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Posted: 4/7/20140 Entries
Do You Rate Employees Higher Who Advocate for Your Team?
By Greg Bennett

Do You Rate Employees Higher Who Advocate for Your Team?

When completing performance reviews, psychologists and researchers alike agree that managers naturally exhibit bias in the ratings. To be fair and objective, a performance evaluation must be based on the employee’s job-related behavior, not on the employee’s personal traits, work situation or other factors unrelated to employee performance.  While subjectivity and partiality will never be completely removed from the process, it is important to keep some of our most common prejudices in mind when completing performance reviews. Below is a “Top 10” list of the more frequent rating errors/biases in the performance evaluation process:

  1. Excessive Leniency – Excessive leniency occurs when the manager rates all employees higher than their performance warrants in an effort to be kind, supportive or well-liked. Sometimes the manager’s underlying motivation is the belief that an underperforming employee will be motivated by a positive performance review, and perhaps will begin to exhibit the work behaviors described in the evaluation. Other managers simply prefer to take the path of least resistance, as a highly positive review makes for a very pleasant performance review meeting with the employee. However, it is important to accurately rate each employee according to his or her performance during the rating period. When one or more managers exhibit this bias, it may render the entire performance evaluation system ineffective.
  2. Excessive Severity – Managers tend to demonstrate severity bias when hoping to motivate average-performing employees. A manager with this bias tends to rate all employees lower than their performance warrants in an effort to inspire average employees to improve their performance. However, an unfairly low review often results in the reverse effect and compromises the performance evaluation system
  3. Similar-to-Me Bias – This bias occurs when the manager gives higher ratings to employees who are similar to the rater.  We tend to like and relate well to people who remind us of ourselves; however, this resemblance should not spill over into performance review ratings. For example, if a young employee who just graduated from your alma mater reminds you of yourself at that age, you may unintentionally provide the employee with higher ratings than he has earned.
  4. Opportunity Bias – Opportunity bias transpires when the manager either credits or faults the employee for factors beyond the employee’s control. Managers stricken with the opportunity bias praise or blame the employee when the true cause of the performance was opportunity or a lack thereof.  An example of this bias is a manager rating a sales employee favorably overall due to one big sale obtained by a stroke of luck, rather than through normal sales channels such as meeting cold-calling and prospecting goals.
  5.  Halo Effect – The Halo Effect occurs when an employee possesses one, exceptional strength, and the manager allows this to carry over into other rating categories or to dominate the overall evaluation score. For example, if an employee excels in the category of “job knowledge,” it does not necessarily follow that the employee excels in the categories of “attendance” or “work production.
  6.  Horns Effect -The Horns Effect occurs when an employee has one hindering weakness, and the manager allows this to seep into other rating categories or the overall outcome of the employee’s performance appraisal. For example, if an employee is especially weak in the category of “customer satisfaction,” it is not necessarily true that the employee may also need to make improvement in the categories of “job knowledge” or “problem solving”.
  7. Contrast Bias – A manager afflicted with this bias tends to compare performance to other employees rather than comparing performance to an established company standard. It is important that the manager does not consider the performance of other employees in an attempt to “rank” employees in the performance review process.  Every employee deserves his or her performance review to be based solely on individual performance, not performance as compared with other employees.
  8. Recency Bias – Recency bias occurs when the manager bases the evaluation on the last few weeks or months rather than the entire evaluation period. It is important to consider the employee’s performance during the entire review period when completing the performance review form.
  9. Job vs. Individual Bias- Some jobs seem to be more vital to the organization than are others. A particular job may be crucial to the company’s success.  However, it does not necessarily follow that the employee is performing well in that job.
  10. Length of Service Bias - It is important to remember that length of service is not a factor in evaluating performance. Therefore, long-term employees should be evaluated according to the same established standards as other employees.
It’s a great idea to take a look at these and assess your own biases prior to completing performance evaluations. It is also important to review these common biases with your management team prior to the commencement of performance appraisals, so that your performance reviews are more accurate and objective in nature. When you are able to remove some of the bias from the evaluation process, performance appraisals become much more meaningful for organizational decision-making and compensation adjustments. In addition, they become much more useful to the employee in assessing valid areas that need improvement.   
Posted: 4/4/20140 Entries
Workplace dress codes, at a first glance
By Greg Bennett
Workplace dress codes, at a first glance, seem like one of the less challenging items on an employer’s agenda. However, throw in the topics of religious accommodations, organizational culture and safety concerns, and the task of creating a workplace dress code policy can become quite daunting. On April 15th, be sure to visit the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center, and listen to this month's HRCast to learn more about this topic.
Posted: 1/30/2014
What about COBRA Atlanta Small Businesses?
By Gregory C Bennett Sr.

What about COBRA Atlanta Small Businesses?

If your Atlanta small business is confused about all the changes regarding ACA, you are not alone. Many Atlanta business owners are questioning if COBRA will become a thing of the past.

Think again. If this function is handled internally and not outsourced to a third party, now might be the time to consider looking to a qualified vendor to manage the liability for remaining compliant.

One might logically deduce that if guaranteed issue health insurance is available via the health exchange, why would an employee need coverage, or why would the employer be required to offer COBRA coverage under an employer plan? Although it seems illogical or conceptually confusing as are many of the requirements under ACA, COBRA is NOT going away. Employers who continue or begin offering group health plans must still comply with COBRA by offering coverage to employees and their family members whenever a “qualifying event” occurs.

Below are the compliance requirements under COBRA.

Qualifying events:

Who: Employee, Spouse, Dependent child up to 18 months

  1. Termination of Employment (voluntary or involuntary) — for reasons other than gross misconduct
  2. Reduction in Hours of Employment (full time to part time)
  3. Divorce or Legal Separation
  4. Death of the Covered Employee

Who: Employee, Spouse, Dependent Child up to 36 months

  1. Employee’s Entitlement to Medicare
  2. Loss of Dependent Child Status Under the Plan
  3. Dependent Child Up to 36 months

Applicable Plans:

The plans below are subject to all COBRA requirements.

  • Medical, dental, and vision plans
  • Prescription drug plans
  • Health flexible spending accounts (FSAs)
  • Health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs)
  • Executive reimbursement plans

The following plans may also be subject to COBRA depending on the design of the plan:

  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs)
  • Cancer policies
  • Employer-sponsored drug and alcohol treatment programs and health clinics
  • Wellness programs

NOTE: Even if an employer stops offering medical insurance, their dental, vision, and other group plans are still subject to COBRA.

DOMA and COBRA

In addition, COBRA has new requirements under the repeal of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act). Prior to the repeal a same-sex spouse was not entitled to COBRA rights as a “spouse”; however, under the new legislation same-sex spouses will now qualify as “qualified beneficiaries” and are independently entitled to COBRA if coverage is lost due to a qualifying event.

Tax Treatment of DOMA

Below are the known tax treatment implications of medical plans regarding same and opposite sex benefits.

A same-sex spouse receives the same federal tax treatment as an opposite-sex spouse, including:

  • Employer-provided health coverage for a spouse is excludable from gross income and wages for payroll tax purposes.
  • Employees may pay their share of the cost of coverage (e.g., medical, dental, vision) for the spouse with pre-tax salary reductions through a Code Section 125 cafeteria plan.
  • Change in status events affecting a spouse will permit an employee to make corresponding mid-year election changes under the cafeteria plan in accordance with Code Section 125.
  • Health care benefits provided to a same-sex spouse through a voluntary employees’ beneficiary association (VEBA) will no longer be considered “disqualified benefits” subject to the “de minimis” rule.
  • Medical care expenses incurred by a spouse are reimbursable on a tax-free basis through a health FSA, HSA, or HRA.
  • Earned income of the spouse is taken into consideration when determining the maximum tax-free benefits available under a dependent care assistance plan. Moreover, the employment status of a spouse will impact the eligibility of child care expenses under a dependent care assistance plan.

Still confused? Contact the Benefits Team at Atlanta Payroll Services today and let us help you get peace of mind. Call 404-920-8668 for FREE consultation.

Posted: 1/2/20140 Entries
Health Exchange Update: Have You Visited Healthcare.gov Lately?
By Gregory C Bennett Sr.

The Health Care Exchanges opened three months ago, with high hopes, albeit with many glitches and frustrations.  Are you curious as to where things stand now that we are ninety days into the program?

Background:
On October 1, 2013, the Health Care Exchanges opened in all states. While some states opted to set up their own Exchanges, the majority of states opted to default to the Federal Exchange or use a Federal/State Hybrid Exchange. Regardless of which system your state has adopted, it is recommended that you start at Healthcare.gov and the site will take you to your state’s Exchange. There are two parts to each State Health Care Exchange:

  1. “Marketplace” - The Marketplace is intended to assist individuals to shop for health insurance, compare rates from various carriers, and learn if they are eligible for a federal premium subsidy. While almost all Americans are permitted to shop in the Marketplace, to be eligible for a premium subsidy, the individual’s family income must be within 400% of the federal poverty level (in 2013 a maximum of $45,960 annual income for individuals and $94,200 for a family of four).  Additionally, to be eligible for a federal premium subsidy, the individual’s employer must not offer an acceptable health plan at an affordable rate, and the cost of that individual’s health plan on the Exchange must exceed 9.5% of the individual’s family income.
  2. Small Business Health Options Program (“SHOP”) - The SHOP is designed to allow small employers (generally those with fifty or fewer employees) beginning in 2014 to shop, compare plans and purchase health insurance for the organization. While the SHOPs are now operational in paper format through insurance brokers, agents and insurers, these features will not be available online for the thirty-six states that default to the Federal Health Care Exchanges until November 2014. Small businesses may participate in the SHOP Exchange with or without the use of a health insurance broker or agent. Whether or not the organization chooses to utilize its insurance broker or licensed agent for assistance in purchasing health insurance in the SHOP, the premium cost will not be impacted. For employers with twenty-five or fewer employees who are eligible for the small business health care tax credit, beginning in 2014 the tax credit is available only for plans purchased through the state’s SHOP Exchange. It is important to note that no business is required to use the SHOP Exchange, it is simply an option.

Statistics through November 30, 2013 (December 2013 data not yet available):

  • According to CBS News, only six (6) Americans enrolled in coverage through the Federal Exchanges on opening day.
  • Approximately 106,000 Americans enrolled in coverage through the Exchanges in October*.
  • Approximately 259,000 Americans enrolled in coverage through the Exchanges in November.*
  • That totals approximately 365,000 enrolled in the first two months since the inception of the Health Care Exchanges.*
  • Officials from President Obama’s Administration have indicated that they are still on track to sign up 7 million people in new coverage plans through the Exchanges by the end of the open enrollment period, which falls on March 31, 2014.
  • Among states operating their own Health Insurance Exchanges, California has had the most enrollees in the first two months at close to 110,000.
  • Among states defaulting to the Federal Exchange, Florida has had the most enrollees in the first two months at around 18,000.
  • According to officials from the Obama Administration, effective December 1, 2013, the Federal Exchange website is capable of handling 50,000 simultaneous users, constituting a maximum of 800,000 users per day.
  • According to the Obama Administration, Federal Exchange webpages that previously took an average of eight seconds to download are now available in a fraction of a second.
If you have not yet visited Healthcare.gov, go ahead and check it out to see for yourself what all of the talk is about. If you have questions regarding Health Care Reform, direct those to your Atlanta Payroll Services Health Insurance Agent/Broker, Health Insurance Carrier, or Human Resources Professional.

* Source: US Department of Health and Human Services combined with USA Today Research.
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Posted: 12/3/20130 Entries
Small Business Health Care Tax Credit Increasing in 2014
By Gregory C Bennett Sr.
Small Business Health Care Tax Credit Increasing in 2014

With much of the recent talk about the Affordable Care Act focusing on the individual mandate, employers may be wondering what, if any, actions they should currently be taking with regard to Health Care Reform. One thing worth doing now is determining if you qualify for a Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. While this credit has been around for several years, in 2014 the amount of the credit is increasing.
 
The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit is intended to encourage small employers to offer health insurance to their employees.  The maximum tax credit was 35% of the employer’s premium payments made on behalf of employees in tax years 2010 – 2013.  However, this credit amount will increase to 50% of the employer’s premium payments beginning in the 2014 tax year.  It is important to note that to be eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit; the employer must have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees making an average of about $50,000 a year or less. To be eligible for the full amount of the tax credit the company must have fewer than 10 full-time equivalent employees making an average of about $25,000 a year or less.  (The Owner may typically be excluded from these calculations.)  To qualify for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit, the employer must pay at least 50% of full-time employees' premium costs (employee only coverage). The employer does not need to offer coverage to part-time employees or to dependents.  Beginning in 2014, only premiums paid by the employer for employees enrolled in a qualified health plan offered through a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP Exchange) are counted when calculating the credit.
 
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Posted: 12/2/20130 Entries
Labor Laws: Atlanta Payroll Services HR Pros What’s coming in 2014?
By Gregory C Bennett Sr.
 
 
 
It’s vital for your senior management team to stay abreast of changing labor laws that may affect your organization.  The beginning of the calendar year is a popular time for labor law changes that impact companies of all size.  To enable employers to stay informed of what’s coming down the pipeline, we have summarized a few major upcoming federal labor law changes here for your review:

Health Care Reform – This is certainly the most rapidly changing area of federal labor law at this time.  A few Health Care Reform provisions that go into effect on 1/1/2014 include:

1) 90-Day Waiting Period – For plans renewing on or after 1/1/2014, employers are required to offer a waiting period of 90 calendar days or less.  This applies to employers of all sizes that sponsor a group health plan.  It is important to note that companies currently utilizing a waiting period of “the first of the month following 90 days” will be required to change their waiting period at their next renewal, as this amount of time exceeds the 90-calendar day requirement.  Such organizations may wish to consider changing their waiting period to “the first of the month following 60 days” or keep the waiting period at 90 days, but allow for mid-month enrollments on the 90th calendar day. 

2) Individual Mandate – Arguably the most controversial area of Health Care Reform, this provision is set to go into effect on 1/1/2014.  The Individual Mandate requires that nearly all Americans secure health insurance coverage or face a tax penalty.  A tax penalty will be accessed if the individual goes without coverage for three months or longer in the 2014 calendar year.  For the 2014 calendar year, the penalty is the greater of $95 per uninsured person or 1% of taxable household income.   If your employees have technical questions regarding the individual mandate or applicable penalties, we recommend referring them to their personal tax professionals.  

3) Flexible Spending Account Changes – The maximum that an employee will be permitted to contribute to a medical Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is $2500 for the 2014 calendar year.   This will not limit the amount that an employer may contribute to an employee’s medical FSA.   In addition, the federal government has changed the rules slightly with respect to the “use it or lose it” provision that applies to medical FSAs.  Currently, any money that is left in an account at the end of the calendar year is automatically forfeited. Beginning in 2014, however, up to $500 can be rolled over to the following year. There is one downside of the new carryover allowance, though; if a plan takes advantage of the carryover, it may no longer use a grace period to allow prior year balances to cover expenses incurred during the first two and a half months of the current year. Any pre-set grace period will need to be eliminated once the carryover provision is implemented.  It’s important to note that employers make the choice as to whether they would like to continue using the grace period or allow the $500 roll over, and it applies to all employees within the organization.   

