Archive for June, 2011

Wellness or Fluff?

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Wellness Programs

By: Jim Bode – Wellness Consultant

Over the last decade “wellness” has become a buzz word and many companies have adopted wellness programs. The issue with this is that most programs are not put together correctly and thus have little to no real impact. Developing a successful wellness program is not difficult; however, if an organization omits important steps and loses focus the program will not succeed. Most organizations would admit that they would like to have a wellness program and know that there could be a value for implementing one, but do not know where to start or what to do.

The first thing that an organization must do as it looks at developing a strategy is to simplify and define what wellness is to the organization. Wellness is not about a well-attended health fair or a fancy portal or a biometric screening event. Wellness in its most simple form is about behavior change and behavior cannot be changed in a day or at an event. Organizations need to overhaul their culture and make health and wellness a core component and a yearlong objective.  The issue with this is that behavior change is actually the hardest thing we ask for anyone to do and so companies need to identify their health issues while at the same time look at their employees readiness to change.

I have been a wellness consultant for many years and I often ask organizations why they provide medical benefits. Most answer that it is to attract and retain superior employees. I often follow up with a question about how long they feel that they will be able to offer competitive benefits at the current trend levels. If this concerns your organization, you should think about taking a more proactive approach to protecting this important benefit. My role, and the role of consultants like me, is to help organizations define wellness as Medical Risk Awareness and Reduction.

Programs need to be built on science which starts with creating a baseline that enables organizations to have an understanding of the medical risk they are facing both now and in the future. Without this type of analysis, an organization cannot be strategic while setting clear goals as it relates to controlling and minimizing these risks.

Submitted By:

Jim Bode
Vice President
Hanratty Wellness
763-746-7840 Direct
jimb@hanrattyassoc.com
www.hanrattyassoc.com

Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and by no means should replace or substitute other legal documents (governmental or non-governmental) reflecting similar content or advice. If you have any questions concerning your situation or the information provided, please consult with an attorney, CPA or HR Professional.

New Benefits Tab Added to PCS HRAnswerLink

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

PCS HRAnswerLinkHealth Care Reform has been top of mind within the benefits community and most small business owners are still quite confused with the ramifications of the reform bill.  In response, PCS HRAnswerLink has added a new benefits tab available to all users of the HR Support Center.  The tab provides vital information related to the following seven areas of focus:

  • Health Care Reform
  • Required Benefits
  • Core Benefits
  • Expanded Benefits
  • Leave Administration
  • COBRA
  • HIPAA

Much like the existing Quickguides, these sub-topics feature a handy checklist, a tip section for critical items to take note of, and links to related templates and forms that can be downloaded for use within any company.

About PCS HRAnswerLink

PCS rolled out HRAnswerLink to our entire Client base in July of 2009 via an opt-out campaign over a period of six months.  The core functionality of the site centers on providing up-to-date tools and information related to human resources, employment law compliance and employee relationship issues.

Features include:

  • Essentials like an editable Employee Handbook, Policy Library, Job Description Library, HR Forms, Checklists, Guides, and Letters
  • Federal and State Alerts on new employment law
  • 3 Minute HR Audit
  • Knowledge Base complete with HR Casts, Q&A Database, Articles, News, HR Glossary and HR Advisor Newsletter archive
  • Quick Guides on Hiring, Performance Management and Termination
  • The NEW Benefits Tab mentioned above
  • The ability to customize the employment law alerts and other personalized settings

PCS has also rolled out new package pricing in 2011 which includes PCS HRAnswerLink at no additional fee.  If you’d like to compare your current pricing to the new package pricing, just contact your Client Account Manager, (CAM) and they’ll alert your Sales Representative to provide a no obligation quote.  Dependent upon your current service usage, you may find some savings and have the ability to create additional efficiencies with some of the new service offerings we’ve launched over the past year.

If you’re not sure if you currently have access to PCS HRAnswerLink, please inquire with your CAM, they will be happy to assist you in logging into your existing account, or activating a new account for you.  The cost outside of PCS package pricing is just $8.95 per month.  It’s a great, low cost way to stay on top of the ever-changing human resources and labor law landscape.

Submitted By:

The PCS Service & Sales Teams

Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and by no means should replace or substitute other legal documents (governmental or non-governmental) reflecting similar content or advice. If you have any questions concerning your situation or the information provided, please consult with an attorney, CPA or HR Professional.

Why Does PCS Provide A SSN Verification Report?

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Social Security CardsPCS supplies our Clients with a SSN Verification Report as a value added service.  Before we examine the suggested actions for employees who fail the SSN verification, we will explain what the report is and why we provide it for our Clients.

PCS uses the Social Security Administration’s Social Security Number Verification Service, (“SSNVS”) to run the verification checks.  Each pay period, we supply the SSA with a feed which includes the full name, SSN, and birth date of any new employees or employees which had changes to these fields since the last payroll.  The SSA returns the results to us and PCS supplies them to our Clients via the “Cover Letter” report each pay period.  (Please contact your CAM if you are not receiving this report and wish to begin receiving it.)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Since we don’t send any Client related information to the SSA, this process does not generate “No Match” letters to the employer. Click here if you’ve received “No Match” letters and wish to know more about them.

There are many reasons why we verify SSNs for our Clients, the biggest being time and money.  For example, if a wrong SSN is used for a prolonged period, the clean-up involved is very time consuming and may include multiple taxing agencies.  When errors cross-over quarterly reporting periods, wage details need to be fixed, amended returns need to be filed, and W-2Cs may need to be issued to the affected employees.  These changes are frustrating, time-consuming and increase processing fees.

