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Small Employer Tip – Create Structure for Compensation and Performance Programs

5 Dec

The Never Ending To Do ListOne of the things usually missing from the small employer repertoire of offerings is the feedback mechanism it provides to its employees. Often you’ll hear a small employer say “we’re too small for that here” or “our employees already know how we feel about them”. That’s not always the case. There is definitely a distinctive difference between what the employer thinks and how the employee feels when it comes to their job performance and/or standing within the organization. Bottom line, performance feedback to your employees (either good or bad) is necessary and wanted by the employees.
If performance appraisal/salary/bonus formalization is something you are undertaking for the first time at your company, the best thing to do is start by obtaining as many salary surveys you can that outline each of the job positions you have within the organization. It’s a good idea to try to have some type of job description for your positions. Small employers sometimes don’t have the time to do this. At the very least, try to obtain at least a couple of paragraphs from managers outlining what each of their employee’s job function is. You may not know firsthand, but they will (and should). You can formalize the job descriptions later (to include more detail and statements about essential job functions) but in order to make the comparison between salary survey results vs. job functions; you’ll need to have some type of a baseline of job functions to work with. This task can be time consuming so be sure to plan ahead as much as you can and offer as much help to your managers as they need from you. Explain how this will ultimately provide a benefit to them and their employees (and the company overall) and again, offer as much help as they need with the task.
Salary surveys aren’t as easy to obtain as many people think they are. Obtaining meaningful salary surveys will take much leg work on the part of the person handling the HR function within the company. Formalized salary surveys obtained from large reputable organizations can be costly; sometimes too costly for the small company to justify the expense. If that is the case for your company, begin your search for some lower cost alternatives. Start your inquiry with Human Resource professional organizations, try to source through your networks, and then work your way through to speaking with your state and local Departments of Labor. At the very least, they will be able to point you in the right direction. Most state Departments of Labor have placed their statistical data online and even drilled down that geographical salary data to the county level where you can make relative comparisons. You can also perform the obligatory internet search yourself; see where that takes you. Once you start on this path, dedicate at least a few days to the cause. It just takes perseverance and the absolute faith that the time you will be spending on this arduous task will lead you to the ultimate path of getting some really good salary surveys to work with. Try to be patient and keep in mind that each step you take will lead you in the right direction and will eventually yield some very good sources for you at some future point in time.
So, now you have your salary surveys in hand. What’s next? Start to draft the feedback form (sometimes referred to as the Performance Appraisal Form) that you think will work for the type of industry you operate within. Be prepared to get a lot of pushback from others on this within your organization. It’s only natural. It’s new; it requires commitment from the Executive team and ultimately effects the entire organization. It may be like hitting a nerve at first. Continue on your path. Prepare your draft and tweak it based on the comments you receive however, if what they are proposing doesn’t make sense or doesn’t sound right to you, it probably isn’t. Remember, your job in HR is to be that voice of reason and to make sure you guide and counsel in the appropriate manner. Explain to those who are pushing back, your reasons for why you believe that it may not work (in the appropriate manner). If pushback persists, you may have to create a formalized flow chart process to explain how you envision that process from start to finish so they can visually see this process through to the end and where the rough spots may be at points somewhere in the middle.
So, now that you have your salary surveys (and hopefully that perfect employee feedback document that’s ultimately finally been approved), you’ll need to know how much money you will be allocating to the performance appraisal and/or bonus pools. Again, this may be a tough one to nail down. Timing is absolutely “key” on this. Know when to approach the Executive with your request. Take a gauge on how this works for your company. It works differently for every company (small or large) so the point here is “it’s all in the timing”. You’ll have to really give this some thought. If it’s poor timing, just know you’ll learn for next year. If it’s good timing, you’ll know how and when to obtain your funds next year. This is a moving target; no one size fits all here. Again, you are an HR person, you’ve learned at this point in your career how and when to time your initiatives. If you’re new to HR, this is another step on that path of learning how and when to time your initiatives.
Next, you will need to create the mechanism of how you’ll structure your salary surveys, performance appraisal program, and bonus pool against some type of salary grading system. This is an extremely important step for the small employer because it begins to set the baseline for your future payroll expense. I know that sounds huge. It is huge!!! Think about this, if you don’t have any salary grading structure in place now, what do you think will happen year after year with those salaries over time? What happens if you can’t afford to give generous increases you had been giving to your employees if you experience sudden growth and need to use funds that were previously allocated to employee increases to that growth? What happens if your business sees a temporary decline with sales? What happens if business conditions suddenly change outside of your control? These issues will almost certainly escalate to a point where you (and your company) will be dealing with it as a negative Associate Relation issue later if you have to put the brakes on providing increases to the employees that had been above average for your industry. Are you getting it now? This point can’t be emphasized enough. It’s a very real story for a lot of small employers. Start to formalize your processes now before you experience your company’s growth and begin to feel those growing pains. This will be one of those processes that you will be glad you started to formalize while you are still a relatively small company.
Another forgotten area; report generation. How do you do that now? What could it look like once you have all of your formalized processes in place? What tools could you use to help you? There are many parts to consider but one of the most important items is to generate reports against some structured input values. Automated reporting is something you will eventually not be able to do without; especially once you have defined the process. Historical reporting will also help you and your Executives make better business decisions. How can you help them perform “what if” scenarios and be able to drill down to the management direct reporting levels? How can you show them how they handled the performance and/or salary/bonus processes the previous year? How can you collectively show the progression of your program once performance ratings have been included? How can you show the financial impact of management decisions that may need to be refined? There are tools available where you’ll be able to do all of this without searching through spreadsheets or Personnel files. You’ll no longer deal with “sorting accidents”, pivot tables, missing papers and or the possibility of providing inaccurate (or too much) information to your management team. You’ll also find that once your process has been systemically integrated, you’ll feel much more confident about report and documentation requests you need to generate for audits that may arise throughout the year (whether internal or external).
Putting a formalized process in place isn’t as hard as your imaging it is. Sage HRMS products can accommodate this need very easily for you. Even if you don’t have your plans in place, their processes and system setup can help to identify and address the needs within your program. There are many other additional internal resources and learning tools available to assist you with whatever process you need within your company ( Check it out!