Minimum Wage Increases – January 1st is a popular time for states to increase the minimum wage.  The Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center will publish a 2014 minimum wage increase guide once we have current information regarding 2014 minimum wage increases, so look for that in December.  Also, please make sure you are enrolled in the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center’s e-Alert program so that you will receive an alert should the minimum wage in your state experience an increase.  (To sign up, simply log into your HR Support Center and click on “My Account” and then “e-Alerts.”)

State-Specific Laws – Some states will experience other labor law changes beginning in 2014, such as changes to E-Verify requirements, social media laws, statutory leave laws, posting requirements, etc.  So again, it’s important to sign up for the HR Support Center’s e-Alerts for all states in which you conduct business. 

The Atlanta Payroll Services HR Pros of the HR Support Center are here to support you during these changing times.  Rest assured that whenever a labor law is modified, the HR Pros update the law summary in the “Laws” section of the HR Support Center.  Also, for major and/or far-reaching labor law changes, we also send out an e-Alert to your e-mail address.
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Posted: 11/29/20130 Entries
Anti-Anti-Bullying in the Workplace Atlanta Payroll Company
By Gregory C Bennett Sr.
Anti-Anti-Bullying in the Workplace

In order to enforce a workplace environment free from intimidation, the implementation of an anti-harassment policy as well as an anti-bullying policy should be a component of every employer’s workplace policies.  Workplace bullying has steadily been on the rise in the past few years and has been only recently publicized as a serious concern. Clearly stating the disciplinary consequences of workplace bullying and providing resources of support to employees who have been victimized by bullying behavior will assist the employer in successful development of a well-crafted anti-bullying workplace policy.  Please visit the Atlanta Payroll Company HR Support Center for guidelines on developing an Anti-Bullying policy that will fit the needs of your workplace.

Bullying in the Workplace


In order to enforce a workplace environment free from intimidation, the implementation of an anti-harassment policy as well as an anti-bullying policy should be a component of every employer’s workplace policies.  Workplace bullying has steadily been on the rise in the past few years and has been only recently publicized as a serious concern. Clearly stating the disciplinary consequences of workplace bullying and providing resources of support to employees who have been victimized by bullying behavior will assist the employer in successful development of a well-crafted anti-bullying workplace policy.  Please visit the Atlanta Payroll Company HR Support Center for guidelines on developing an Anti-Bullying policy that will fit the needs of your workplace.
 
Contact Atlanta Payroll Services at 40.920.8668

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Posted: 11/29/20130 Entries
Atlanta Payroll Services Employee Benefits Tips
By Gregory C Bennett Sr.

The IRS has issued a notice which modifies the “use-or-lose” rule that applies to health flexible spending accounts (health FSAs). Currently, any money that is left in an account at the end of the calendar year is automatically forfeited. Beginning in 2014, however, up to $500 can be rolled over to the following year. The maximum yearly allowable amount will remain the same in 2014 at $2500. The maximum allowed amount is in addition to any unused balance carried over.

There is one downside of the new carryover allowance, though: If a plan takes advantage of the carryover, it may no longer use a grace-period to allow prior year balances to cover expenses incurred during the first two and a half months of the current year. Any grace-period provision will need to be eliminated once the carryover provision is implemented.

As always, it is our pleasure to assist you!

Provided courtesy of your Atlanta Payroll Services HR Pros.
 
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Posted: 11/29/20130 Entries
Atlanta Payroll Services HR Pros OSHA Tips
By Gregory C Bennett Sr.
Are you ready for OSHA’s new Hazard Communication Standard? The United States is changing from having its own separate system to using the international UN standards for the labeling of chemicals and will now use the international Safety Data Sheet (SDS) format, as opposed to the old Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) format. OSHA is phasing in the specific requirements of the Hazard Communication Standard over several years (December 1, 2013 to June 1, 2016). The first employer compliance date in this process is December 1, 2013. By that time employers must have trained their workers on the new label elements and the SDS format.
If your employees have access to chemicals in their workplace, you are required to keep updated Safety Data Sheets available. These can be obtained from your chemical supplier and must be in a binder with a Table of Contents that is kept in a location in the workplace that is quickly accessible by all employees. The employee training that must be completed by this December 1st is required because the new Safety Data Sheets look somewhat different from the old Material Safety Data Sheets.

For more information, see the “OSHA Hazard Communication Standard Final Rule Fact Sheet” the “OSHA Training Requirements for December 2013” in the Guides section under the Essentials tab in the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center. We have also created an “OSHA Safety Data Sheets (SDS) & Labeling Training Acknowledgement” for your use which can be found under the Forms section of the Essentials tab in the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center.

 As always, it is our pleasure to assist you!

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Posted: 11/21/20130 Entries
Top Five HR-Related Concerns for Atlanta Small Business Owners
By Gregory C Bennett Sr.

Based on the feedback we hear from our small business clients on a daily basis, we have compiled a list of the top five fears that Atlanta Small Business Owners face going into 2014. Below are a few tips of the trade to assist Atlanta employers in these areas.

1.            Finding the Right People. Many Atlanta employers are currently expressing the opinion that while unemployment rates are still somewhat high compared with historical levels, all of the desirable employees are taken. However, the data shows that there is a promising market out there for talented job candidates, both employed and unemployed. Remember, your best (and most cost-effective) recruiting source is always your current employees, so start by asking if they know anyone who would make a good job candidate. You may even want to financially incentivize current employees who bring you successful new employees. If starting internally does not work, consider using your professional organization’s job listing service, rather than a general one. Also, be prepared to invest substantial time reviewing and sorting job application and resume submissions when seeking prospective candidates. In your interviewing process, remember that the best predictor of future job performance is past performance. To that end, consider using a behavioral-based interviewing technique and don’t forget to run a background check as well as verify the candidate’s references.

2.            Staying on Top of Health Care Reform Legislation. We hear you. This legislation is complex and far-reaching. However, your Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center is a great resource for you during these changing times in the health care landscape. We recommend starting with the Health Care Reform Acts: Summary Sheet and the Health Care Reform Timeline: Employer Guide. These two documents will provide you with a thorough overview of the Affordable Care Act provisions. Additionally, make sure you are signed up for our E-Alerts. These will help you to stay abreast of new requirements and provisions that may affect your employees. Your most recent compliance requirement was to distribute the Notice of Exchanges and Subsidies to all employees by October 1, 2013. If you missed this deadline, you dodged a proverbial bullet as no penalties have been enacted at this time for late notification to employees. However, you will want to ensure these documents are disseminated to your employees as soon as possible in order to avoid any civil liability. The Model Notice Templates are located in the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center. If you have questions about these Notices, see our Notice of Exchanges and Subsidies FAQ which is also housed in the Support Center.

3.            Losing Top Performers. Now that the job market is picking up some momentum, many employers have expressed concern about losing their most valued and productive employees. While different surveys report varying results, generally the top five factors impacting employee workplace satisfaction are 1) the employee’s relationship with his/her direct manager, 2) the employee’s salary, 3) the employee’s benefit plans, 4) the employee’s opportunity to use his/her skills and abilities, and 5) the employee’s opportunity for advancement. We recommend completing an audit of your workplace and give yourself a grade on each of these factors as they relate to your top performers. You may need to consider making some adjustments to your organization’s pay structure, benefit offerings, management style, job duties and/or career planning based on the outcome of your workplace audit.

4.            Being Sued by a Disgruntled Employee. This fear is always in the back of a small business owner’s mind. It is imperative to ensure that your workplace is free from discrimination and harassment. Your best chance at successfully defending an employee lawsuit is to secure documentation that would prove to a reasonable person that the employee was treated fairly and consistently with company policy. Remember, juries are made up of primarily employees, not employers. Having the ability and documentation to demonstrate that the company treats its employees impartially and consistently goes a long way in terms of reducing an employer’s exposure to liability. The Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center has several helpful documents to assist you with documenting poor performance and it also contains numerous guides and checklists to help you coach, counsel and terminate underperforming employees. Additionally, you may consider purchasing an Employment Practices Liability Insurance policy to assist you in covering your expenses should you have to defend a claim.

5.            Department of Labor Audits. It is crucial to stay abreast of federal and state labor laws that impact your business. Incorporating a practice of performing internal HR audits is beneficial in preparing an organization for any claims or workplace incidents that may put an organization to the test.   It is also essential to have a Human Resources Professional readily accessible to whom you may field your labor law compliance concerns. Complying with immigration laws, wage and hour laws as well as benefit laws is complex, but a knowledgeable Atlanta HR Professional or Attorney will provide you guidance and ensure that your organization remains in compliance with the labor laws that apply to your business. This will, additionally, help ensure that your company passes a DOL audit with flying colors.

Nothing can completely eradicate employee-related concerns from an Atlanta small business owner’s mind. Hopefully, though, these tips will allow you to sleep more soundly at night, even if only a little more peacefully.

Call Atlanta Payroll Services today at 404 920-8668.

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Posted: 8/6/20130 Entries
Interested In Becoming A Better Business Leader?
By Gregory C Bennett Sr.
Read This Leadership may seem like something innate within certain gifted individuals, and which cannot be manufactured or duplicated. However, there are particular traits and qualities possessed by strong leaders that really can be learned and emulated to great result. Review the tips found below and you can learn how to take the lead and achieve business success starting today.
 
When trying to be a good leader, it is important to listen to what other people have to say. Your opinions or ideas aren't guaranteed to be great just because you're a leader. If you listen to other ideas or opinions, you may find that the people around also may have great ideas that could work well with yours. Never assume that your employees read minds.
 
Communication is important. You should let your workers know how you expect a project to be completed. This will let people know that it is okay to approach for help if they don't understand everything.
TIP! Build trust in your ability to be a strong leader. Let your employees see you work.
When you're a leader, you'll need to be accountable. If you make a mistake, admit it and move on. It can be easy to push the blame onto other people, but this should really be avoided. If you're accountable when you've made a mistake, the people around you will feel the need to be more accountable if they've made a mistake. Service Consider holding monthly contests among your employees.
 
These contests can be based on the most sales, the best customer service or a variety of things. The prizes for the contests can be something as simple as a preferred parking place or as extravagant as an additional paid day off. Make sure that people know that you want the team's success. If you're in a position of power, some may suspect that you only want glory for yourself. That's why it is important to do things that let others know you are on their side, and that your leadership will produce good results for everyone.
TIP! A good leader should be someone who is approachable. People often make the mistake of believing that intimidation is a good leadership strategy.
Don't be dishonest or devious. Never fail to live up to your promises.
 
When you claim the best services around, show the people that you mean what you say. Your employees must understand what it means to be the best. You may feel as though leaders are born, not made. But, the truth is that leadership skills can be studied, practiced and honed to perfection by anyone willing to dedicate themselves to the effort. Keep the tips and advice you have just read close at and, and you can succeed beyond your wildest dreams.
 
 
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Posted: 7/20/20130 Entries
Workplace Wellness Programs
By Atlanta Payroll Services
93% According to the Workplace Wellness Programs in Small Businesses: Impacting the Bottom Line 2012 study, 93% of small employers consider their employees’ physical and mental health to be important to their financial results, but only one-third express confidence in their ability to help employees manage their well-being. (Source: Humana and the National Small Business Association)
Posted: 5/29/20130 Entries
Managing Vacation Requests
By The HR Pros at Atlanta Payroll Services

“But it’s my Cousin’s Wedding”: Managing Vacation Requests - Atlanta Payroll Services

It is often difficult to strike that perfect balance between allowing employees some degree of flexibility to take vacations, while ensuring adequate coverage in the workplace. Employers also find it difficult to juggle multiple vacation requests around popular vacation times. Below we have listed a few tips, suggestions and best practices to ensure the vacation plan works well for both the employer and its employees.
 
If your business is highly seasonal in nature, you may wish to enact a policy requiring employees to use all or a specific amount of vacation during the slow months. For example, if your workflow significantly decreases in the first quarter of the year, you may consider stating in your vacation policy that employees are required to use at least half of their annual vacation allotment during this time period. The same holds true for limiting or prohibiting the use of paid vacation during traditionally busy seasons.
 
It is also suggested to consider ahead of time the procedure to determine which employee(s) will be granted time off when multiple vacation requests are submitted for the same dates. Some methods employers incorporate to make these difficult decisions are approving vacation leave on a “first come, first served” basis or using seniority as the deciding factor. 
 
Employers are permitted to designate vacation time based on the needs of the organization. Employers that close for certain weeks during the year often use this method of vacation management. For example, if the company closes for the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, the company may require all employees to save five days of vacation time to use during this period. 
 
With respect to notification of vacation time requests, many employers request a specific amount of time, such as a minimum of two weeks’ notice of submission for time off from work. Other employers prefer to plan vacations on a yearly basis and ask employees to submit all vacation requests for the calendar year in January.
 
Whatever methods the organization applies for handling vacation requests, we recommend that the management team clearly communicates the company’s policy and reasoning behind it to employees so they may plan their vacations accordingly. Clear communication and consistent application of the vacation policy are crucial to avoid potential morale problems or discrimination charges based on the administration of the organization’s vacation policy.
 
For more information, contact the HR Pros at Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 5/27/20130 Entries
Payroll Services Travel Time Guide
By The HR Pros at Atlanta Payroll Services

Tool of the Month:

Payroll Services Travel Time Guide
 
Employers should understand and apply proper determinations impacting compensable “travel-time” for non-exempt employees who travel as a part of their job duties. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) a non-exempt employee must be paid for all hours the employee is “suffered or permitted to work.” Utilize the Travel Time Guide to understand compensable time in the following circumstances:

  • Home to work travel
  • Travel during the workday/in-town
  • Overnight travel
  • Same day travel/out of town
To download the Travel Time Guide, visit the HR Support Center, Essentials Tab or call Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 5/23/20130 Entries
New Hire Reporting Processes – Getting Your Employee on Board
By The HR Pros at Atlanta Payroll Services
New Hire Reporting Processes – Getting Your Employee on Board
 

Atlanta Payroll Services - HR Tips
 
As an employer, you and your hiring managers know the extensive process of hiring new employees.  New Hire reporting is a process by which an employer reports information on newly hired employees to a designated state agency following the date of hire. As an employer, you play a key role in this important program by reporting all your newly hired employees to your state. It is important to ensure that either you or your payroll provider is performing this task each time you hire a new employee.  State agencies operating employment security, child support enforcement and workers' compensation programs have access to the state New Hire information to enforce the laws and detect and prevent erroneous benefit payments. As an employer, you and your hiring managers know the extensive process of hiring new employees. 
 
New Hire reporting is a process by which an employer reports information on newly hired employees to a designated state agency following the date of hire. As an employer, you play a key role in this important program by reporting all your newly hired employees to your state. It is important to ensure that either you or your payroll provider is performing this task each time you hire a new employee.  State agencies operating employment security, child support enforcement and workers' compensation programs have access to the state New Hire information to enforce the laws and detect and prevent erroneous benefit payments.
 