If an issue is identified on the SSN Verification report, you must be mindful of how you handle the issue with the employee.  The best advice comes directly from the Social Security Administration and can be found by clicking here.  Here’s the outline from the SSA FAQ:

WHAT TO DO IF AN SSN FAILS TO VERIFY

Follow these steps for each SSN that failed verification:

  1. Compare the failed SSN with your employment records. If you made a typographical error, correct the error and resubmit the corrected data. If the name is hyphenated, consider trying different versions of the name.
  2. If your employment records match your submission, ask your employee to check his/her Social Security card and inform you of any name or SSN difference between your records and his/her card. If your employment records are incorrect, correct your records and resubmit the corrected data.
  3. If your employment record and the employee’s Social Security card match, ask the employee to check with any local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office to resolve the issue. Once the employee has contacted the SSA Office, he/she should inform you of any changes. You should correct your records accordingly and resubmit the corrected data.
  4. If the employee is unable to provide a valid SSN, you are encouraged to document your efforts to obtain the correct information. (Documentation should be retained with payroll records for a period of three (3) years.)
  5. If you are unable to contact the employee, you are encouraged to document your efforts.
  6. If you have already sent a Form W-2 with an incorrect name and/or SSN, then submit a Form W-2c (Corrected Wage and Tax Statement) to correct the mismatch. W-2c services are available through BSO Wage Reporting. There is no need to re-register for your Business Services Online (BSO) User Identification Number (User ID).

REMEMBER

  • A mismatch is not a basis, in and of itself, for you to take any adverse action against an employee, such as laying off, suspending, firing or discriminating.
  • Company policy should be applied consistently to all workers.
  • Any employer that uses the failure of the information to match SSA records to take inappropriate adverse action against a worker may violate State or Federal law.
  • The information you receive from SSNVS does not make any statement regarding a worker’s immigration status.

Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and by no means should replace or substitute other legal documents (governmental or non-governmental) reflecting similar content or advice. If you have any questions concerning your situation or the information provided, please consult with an attorney, CPA or HR Professional.

The Risks of Emailing Sensitive Data

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Computer HackerIn today’s world almost all of us use email daily in our personal and business lives. It allows for quick, convenient communication between friends and colleagues but may also pose a risk dependent upon the type of information in the email and the data being sent.

Sending information like login names and passwords in the same email can pose a risk as it is formatted in plain text which allows anyone to view it.  Sending a PDF document or an Excel spreadsheet poses the same type of risk, as it can be easily forwarded.  The bigger risk is one people don’t often think about… Can the email be intercepted somewhere between the sender and the recipient?

Emails that are sent normally through Outlook or most web based email providers, are without any type of security signature or encryption software which makes it easier to intercept, read and possibly use the information contained in the email.

An easy way to protect yourself is to use a provider that encrypts all messages before sending them onto your recipient. Vendors like Zix Messaging encrypt emails as soon as they are sent and the emails are retained on a web portal for a number of days before they expire and are deleted. The recipient receives an email alerting them that a secure message is waiting for them. By clicking a link, the recipient logs in with their email address and can read and download any attachments they have received.

Another option is JumbleMe which provides a free service, which makes the email difficult to print, copy and forward.  The free service is capped on the number of emails that can be sent per year, with pay options available.

Information security may seem daunting but the threats are prevalent. Before sending that next Excel spreadsheet or PDF document ask yourself if there’s anything in it that you wouldn’t want anyone besides the intended recipient using or reading. If the answer is yes, explore your options or connect with your IT staff or a trusted IT provider and discuss your security concerns.

Submitted By:

The PCS Tech Team

Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and by no means should replace or substitute other legal documents (governmental or non-governmental) reflecting similar content or advice. If you have any questions concerning your situation or the information provided, please consult with an attorney, CPA or HR Professional.

Expiration of FUTA Surtax July 1st, 2011

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

FUTA SurtaxThe 0.2% federal unemployment (FUTA) surtax is scheduled to expire after June 30, 2011.

The FUTA tax rate is currently 6.2% and is made up of two components: a permanent tax rate of 6.0% and a temporary surtax of 0.2%.  The FUTA taxable wage base is the first $7,000 paid in wages to each employee during a calendar year.  Employers who pay the state unemployment tax on a timely basis receive an offset credit of up to 5.4%.  This results in a Net FUTA rate of 0.8% through June 30, 2011 and 0.6% from July 1, 2011.

The Federal Unemployment Tax Act, or FUTA, came into existence in 1939 to guarantee financing for a national employment security system.  The idea was for employers to pay the costs of administering the unemployment compensation and national job placement system.  In return, employers would receive assistance in recruiting new workers and the unemployed would be able to find jobs more quickly.

The temporary surtax of 0.2% was added in 1976, and most recently was extended by the Worker, Homeownership and Business Assistance Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-92).  The 2009 Workers Act extended the surtax through 2010 and the first six months of 2011.  This is approximately the seventh such extension of the surtax on record.  The surtax accounts for roughly 25% of the FUTA tax collections or roughly $2 billion in revenue annually.

The FUTA surtax is widely expected to be extended again, but other economic issues are currently being addressed by Congress and may delay consideration until later this year.  Congress could retroactively reinstate the surtax, effective July 1, which may result in additional FUTA tax being due at year end.

PCS will continue to monitor this and other tax related developments.

Sincerely,

PCS Tax Team

Legal Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only and by no means should replace or substitute other legal documents (governmental or non-governmental) reflecting similar content or advice. If you have any questions concerning your situation or the information provided, please consult with an attorney, CPA or HR Professional.