Best Practices for Setting Pay Scales

26 Aug

Salary management is an essential human resources issue, and one that many HR professionals find challenging. Recruiting and retaining the best talent is essential to success, but salaries and pay scales must also stay within a company’s budget. Finding a balance can be tricky—here are a few tips on setting up a company pay scale.

Gather Information
The best way to begin building a compensation plan is to use industry salary data as a benchmark. An HR professional can do this by consulting online databases that record median wages by sector—the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides industry-specific wage information, sorted by occupation and location across the country.

Similarly, there are many websites online that provide salary information. It’s also helpful to check out a competitor’s compensation plan. If an HR representative is looking to hire a new accountant, for example, he or she can look at job descriptions and salary information at large accounting firms. This will give a hiring manager a figure to reference when creating a fair payment plan.

Establish Employee Value and Fair Compensation
Once an HR professional has a general idea of salaries in the field, it’s time to evaluate a role and how much a candidate or current employee will bring to the company. Entrepreneur recommends that HR representatives ask themselves how much value a new hire will add to the organization.

For example, at a sales-based organization, an HR representative can tally up the potential revenues a new hire would bring in. If a salesperson is projected to bring in $300,000 for the company in his first year, a salary of $70,000 per year would fall short of candidate expectations and would likely result in a job offer being rejected by a candidate.

Companies should think of good hires as an investment and establish a benchmark for the highest amount they are willing to pay. Linking fair compensation to abilities and capacity to grow makes it much easier to weed out candidates who are asking for a salary far surpassing the benchmark, while still allowing companies to offer a competitive rate.

Evaluate Candidates and Employees
A good candidate will not only bring talent to an open position, but also knowledge and experience gained from previous jobs. An applicant who will be able to fulfill the needs of the job, as well as offer leadership and training for future employees, may deserve higher pay than a candidate who is new to the industry.