For more information, contact the HR Pros at Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668 today.
Posted: 5/21/20130 Entries
Health care reform penalties
By The HR Pros at Atlanta Payroll Services

Please take note of the following:

Atlanta payroll Services, health care reform Q&A

 
Question: We have over 50 employees=2E Is it true that = we may face health care reform penalties even if we do offer health ins= urance coverage in 2014? Answer: Yes, an organization with 50 or more employees may still face H= ealth Care Reform penalties from the Federal Government if it does not = offer "minimum essential coverage" at an "affordable rate"=2E So what = is "minimum essential coverage"? And what is an "affordable rate"? "Minimum essential coverage" refers exclusively to the health insurance= plan design, not how much the employer contributes to the plan=2E In = order to offer minimum essential coverage under the federal law, the he= alth insurance carrier must pay for at least 60% of treatment costs, co= mmonly referred to as a health plan with a 60% actuarial minimum value=2E= In the coming months, you will probably hear this level of plan refer= red to as a "bronze level" plan=2E =20 On the other hand, "affordable" coverage has everything to do with how = much the employer contributes to the plan=2E It is a common misconcept= ion that a large company is required to contribute a specific percentag= e to each employee=E2=80=99s health insurance plan (such as 50%, 60% or= 75%)=2E Rather, the federal law requires that the organization contri= butes enough so that the employee=E2=80=99s portion of the premium for = employee-only health insurance coverage for the "bronze level or richer= " plan is no more 9=2E5% of the employee's total household income=2E S= ince employers generally do not know an employee=E2=80=99s total househ= old income, there is a safe harbor in place for 2014 stating that emplo= yees have access to "affordable coverage" as long as the employee=E2=80= =99s portion of the premium for single coverage for the "bronze level o= r richer" plan is equal to or less than 9=2E5% of the employee=E2=80=99= s reported W-2 wages=2E If you have questions regarding penalty amounts and calculations, pleas= e reach out to your Human Resources Professional, Accounting Profession= al or Health Insurance Broker=2E
Posted: 5/13/20130 Entries
Atlanta Payroll Services small business alert:
By HR Pros

Atlanta Payroll Services small business alert:

On May 7, 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the National Labor Review Board's ("NLRB") notice rule, which requires private sector employers under its jurisdiction to display a large poster notifying employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act, because: (1) it violates employers’ rights to engage in non-coercive speech; and (2) the tolling provision of the poster rule, which tolled the six-month limitations period for filing unfair labor practice charges, was not supported by any authority. The NLRB's August 2011 rule made the failure to display the notice an unfair labor practice under the NLRA. Unless and until the United States Supreme Court says otherwise, employers have no obligation to post notices of employee rights under the NLRA.

 As always, it is our pleasure to assist you!

Provided courtesy of your HR Pros at Atlanta Payroll Services.
Posted: 3/8/20130 Entries
IRS Independent Contractor Checklist- Atlanta Payroll Services
By Staff at Atlanta Payroll Services

IRS Independent Contractor Checklist   
 
Misclassification of an employee as an Independent Contractor may result in significant fines and penalties. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) uses 20 factors to determine whether or not an employer has enough control over a worker for that individual to be classified as an employee. Designed only as a guideline, this checklist can help determine:

  • Behavioral control (factors pertaining to job instructions, training, etc.)
  • Financial control (factors pertaining to investment, expenses, profit/loss opportunities, etc.)
  • Relationship of the parties (employee benefits, written contracts, etc.) 

To download the IRS Independent Contractor Checklist, refer to your HR Support Center Essential tab at Atlanta Payroll Services.

 
Posted: 3/7/20130 Entries
Helping Employees find the Greener Pasture: Your Side of the Fence
By Staff at Atlanta Payroll Services

Helping Employees find the Greener Pasture: Your Side of the Fence

In the past few years, many companies have had to tighten their budgets in lieu of further downsizing their employee headcount as a result of the economic recession that fell onto the US during the last quarter of 2007. Consequently, organizational strategy focused on lean workforces with employees often juggling multiple roles without seeing an increase in pay or promotion in job title. Due to the fact that most companies were not hiring during those troubled years, workers simply put up with the burgeoning workloads in their current jobs. Morale often suffered, but it went by the wayside as employers struggled to keep afloat and employees realized all too well that there were few alternatives in the job market. 
 
As the economy has seen a rebirth of job creation in many sectors, employers have been hiring again but also focusing on the damage of the past few years. Many employees who were exemplary performers often did not receive financial incentives during the recession years. These workers may now be seeking opportunities outside of the organization, especially if they continue to feel unappreciated, overburdened and if they have not yet seen a significant upturn in their compensation.
 
Employee engagement is a challenge that many companies are currently facing as a result of the recession’s aftermath. Organizations seeking to retain top talent and to recruit employees who will remain loyal to the organization must incorporate employee recognition programs that will motivate workers to highly perform as well as encourage loyalty to the organization. For this reason, employers must enact a strategic program to increase workplace morale.
 
When managers openly and effectively acknowledge the efforts made by their staff and communicate their appreciation of employees’ hard work, it showcases to personnel that their productivity has been noticed and valued by the employer.  Organizations that have integrated employee recognition programs into practice are more likely to utilize the programs in recognizing workers for their accomplishments. 
 
By partnering with Human Resources professionals, the management team will be able to execute an employee recognition program that will promote accolades to staff members for their dedication, as well as motivate others to strive toward excellence in their roles. 
 
Employers, historically, have been challenged with employee retention. Today’s hurdles are magnified by the low employee morale facing many organizations as well as the resurfacing business market.  The combination of these two factors leaves many organizations vulnerable to losing top talent and appropriate, thoughtful processes must be put into place in order to infuse the company’s culture with a positive, motivating program that will encourage employee loyalty.
 
Replacing top performers is difficult, expensive and time consuming.  As many companies are still feeling the effects of the recent recession, focusing on budgets is still a priority within the operating costs of a majority of organizations, large and small.  With careful planning and implementation, an employee recognition program will build and increase worker morale as well as help alleviate an exodus of valuable personnel as hiring begins to increase again.  Organizations that remain ahead of the curve and prepare for future hiring trends by incorporating employee recognition programs to enhance employee morale and make employees feel valued by the employer will help reduce the number of employees that may have otherwise left the company in search of greener pastures.
 
 
For more information contact Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 3/6/20130 Entries
HR Questions & Answer - Atlanta Payroll Company
By Staff at Atlanta Payroll Services

Question & Answer

Workplace Flair and Required Uniforms:  Who Pays for Damages?
 
Q: How should employers handle uniforms? Can employees be required to pay for them at the time of hire and can the costs for lost or damaged uniforms be deducted from an employee’s wages?
 
A:  Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employer may prorate deductions for the cost of the uniform over a period of paydays provided the prorated deductions do not reduce the employee's wages below the required minimum wage or overtime compensation in any workweek. Uniforms or other items which are considered to be for the benefit or convenience of the employer may not be included as wages.  Additionally, the FLSA does not require that employees wear uniforms. If this is a business requirement, the cost and maintenance of the uniform is considered to be an expense of the employer.  If an employee damages or fails to return a uniform to an employer, the employee may not be required to pay for any of its costs if such a reduction would result in the employee’s wages being reduced to below the required minimum wage plus overtime, if applicable. This provision is effective even if the economic loss to the employer is due to th! e employee’s negligence. The information here is simply a summary of the federal law regarding wage deductions for employee uniforms. Many states have more restrictive, state-specific laws in place.
Posted: 3/5/20130 Entries
The Employer Mandate - Atlanta Payroll Services - HR Support
By Staff at Atlanta Payroll Services

The Employer Mandate

From an employer’s perspective, this is most likely the most feared aspect of Health Care Reform. In fact, the overwhelming majority of our Health Care Reform-related questions to date in 2013 have covered this topic.  So the purpose of this article is to answer some of our most commonly asked questions surrounding the Employer Mandate in very clear terms. 
   
The “Employer Mandate” is the provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that requires “large” employers to provide health insurance to their full-time employees (those working 30 or more hours per week) or face a penalty.  A “large” employer is defined as one that has an average of 50 or more “full time equivalent” employees on business days during the preceding calendar year. To calculate whether your organization is covered by the employer mandate, you must look at the twelve months of the preceding calendar year to determine the average number of full-time equivalents you employed over those months.  Part time employees are considered fractions of full time employees for the purpose of the employer mandate calculation. Lastly, seasonal workers are excluded unless they work for the employer for more than 120 days. 
 
The formula for determining full time equivalent employees is:
 
Part-time Employee Equivalents (Total Monthly Part-Time Hours/120) + Full-time Employees (30 hours/week or more) – Owners (Sole proprietors, Partners in a Partnership, Members of LLCs Taxed as a Partnership,  and Shareholders who own two percent or more in an S Corporation) = Full Time Equivalent Employees. 
 
Should you determine that your organization will average less than 50 full-time equivalent employees in 2013 (using the above calculation), you are not required to offer health insurance to employees in 2014, and, if you do offer health insurance, the federal law does not require that you offer any minimum employer contribution amount. It is important to note, however, that your state law or your insurance carrier may have minimum employer contribution requirements in order to participate in group health plans, but these are unrelated to the federal Health Care Reform laws.
 
Should you determine that your organization will average at least 50 full-time equivalent employees in 2013 (using the above calculation), you will be required to offer “minimum essential health insurance coverage” at an “affordable rate” to all full time employees (those working at least 30 hours per week) in 2014.  While part time employees are included fractionally in the calculation, the federal law does not require the employer to offer health coverage to part-time employees.  So what is “minimum essential coverage?” And what is an “affordable rate?”
 
“Minimum essential coverage” refers exclusively to the health insurance plan design, not how much the employer contributes to the plan.  In order to offer minimum essential coverage under the federal law, the health insurance carrier must pay for at least 60% of treatment costs, commonly referred to as a health plan with a 60% actuarial minimum value.  In the coming months, you will probably hear this level of plan referred to as a “bronze level” plan. 
 
On the other hand, “affordable” coverage has everything to do with how much the employer contributes to the plan.  It is a common misconception that a large employer is required to contribute a specific percentage to each employee’s health insurance plan (such as 50%, 60% or 75%).  Rather, the federal law requires that the company contribute enough so that the employee’s portion of the premium for employee-only coverage of the bronze level or richer plan is no more 9.5% of the employee's total household income.  Since employers generally do not know an employee’s total household income, there is a safe harbor in place for 2014 stating that employees have access to “affordable coverage” as long as the employee’s portion of the premium for single coverage for the bronze level plan is equal to or less than 9.5% of the employee’s W-2 wages.
 
It is certainly time to calculate your organization’s projected full time equivalent employees in 2013 to determine if your business will be subject to the employer mandate in 2014.  Remember, your Human Resources Professional, your Health Insurance Broker and your Accounting Professional are all great resources for your questions in this regard.
 
Contact Atlanta Payroll Service HR Support Center for help with your Georgia small business at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 3/4/20130 Entries
Exchanges and Subsidies - DOL Final Rule on AFCTCA,FMLA - HIPAA Regulations
By

HR Alerts

Notice of Exchanges and Subsidies: Delayed. According to the original Health Care Reform Acts, effective March 1, 2013, employers of all sizes were required to provide each newly hired employee with a written notice of the existence of health insurance exchanges and potential subsidies available (Notice of Exchanges and Subsidies). This notice was, subsequently, required to be provided to all current employees. However, on January 24, 2013, the US Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it has delayed the compliance date for the delivery of this document. The DOL estimates that the notices (for both newly hired and current employees) will be mandated in either late summer or early fall of 2013. The DOL will publish and release a model notice prior to the new deadline. Please watch for future E-Alerts from the HR Support Center as the facts and timelines continue to evolve regarding the Health Care Reform Acts.
 
DOL Final Rule on AFCTCA. Effective March 8, 2013, the Department of Labor (DOL) has published a Final Rule implementing the changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) made by the Airline Flight Crew Technical Corrections Act (AFCTCA). The AFCTCA amended the FMLA to incorporate a special eligibility provision for airline flight crewmembers and flight attendants. The DOL clarifies how the FMLA applies to airline personnel and flight crews since those employees work in an industry with a unique system of setting work hours. The new rule explains how to calculate the required number of labor hours airline employees must fulfill within a 12-month period in order to be eligible for leave covered by the FMLA.

 

DOL Final Rule on FMLA Military Amendments. Effective March 8, 2013, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a Final Rule implementing the changes to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) made by the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The 2010 NDAA, amended the FMLA's military caregiver leave provision to permit eligible employees to take leave to care for certain veterans with a serious injury or illness incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, which manifested before or after the veteran left active duty. It also now allows military caregiver leave for current service members with a serious injury or illness that existed prior to service and that was aggravated by service in the line of duty on active duty. In addition, the NDAA expanded the qualifying exigency provision to permit eligible employees to take qualifying exigency leave for covered family members in the Regular Armed Forces and added a foreign deployment requirement ! for qualifying exigency leave for all military members (National Guard, Reserves and Regular Armed Forces). For additional information on this subject, contact an HR Professional.

FMLA Forms Update. Effective March 8, 2013, employers should begin to utilize the updated Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) forms (revised February 2013) released by the Department of Labor (DOL), when applicable. The updated forms are: FMLA Form WH-381 (Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities), FMLA Form WH-384 (Certification of Qualifying Exigency for Military Family Leave), FMLA Form WH-385 (Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of Current Servicemember for Military Family Leave) and FMLA Form WH-385-V (Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of a Veteran for Military Caregiver Leave). The forms may be downloaded directly from the HR Support Center, HR Forms Section.

FMLA Notice Poster Update. Effective March 8, 2013, there are changes to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requirements. All employers covered by FMLA must display the updated FMLA notice poster, “Employee Rights and Responsibilities under the Family and Medical Leave Act” (WHD Publication 1420, revised February 2013), in a conspicuous area easily visible to all employees and applicants for employment. The poster summarizes the major provisions of the FMLA. In addition, it must be displayed at all locations an employer conducts business, regardless if there are fewer than 50 employees employed within a 75-mile radius of the worksite. If the employer chooses to utilize electronic postings to satisfy the posting requirement, this method is permissible only if the requirements of the regulations are met. The new FMLA notice poster is available in the HR Support Center in a downloadable format.

HIPAA Regulations Updates. Effective March 26, 2013, updates to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations may impact certain employers. These regulations are based on changes under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, enacted as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA). Although comprehensive, some key updates expand HIPAA security and privacy standards to business associates, shift the default format for patients to receive requested records from paper to electronic, reduce the paperwork necessary for patients to release health information to third parties, decrease the threshold for security breach notification, increase penalties for noncompliance, and prohibit the sale of protected health information for fundraising and marketing purposes. Note: Covered entities and business associates mus! t generally comply with the applicable requirements of the final regulations by September 23, 2013.

 
For more information about how Atlanta Payroll Services can help your small Georgia Business contact us at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 1/7/20130 Entries
Employer Sponsored Health Plans
By Atlanta Payroll Services

59%

 According to the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, conducted annually by Mercer and released November 2012, there was an increase of employers offering healthcare coverage in 2012: it rose from 55% to 59%. In 2013, due to the impact of health care reform, 56% of employers stated they would consider a private insurance exchange (as opposed to a state health care exchange) for either their active or retired employees.

