Archive for the ‘Compliance’ Category

Health Care Reform Requires SBC’s

December 9th, 2013

 

Health Care Reform Requires SBC’sEffective January 1, 2014 the Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be implementing and enforcing the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

What is the Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC)?

The SBC is a 4 page overview of health plan benefits, cost sharing and limitations. Its goal is to more easily convey standard information so that employees can easily compare medical plans and make informed decisions regarding which plan they’d like to enroll for.

Additionally, the SBC must include a required set of coverage examples showcasing how the plan works, as well as phone numbers and internet addresses for obtaining copies of the plan’s corresponding documents.

Under the PPACA, each Summary of Benefits and Coverage must be accompanied by the Uniform Glossary too.  The Uniform Glossary is a list of commonly used health care terms and their definitions that was designed for use with the SBC.

What’s Important for Employers to Know?

For employers, it’s especially important that the SBC states whether the plan provides “minimum essential coverage” as required by the individual mandate and also whether or not the plan meets the “minimum value” requirement, meaning that the plan pays at least 60% of allowed charges for covered services as required by the employer mandate.

Health insurers and self-funded group health plans must provide the SBC to employees when they enroll in coverage for the first time, prior to the beginning of each new plan year, and/or within seven days of an employee requesting it.

The Benefit of Working with a PEO…

Although the DOL and HHS have provided a new template that incorporates all of the above, there’s no denying that this is a lot of administrative work on top of your already busy schedule. But there’s good news for those that work with a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). Liability is shared through the co-employment relationship which lightens the burden and limits the risk associated with the SBC non-compliance penalty (which is $1,000 per enrollee). And, HRIS technology made available by many PEOs makes current information (including SBC’s) available at the employee’s fingertips at any time through the employee self-service portal!

Is your business looking to ensure a compliant workplace in the upcoming year? In addition to reducing liability and risk surrounding health insurance, working with a PEO can also result in lower health care costs. Call 877-636-9525 or Get a Free Quote Online to find the best Professional Employer Organization for you.

 

Workplace Investigations: Part 3 of 3: Drug Testing

October 10th, 2013

Legal Drug Testing in the WorkplaceThere’s reason to believe Sandra in Sales is under the influence of something at work each day. She just hasn’t been acting herself lately. But, now what?!

Drug testing is considered a workplace investigation. While some Federal contractors and all Federal grantees are required by law to drug test periodically to ensure a drug-free workplace (under the Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988), the majority of employers across the U.S. are NOT required to drug test.

Although not required by law to test, most private employers have the right to test for a wide variety of substances. Before requiring an employee to undergo mandatory testing, it’s important that you as the employer have familiarized yourself with various state and Federal regulations that may or may not apply to your organization, and have designed a drug-testing program that is fair and legal. Some state and local governments have statutes that limit or prohibit certain types of workplace testing.

It is critical to have a clear written policy letting employees know about the types of testing that may be done and what will happen to them if a test yields a positive result. This includes all types of pre-employment testing, for-cause testing, reasonable suspicion testing, post-accident testing and random testing.

If you are “in the clear” to test within the workplace, it’s also very important that you keep the results absolutely confidential. The documentation should be kept in the same confidential file of medical information that is used for Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) purposes.

Does your Company currently have a drug-testing program and policy in place? PEOs  provide professionally written employee handbooks and policies that translate into clear expectations and peak performance within the workplace. If you don’t already work with a PEO and are interested in the co-employment relationship – or – need a second opinion on workplace testing and an existing scenario, contact PEO Advantage today.

Workplace Investigations: Part 2 of 3: General Searches

October 1st, 2013

Workplace SearchesLast week we discussed workplace investigations regarding computer files and communication, and as you learned, the right to search most often lies with the employer. After all, it is your equipment and your office the employee is utilizing. However, general searches are a bit more complex.