Current employees should also be regularly evaluated to determine fair compensation. It is essential for companies to keep an eye on industry trends, because employees are likely doing the same. No matter the level of company loyalty, if an employee sees that a similar position at a competing company offers $10,000 more per year than his current job, that employee may leave the company. Regular raises and annual salary adjustments for inflation are both part of a smart salary management plan and help keep talented individuals around.

Consider Position and Requirements
Deciding how to pay employees may be just as important as determining a salary. There are many things to take into consideration, such as whether an employee will be paid hourly or by a fixed salary. Some companies, particularly those based in sales, offer commission rates. Yet this same plan may not be the best fit for an administrative position.

Other positions are better suited for hourly wages, such as those in retail or for temporary workers. On the other hand, this pay scale would likely not benefit a company where staff members routinely work overtime at their own discretion—under the guidelines of the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees must be paid time-and-a-half their hourly rate for any work past 40 hours per week.

In order to navigate the complications of payroll processes, many companies have begun using HR payroll software, which streamlines the payment process and keeps accurate records, making life easier for HR professionals at any company.

For more information regarding best practices for compensation, visit the Sage HRMS Payroll or the Payroll Best Practices and Tools portion of our website. 

Five Creative Tips for Effective Benefits Management

17 Jul

This guest blog post is courtesy of Mary Anne Osborne, SPHR, and principal of the Osborne Group. Mary Anne is a peoplecentric HR professional and consultant with over 25 years of HR experience in telecom, finance, manufacturing, healthcare, and higher education. Mary Anne presents monthly on our complimentary Sage Refresh and Recertify Webcast Series that are approved for 1.00 recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR, and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute.

Benefits take up a large portion of an HR budget, which is why it’s important for a company to develop a management strategy that will increase employee return on investment, engagement, and staff performance.

Implementing an effective benefits management plan can be difficult, however, as there are many things to take into consideration. Keep reading to find five tips on putting in place a great benefits management plan:

1. Be Innovative, Flexible
When thinking about employee benefits, oftentimes, most minds will go straight to fiscal-related benefits like retirement. Yet one of the easiest and least expensive employee benefits is a flexible work schedule. Flexible work schedules are gaining in popularity across all sectors, and for good reason. A recent Gallup poll found employee engagement was significantly higher at companies where workers enjoy a reasonable amount of flex-time.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace found that flex-time had the strongest correlation to employee well-being, happiness, and engagement. Gallup reported that engaged employees with flexible schedules had 44 percent higher wellbeing than disengaged employees with strict schedules.

One of the greatest aspects of a flexible schedule is that it is cost effective. If employees are allowed to work from home on a regular basis and still produce quality work, there’s no reason for managers to discourage this practice. Instead, managers can score points with a staff by offering this highly desirable benefit to a workforce.

2. Offer Well-Rounded Health Plans
Effective benefits plans include more than basic compensation and health care plans. If a company can afford it, it’s worth it to invest in a robust health program. This doesn’t have to be hugely expensive, however.

Building a fitness facility onsite is a great idea, but if a company can’t afford such a major investment, a health plan that comes with discounted gym memberships is an effective way to improve employee health and happiness.

Another plus? Regular physical activity cuts down on illness, meaning lower absenteeism and lower insurance costs. In addition to offering sound HMO or PPO health insurance plans, companies can kick off health programs with weight loss or fitness competitions, which will bring some extra life to an office and improve morale.

3. Balance Work and Life
Remember above all else that employees exist outside of the office. This may sound basic, but many members of a company would argue that being overworked by managers makes them feel like they are valued only as workers and not as people.

This is an easy fix. Employers can offer more time off, either through a revised benefits package or through incentive programs like sales competitions. Set up a monthly sales competition, and instead of (or in addition to) monetary rewards, award the winners with an extra day off that they can take whenever they’d like. This will allow for greater balance between work and life, and will improve worker happiness.

4. Focus on Communication
If an HR professional or manager finds himself stuck deciding between benefits management plans, it’s a good idea to consult the staff. After all, they’re the ones who will be subject to any plan.