Contact Atlanta Payroll Services to find out how we can help you with your employer sponsored benefits.

Posted: 1/3/20130 Entries
Employee Handbooks
By Atlanta Payroll Services

Employee Handbook

Employee Handbooks are an essential part of any organization’s operations. Whether a company is large or small, a newly minted start-up or a well-established bastion of the corporate landscape, having a current handbook that encompasses an organization’s policies and practices as well as one that is compliant with state and federal laws is a crucial aspect of any organization. 

Be sure to visit the HR Support Center, and listen to this month's HRCast to learn more about this topic.

Posted: 1/2/20130 Entries
Form I-9 - Atlanta Businesses
By Atlanta Payroll Services

Atlanta businesses listen up, until further notice, employers should continue using the Form I-9 currently available in the HR Support Center (even though the OMB control number expiration date of August 31, 2012 has passed). The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will provide updated information about the new version of the Form I-9 as it becomes available. Employers must complete the Form I-9 for all newly-hired employees to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States.

Posted: 1/1/2013
Compliance Posters
By

Don’t Play Hide-and-Seek with those Compliance Posters

Happy New Year 2013! Be sure to have your 2013 Federal and State Labor Law Compliance Posters in a common area that is frequented by employees to ensure easy accessibility to this information.    
 
Get on FREE today by contacting Atlanta Payroll Services.
Posted: 1/1/20130 Entries
New Years Tips From Atlanta Payroll HR Professionals
By Atlanta Payroll Services

New Year’s Tips from Your Atlanta Payroll Services  Human Resources Professionals

The beginning of a new year is a great time to internally audit some of your HR-related practices. The following are a few tips to get you started:

Employee Handbook – It is not a bad idea to have an HR Professional review your handbook annually for compliance issues. Also, if there are any policies that you would like to edit, the beginning of the year makes for a clean break for new policy implementation. If you do not have a handbook, the first of the year is the perfect time to create and implement one into your organization.

Paid Time Off Benefits – If you are looking at making some changes to your paid time off benefits (i.e. vacation, sick, personal leave and holidays), the beginning of the calendar year is typically the best time to do so.  One of the more popular changes that we have seen in recent years is the transition away from a traditional vacation, sick and personal leave benefit policy in favor of a more flexible, all-inclusive “Paid Time Off” or “PTO” policy.  Feel free to reach out to your HR Professional regarding the benefits and drawbacks of making such a change. Additionally, we recommend sending all employees the 2013 holiday schedule at the beginning of the year so they may plan accordingly.

Performance Management System – The start of a new year is also a great time to determine when annual performance reviews will be conducted. Some businesses prefer to conduct such reviews throughout the year on or around each employee’s anniversary date. Others prefer to choose a month during the year (perhaps when business is typically slower) to conduct reviews for all employees.

Health Care Reform Requirements – Most likely, your next Health Care Reform task will be to issue an “Exchange and Subsidy Notice” to each employee on or before March 1, 2013. It is important to ensure that you have determined the best method to distribute such notices. You may also wish to speak with your insurance broker or carrier to determine if their organization will be available to answer employee questions arising out of these notices. 

Posters – A few states have recently experienced poster updates.  We recommend reviewing the list of required posters (both federal and state-level) and ensuring that your business has all of the required posters posted in a conspicuous location within your workplace. To review the posters required for your state, simply log in to your HR Support Center and view the “Laws” tab.

OSHA 300A Summary – Many employers are required to complete an annual Summary of Workplace Illnesses and Injuries (OSHA 300A) and post it in a conspicuous workplace location from February 1st – April 30th annually. If you had ten or fewer employees during all of the last calendar year (2012) or if your business is classified in a specific low-hazard industry, you are not subject to this requirement.

Hopefully, these beginning-of-the-year tips will assist you in establishing your Human Resources priorities and improve your organization’s Human Resources functions this year.  Please let us know how we can help.  We wish you much success in 2013!

Posted: 1/1/20130 Entries
Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors Work Opportunity Tax Credits
By Atlanta Payroll Services

On November 21, 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the Veterans Opportunity to Work (VOW) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011. Section 261 of the Act, the “Returning Heroes and Wounded Warriors Work Opportunity Tax Credits” amends and expands the definition of WOTC’s Veteran target groups. The VOW Act extended the WOTC Veteran group and created two unemployed categories with increased wages and tax credits to generate employment opportunities for veterans through December 31, 2012. The U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration (ETA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have been coordinating the implementation of these provisions by the states and certification applications submitted by employers.

Posted: 12/31/20120 Entries
Employer Background Check
By Atlanta Payroll

Federal Law Alert

Please take note of the following:

Attention Atlanta businesses, Effective January 1, 2013, employers must use updated federal forms as part of their employer background check process, as responsibility for interpreting the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) transfers from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to the newly-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Three new forms have been updated and are available in the HR Support Center: (1) Summary of Rights under the FCRA, (2) Notice to Users of Consumer Reports of their Obligations under the FCRA, and (3) Notice to Furnishers of Information of their Obligations under the FCRA. Except for these technical changes, there are no new substantive obligations affecting those subject to the existing FCRA regulations.

As always, it is our pleasure to assist you!

Provided courtesy of your Atlanta HR Pros.

Posted: 12/31/20120 Entries
New FSA Rules
By Atlanta Payroll

Attention Atlanta Businesses, effective January 1, 2013, employee pre-tax contributions to Health FSAs will be limited to $2,500 per calendar year. For subsequent years, this amount will be indexed to CPI. Employers with non-calendar year health care FSAs may keep higher reimbursement limits in effect through the end of their 2012-2013 plan year.

Posted: 12/31/20120 Entries
Standard Mialage Rate
By

Georgia businesses need to know, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) optional standard mileage rate of 55.5 cents/mile for business miles expires on December 31, 2012. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the 2013 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. Effective January 1, 2013, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be: 56.5 cents per mile for business miles drive, 24 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, and 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

Posted: 12/31/20120 Entries
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
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Effective January 1, 2013, an additional Medicare tax will impact employers and payroll service providers. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) increases the Medicare tax rate on wages by 0.9% (from the current rate of 1.45% to 2.35%) for higher-income individuals starting in 2013. This Medicare payroll tax increase applies to wages over $200,000 for single tax filers and $250,000 for couples filing jointly ($125,000 for a married individual filing separately). The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) plans to release revised Forms 941, 943 and the tax return schemas for the Form 94X series of returns. For additional information, contact your payroll provider, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or visit the HR Support Center.

Posted: 10/2/20120 Entries
Atlanta Georgia at Will vs National Labor Relations
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Atlanta Payroll Services, HR Services learned in recent news, there has been mention of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRA is a federal act, otherwise known as the Wagner Act.   The NLRA was enacted in 1935 “to diminish the causes of labor disputes burdening or obstructing interstate and foreign commerce, to create a National Labor Relations Board, and for other purposes.”  The NLRB was established to oversee and monitor the NLRA. 

Our Atlanta Georgia based clients need to understand that the key principle behind the NLRA is to provide protection to employees, regardless of union membership status, in concerted and protected activities such as organizing, and protecting employees as a “class.”  The NLRB oversees these activities for compliance with the NLRA. The function of the NLRB to prosecute violations of the NLRA has been reaching further into employers who do not have unionized employees, specifically in the area of “at-will” employment.

The NLRB has most recently challenged the “at-will” employment relationship disclaimers that many employers have in employment applications, offer letters, policy statements and employee handbooks.  The NLRB challenged that some of the statements typically contained in employment at-will policies (e.g. “I acknowledge that no oral or written statements or representations regarding my employment can alter my at-will employment status, except for a written statement signed by me and the Company’s president or executive vice president/COO.”) may be in violation of the NLRA.

At this point, the NLRB has only taken this issue up in the state of Arizona and the final outcome has yet to be decided in the courts.  One alternative an employer may want to consider is simply changing this portion of its at-will statement to “I acknowledge that my at-will employment status can only be changed if noted in a written agreement.”  According to many legal blogs authored by attorneys, it seems that this change would meet the legal challenges that have been put forth to date by the NLRB.

Atlanta Georgia Employers seeking additional assistance regarding the company’s “at-will” employment statements may want to reach out to our Atlanta Payroll Services HR Professional for guidance.

Posted: 9/7/20120 Entries
EEO-1 Report Filing Deadline.
By The HR pros at Atlanta Payroll Services
EEO-1 Report Filing Deadline.

By September 30, 2012, private employers with more than 100 employees and federal contractors (with 50 or more employees and a contract of at least $50,000) are required to file an EEO-1 Report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEO-1 Report is a compliance survey report that is mandated by federal statute and regulations and requires company employment data to be categorized by race/ethnicity, gender and job category.
 
For HR Services help contact Atlanta Payroll Services today at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 9/6/20120 Entries
Annual Benefit Limits Waiver Deadline.
By The HR pros at Atlanta Payroll Services
Annual Benefit Limits Waiver Deadline.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidance for health care plans seeking to renew waivers on annual benefits. For plan years starting between September 23, 2010 and September 22, 2011, plans could not limit annual coverage of essential benefits such as hospital, physician and pharmacy benefits to less than $750,000. The restricted annual limit will be $2 million for plan years starting between September 23, 2012 and January 1, 2014. For plans issued or renewed beginning January 1, 2014, all annual dollar limits on coverage of essential health benefits will be prohibited.
 
For more assistance with your small business employee group benefits contact the employee benefits department at Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 9/5/20120 Entries
Summary of Benefits Coverage Requirement
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Summary of Benefits Coverage Requirement.
 
Starting September 23, 2012, insurance companies must provide a Summary of Benefits Coverage (SBC) form to individual policy holders and to their insured employer plans. Employer plans (self-funded and insured) must provide a SBC for open enrollment periods on or after that date (open enrollment in the 4th quarter of 2012 for calendar year plans.). Also, employer medical plans must provide employees and beneficiaries with a uniform glossary of terms commonly used in health insurance coverage (such as co-payment, deductible, home health care, etc.). In addition, the regulations include a new requirement to provide a 60-day advance notice of material plan modifications. 
 
For more assistance with your Small Businesses employee benefits communication call the employee benefits department at Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 9/4/20120 Entries
Expiration Date of Current Form I-9
By The HR pros at Atlanta Payroll Services

HR Alerts

Expiration Date of Current Form I-9. On August 13, 2012, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released a bulletin regarding the expiration date of Form I-9. The bulletin stated: “Until further notice, employers should continue using the Form I-9 currently available […]. This form should continue to be used even after the OMB control number expiration date of August 31, 2012 has passed. USCIS will provide updated information about the new version of the Form I-9 as it becomes available. Employers must complete the Form I-9 for all newly-hired employees in order to verify their identity and authorization to work in the United States.”

Posted: 9/2/20120 Entries
Senate Vote to Extend Immigration Programs.
By The HR pros at Atlanta Payroll Services
Senate Vote to Extend Immigration Programs.

The US Senate approved a bill (S. 3245) that would extend four key immigration programs that are set to expire on September 30, 2012 with a new expiration date of September 30, 2015. This bill authorizes a three-year extension for the E-Verify program, the EB-5 Regional Center program, the Special Immigrant Religious Worker program, and the Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program.
 
To find out how this may effect your Georgia Small Business, call Atlanta Payroll Services today for a FREE consultation at 404-920-8668
Posted: 9/2/20120 Entries
Tighten Contractor Oversight of Subcontractor Compliance
By The HR pros at Atlanta Payroll Services

Tighten Contractor Oversight of Subcontractor Compliance

On July 26, 2012 the U.S. Department of Labor announced that Lettire Construction will pay workers who were employed by its subcontractors approximately $960,000 in back wages and fringe benefits, as part of a case settlement. So, if you are a federal contractor utilizing subcontractors, be sure to take the time and conduct due diligence that includes confirmation of the subcontractor’s ability and commitment to pay prevailing wages on time.
 
Contact Atlanta Payroll Services today at 404-920-8668
Posted: 8/23/20120 Entries
Employee Termination Checklist
By
 

Checklist

  • Weigh alternatives before deciding on termination.
  • Thoroughly document the justification for termination.
  • Prepare for and conduct the exit interview or termination meeting.
  • Present the employee's (voluntary) resignation or (involuntary) termination letter.
  • Develop a plan for managing any outstanding employee workload.
  • Arrange for the return of any company property.
  • Confirm the employee's last day of work and termination date.
  • Have the final paycheck ready on the last day of work.
  • Inform the employee of any follow-up communications such as COBRA coverage
 

Top Five Tips

1. Avoid selective documentation or reconstructing after the fact otherwise, prepare to face alleged discrimination charges.

2. Determine the appropriateness of offering a severance and / or release agreement.

3. Follow your written Employee Handbook policies as well as Federal and State laws.

4. Allow the employee to openly comment on the reasons for employment termination.

5. Ensure the employee leaves the company with the highest level of integrity, respect, and professionalism as possible.

Call Atlanta Payroll Services Today at 404-920-8668
Posted: 8/21/20120 Entries
Top 5 Employee Handbook Policies to Reface
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center
 
Every business should consider providing or updating their company employee handbooks to reflect current trends that are highly relevant in today’s workplace. The perception that employee handbooks are bland stacks of standard policies lead some employers to become static in routines and forget to employ creative and strategic policies that can provide important benefits to the company. Consider, at least, the following five policy areas recognized as major areas of focus for 2011: 
 
 
 
 Employment Classifications. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has been increasing its compliance enforcement efforts, and employers must understand how to initiate proper assessment in various areas of wage and hour laws (e.g. employee vs. independent contractor, exempt vs. non-exempt, full-time vs. part-time).  
  1. Health and Safety. Another area of DOL attention involves safe and productive workplace environments.  The federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires covered employers to maintain a workplace that is free of hazards.  Having specific policies in place is a key part of the process.
  2. Social Media. With the increasing usage of social networking sites and technological equipment (i.e. smart phones), employers should remain mindful of how their employees are using the internet and thus how they may be promoting your business and the image of the company.  In addition, social media can cross barriers between confidentiality and privacy rights. So, a sound policy would be able to pinpoint the functionality and appropriate time frames that allow for social media usage during work as well as non-work hours.
  3. Telecommuting.  Telecommuting can be used as an important recruitment and retention tool, and more companies are allowing more workers to work remotely more often. 
  4. Benefits.  Whether trying to stay on top of various health care reform laws, apply family medical leave updates, or provide vacation and sick leave time-off, it is vital for employers to ensure that their benefits-related policies remain current.
To be sure your Employee Handbook is up to speed, conduct a thorough review, at least, on an annual basis with the guidance from our Atlanta HR Professionals, if needed.
 
Call Atlanta Payroll Services today at 404-920-8668
Posted: 8/20/20120 Entries
Are Overtime Audits Overdue?
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Are Overtime Audits Overdue?

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has undergone several new compliance enforcement developments that have encompassed wage and hour regulations. One area the DOL has targeted addresses overtime issues. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act requires overtime pay to be paid to most employees at the rate of one and one-half times their regular rate of pay when employees work more than 40 hours in a week.

