On average, workers pay $4,129 and employers pay $10,944 toward those annual premiums.
Premiums increased significantly faster than workers’ wages (2.1 percent) and general inflation (3.2 percent). Since 2001, family premiums have increased 113 percent, compared with 34 percent for workers’ wages and 27 percent for inflation.
"This year’s nine percent increase in premiums is especially painful for workers and employers struggling through a weak recovery," Kaiser President and CEO Drew Altman, Ph.D. said.
Human resources. Personnel. Staff. No matter the word chosen to describe them, employees are the cornerstone of any successful business. Unfortunately, they are often the cause of some of the greatest challenges that businesses face. Large companies and government agencies employ individuals and sometimes entire departments to manage HR issues. But what about small and medium size businesses? Where do they go for answers when HR issues and challenges arise with their employees?
Although most personnel matters are fairly routine and manageable, many small business owners fail to understand that they can result in significant costs to an organization, in time, in money and, often, in reputation. How significant? A recent survey conducted by Jury Verdict Research pegged the median award in 2009 for all employment-related claims at $326,640. Another recent study conducted by UCLA-RAND Center for Law and Public Policy reported that a California employment discrimination claim that goes to summary judgment costs an employer about $75,000, an amount most small employers can hardly afford and some can't survive.
On Wednesday of this week, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) launched a new program that gives companies which have been misclassifying employees as independent contractors the chance to voluntarily reclassify their workers. This program offers employers the opportunity to get into compliance by making a small payment to cover past payroll tax obligations rather than waiting for an IRS audit.
“This settlement program provides certainty and relief to employers in an important area,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “This is part of a wider effort to help taxpayers and businesses to help give them a fresh start with their tax obligations.”
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued guidance designed to clarify the tax treatment of employer-provided cell phones. Under the new guidance, where employers provide cell phones to their employees or where employers reimburse employees for business use of their personal cell phones, tax-free treatment is available without burdensome recordkeeping requirements. The guidance does not apply to the provision of cell phones or reimbursement for cell-phone use that is not primarily business-related, as such arrangements are generally taxable.
The guidance relates to a provision in the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, enacted last fall, that removed cell phones from the definition of listed property, a category under tax law that normally requires additional recordkeeping by taxpayers.
A 3.1 percent reduction in the Social Security tax for employers on the first $5 million of wages paid and a full employer Social Security tax credit for increasing wages year-to-year are among the key provisions of a proposal by President Obama to create more jobs and stimulate the economy.
The proposal, presented September 12 to Congress as the American Jobs Act, also calls for a further reduction in the employee portion of Social Security to 3.1 percent, an extension of unemployment insurance, and tax credits for hiring long-term unemployed workers, including injured veterans.