Asking employees what kind of benefits they’d like to see, or what changes are necessary to improve productivity, will increase communication and the important relationships between a staff and their supervisors. Many companies are choosing to use office management software, which facilitates easy and effective communication.

5. Stay Open to Possibilities
There’s no rule that a benefits management plan has to stay the same for years at a time. In fact, keeping up with industry trends can help companies stay ahead of the competition.

If a company wants to keep star employees around, they would be wise to update a benefits plan, incorporating flexibility with traditional perks. This is a winning combination that will improve employee retention, engagement, and productivity.

Creating a motivational and cost-effective benefits management program can be tough, but with a little creativity and dedication to talent management, a company can improve practices across the board.

Get Informed Before You Switch Payroll Processing

17 May

For businesses in today’s economy, there are more payroll processing options than ever before, and deciding what method will work best for your company can be daunting. If you’re thinking about switching how your payroll is processed or are curious about what is currently available, taking action on the following steps is a good place to start.

Making the First Step
If you are a seasoned business and are considering a change to your payroll processing system, before you make any decisions or put a plan in motion, you must first begin the evaluation process. At this stage in the game, the more questions you ask, the better. What compensation structure works best for your employees? Monthly? Bimonthly? How do you track employee hours? What about overtime? Paid time off? Health plans? Income taxes? Payroll taxes?

You’ll want to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your current workforce and identify the best person or team most capable of facilitating the switch. If you cannot identify a suitable person, consider hiring an experienced payroll processing professional as an independent contractor to help you make the transition. Payroll administration requires a high commitment to detail and accuracy and regardless of which route you take; any efforts must be comprehensive and dedicated.

It’s also in the best interest of the company to assess the timing of your payroll change, paying close attention to current economic conditions and growth trajectory of the firm. For example, a recent and robust expansion in business may make it a good time to reconsider your payroll processing—especially if there are plans to boost hiring significantly to maintain your growth.

What may have worked for you with just 50 employees begins to be strained by the demands of 200+ employees. In addition to this consideration, many common mistakes and errors in payroll processing become more visible and potentially dangerous to operations when you increase the number of employees.

Functionality a Determining Factor
Upon sketching a rough outline of what business factors will influence what payroll processing options to pursue, it’s then time to transition to the subject of functionality. After all, payroll processing doesn’t just need to work for the company, it needs to work—period.

Many companies that choose payroll processing software often do so without accounting for the range of capabilities and features a solution must possess in order to improve the business and save it time and money. Before you approach a vendor, determine what functions you’ll need or desire to be included in the processing software.

Again, asking yourself questions on what is needed from a solution is the best path to reaching an optimal selection: How frequent are tax updates sent through? What security checks are in place? Can we integrate existing data into the new platform? What payment options exist? How does it prevent fraud?

Besides ensuring a solution effectively addresses and takes care of standard compliance issues, it’s good practice to investigate what other added value such a service can provide. For example, many payroll processing software vendors offer deduction and earning codes, shortcuts that enable automatic and accurate deductions from employee paychecks regarding health insurance or child care. If your company’s pay structure is more complex, you’ll want to pursue vendors that can allow you to customize your own codes. Other features to look for include direct deposit, employee garnishments, and piecework pay codes that assign and track employee pay based on work completed.

It’s also worth examining the basic features of payroll processing, like electronic tax filing, which is paramount in any payroll software. This feature allows you to fill out and submit tax forms electronically and eliminates the need for printing out forms, organizing them, and mailing them out to the appropriate office—which can result in huge time savings!

It’s also crucial that employees have sufficient access and interaction with the system. Opting for a solution that can seamlessly allow for employees to view documents and pay stubs is important both to HR compliance and employee engagement.

Making a Choice and Implementing the System
After pegging down what payroll processing solution your business needs and what features and accommodations it should have, it’s time to research the market. Spend time closely evaluating all vendors, and consider their reputations and relationships with past clients. Pay close attention to how vendors service clients, price their solutions, and ensure their networks are secure.