Unfortunately, many employers violate the overtime pay laws often by:

Inconsistently calculating the rate at which overtime should be paid,

Failing to count “off-the-clock” work activities as work time, and

Incorrectly claiming that certain employees are exempt from overtime laws.

Calculate overtime correctly. While this sounds elementary, many employers continue to be confused even with the basic formula. Overtime is paid based upon an employee’s regular hourly rate of pay. The regular rate of pay is calculated by adding up all the pay and dividing it by the total number of hours worked. In turn, the following illustrates an example step by step:

Employee X works in his / her regular job at $10 per hour for 40 hours and then works in another department at $8.00 per hour for an additional 10 hours for the week.

  1. Multiply the appropriate hourly rate by the hours worked.

    $10 per hour X 40 regular hours = $400
    $8 per hour X 10 overtime hours = $80

  2. Sum up each subtotal of pay to determine the total base pay.

    $400 + $80 = $480

  3. Sum up each subtotal of hours to determine the total hours worked.

    40 regular hours + 10 overtime hours = 50 hours

  4. Divide the total base pay by the total hours worked to determine the regular rate.

    $480 / 50 hours = $9.60 per hour

  5. Multiply the regular rate by 1.5 to determine the overtime pay rate.

    $9.60 per hour x 1.5 = $14.40 overtime pay per hour

  6. Multiply the overtime pay rate by the overtime hours to determine the overtime pay.

    $14.40 overtime pay per hour x 10 overtime hours = $144 overtime pay (which is added to the $400 to calculate the pay for the week at $544)
Wage and hour laws can be very complicated and confusing. A good starting point is how your company pays (or not) your employees for any overtime work. By conducting regular audits, employers can take a close look at their practices and policies to spot and correct potential problems…well before ever receiving a letter from the DOL.
 
Contact Atlanta Payroll Services for all of your Payroll and HR Services needs at 404-920-8668
Posted: 8/16/20120 Entries
Tracking Hours Worked
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Tracking Hours Worked

It is the employer's responsibility to track all non-exempt employees' hours and pay accordingly. Employees may be required to use a time clock system or submit timesheets, but pay may not be withheld as penalty for missed punches or failure to submit a timesheet in a timely manner. However, the company may use its regular progressive disciplinary system when an employee fails to follow the company's timekeeping procedures.
 
Call Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668 for your employee timekeeping needs.
Posted: 8/15/20120 Entries
Facebook "Like" as 1st Am. Speech: The Appeal
By Molly DiBianca

Does a Facebook "Like" constitute speech for the purposes of the 1st Amendment? In April, a federal judge in Virginia concluded that it did not in Bland v. Rofacebook-like.pngberts (E.D. Va. Apr. 24, 2012). Many legal spectators, including me, disagreed with the holding and speculated that the decision would be appealed.

It's nice to be right once in a while.

The case has been appealed to the Fourth Circuit and, on Monday, Facebook filed an amicus brief in support of having the decision reversed. The brief is not quite as exciting as I'd hoped and contains only minimal legal analysis. Most of the brief is devoted to providing factual background about Facebook, how it's used, and the idea of "Liking" a page or post.

To the credit of Facebook's counsel, though, I suppose there's not much legal analysis to provide. The analysis, actually, is quite simple. Contrary to the District Court's finding, Liking online content is speech--it is a statement by the User. In Bland, the plaintiff-appellant Liked a candidate in the Sheriff's race (who happened to be running against the plaintiff's boss). Liking the campaign Page was the digital equivalent of putting a sign in your front lawn that reads, "Support X for Sheriff."

Moreover, because the Like was an endorsement of a candidate running for elected office, it seems difficult to imagine how it would not be considered political speech, which receives the highest level of First Amendment protections.

The District Court avoided this conclusion by holding that the Like did not "involve[] actual statements." But "statements" are not the only type of "speech" to receive constitutional protection. It has been long settled that "symbolic" speech receives First Amendment protection. The example that comes to mind is the burning of the American flag, which the U.S. Supreme Court held to constitute symbolic speech protected by the First Amendment in Texas v. Johnson.

If the appellate court does reverse, the plaintiff-employee does not win by default. The employer still could argue that he was not terminated as a result of his protected speech or any other defenses that may apply. In the meantime, I'll be curious to see how the employer deals with the present question--is Liking a Facebook page or post "speech" for the purposes of the First Amendment.
 
Contact Atlanta Payroll Services for your Payroll & HR Needs at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 8/14/20120 Entries
Quote of the month
By Stephen R. Covey

“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” -Stephen R. Covey

Posted: 8/13/20120 Entries
Are you Prepared for an Emergency?
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Are you Prepared for an Emergency?

Emergencies and disasters can take various forms including violence at the workplace as demonstrated on July 20, 2012. In one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent U.S. history, a gunman entered a Denver-area theater during a crowded midnight movie screening and killed or injured numerous people. Our condolences go to all the victims as well as the families, friends and employers of the victims. Without warning, a disaster can strike and it is your responsibility to have a plan in place to protect your employees. Use the Workplace Evacuation Preparedness Checklist (available in the HR Support Center) to be proactive versus reactive in the case of an emergency.

Contact Atlanta Payroll Services at 404 920-8668

Posted: 8/11/20120 Entries
Atlanta HR Alerts
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

HR Alerts

Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) Rebates. No later than August 1, 2012, insurance companies that do not satisfy Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) standards must provide their policyholders a rebate for the difference. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) requires health insurance companies to spend 80% - 85% of premium dollars on health insurance claims and clinical activities for improved healthcare quality.

OSHA Final Rule on Whistleblower Provisions. On July 10, 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) issued a final rule implementing the whistleblower provisions of the Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The provisions provide employees with protections against retaliation by employer manufacturers, private labelers, distributors, or retailers when an employee engages in one or more protected activity.

OSHA Heat Safety App. The Occupational and Safety Health Administration (OSHA) agency launched a new heat safety tool. The heat safety tool is a smartphone app which allows supervisors and workers to calculate the heat index for their worksite, displays risk levels to outdoor workers, and provides information on protective measures to reduce employee exposure to heat-related illness.

July 2012 HR Advisor Correction: Please note that the HR alert titled “Proposed Federal Minimum Wage Increase” had an incorrect political party reference. The alert should have read: “On June 6, 2012, Representative Jesse Jackson Jr. (Democrat) introduced the Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2012, a bill to raise the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.00 per hour (beginning 60 days after enactment). The bill also proposes that the federal government increase the minimum wage each year based on inflation as measured by the federal Consumer Price Index (CPI). The bill would also increase the minimum wage for tipped employees to $5.50 an hour. Stay tuned for additional updates as they are released by the governing agencies.  Currently, the status of the bill remains “Referred to Committee.”
 
Contact Atlanta Payroll Services for solutions to your Payroll and HR Needs 404 920-8668
Posted: 8/8/20120 Entries
Health Care Reform
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) contains comprehensive health insurance reforms that require compliance by employer-sponsored group health plans. Many of these reforms apply to plan years beginning on or after September 23, 2010. The following general checklist is designed to help employers review their plan's compliance with the major health care reform requirements.

Please note that this list is for general reference purposes only and is not all-inclusive. This list is also subject to change based on new government requirements or directives. If you have any questions regarding your company's obligations with respect to health care reform, please consult with an HR Professional or benefits insurance provider for specific guidance.
 
 For more information contact Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668.
 
 

Checklist

  • Determine if the status of the plan is grandfathered (i.e. in effect on March 23, 2010) or non-grandfathered. If a plan loses its grandfathered status, it may no longer be exempt from certain Health Care Reform provisions.
  • Determine whether your company qualifies for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit. For tax years 2010 through 2013, the maximum credit is 35 percent of the health care premiums paid by small business employers.
  • Ensure that plan documents reflect cost reimbursement restrictions regarding over-the-counter (OTC) drugs for Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and other tax accounts that took effect in 2011. Beginning in 2013, the law limits the amount of contributions to a health FSA to $2,500.
  • Address medical loss ratio (MLR) rebates paid by health insurers. If you as the employer paid premiums on enrollees’ behalf and receive a rebate, then consider redistribution to eligible plan enrollees. (Note: Beginning in 2012, health insurance issuers that do not meet certain MLR standards must provide to a policyholder, like an employer-sponsored group health plan, rebates to be paid by August 1 of each year.)
  • Provide a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) to inform on plan provisions. The effective date will be determined by the reason for distribution. For example, employers must provide SBCs for participants or beneficiaries: who enroll or re-enroll in the plan during annual enrollment (i.e. as of the first day of the first annual enrollment period that begins on or after September 23, 2012); or who enroll in the plan for reasons other than annual enrollment (i.e. as of the first day of the first plan year that begins on or after September 23, 2012).
  • Pay comparative effectiveness research plan fees if your company sponsors a self-insured plan. Fees start with your first renewal after October 1, 2012.
  • Prepare to report employer-provided health plan coverage on Forms W-2. Beginning with calendar year 2012 Forms W-2 (required to be furnished to employees in January 2013), certain employers that provide a group health plan to their employees are generally required to report annually the cost of coverage to each employee.
 
Top Five Tips
 

1. If your company has fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees earning on average less than $50,000 per year, consider taking advantage of a tax credit that is available for providing health care coverage.

2. Evaluate whether any changes made to the group health plan with respect to benefits, costs, or other changes result in loss of grandfathered status.

3. If benefits are provided under a fully insured plan, discuss with your insurance company whether it may be required to provide a rebate to the plan.

3. If benefits are provided to early retirees (i.e. individuals aged 55 and older who are not yet eligible for Medicare), you may seek reimbursement for claims from the federal government under a temporary program established under health care reform.

4. Stay abreast of any legislative changes that are proposed and enacted and of ongoing litigation regarding health care reform.

 
Posted: 8/7/20120 Entries
The Implications of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on PPACA for Employers
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

The Implications of the U.S. Supreme Court Ruling on PPACA for Employers

On Thursday, June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that essentially upheld the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as the Health Care Reform Act.
 
As part of the ruling, the Supreme Court stated that Congress did not have the constitutional authority to mandate that everyone buy health coverage.  They did, however, have authority to impose a tax if an individual did not comply with the mandate. Therefore, the individual mandate has been deemed constitutional by the Supreme Court if instituted as a tax. The employer-centered requirements were designed to support the individual mandate by making it easier for working Americans to obtain affordable healthcare. In addition, Congress can impose conditions on the states to receive federal funding for Medicaid coverage expansion, but may not threaten to remove any existing funding.
 
What does the High Court ruling mean for employers?  The Act's numerous provisions that impact employers remain intact.  While some of the mandates already have been in effect, many more will become effective in 2013 and 2014. Employers sitting on the sidelines in anticipation of a complete repeal or significant changes to the PPACA must catch up in order to be compliant by 2014. Thus, employers must proceed with the Act’s provisions or prepare to pay penalties.
 
In terms of offering health insurance, PPACA identifies three employer categories – those with:
 
Fewer than 50 employees:  "Small-size" employers do not need to provide employees health insurance coverage.  On the other hand, if a small employer chooses to provide employee health coverage, starting in 2014, states are required to establish health insurance "exchanges" for employers who choose to provide health care to employees though a group health insurance policy.
 
50 – 199 employees:  "Mid-size" employers must offer "affordable" health insurance coverage to their employees or be subject to penalties.  If an employer chooses not to offer employee health coverage or offers an overly expensive coverage plan, then the employer will be subject to penalties.
 
200 or more employees:  "Large-size" employers must automatically enroll all new employees in their health insurance plan beginning in 2014. If an employer chooses not to offer employee health coverage or offers an overly expensive coverage plan, then such employers also will be subject to penalties.
 
While further guidelines and explanations are expected from government agencies, immediate employer actions for the remainder of 2012 include, but are not limited to:
  • Assessment of the Act's effect on the business
  • Determination of redistribution or usage of Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rebates
  • Distribution of Summaries of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) in time for the next open enrollment
  • Reporting of group health plan coverage costs on 2012 Forms W-2
  • Revisions to company cafeteria plans to reflect employee contribution limits on health care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)
Stay tuned for more updates from the HR Support Center.
Posted: 8/6/20120 Entries
Unemployment Claims: Fighting to Winning
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Unemployment Claims: Fighting to Winning 

"You’re fired!" If you have ever said that to an employee (unless you are Donald Trump and filming the reality show “The Apprentice”), you should be prepared to pay for your now former employee’s unemployment claim. If an employee walks out and therefore terminates employment voluntarily, you may still be required to pay for unemployment. Confusing? You bet.
 
Terminations are part of the employment life-cycle. A voluntary termination results when an employee chooses to resign. An involuntary termination results when an employer fires, discharges, or lays off (due to budget, workforce reduction, or business closure issues) an employee.
 
If employers do involuntarily terminate, they should determine if unemployment benefit claims may apply and prepare to defend accordingly if the benefits are granted. Eligibility criteria impacts how unemployment benefits may be awarded. Some of the criteria for eligibility for unemployment benefits includes whether the terminated employee:
  • Became unemployed through no fault of his or her own (e.g. job elimination or reduction in force)
  • Earned sufficient wages with the company or during the claimant’s base year
  • Is available for new work
  • Is actively seeking work

An individual may become disqualified for unemployment benefits if he or she:

  • Was fired for misconduct or a clear violation of company policy
  • Quit without good cause (e.g. walking off the job because of a disagreement with a colleague)
  • Returned back to the same job to work
  • Turned down a suitable job offer during the unemployment period
  • Participated in a strike or work stoppage caused by a labor dispute
  • Received Social Security benefits, severance pay, workers’ compensation payments, state disability benefits, or a private pension
  • Made false claims or omitted information on his or her unemployment claim
In addition, the weekly benefit amount is generally determined by the total wages paid to the employee by his or her employer(s) during the "base" period. The base period typically consists of a minimum amount of work completed within the last five quarters of a calendar year prior to the initial filing for benefits and the amount of earnings during the base period.
 
Sometimes, employers futilely try to avoid addressing unemployment insurance claims. Now, if you know the employee was discharged through no fault of his or her own, save some time and do not appeal the claim. In other situations, it may be worthwhile to appeal a claim when the employee was terminated for issues such as misconduct, policy violations, or a general unwillingness to perform work. The benefit to employers in defending the claim may result in the employer tax rate being lowered or not increased. Your employer unemployment tax rate is directly impacted by the number of successful claims charged to your account. If you do opt to dispute an unemployment claim, ensure you have gathered all records that may influence the denial or awarding of an unemployment claim, such as performance management evaluations, disciplinary notices/letters, individual complaints, investigation information (if theft, harassment, or workplace violence was an issue), witness statements if applicable, etc. Ensure all paperwork is also ready for the state unemployment agency in a timely manner. If paperwork is delayed, there is a chance the former employee may end up winning the battle by default or forfeiture.
 