The need to search someone’s personal belongings may arise for a number of reasons – perhaps there’s a suspicion of employee substance abuse…or there’s been some type of vandalism committed during today’s lunch break. Or, in a much more serious situation, perhaps there’s been a threat made against others and there’s reason to believe someone is planning to harm someone else or themselves.

Under OSHA, employers must investigate problems and prevent future similar problems from occurring, to the best of their ability. In regards to the prevention of workplace violence, employers have a duty to investigate threats and prevent acts of violence from occurring within the workplace. However, we’d like to stress that in violent situations or threatening situations, local law enforcement should be contacted before attempting to handle on your own as the employer.

So, what about a less serious search – for example – looking in an employee’s briefcase or purse for something? In short, this is not recommended. In general, employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy surrounding their own personal items…. unless of course the employee was told otherwise before accepting a job at your Company.

The key in protecting yourself as the employer in general searchers is to have a good search policy in place BEFOREHAND. If you have made it well known (this includes outlining everything in writing within your employee handbook or company policy) that the entire workplace is subject to search at any time, you have the right to search personal areas when there’s reasonable cause. This includes locked desk drawers or lockers.

A very good search policy will also include personal items that are brought on to the worksite including purses, briefcases, containers, and even cars parked on company property!

Did you know that most PEOs can help you establish your own search policies in addition to employee handbooks and company policies?  Call 877-636-9525 to find the best Professional Employer Organization for you. But, if you are in immediate need of a workplace investigation at this time, it is recommended you contact an employment law professional before proceeding.

Join us next week as we dive further into workplace investigations with employee drug testing.

Workplace Investigations: Part 1 of 3 : Computer Files

September 26th, 2013

Video Monitoring EmployeesAt some point in time nearly every business owner will find themselves in need of conducting a workplace investigation. Whether you believe an employee is stealing confidential company files, or is bringing illegal substances into the workplace, it’s certainly “your business” – but is searching them actually legal or is it an invasion of privacy?

There are many types of workplace investigations that can occur in the workplace. We invite you to join PEO Advantage in the upcoming weeks for our 3-part series reviewing 3 of the most popular types of investigations: computer files, general searches, and drug testing (yes, testing – not just searching- is considered a type of investigation).

So, let’s start with computer files and forms of communication.

You’ve heard from other employees and suspect yourself that Mike in Marketing is in cahoots with a major competitor. Could he be stealing confidential data from your company and passing it along to the “enemy” right in front of your own eyes?!  Before searching his computer or opening up an investigation it’s important to know what is and is not legal.

The very first step is to review your company policy. In the event that this issue is brought to a court of law, it’s important to note that the majority of courtrooms will side with the employer on a search, if  the company policy was known to the employee. Most employees do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy at their desk and employers have the right to search.

Email: Many courts have found that employers are generally free to read and monitor company email communications. A survey conducted by the American Management Association (AMA) back in 2008 revealed that more than half of the responding companies monitor employee email, and one quarter of them have fired an employee for misusing email. While it’s highly recommended to have a company email policy, you as the employer still probably have the legal rights to read employee email messages sent using your equipment and your network. Always consult with an employment law professional beforehand if you do not have an email policy in place and are unsure.

Video Monitoring: Here’s another way to try and figure out if Mike is putting confidential files on a zip drive and leaving the workplace with them – but is it allowed? There is little limitation on the use of non-audio video recording. Some states have limitations regarding privacy laws, but in most instances video monitoring in the workplace is permitted.

Keylogging: Because the computer belongs to the company, employers have the right to install keylogging programs. These programs record every single keystroke an employee uses on their computer – including passwords.

There’s no denying that employee management and compliance takes valuable time away from focusing on strategic growth and exposes you to huge financial risk if not handled to the letter of the law. With more than 60 employment-related governmental regulations, compliance alone is a full-time job.

This is why thousands of business owners choose to hire a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, to save time and money. Not to mention that a PEO provides expertise in an otherwise confusing arena: employment law. If you need to conduct an employee investigation, it is highly recommended that you consult your PEO in advance or contact an attorney that practices employment law.