Finally, once all has been said and done and a solution has been decided upon for implementation, you’ll need to ready your operations for the change. The most important function when readying the business is making sure you have the hardware needed for installation. It may also behoove the organization to solicit the services of an implementation team. But that’s only the half of it. Once in place, businesses must still conduct routine check-ups into how the solution has performed and what benefits it has provided or how it has streamlined operations.

After determining who can help facilitate the change, when the ideal time is to switch, and what functions your business needs out of payroll processing software. Evaluate which vendors most closely align with your values, budget, and business needs. Then it’s easy. Make the switch and reap the rewards!

Need more information about changing payroll processing? Visit our library of Human Resources Best Practices and Tools to download white papers like “The 15 Factors to Consider When Changing How You Process Payroll” or “Stay In Control: The Benefits of In-House Payroll Software.”

HIPAA Compliance and the Value of Voluntary Benefits

29 Mar

The compliance deadline for all organizations regarding the new HIPAA Privacy, Security Breach Notification, and Enforcement Rules (the “Omnibus Rule”) is set for September 23, 2013. For certain employers, these agreements won’t need to be updated until September 22, 2014, if their policies aren’t modified or renewed prior to that date. Whether or not your business organization will be implementing the new Omnibus Rule this year or next year, human resource managers will want to take the time now to review HIPAA compliance rules and regulations in order to make the necessary updates when the time comes.

Coverage Under the Omnibus Rule
Human resource planning should concentrate on making sure that organizations are in compliance by examining the following employee benefit plan rules and regulations. A briefing document from Poyner Spruill LLP offered a few suggestions, including:

  • Ensure major medical plans, wellness programs, healthcare FSAs, employee assistance programs, and other programs where protected health plans (PHIs) are enforced.
  • Examine business associate and subcontractor relationships to determine whether or not an associate agreement should be put into place.
  • Use employee management software to review and adjust all existing healthcare plans to meet new HIPAA rules and requirements.
  • Review and revise HIPAA language for all healthcare, wrap, and cafeteria plan documents
  • Thoroughly revise employee contract notice of privacy practices (NPP) to reflect the new HIPAA rules and distribute the revised documents to employees.
  • Take the time to educate your employees about the new Omnibus Rules and regulations enforced by HIPAA. Training management software is a great HR tool to educate employees about the new rules and compliance regulations. Keeping a copy of the policies in an employee self-service system makes it easy for workers to easily access and reference information should any questions arise after the initial training.
  • Maintain personnel management software to ensure employees execute appropriate business agreements with subcontractors.
  • After training, make sure to hand out new employee contracts and have all workers sign an updated, written breach notification document.

Offering Alternative Coverage and Benefits Packages
A brief based off of the Prudential’s Seventh Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond, reveals that companies are experiencing a higher employee satisfaction rate when their employers offer at least one type of voluntary benefit. The source stated that employees interested in receiving voluntary benefits from their employees rose by 10 percent from last year’s report, so how can your company jump on the voluntary benefits package trend, and what exactly is making this alternative insurance option so popular?

Why Employees Like Alternative Benefits
More employers are beginning to offer employees the option to purchase insurance coverage based on their immediate needs, stated Prudential. Having the option to purchase coverage through the employer-based enrollment systems makes it easier for workers to educate themselves about different coverage options and is a great tool to assess their current and future needs. These options help employees take control of finances with a more hands-on approach. Human resource managers can monitor alternative benefit packages using software for payroll to make sure the correct tax deductions are taken to cover those enrolled in the alternative programs along with those who opt to stay within traditional medical and Medicare programs.

Types of Voluntary Benefits Coverage Options
Recent statistics from the Seventh Annual Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond concluded that 44 percent of brokers expect voluntary benefits packages to increase over the next five years. Experts foresee critical illness coverage options to have the highest increase in demand among employees and employers with a predicted 41 percent increase, added the source. Other voluntary benefit packages Prudential expects employers to see an increase in demand for include:

  • 31 percent increase in accident insurance.
  • 30 percent increase for long-term disability insurance.
  • 28 percent increase in short-term disability insurance.
  • 27 percent increase for dental insurance coverage.
  • 25 percent increase in demand for life insurance.