For more information contact Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 8/3/20120 Entries
Knowledge » HR Articles » Article Conducting HR Audits to Protect and Propel Your Business
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Conducting HR Audits to Protect and Propel Your Business

According to the HR Support Center’s April 2011 Poll of the Month, 57% of the respondents indicated they have not conducted any audits of their company’s HR function. Understanding what audits are, the purpose they serve, and the significance they provide can position a business to be compliant with various employment laws and sought after as an employer of choice. Remember; conducting an audit is not a one-time-it’s-all-done-and-over-with deal. Instead, effective audits are to be conducted, at minimum, regularly once a year.

Generally, there are four types of HR audits:

  • Compliance: Evaluation of the company’s compliance with state and federal workplace laws as well as industry regulations.
  • Function-Specific: Comprehensive assessment into specific areas of the HR function, such as Benefits, Compensation, and Safety.
  • Best Practices: Comparative review of internal business practices with those of other businesses considered to be leaders in the industry or in the HR field.
  • Strategic: Examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the company’s systems and processes to gain greater market competitiveness.

Examples of necessary reasons to conduct an HR audit include:

  • State and federal employment laws and industry regulations,
  • Company size in terms of number of employees,
  • Business development into new areas including expansion into multiple states,
  • Internal restructuring of the organization,
  • Mergers and acquisitions, and
  • Business cycles / seasons.

Moreover, federal and state agencies have been recently targeting certain industries (i.e. agriculture, hospitality, and manufacturing) to primarily audit for worker misclassification, wage and hour, and record keeping matters. Employee claims of unfair discrimination or practices in the workplace also can trigger a federal or state agency audit knocking on your door. So, be constantly prepared.

As discussed in the September 2010 newsletter edition, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Plan / Prevent / Protect strategic compliance enforcement initiative has already been in motion. Clearly, it is in the employers’ best interest to be “proactive” rather than “reactive” when it comes to proving their on-going workplace compliance efforts. Conducting regular HR audits remains a key ingredient in the process. One of the easiest ways is for your company to take the 3-minute HR Audit now available in the HR Support Center!

Posted: 8/2/20120 Entries
Conducting HR Audits to Protect and Propel Your Business
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Conducting HR Audits to Protect and Propel Your Business

According to the HR Support Center’s April 2011 Poll of the Month, 57% of the respondents indicated they have not conducted any audits of their company’s HR function. Understanding what audits are, the purpose they serve, and the significance they provide can position a business to be compliant with various employment laws and sought after as an employer of choice. Remember; conducting an audit is not a one-time-it’s-all-done-and-over-with deal. Instead, effective audits are to be conducted, at minimum, regularly once a year.

Generally, there are four types of HR audits:

  • Compliance: Evaluation of the company’s compliance with state and federal workplace laws as well as industry regulations.
  • Function-Specific: Comprehensive assessment into specific areas of the HR function, such as Benefits, Compensation, and Safety.
  • Best Practices: Comparative review of internal business practices with those of other businesses considered to be leaders in the industry or in the HR field.
  • Strategic: Examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the company’s systems and processes to gain greater market competitiveness.

Examples of necessary reasons to conduct an HR audit include:

  • State and federal employment laws and industry regulations,
  • Company size in terms of number of employees,
  • Business development into new areas including expansion into multiple states,
  • Internal restructuring of the organization,
  • Mergers and acquisitions, and
  • Business cycles / seasons.

Moreover, federal and state agencies have been recently targeting certain industries (i.e. agriculture, hospitality, and manufacturing) to primarily audit for worker misclassification, wage and hour, and record keeping matters. Employee claims of unfair discrimination or practices in the workplace also can trigger a federal or state agency audit knocking on your door. So, be constantly prepared.

As discussed in the September 2010 newsletter edition, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Plan / Prevent / Protect strategic compliance enforcement initiative has already been in motion. Clearly, it is in the employers’ best interest to be “proactive” rather than “reactive” when it comes to proving their on-going workplace compliance efforts. Conducting regular HR audits remains a key ingredient in the process. One of the easiest ways is for your company to take the 3-minute HR Audit now available in the HR Support Center!

Posted: 8/1/20120 Entries
E-Recruiting with Social Media – The New Way of Getting New Hires
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

E-Recruiting with Social Media – The New Way of Getting New Hires

Large corporations have long utilized e-recruiting strategies and tools to seek and secure top talent. As technology has evolved towards more cost-effective rates, more and more small to mid-sized employers have turned to e-recruiting as an affordable strategy to find, attract, and select job applicants for their companies’ hiring needs. Nowadays, one of the more popular e-recruiting tools is social media.

Social media is an online version of media that enables real-time, dynamic dialogue among readers and viewers to participate in content development, as opposed to traditional media which delivers static content. Social media networks have started out popularly for personal interests. In recent years, numerous business applications and approaches have emerged to market and promote products and services, as well as companies themselves for employer branding and recruitment purposes. Through social media, employers can gain a wealth of information about specific job candidates.

However, before fully engaging in “social recruiting,” be clear about your company’s strategy. If the strategy is non-existent or weak, little accountability for results exists. Best strategic practices include:

  • Finding passive candidates. Social media can help you identify and develop relationships with top performers who are not active job-seekers yet.
  • Focusing on talent groups. Participate in groups which share information and engage in dialogue based on common industry interests and certain skilled professions or talents.
  • Facilitating education connections. Students – whether in a college or a vocational program – are highly tied to and accessible through technology such as social media.

Fully familiarize yourself with social media to help keep prospective candidates engaged throughout the recruiting process. When you finally have the real need to hire, you will already have your top candidates right at hand.

Posted: 7/31/20120 Entries
Handling the Expanding Issue of Obesity Discrimination
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Handling the Expanding Issue of Obesity Discrimination

Published last October in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, a Duke University study estimated the cost of obesity among U.S. full-time employees to be $73.1 billion. According to the study, the cost of obesity accounted for (1) employee medical expenses, (2) job productivity loss (due to health problems), and (3) work absenteeism. Facing such mounting and costly challenges, an employer can hastily make adverse employment decisions against overweight or obese employees and thus jeopardize the business with risks of unfair discrimination claims. So, what responsibility must you as the employer exercise in order to provide a workplace free of weight-based discrimination and harassment?

Covering employers with 15 or more employees, the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents discrimination based on a disability and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to a qualified employee with a disability. In general, obesity is not covered under the ADA, but morbid obesity is. Although no clear rule exists on whether obesity is a disability even under the recently amended (and more employee-friendly) ADA, employees have successfully made “regarded as” ADA claims. For example, if an employer refuses to consider a job applicant due to a perceived obesity of the individual, then the failure to hire may be deemed as an act of unlawful discrimination. Obesity-related conditions (i.e. diabetes and heart disease) may also be protected by the ADA. Moreover, be aware of state-specific laws which may provide additional or more stringent.

Whenever faced with hiring or managing overweight employees, some employer guidelines include:

  • Establishing employee handbook policies emphasizing equal employment opportunities regardless of personal appearances.
  • Reviewing job descriptions for any questionable weight requirements not related to the essential job functions.
  • Avoiding assumptions about which job tasks an overweight employee cannot perform.
  • Working with employees on mutually agreed-upon reasonable accommodations in order for the individual to perform the essential functions of the job.
  • Educating managers on, at minimum, the basics of the ADA and related federal and state discrimination laws.
  • Training periodically all employees and managers on how to address inappropriate or unprofessional behavior which may lead to weight -based discrimination.

In addition, to help counter the rising costs associated with obesity in the workplace, take a closer look at how you promote a healthy work environment. Your company could stock vending machines with healthy snacks instead of soda and candies, implement a voluntary weight reduction program, or partner with a local fitness center to offer special employee discounts. Maintain a healthier workplace culture over time, and your company could find the costs of employee obesity a diminishing issue that positively affects the bottom line.

Posted: 7/30/20120 Entries
5 Top Tips for Benefits Plan Communications
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

5 Top Tips for Benefits Plan Communications

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a federal law establishing minimum standards for employee health benefit and retirement plans. While an employer is not required to establish a plan, ERISA does require those who establish and administer plans to meet certain standards. For example, plan administrators must provide participants written disclosures, such as a summary plan description (SPD) in a clear and easy to understand format about the company’s employee benefit plans. 

Recently, a U.S. Supreme Court case of CIGNA Corp. v. Amara, addressed a situation to which all employers should pay attention.  CIGNA had sent their employees SPDs describing a benefit greater than what the terms of the formal plan had provided.  The employer was sued for the more generous benefit which the SPD had described, and a lower court had ruled in favor of the plaintiff.  However, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously reversed the ruling and held that inaccurate or misleading SPD statements were not subject to ERISA enforcement penalties or remedies. 

The Court ruling reminds employers to constantly consider the following five tips:

  • Summary Plan Descriptions. Draft and distribute SPDs that are brief and easy to read without overt contractual terms or legalese.
  • Communications Officer.  Determine the company representative who will have authority over plan administration and communications.
  • Regular Reviews. Routinely verify that plan documents are current and that communications are consistent and accurate with the summaries and are compliant with ERISA requirements.
  • Transparency in Changes. Employee communications should fully disclose in advance any changes, especially those that may result in adverse circumstances (i.e. a decrease in benefits).
  • Non-SPDs.  While an SPD may include both a complete description of the plan's terms (i.e. a Certificate of Coverage) and required ERISA disclosure language, an insurance provider's Master Contract or Certificate of Coverage itself is not considered an SPD. 

Employers can gain some reassurance that the benefits as detailed in the plan would be limited to the contractual terms as written.  At the same time, employers must ensure and regularly audit for proper and accurate communication of employee benefits.  ERISA aspects including SPDs and plan documents can be very complex and confusing for employers – big and small.  If you have any responsibility over your company’s employee benefits program, then consider seeking assistance from an HR professional or benefits consultant for added expertise and guidance.

Posted: 7/26/20120 Entries
Knowledge » HR Articles » Article Invest with Tuition Reimbursement
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Invest with Tuition Reimbursement

Employers can provide tuition reimbursement as a strategic employee benefit incentive to help attract and develop employees to excel and grow with the business. Tuition reimbursement typically helps employees with fees and expenses regarding course registration, materials, training, etc. Many perks exist when employers offer tuition reimbursement:

  • Low turnover rates and stable retention rates enable savings in recruitment and hiring costs.
  • Employee loyalty, appreciation, and professional image increases.
  • New skills and knowledge acquired contribute to increased productivity.

With the time, effort, and money directed towards providing a tuition reimbursement program, employers will also want to ensure that employees who benefit from the program stay and not leave and take their newfound skills and talent to work for a competitor. To offset this concern, many employers require employees to make certain commitments to the company in exchange for having their tuition and related expenses paid. Examples include requiring the employee to:

  • Work for a minimum time frame after the completion of the program before expenses are reimbursed.
  • Maintain a specific grade point average (GPA) to qualify for reimbursement.
  • Repay any funds already paid if the employee terminates employment before completion of a course.

Also, when planning to establish a new or revise a current tuition reimbursement program, keep the following suggestions in mind:

  • Know your budget to effectively manage costs and expenses.
  • Provide clear program guidelines on the conditions for approved tuition reimbursements.
  • Review the company’s employee handbook to ensure that relevant policies (especially those regarding advancement opportunities) are updated in alignment.
  • Engage in on-going discussions with employees concerning their individual interests and growth opportunities within the company – all of which can be memorialized with an individual development action plan.

Supporting employees in their educational growth and allowing them to apply their learning on the job in ways that translate into increased productivity and profit can speak volumes of how a company can experience a high return on its investment in employee education.

Posted: 7/16/20120 Entries
New NLRB Notice Requirement Puts Businesses Nationwide on Notice
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

New NLRB Notice Requirement Puts Businesses Nationwide on Notice

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a final rule requiring most private-sector employers to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRB will enforce   employers to post a new NLRA notice in the workplace. The posting requirement is effective November 14, 2011.  

Covered Employers 

The posting requirement applies to all private-sector employers (including labor unions) subject to the National Labor Relations Act. Because NLRA rights apply to union and non-union workplaces, all employers subjected to the Board’s jurisdiction (aside from the US Postal Service) will be required to post the notice. In general, the NLRA covers private employers that have an impact on interstate commerce which is based much on the dollar volume of business a company generates. For example, the law covers retail or service establishments with annual gross receipts of at least $500,000, manufacturing companies that ship at least $50,000 worth of goods across state lines or purchases at least $50,000 worth of goods from out of state.  

Employers Not Covered 

  • Government or Union Employers. Certain employers are specifically excluded by the NLRA: federal and state offices, Federal Reserve Banks, employers subject to the Railway Labor Act, labor unions and their officers and agents (except when they are acting as employers).
  • Companies that have a municipal function. A privately-owned company with an essentially municipal function is exempted from the NLRA.
  • Religious schools. An exception here is schools that are largely secular and not pervaded by a religious purpose.
  • Agricultural, railroad and airline employers are not impacted.   

In a conspicuous area where employees can easily see and read it, the NLRA notice must be posted in English. If 20 percent or more of the staff is not proficient in English and speaks a language other than English, then the employer must post the notice in that other language. However, if two or more groups comprising at least 20 percent of the staff speak different languages, then the employer must either physically post the notice in each of those languages or post the notice in the language spoken by the largest group of employees and provide a copy in the other language(s) to each of the other employees. If an employer customarily communicates workplace policies to employees in an electronic format (i.e. a company intranet), then it must electronically post the notice as well. Failure to post the notice may constitute an unfair labor practice under the NLRA. 

This new poster requirement will clearly bring more attention and increase interest in union organizing. As importantly, employers should anticipate an increase in complaints from non-union employees about work rules, especially those that run contrary to any of the poster information. In preparation, employers should become familiar with the NLRA language, review their company workplace policies and procedures to make sure that they do not conflict with the NLRA provisions, and be ready to discuss the NLRA rights with their employees.

Posted: 7/10/20120 Entries
Who’s in Favor of Job Reference Immunity Laws ?
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center
Many Atlanta small businesses have initiated “Job Reference” policies restricting the nature of information that may be provided about current and former employees to third parties. While it is at times tempting to feel obligated to provide detailed information regarding a former employee’s performance in an effort to help the prospective employer, doing so may expose the company to some liability. Former employees have successfully sued their past employers for libel, slander, defamation, or negligent misrepresentation arising out of job references. Therefore, it is recommend proceeding with caution with job references and verifications in order to reduce the company’s exposure.

A fairly common company policy is to only release information that is completely objective in nature, such as the former employee’s dates of employment and job title. If the prospective employer would like additional information (such as salary information), generally employers require the prospective employer to send a written request for such information that includes the former employee’s written authorization to release the information. Company policies should prohibit the release of information that is subjective in nature.

While the “less is more” approach has been taken by most employers, some HR Professionals recommend taking a more “need to know” approach. The premise behind this approach is that the company’s failure to provide critical information may in fact expose the company to liability. For example, if a current employer gives a reference check with limited information about an employee, and is aware that the employee committed a work-related crime (such as employee theft), a court could argue that the former employer had an obligation to disclose that information. This would apply if the employer was asked specific questions such as, ”Is this employee rehireable?” Or, “Has this employee committed a crime at your work site?” There may be some ethical obligation for a former employer to disclose certain information. For example, if an employer states a former preschool teacher was an excellent employee and never had performance issues, yet chose not to mention this same teacher was convicted of molesting a student, the company may have mislead the inquiring prospective employer. Therefore, the goal is to ensure reference checks are generally neutral; unless extenuating circumstances are present.