For more information on workplace investigations or a specific scenario, contact PEO Advantage. And don’t forget to join us next week as we take a look at “general searches” and their limitations.

Confused About Obamacare?

September 3rd, 2013

Friendly Male and Female Doctors Isolated on a White Background.Did you know that together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, Obamacare represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the country’s healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965?

With the number of complexities and concerns on the rise for small to medium sized businesses, many are opting in for a co-employment relationship with a PEO.

Here’s why:

  • With health insurance rates on the rise and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, businesses are looking for ways to continue offering robust benefits to their employees, but also keep their expenses under control. PEOs bring purchasing power to the table alongside access to Fortune 500 quality health insurance packages and previously unavailable benefits such as 401(k), Section 125 plan and Flexible Spending.
  • Without even factoring in the rules and regulations associated with Obamacare, there are more than 60 employment-related governmental regulations; compliance alone is a full-time job. PEOs assume much of the liability associated with healthcare regulations and employee management.  Expert help with risk management and compliance protects business owners from costly fines and lawsuits.
  • A number of PEOs are now providing valuable online resources such as calculators to help evaluate the effects the Affordable Care Act will have on businesses. These calculators can help determine whether a business should pay the penalty or provide medical benefits. They outline the costs by company size and determine which variable hour employees must be offered benefits.
  • A PEO can help make sense of complex language. In addition to calculators, some PEOs also offer cliff note-like summaries of various healthcare acts in order to help business owners quickly navigate to the answers they need without getting overwhelmed.
  • With healthcare and compliance under control businesses can finally concentrate on their core competencies and put their growth plans in motion.

Is your business looking to cut healthcare costs and ensure a compliant workplace in the upcoming year? Call 877-636-9525 or Get a Free Quote Online to find the best Professional Employer Organization for you.

What Exactly Do OSHA Auditors Look For?

June 24th, 2013

Osha AuditorsOSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is an organization that conducts comprehensive site safety and health audits in order to ensure that businesses and operational facilities are being run in a safe and healthy manner.

During an audit, a team of OSHA professionals will visit your site and spend 3 to 4 days examining the operations according to their well-outlined (and extensive) standards. The information that they collect during these audits is then used both to improve the safety and health of your workers and also to educate the team of auditors as to what specific conditions and needs arise within your area or industry.

The following is a general list of elements that OSHA auditors will examine and review:

1.     Documentation

The first thing that the auditing team will do is review the documentation of your safety and health program to date to see if the program meets OSHA requirements. Documentation includes but is certainly not limited to: injury and illness logs, workers compensation documents, performance evaluations, employee reports or suggestions of safety and health hazards, preventative maintenance records, emergency procedures, employee training records, and more.

Is your company up to date with OSHA compliance? Who is in charge of managing your workplace safety? Designating responsibility to a qualified individual or team can better ensure that your workplace is “dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s.”  Don’t forget the OSHA has fines for noncompliance!

2.     Site Tour

After the documentation is reviewed, the auditing team will tour the work site to see hands-on whether or not your safety and health program is meeting their standards in practice. The site tour will include things like: reviewing hazardous categories such as fire safety and hazardous material storage, noting needed improvements, and discussing the hazards they have found.

OSHA auditors will share their insight on how to immediately address these issues. The industrial hygienist on the team will also check the site for known hazard areas, ensure that these are properly controlled and also make sure that no other hazards exist.

3.     Interviews

During the site tour, the auditing team will conduct interviews with random employees to help determine if safety measures are in place and being properly executed. These questions will address work procedures, emergency procedures and personal protective equipment. The audit team will also conduct more formal interviews with employees and management to better gauge the efficiency and awareness of the safety and health system.

While the goal of the OSHA audit is to promote a safer workplace and make sure your site is in compliance with OSHA guidelines, nobody likes getting surprised with a fine for noncompliance!