Employees who participated in the study said having voluntary benefit package options provides a wider range of affordable options concerning insurance and benefit coverage.

The Efficiencies and Savings of Electronic Payroll

25 Jan

Electronic-payroll-savingsOld methods of payroll processing required calculations by hand and physical checks for all personnel, even at major employers, but those are outdated modes for a reason. Now, integrated human resources management software and advanced payroll software can assist in completing these tasks quickly and efficiently, as well as provide all staff members with a way of reviewing a plethora of information about their payment and employment status. Finding the options to best utilize these solutions and other options that most fit with these tools can help save money for companies.

Certain agencies are now also facing mandatory changeovers to electronic payment solutions, especially those under federal regulations. Organizations that fall under that category or must remain compliant with specific guidelines should verify that their payroll solutions are up to date, as the government modification to all-electronic benefits payments will hit as of March 1, 2013.

Using Electronic Methods
A vast amount of HR and payroll processes are currently handled through electronic means, including internal employee self-service portals, cloud deployments and virtual server applications. There are other tools that correspond well with these structures, such as electronic payment options, that have become standard operating procedure for many organizations. However, this is not the case with all entities, and failing to institute these kinds of opportunities could be costing companies a good deal of money.

Recently, it has been reported that the Veterans Affairs Department is finally switching over to electronic payments, issuing checks as direct deposits into employee and benefit recipient accounts. There will also be a payroll card option available to those without bank information on file or who prefer to have a separate method for receiving paychecks.

On top of saving companies money, using this solution in tandem with payroll software can help businesses cut paper and labor costs, boosting savings even more. It can also help with document management and file archive tending, so if an audit or eDiscovery should ever occur, these requests will be easy to meet without incurring high investigative expenses.

Caveats to Adoption
Moving to digital check options is a good first step for many companies looking to save money, but there are important aspects to remember when switching to these tools. Employees must be given time to present information necessary for turning over the process, firstly, and all workers should be provided disclosure resources showing if there are any new fees or benefits for them using specific handling methods. In some cases, businesses can forge agreements with certain banks to get payroll released a day or so earlier than traditionally expected, for instance, and other agencies may charge an extra fee for people that continue to request paper checks.

Currently, the U.S. Department of the Treasury stated that more than 70,000 recipients in West Virginia alone could be receiving payroll cards in the near future, as anticipation of the federal electronic payments change has prompted organization to debit cards to its clients. These kinds of cards are also available for companies looking for alternative payment options for their personnel.

Streamlining the payroll process should focus on a single method of payment solutions. If companies can encourage employees to choose electronic direct deposits for HR and payroll convenience, it could represent a huge way to save money at work. Handling all income and outgoing funds through a single payment tool can help centralize cost and revenue data, for instance, making it easier for organizations to manage overhead.

Payroll Card Conveniences Explained

9 Jan

Cashing in on the convenience of a payroll card is beneficial to both employers and staff members alike. These payroll cards are an alternative payroll processing option, where instead of issuing a paper check or directly depositing money into a worker’s account on a regular basis; funds are electronically issued to a specific debit card in the person’s name. These cards function much the same way as a conventional debit account, but they do come with added perks for companies and consumers that use them.

Understanding the Benefits

For workers, there may be some initial friction when proposing the adoption of payroll cards. There are associated fees for withdrawals from these monetary devices, and sometimes just maintaining the card from month to month comes with a surcharge. However, for those without bank accounts, check cashing fees will completely disappear, representing huge savings for employees. What’s more, these tools provide an instant means of money management, and they are more secure and easily tracked than carrying cash or writing checks.

Internally, payroll personnel will appreciate the streamlined process that comes with instituting cards instead of a myriad other financial options. Many employers may offer checks and direct deposit, as well as additional paper statements for those that have already chosen electronic payment. Removing all of this physical documentation from the equation is easier with the convenience of a payroll card option.