Many states have adopted some type of Reference Immunity Laws that ensure employers are protected who opt to provide reference checks. The state laws vary considerably in how they “limit” information to be disclosed by former employers. For example, California limits immunity to the disclosure of “job performance” information to be stated in an objective or subject manner. Maryland suggests employers acting in good faith may not be held liable for disclosing to a prospective employer any job information about job performance or the reason for the termination of employment. Since there are several states with reference immunity laws, it is recommended to check your state laws or consult with a HR Professional. Remember, if a reference check is conducted on behalf of a federal, state or regulatory authority, employers may not be held liable for any information that is requested/required or provided to the agency. Employers who knowingly disclose information that is false or misleading are not protected under these laws.

It is always a best practice to document employee actions, act in good faith, exercise restraint and always obtain written consent from the applicant. Another tip is to insert a waiver in a departing employee's severance package releasing the business from all claims based on the voluntary disclosure of information about the employee to a third party. Reference immunity laws essentially protect employers from civil liability if they provide good-faith references or negative truthful information regarding former employees. Therefore, both employers and employees may or may not be in favor of this law.
 
 To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 7/10/20120 Entries
Settling Down or Not with the IRS Voluntary Classification Settlement Program
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Settling Down or Not with the IRS Voluntary Classification Settlement Program

In pursuit of employers who misclassify their workers, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has been aggressively ramping up the number of investigations and its employment law enforcement efforts.  In alignment, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced last September its Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP), which may offer relief for employers from unpaid employment taxes, penalties, and interest resulting from worker misclassifications.  To determine whether or not joining the VCSP would be a smart move, an employer needs to consider some key factors. 

Under the VCSP, an employer may voluntarily reclassify their workers as employees for future tax periods for employment tax purposes. To participate in the program, the employer must meet specific eligibility requirements, apply for the VCSP, and enter an agreement with the IRS. An employer may be considered eligible for the program if it: 

  • Is not subject to a worker misclassification audit currently engaged by a federal or state agency,
  • Has consistently treated the workers in question not as employees (i.e. as independent contractors), and
  • Has filed for the past three years the required Form 1099s regarding the workers.
 If the IRS approves the employer’s eligibility and participation into the VCSP, then the employer must establish a “closing agreement” with the IRS.  The agreement’s provisions include but are not limited to: 
  • A three-year extension of the statute of limitations for collection of employer back taxes during the first three years upon participating in the program;
  • A limit of 10 percent of the employer’s employment tax liability that may have been owed on compensation paid to the workers for the most recent tax year, without interest and penalties;
  • No audit for employment tax purposes for prior years with respect to the classification of the workers in question; and
  • Treatment the identified workers as employees moving forward.
While the VCSP appears attractive at face value, other factors require employers like you to recognize potential risks and, if deciding to participate in the program, to proceed with caution: 
  • First of all, the IRS is not obligated to accept an employer’s application (IRS Form 8952) to the program. So, if an application is rejected, the employer may have in essence admitted to worker misclassification fault, thus creating a potential case for wage and hour lawsuit claims.
  • The IRS relief does not apply to other federal or state agencies (i.e. the DOL) which have similar responsibilities for worker classification compliance enforcement.  As established through recent “memorandums of understanding” with participating agencies, IRS information-sharing would likely increase exposure of an employer’s liabilities related to worker misclassifications.
  • The employer must account for and remedy any previously avoided employee expenses (i.e. due to failure of complying with minimum wage and overtime laws, of providing company-sponsored employee benefits, of offering workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance, etc.).
As the more details from the IRS regarding this newly-develop VCSP emerge, employers are encouraged to conduct preliminary research and internal assessment focused on the nature and degree of any worker misclassification issues. Review applicable state and federal classification standards, conduct a company-wide worker classification audit, and stay on top of relevant IRS notifications and employment law updates.
Posted: 7/10/20120 Entries
Summer Dress Codes: Too Hot for Compliance?
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Summer Dress Codes: Too Hot for Compliance?

According to the May 2012 HR Support Center poll inquiring about spring and summer dress code policies, most businesses do not alter their dress code policies during these months. Out of all the respondents, 63% indicated no change during the spring and summer months from the company's standard dress code, while 9% indicated that employees are not required to wear professional clothing during these months. There are several implications to be aware of in regards to workplace dress code policies in the summer.

  • Health concerns (physical and mental stress). During the hot summer months, it is important to consider the health of employees who will be performing work outside or in a facility without air conditioning. The company may need to alter its dress code in order to reduce the physical stress of employees working outdoors, as physical stress can lead to reduced cognitive ability and heat-related injuries and illnesses. In addition, some employees may be protected under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) which may require reasonable accommodations.
  • Productivity levels (includes motivation). The productivity levels within the business may be reduced if employees are dressed in a manner that is distracting to themselves or others. Therefore, it is important to ensure that dress codes allow for maximum productivity. For example, if an employee is wearing a baseball cap during an office meeting, others may find that to be a distraction.
  • Safety concerns (injury and accident prevention). There are several safety concerns to consider if dress codes are not properly enforced. Even in extreme temperatures, it is critical that employees wear all recommended and required safety equipment. For example, those in a construction field should not wear sandals; those in the medical field should avoid exposing unprotected skin and wearing loose accessories (such as jewelry) around hazardous chemicals, equipment/machinery (such as wheelchairs), and other things (i.e. syringes).
  • Image/Professionalism. Even in the summer months, it is important that the company portray a professional business image. For example, allowing pilots to wear swim trunks could certainty result in decreases in customer confidence levels.

It is encouraged to write comprehensive policies that cover the business dress code. The management team must consider productivity, safety, and regulatory compliance when writing the dress code policy. It is vital to consider whether the dress code could create a charge of discrimination. A workplace dress code for summer months should not discriminate against members of a protected class under civil rights laws such as gender discrimination, religious discrimination and race discrimination. It is important to stay consistent for all exceptions to the policy and to apply consequences for all violators of the policy. Considering these factors will ensure the company's dress code maximizes summer productivity and minimizes the potential for legal exposure.

Posted: 7/10/20120 Entries
Workplace Violence Sources and Solutions
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Workplace Violence Sources and Solutions

 
Workplace violence is an area that cannot be overlooked or dismissed. In October 2011, a Bay Area city in California experienced a tragic workplace violence incident. A disgruntled employee brought multiple firearms on the job-site and opened fire, killing 3 employees and injuring several others. According to OSHA, nearly 2 million American workers reported being victims of workplace violence each year, and it is believed that many cases go unreported. Workplace violence can occur anywhere at any time and employers must constantly combat the potential of violence in the workplace. Individuals who may be at risk for workplace violence include employers, employees, clients, vendors, customers and the general public. Often industries with heavy cash flow reliance, environments with mentally unstable people (due to illness or a diagnosis), services centering around alcohol and physical locations with isolated employees may trigger opportunities for potential violence or theft.

Although some organizations have stronger security measures in place than others, including employee identification badges, locked entrances, metal detectors, etc., sometimes these may not be enough to provide a safe workplace. Employers can help to minimize workplace violence by:

  • Establishing a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy that encompasses all individuals who come in contact with the business, including customers, visitors, employees, etc. This policy should encompass provisions for threats, harassment, intimidation, weapon authorization (if applicable), and relevant disciplinary action.
  • Creating a written and enforced Workplace Violence Prevention Program covering the administrative costs, analysis, evaluation, complaints, investigations, and proactive workplace violence prevention strategies.
  • Reducing stress by using Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), managing performance with ongoing evaluations, providing fair and consistent policies pertaining to terminations, and acknowledging employees’ contributions to the organization.
  • Reviewing hiring practices to ensure background checks are conducted when needed and avoiding negligent hiring practices.
  • Monitoring workplace safety protocols to ensure compliance with the organization’s termination procedures (i.e. return of company property, witnesses for termination meetings, etc.), and evaluating threats concerning policies or regulations about concealed weapons.
  • Creating and communicating a safety plan to be utilized if the organization has a workplace violence incident.
Employers have an obligation to provide a workplace that is safe and secure. Employees have an obligation to comply with their organization’s standards regarding behavior and safety. Hopefully, the above information will help your organization properly reduce the likelihood of a violent workplace incident.
  
To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
 
Posted: 7/9/20120 Entries
Interview Bias Impacting Hiring Decisions
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Interview Bias Impacting Hiring Decisions

 Seasonal changes are in the air and for some businesses that also requires an increase in seasonal hiring. The hiring steps involve several key components, one of which is the interview phase. Interview bias can result unintentionally. Even the most seasoned of interviewers may fall victim to some common interviewing bias. Managers need proper training to conduct interviews that are non-discriminatory in nature, and to avoid exposure to discrimination claims. In addition, awareness of these biases can make interviewers more effective in selecting the right candidate. Some forms of bias are described below.
  • Stereotyping. Stereotyping involves making generalized opinions about how people from a protected class such as sex, religion, age, race, etc. appear, think, act, feel or respond. For example, assuming a male would prefer being employed in a construction job over a teaching job.
  • Inconsistency. Some managers utilize different sets of questions to interview for the same job position amongst different individuals. For example, asking Hispanic candidates about their bilingual skills versus Caucasian applicants is not a recommended practice.
  • First Impression. First impressions can leave a lasting impression. Sometimes during the interview process, the interviewer takes the first thing he or she notices about the candidate and forms his/her opinion regarding the applicant on the first impression. This bias may benefit or harm the candidate’s chances of selection.
  • Halo/Horn Effect. If the interviewer finds one good trait, he or she will favor the candidate (halo). When the interviewer finds one negative trait, he or she will see that to be a disqualifier for the position (horn).
  • Contrast Effect. Contrast bias is present when candidates are compared against each other rather than evaluated based on the job requirements. The tendency is to base a candidate’s individual ranking on one's position relative to others in the group. If the interview pool consists of a number of outstanding candidates, an average candidate will not be selected. But in a substandard pool, the average candidate may appear to be highly qualified.
  • “Similar to Me”. The “similar to me” effect occurs when the interviewer identifies with the candidate on a personal level, rather than evaluates the candidate on job-related criteria. For Example: The candidate attended the same university as the interviewer.
  • Cultural Noise. This occurs when the candidate’s responses are not factually based, but are socially acceptable answers. Basically, the applicant tells the interviewer what he/she thinks the interviewer would like to hear or will help secure the job.
Interview bias may occur intentionally or unintentionally. It is important to be aware how biases may affect your decision-making when interviewing candidates. Keep biases at bay to ensure equality and effectiveness in the interview process.
 
 To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 7/6/20120 Entries
Proactive Prevention Against Workplace Harassment
By

Proactive Prevention Against Workplace Harassment

For years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the US Supreme Court have strongly encouraged employers to establish harassment prevention training and have punished certain employers who fail to educate their employees. Several states (e.g. California, Connecticut, and Maine) require harassment education and make it unlawful for failure to train. All companies – big and small – must understand the definition of harassment, recognize the applicable mandatory training provisions, and ensure effective delivery of programs to protect their businesses.

A few employers generally understand the basics of what is considered workplace harassment, but many often neglect or tend to forget that discrimination plays a significant role. According to the EEOC, unlawful harassment is a form of discrimination that can violate one or more federal statutes, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Workplace harassment and discrimination can relate to each other because both may involve unwelcome verbal or physical conduct and behaviors often associated with protected classes including race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, age, and disability. Harassment may result from internal sources (e.g. employees and managers) or external sources (e.g. customers, vendors, and visitors to the workplace).

Examples of workplace harassment include:

•Use of derogatory or mockery words encompassing skin color, religion, gender, age, and stereotypes.

•Body language (e.g. profane gestures) and materials (e.g. explicit photos) considered offensive.

•Insulting inferences or sexual references about an individual’s appearance (e.g. body parts or clothing attire).

An employer can be held liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in negative employment actions such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. In 2011, the EEOC stated 16.3% of charges were filed by males regarding sexual harassment. Employers having any knowledge about harassment (even alleged) and failing to take prompt and appropriate corrective action, can be held liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees of whom it has oversight responsibilities (e.g. independent contractors or customers on the premises). If a complaint is filed with the EEOC, a determination as to whether the harassment is severe or pervasive enough to be deemed illegal is made on a case-by-case basis.

Prevention is the best tool to decrease or eliminate harassment in the workplace. Take proactive (and documented) steps to prevent and correct prohibited harassment prior to it becoming pervasive or unlawful. Clearly communicate to employees that unwelcome harassing conduct will not be tolerated. In particular, provide anti-harassment training to all managers and employees on a regular basis. Determine if the state you do business in, requires sexual harassment training. Three states (California, Connecticut, and Maine) currently require sexual harassment training to be provided for supervisory employees according to company size and other factors.

Employers should strive to create an environment in which employees feel free to raise concerns and are confident that those concerns will be addressed. Therefore, minimize your company’s liabilities by protecting your business against law suits and preventing harassment in the workplace by consistently communicating and educating all of your employees and supervisors.
 
 To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 7/5/20120 Entries
Proactive Prevention Against Workplace Harassment
By HR Pros of the HR Support Center

Proactive Prevention Against Workplace Harassment

For years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the US Supreme Court have strongly encouraged employers to establish harassment prevention training and have punished certain employers who fail to educate their employees. Several states (e.g. California, Connecticut, and Maine) require harassment education and make it unlawful for failure to train. All companies – big and small – must understand the definition of harassment, recognize the applicable mandatory training provisions, and ensure effective delivery of programs to protect their businesses.

A few employers generally understand the basics of what is considered workplace harassment, but many often neglect or tend to forget that discrimination plays a significant role. According to the EEOC, unlawful harassment is a form of discrimination that can violate one or more federal statutes, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Workplace harassment and discrimination can relate to each other because both may involve unwelcome verbal or physical conduct and behaviors often associated with protected classes including race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, ethnicity, age, and disability. Harassment may result from internal sources (e.g. employees and managers) or external sources (e.g. customers, vendors, and visitors to the workplace).

Examples of workplace harassment include:

•Use of derogatory or mockery words encompassing skin color, religion, gender, age, and stereotypes.

•Body language (e.g. profane gestures) and materials (e.g. explicit photos) considered offensive.

•Insulting inferences or sexual references about an individual’s appearance (e.g. body parts or clothing attire).

An employer can be held liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in negative employment actions such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. In 2011, the EEOC stated 16.3% of charges were filed by males regarding sexual harassment. Employers having any knowledge about harassment (even alleged) and failing to take prompt and appropriate corrective action, can be held liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees of whom it has oversight responsibilities (e.g. independent contractors or customers on the premises). If a complaint is filed with the EEOC, a determination as to whether the harassment is severe or pervasive enough to be deemed illegal is made on a case-by-case basis.

Prevention is the best tool to decrease or eliminate harassment in the workplace. Take proactive (and documented) steps to prevent and correct prohibited harassment prior to it becoming pervasive or unlawful. Clearly communicate to employees that unwelcome harassing conduct will not be tolerated. In particular, provide anti-harassment training to all managers and employees on a regular basis. Determine if the state you do business in, requires sexual harassment training. Three states (California, Connecticut, and Maine) currently require sexual harassment training to be provided for supervisory employees according to company size and other factors.