Did you know that if you work with a PEO, your workplace is probably more protected than most– financially protected too! PEOs share employee liability through the co-employment relationship but also work with the employer to provide adequate training, audits, precautionary steps and more.

With the help of a dedicated and experienced team, you can come up with the most effective solutions to keep your workplace as healthy and safe as possible while adhering to compliance standards.

For a complete schedule of events concerning an OSHA audit, visit http://www.osha.gov/Publications/visit/what-to-expect.html.

For more information on enhancing workplace safety and shared liability through the co-employment relationship, contact PEO Advantage.

Training Incentives Make Learning Fun

April 1st, 2013

Employee Training IncentivesNo matter what industry you’re in, you’ve likely encountered the need for employee training.

Today, there are an increasing number of areas where the demand for skilled positions is outnumbering the supply, and this has prompted more employers to conduct training – whether it’s training existing employees new skill sets or training new hires that don’t have quite have enough relevant experience at this time.

Many industries also call for safety training, which is serious business! If you’re doing business in a high risk industry, OSHA will eventually check your workplace’s safety and training records, and will even ask employees about specific information covered pertaining to their job.

The problem that many employers face with employee training is that it tends to be so tedious and boring! You want your employees to learn and thrive, and you certainly want them to pay attention when reviewing best practices for a safe and secure worksite, but how can you motivate adults to the point where they actually look forward to learning?

PEOs have always assisted companies in the creation and administration of safety plans and on-site learning environments, but today one type of program is becoming increasingly popular:  training incentives.

Do you have a 5-step safety program that needs to be completed by all employees? Quizzing your employees at the end of each step, and rewarding them for knowledge not only motivates them to learn the material, but also makes learning in the workplace a little bit more fun! Why not promote employee interaction and office morale by conducting programs over lunch.  Often referred to as a “lunch and learn,” serving food and beverage during the course of a learning activity can break down barriers to participation and promote employee interaction.

What is the goal of the incentive program? Is it to drive sales and other types of productivity measures or is it to help support the safest workplace possible for employees? Training incentives do not need to be cash, but they do need to be culturally appropriate and should support the overall compensation strategy and business goals.

Incentives should be valuable and quantifiable as the employee completes each level or advances because the end result is actually a win for the employer; you now have an employee that has increased the amount of value they bring to your company.

If you already work with a PEO, be sure to ask them about employee training incentives and how they can be incorporated into your workplace. If you need help selecting a PEO that is right for your company, or just need to know a little bit more about PEOs in general, feel free to contact the PEO experts at PEO Advantage.

Healthcare Reform: What is “Pay or Play?”

March 25th, 2013

Healthcare Reform What is Pay or PlayWhile it’s only March now, 2014 will be here before you know it and proactive companies with more than 50 employees are already scrambling to create an effective health care reform strategy for their organization.

In 2014, companies will have to “Pay or Play,” but what does this actually mean? Effective 2014, the PPACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) will require companies that employ more than 50 full-time employees to provide health insurance coverage for their employees, or send employees to an Exchange and pay a penalty of $2000 per employee per year. This excludes the first 30 employees, but only if at least one employee goes to an Exchange and receives subsidized coverage.

An Exchange is a competitive marketplace for individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance. Exchanges will be operating in states by January 1, 2014 under the ACA (Affordable Care Act). Now, you may be thinking “why not just create a new hybrid health insurance plan for our organization that offers employees numerous options when it comes to health insurance and benefits?”

This is easier said than done, and PEO Advantage recommends that you calculate your Pay or Play options before making a decision. Employers who elect to provide health insurance for their employees could be penalized up to $3000 for any employee that finds their coverage unaffordable and receives an Exchange subsidiary in its place.   What’s considered “unaffordable?”  A premium that exceeds 9.5% of the employee’s wages.

Many companies are currently struggling to calculate Pay or Play options because there are still so many moving parts and unknowns – Will Exchange rates actually be lower than employer-sponsored plans? If I decide to send employees to an Exchange, will the Exchange offer comparable plans? How will my employees react to a change in benefits?