What’s more, bringing this into a business structure as a primary means of payment can save banking fees for both parties. Individuals get the benefit of not having to pay for check cashing anymore, while employers don’t have to worry about service fees from direct deposits or other similar expenses. Eliminating physical checks cuts down on the likelihood of fraud and other kinds of theft that regularly affect these forms of currency as well.

Putting it to Work

Companies are already cashing in on the benefits of this system, which offers a big improvement over outdated paper checks without creating a more cumbersome solution for payroll. Some of the largest payroll providers, boasting thousands of regular staff, have seen how financially sound the convenience of a payroll card really is to business revenue, and they are pushing more employees to take up this tool that helps both the company and its staff as well.

Wal-Mart has made the transition for all its employees, partnering with American Express to offer safe and secure payroll cards. As the largest private employer in the world, the company stands to save a substantial amount of time and money through this crucial human resources substitution. What’s more, the business is offering these cards to consumers as well for use at their own jobs.

Have you considered offering your employees access to a payroll card?  You can learn more by registering for our weekly live webcast, Paperless Payroll with the Sage Payroll Paycard.

Mistakes to Avoid for Effective Payroll

11 Jul

Avoiding federal payroll compliance errors can save HR a lot of time and money. There are certain pitfalls as common as they are easy to avoid, while knowledge pertaining to these errors will help keep them out of your accounting.

Classify your co-workers correctly

Exempt or nonexempt? Employee or independent contractor? If you don’t know where employees fall in your company’s infrastructure, chances are you may not be submitting the right information to payroll, let alone the IRS. Failing to correctly report a worker’s status can result in a full overhaul of your accounting, an expensive and embarrassing process.

An exempt worker isn’t covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), so their hours aren’t paid individually. Rather, they get a set wage, regardless of how many hours they do or do not work. A nonexempt employee in the same circumstances would be entitled to an hourly rate plus time and a half for any hours worked past 40 in a single work week.

If you’re considering taking a shortcut on payroll software by classifying all workers as independent contractors, make sure they actually are first. An employer is only required to submit a 1099-MISC for all contract workers at the end of the year. Misclassifying any employee, though, can result in payroll compliance fines and possibly a lawsuit if he has been unjustly disallowed access to programs.

Take the right taxes

Once you know where each employee falls, make sure your payroll software is up to date and your HR professionals are trained on current practices as well. New legislation can change the amount of payroll withholding on everything from healthcare to Social Security, and programs within the company could change premiums or benefits at any time. If communication is a problem, this can result in internal dilemmas, but improperly calculating federal taxes can be a much bigger problem if the government catches it before internal accounting.

Mind the details

Retirement programs, life insurance and tax savings accounts all need to be calculated and reported correctly on W-2 and 1099-MISC forms where applicable. Incorrect information supplied to an employee and the IRS can lead to a spreadsheet nightmare of trying to track down the issue and sort out errors, creating a time-consuming and expensive problem that could easily have been avoided. Taking care in filling out forms may seem tedious, but it’s preferable to having to do everything over again and losing money for the business.

Need more information on government compliance? Visit our library of Human Resources Best Practices and Tools to download whitepapers like Avoiding Costly Fines: A 2012 Guide to Compliance Mandates or to view recorded webcasts like Wage and Hour—Staying on the Right Side of the DOL.


The Last Mile in Employee Services for the Automated HR Department

25 May

HR Employee Not Utilizing Carrier ConnectionsIn the last ten years most employers have invested quite a bit of capital on HRMS infrastructure such as online employee self service and benefits enrollment software.

Most of the investments have been focused on improving the administration, the efficiency, and productivity of the HR organization and making it easier for employees to communicate with HR and to make the HR information more accurate -  an inward focus.  But now, especially with health care reform legislation, there are new challenges in the areas of benefits administration that are coming about for employers and for insurance carriers, particularly in the areas of eligibility management and enrollment reporting.

So if you take these new challenges with where employers are today with their HR automation investments, it’s more important than ever to automate “The Last Mile” of the benefits admin process, and that’s the enrollment communication with the carriers on the back end.