PEO Advantage reminds all companies of 50 or more employees that Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) have very robust and cost effective benefits.PEOs have access to Fortune 500 quality health insurance packages, which can be much more competitive than what you are currently offering employees. To discuss your healthcare reform strategy and the year ahead, contact PEO Advantage at 877-636-9525.

Who is the EEOC?

March 8th, 2013

The EEOCWho is the EEOC? is the federal agency that enforces the laws against job discrimination and harassment. Each year, they process about 80,000 job discrimination complaints having to do with race, sex, disability, age, national origin, pregnancy or religion.

The Commission was first established in the 1960s, when it was given the power to file lawsuits against companies with discriminatory practices. A number of laws preventing discrimination in the workplace demand equal pay for equal work, and prevent discrimination on the basis of the aforementioned factors. The EEOC is also responsible for investigating and pursuing companies or employers charged with sexual harassment.

Most employers that have at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws and most labor unions and employment agencies are covered as well. The laws cover everything from hiring, firing, wages, benefits, promotions, training and harassment.

It is important for businesses to be aware of the EEOC and its guidelines for the workplace in order to avoid allegations of discrimination. An EEOC complaint can be very damaging to an employer. It can involve time-consuming official requests for information, intrusive investigations, legal bills, negative publicity and, if the complaint is upheld, very expensive damages. It’s crucial to stay abreast of laws and changes in policy so that your business in turn has fair policies in place.

The EEOC, as well as Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), are very helpful about working to prevent discrimination before it occurs through outreach, education and technical assistance programs. PEOs provide expert help with risk management and compliance including payroll, OSHA, EEOC and more to protect YOU, the employer, from costly fines and lawsuits.

Your PEO benefits are waiting. Call 877-636-9525 or contact us today to find the best Professional Employer Organization for you.

3 Regulatory Areas Important to General Contractors

February 4th, 2013

Regulatory Areas That General Contractors Need To KnowIf you’re a small-sized general contracting company (or even a larger-sized company) responsible for the day-to-day oversight of building projects and employing many other contractors and vendors, there are a few regulatory changes on their way this year that you are going to want to pay attention to.

General contractors are often pressed for time moving from one project to another, and are used to relying on temporarily employed individuals to provide work when it’s needed. Although extremely important, employee management, compliance and human resources often get put on the backburner.

2013 presents itself with some areas you can’t ignore; if you do, you could find yourself in trouble with the IRS, Department of Labor, or the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), facing some hefty fines and compliance violations.

1.   Worker Misclassification: Worker misclassification has always been a bit of a gray area for business owners within the construction industry. It is estimated that in 2009 misclassification across all industries cost the government 2.7 billion in underpaid federal taxes, workers comp and unemployment insurance and it is estimated that up to 30% of companies may still be incorrectly classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees.

The IRS and Department of Labor are working harder this year to correct misclassification amongst all industries. If your company is not in compliance, and select contractors should instead be classified as employees, you may face even harsher penalties than you would have in the past. Legislative reform may impose stricter compliance violation fines in the upcoming year.

2.   Underreporting: The IRS has invested heavily to identify underreporting employers and “find” all taxes owed to the government.  IRS examiners are looking for violations of compliance, and have powerful technological resources for triggering an audit.

3.   Immigration Reform: Immigration reform continues to remain a top priority for congress. What is your Company’s illegal immigration compliance strategy? Do you utilize E-Verify before hiring someone? Do you conduct background checks? Do you have a written policy for employment verification? Do you conduct your own additional audits of I-9 documents? Employee verification can be a timely task within itself.

Professional Employer Organizations specialize in the above 3 areas, and many are very familiar with the general contracting industry and the regulatory issues that business owners face.  If your PEO is not currently assisting your company with worker classification, reporting, and employee verifications, OR you do not currently work with a PEO and have questions about your company’s compliance, contact PEO Advantage today.