Several Important Points HRMS Execs Are Realizing About the Last Mile

Carrier connections defined:

It is the process of automating the benefit enrollment data management through pre-built secure and fully-managed data integrations between HR system of record and all benefit insurance carriers and providers.  It’s an end-to-end communication process from your system to each of your carriers.

Automating carrier connections:

  • Improves the employee benefit experience at the point of service.
  • Offers opportunities to reduce HR Department overhead burden associated with benefits admin.
  • Elimination or reduced cost “leakages” – caused by inaccurate or inefficient reporting with the insurance carriers.
  • Better positions HR department to comply with current and evolving legislative and regulatory requirements.

Key Capabilities Needed

For an answer to enrollment communication with the carriers (carrier connections) the vehicle used must:

  • Be simple and reliable.
  • Be secure and private.
  • Support all benefit carriers.
  • Handle special enrollment reporting procedures.
  • Catch “missed enrollments”.

The Big Pay Off

All of this reduces HR administration burden.  A look at how many HR depts report enrollment changes to your carriers today will be a first clue to the increased efficiency a well designed connection carrier brings to the table. Enrollment without connection carrier process in place includes most of the following:

  • A carrier required custom report.
  • A multiplicity of benefit forms, paperwork.
  • Visiting a carrier web portal.
  • Signing on through a secure log-in.
  • Entering data manually. 

After all that there is no assurance that the carrier enrollment records are correct unless an enrollment audit or a data reconciliation is regularly completed.

Reduce Costs

Let’s frame this as enrollment cost “leaks”.  An enrollment cost leak is where, for instance, the employer is overpaying premiums for employees or dependents that should have been terminated off of coverage.

Then there is the opposite scenario or dependents that should be covered – you think they are covered, they assume they are covered but they haven’t been picked up on the premiums, and they might even actually be denied service. So in either case, you’re either underpaying now and overpaying later.

With new legislation it’s going to be harder to reconcile these past premium overpayments and get refunds for them. 

A well designed connection carrier system through its regular and automatic updating capabilities, tends to plug up these cost leaks so they don’t occur.

Are you doing all you can to ensure that cost leaks aren’t occuring or that your HR staff isn’t overburdened with administration work regarding benefits enrollment?


Payroll Cards: What Are They and Why Are They Important?

16 May

Sage Payroll PaycardIn response to the tens of millions of “unbanked” workers in the U.S., many employers have begun issuing payroll cards to their employees. These items work just like debit cards from banks but allow workers to dip directly into their company payrolls, as opposed to the more resource-intensive process of cutting checks.

Most payroll debit cards allow all employees within an organization to be enrolled in direct deposit, regardless of existing banking relationships. There are a number of benefits for both employers and workers. For example, companies are able to reduce the cost of issuing paper paychecks. Such devices are also more secure, as they minimize the risk of check fraud, offering an additional employee benefit as a result.

Workers benefit most directly from their convenience and security, as their wages are immediately available on payday. Furthermore, individuals without checking accounts or established bank relations do not need to establish one, and families can even receive multiple payroll cards for use.

Businesses of all sizes are looking for ways to improve payroll efficiency and employee satisfaction while also maintaining adequate security standards. Complete electronic payroll systems allow employers to meet these goals.

With the growing popularity of payroll cards, especially amid rising discontent with banks, a number of HR management and payroll associations – including the Association for Financial Professionals, Electronic Payroll Coalition, Electronic Payments Association and the American Payroll Association – have collaborated to develop a series of core principles for payroll debit cards. Employers and payroll managers considering electronic payroll systems should consider some of these standards:

  • Employee should have access to full wages at least once each pay period without cost.
  • Terms and conditions should be disclosed in a clear manner before the employee is enrolled in the payroll card program.
  • Employees should be allowed to check account balances via telephone or electronic platforms, such as online networks, and these services should be offered without cost to the employee.
  • The funds in a payroll card account shall not expire.
  • If the card has an expiration date, the employee should be provided with a free replacement card prior to that deadline.

Have you considered offering your employees access to a payroll card?  Learn more by visting the Sage Payroll Paycard website.

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