Employers should strive to create an environment in which employees feel free to raise concerns and are confident that those concerns will be addressed. Therefore, minimize your company’s liabilities by protecting your business against law suits and preventing harassment in the workplace by consistently communicating and educating all of your employees and supervisors.
 
To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668. 
 
Posted: 7/3/20120 Entries
Workplace Political Expressions
By HR Pros of the HR Support Center

According to the HR Support Center March 2012 poll, 78% of respondents indicated “No” to the question posed of: “Does your company currently have a policy or practice that permits or prohibits political related activities in the workplace?” Due to recent “occupy” movements, legislative banter and election promotions, political activities can be effectively addressed with the implementation of well-prepared policies.

First of all, employers can limit political activity in the workplace. The First Amendment does not entitle individuals (employees included) to express their political views whenever and wherever they wish. Those in private-sector companies have no constitutional right to free speech, and can be terminated for expressing political beliefs as long as their dismissal does not violate some other federal or state law.  

Political expressions encompass various (verbal or non-verbal) activities or inferences exchanged to support an idea, person, or thing. Often, there are pros and cons that come with political expressions presented in the workplace that can be treated as permitted or prohibited activities, which may or may not disrupt the workflow as well. Also, federal and state regulations further provide guidance for employers to consider when developing a policy.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) describes federal regulations when an activity may be considered “protected” under law. Three rules apply to determine whether an activity (e.g. political) is protected under the NLRA: 

  • Political activity occurs during non-working time and off the employer’s premises.
  • On-duty political support related to a specifically identified employment concern (e.g. Health Care Reform) is subject to restrictions imposed by lawful work rules.
  • Leaving or stopping work to engage in political support may be subject to restrictions imposed by lawful work rules. An employer cannot discipline or discharge employees who leave work without permission if their walkout is for the purpose of obtaining some improvement in their own working conditions from their employer who has control.  

The above-noted activities can be viewed to be political in nature and permitted for employees to engage in since the NLRA states employees have the right to engage in concerted activity. However, union-related logos represented on campaign materials sometimes may or may not be prohibited in regards to business practices (such as safety and personal protective equipment). 

In addition, state laws also make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of an employee’s political activity or affiliation. Employers have the right and responsibility to ensure that work environments are safe, and free of hostility aimed at employees because of protected classification such as race or gender. For example, in 2012 several political issues covered in the current media such as gay marriage and immigration reform, impact protected worker classes of race, religion and sex. Thus, it is vital to develop political expression policies to help manage the workplace.  

Employer policies and best practices should: 

  • Prohibit political statements while working and interacting with customers, visitors, etc.
  • Enforce dress codes on employees regarding pro-candidate items attire (e.g. buttons, pins, ribbons, clothing), that affect business.
  • Restrict access to social media and internet programs (email).
  • Prohibit political fundraising or informational meetings within the workplace, as part of "no solicitation/no distribution" rules.
  • Discipline employees for leaving work to attend a rally or other political event (as opposed to allowing for voting time leave).
  • Train supervisors and managers on the company’s policy and what steps to take if they hear or observe inappropriate workplace political debates that become intense.  

Although there are some companies that by the very nature of their businesses are politically involved in campaigns and voter registration drives, many employers prefer to keep politics away from business relations and practices. Many courts uphold restrictions but only on conduct that is unlawful or demonstrably harmful to the employer’s legitimate business interests. Especially during an election year, it is in every employer’s interest to develop and enforce a political expression policy to ensure workplace productivity to be its finest and anti-discrimination to be at its highest.

Posted: 7/2/20120 Entries
EEOC and ADA Stances on High School Diplomas for Hiring
By HR Pros of the HR Support Center

In today’s competitive job market, employers look to hire well-qualified, diverse, talented, skilled, experienced, and educated candidates for job positions.  Often, job postings and requirements specify minimum qualifications for prospective candidates to satisfy in order to be considered. Many employers are aware of the risk of discrimination claims affecting those from protected classes, and education background is one hiring criterion that is easily taken for granted.  

Specifically, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) addressed the issue of whether or not requiring a high school diploma is viewed as discriminatory. In a November 2011 discussion letter, the EEOC stated that requiring a high school diploma may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations if it is determined an individual cannot obtain a diploma due to a learning disability. However, if the individual applied for a reasonable accommodation, then the employer would need to consider that prospective job candidate, as long as he or she met the other minimum qualifications specified by the employer. A reasonable accommodation would allow the individual to perform the essential functions of the job. 

The employer could also consider relevant work history and/or allow the applicant to demonstrate an ability to do the job's essential functions during the application process. On the other hand, if there was a job-related need and business-need to have high school diploma (e.g. as pre-requisite), then the employer may require this from applicants.

In addition, if the employer is choosing from amongst multiple applicants, it may still choose the most qualified applicant and not be required to select the applicant with a disability. The employer should consider if a different applicant had applied without a learning disability (who did not have a high school diploma) versus someone who applied with a learning disability (who did not have a high school diploma). To provide further clarification, while the ADA protects job applicants whose disability made it impossible to obtain a diploma, it would not protect a job applicant who consciously chose not to finish this level of schooling. 

Therefore, the next time your company is looking to fill in a vacancy, double check the verbiage on the job description and posting, as well as revisit your hiring practices. Be sure to understand the implications of the EEOC and ADA regulations, especially if you require a certain educational background from job applicants. 
 
To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 7/2/20120 Entries
Health Care Reform Act and Your Small Business
By Greg Bennett

New Federal Law Alert

"On Thursday, June 28, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that upheld (except for sanctions related to Medicaid expansion) the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), also known as the Health Care Reform Act.

The Act's multiple provisions impacting employers remain intact, and many of the mandates become effective in 2013 and 2014. Thus, employers must proceed with implementation of the Act or prepare to pay penalties. Immediate employer actions for the remainder of 2012 include but are not limited to: assessment of the Act's effect on the business; determination of redistribution or usage of Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rebates; distribution of Summaries of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) in time for the next open enrollment; reporting of group health plan coverage costs on 2012 Forms W-2; and revisions to company cafeteria plans to reflect employee contribution limits on health care Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA).
 
 To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
 
Posted: 7/1/20120 Entries
HR Training for Managers as a Key Compliance Strategy for Your Business
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

HR Training for Managers as a Key Compliance Strategy for Your Business

The value of providing training to managers throughout the employment life cycle cannot be overlooked. Training ensures that your managers are knowledgeable about your company’s workplace law obligations and skilled in delivering human resources best practices in order to become successful in their roles. Training further enables business costs to be low, employer liability to be controlled, and allows for successful organizations to emerge. Did you know that in 2010 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed 99,992 charges against the private sector?  

Managers should be trained in various discipline areas, but some may or may not apply depending upon the company’s size and industry. Below are some suggested strategic and compliance training topics to assist managers in increasing effectiveness and reducing exposure.   

  • Business Execution. Monitoring business goals, supervising employees, and managing organizational changes may result in improved business effectiveness.
  • Leadership. Providing ample opportunities for employees to have open communication and share a common vision, mission and goal helps with decreasing employee turnover rates.
  • Performance Management. Learning to provide evaluations that are fair, objective, and based on the organization’s goals opens the door to feedback and conveys to employees they are valuable assets to the organization.
  • Diversity. Getting to know who your employees are, how to execute equal employment opportunities with non-discrimination tactics, and handling generational differences allows for increased employee satisfaction retention rates.
  • Business Crises Management. Planning, analyzing and evaluating how to handle stressful, harmful, or safety-related hazards that occur intentionally or un-intentionally (such as violence, injuries, accidents, fires, earthquakes, etc.) enables managers to take action rationally and rely on the team when needed.
  • HR Best Practices. Learning the basics about hiring, termination, harassment, business policies, employment laws, paperwork compliance, etc., sets forth better protection for managers and organizations. Often, the number and degree of EEOC complaints, OSHA violations, wage and hour penalties, or other claims are reduced when managers receive training on these topics to assist them in making informed decisions. 
It is vital to understand that once training is received, managers should be able to “transfer” the training into actual real life situations and settings when an opportunity presents itself.  One way managers can transfer training learned is by utilizing action plans.  Proper training can assist organizations by enhancing performance, productivity, employee satisfaction and customer service within a department.  So, start training every day!
 
 To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 6/30/20120 Entries
Tracking the Hours Worked for Your Exempt Employees
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Tracking the Hours Worked for Your Exempt Employees

The exempt verses non-exempt employee classification issue continues as a common area of confusion among employers. Often, many employers who are unfamiliar with the nuances of the issue also face practical challenges, including when and how to track hours for exempt employees.  

To be classified as exempt, the employee’s job generally must satisfy both a salary basis test and a duties basis test. Exempt employees generally must be paid on a salary basis, meaning they must be paid a fixed salary each week. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) enforces regulations that define the salary basis requirement to satisfy the exempt status tests. Exempt, Administrative, Executive, and Professional employees must be paid a predetermined amount each pay period that is at least the minimum weekly salary required by the regulations. The current federal minimum is $455 per week; however some states require a higher minimum weekly salary to satisfy this test. The amount paid may not be reduced because of a variation in the quality or quantity of the work performed.   

Non-exempt employees are typically paid on an hourly basis and entitled to overtime compensation. According to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers are required to track the hours worked and meal periods for nonexempt employees. This requirement ensures that such employees earn at least minimum wage plus overtime compensation for any hours worked above 40 in a work week (and in some states, for any hours worked above eight in a workday).   

However, nothing in the law prohibits an employer from keeping track of an exempt employee's hours. Some valid reasons for tracking exempt employee hours can still be compelling. For example, an employer may opt to track an exempt employee’s hours for purposes of client billing, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 401(k), hours-based benefits calculations, attendance, paid time off (PTO) benefits, etc. Some employers opt to track exempt employees’ hours simply to ensure the equitable treatment of all employees regardless of classification in the company.  

With a few exceptions, exempt employees must receive their full salary for any week in which they perform work without regard to the number of days or hours worked. Accordingly, if exempt employees clock in late to work or leave early at the end of the day, the employer may not dock their pay as they may for non-exempt employees. If an employer does dock an exempt employee’s wages, such a deduction may jeopardize the individual’s exempt status.  

Should an employer opt to track the hours of exempt employees, the company will need to be very careful with respect to how it uses this information.  As explained above, the exempt employee’s salary should not fluctuate based on the number of hours worked within the workweek. Prorating an exempt employee’s salary based on hours worked may result in the loss of the exemption, which may be very costly for the business.  The company may only take a deduction from an exempt employee’s salary under limited circumstances without jeopardizing the exempt status.  These circumstances are listed below:

  • When an employee is absent from work for one or more full days for personal reasons other than sickness or disability;
  • For absences of one or more full days due to sickness or disability if the deduction is made in accordance with a bona fide plan, policy or practice of providing compensation for salary lost due to illness;
  • To offset amounts employees receive as jury or witness fees, or for temporary military duty pay;
  • For penalties imposed in good faith for infractions of safety rules of major significance;
  • For unpaid disciplinary suspensions of one or more full days imposed in good faith for workplace conduct rule infractions;
  • In the employee's initial or terminal week of employment if the employee does not work the full week, or
  • For unpaid leave taken by the employee under the federal FMLA.
While the company may opt to track the hours of exempt employees, the company must ensure that such information is not used to take deductions from their employees’ regular salaries, unless such deductions comply with the relevant guidelines.
 
  To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 6/29/20120 Entries
DOL Enforcement Database Targets Company Profiles
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has developed an online resource called Enforcement Data 2.0. The online database represents a significant new employer threat as it provides public access to workplace-related information about certain companies. By leveraging database information (i.e. wage and hour, workplace injuries, etc.), the DOL and other enforcement agencies can more easily target specific businesses or industries. 

Employers face several implications about this online tool. Multiple agencies can more quickly report employers deemed as non-complaint with its workplace obligations and make the same employers more easily discoverable.  For example, if the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division enters information about an employer’s non-compliant minimum wage practices, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) could potentially use the information as a basis to explore unlawful discrimination issues in terms of the company’s equal pay treatment among its employees.  In essence, the company’s exposure of designated non-compliance in one area increases the likelihood of inquiry or investigation into other areas of an employer’s policies, procedures, and practices.    

For the time being, this online resource remains still fairly new and has not caught much media attention yet. However, with a new year already starting, the DOL and other agencies are clearly continuing to ramp up their compliance enforcement efforts against employers. In fact, the DOL has communicated that it will develop more features to its Enforcement Data 2.0 and will also rigorously educate the public about employee workplace rights and employers who demonstrate failure of employment law compliance. 

  To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 6/29/20120 Entries
The Necessities of a Safety Manual
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

The Necessities of a Safety Manual

Employers are responsible for providing a safe workplace environment for their employees free from harm, health hazards, harassment, etc. Enforcement of workplace safety compliance is an issue that has gained increased attention from federal and state governing agencies.  

According to the federal Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA), an effective safety and health program can save as much as six dollars for every dollar invested.  On January 6, 2012, OSHA initiated a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) panel process to draft an Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP) rule. Where ever your business is in terms of a safety program, a safety manual is an important starting point for any company size. As a best practice, a company’s safety manual typically includes the following: 

  • Supervisor responsibilities
  • Employee responsibilities
  • Reporting
  • Safety policies
  • Equipment usage/handling
  • Chemical/hazard handling
  • First aid
  • CPR
  • Safety rules
  • Documents
  • Disciplinary action
  • Accident reporting
  • Injury reporting
  • OSHA logs
  • Protective uniforms
  • Cleaning workspaces
  • Opening/closing items  

Note: Twenty-four states operate their own OSHA-approved safety and health programs. Some state plan requirements may differ in certain aspects from federal OSHA. Regardless, state-imposed standards must be at least as stringent as the federal standards. 

While OSHA is currently in the process of developing new standards of an IIPP, employers still need to adhere to their workplace health and safety obligations.  So at a minimum, be sure to regularly review your company’s safety manual or consider establishing an IIPP.  With the right information, the manual should help your business meet OSHA requirements and achieve an in-compliance status well before an OSHA inspection occurs. 
 
 To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 6/29/20120 Entries
Workplace Water Cooler Rumors
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Workplace Water Cooler Rumors

Many employers using technology understand the dynamic implications of workplace rumors. Rumors can create an environment of mistrust, hostility, low motivation, and low productivity. Managers who are trained to recognize the root causes of rumors and how to prevent them, or at least be able to manage rumors, can more effectively set the stage for teamwork success.

Rumors arise due to various reasons. Some reasons arise from relationships at the workplace, work stressors, and dealing with personal job satisfaction. In general, there is a natural tendency to engage in rumors or listen in to what is happening around us due to human needs of wanting to communicate, stay informed, and fit in with peers. Some employees engage in this fashion to gain more control and to see how much power they may have in comparison to others. Often, when employees do not know why certain management decisions are being made, gossip and rumors begin. A manager’s clear and effective communication style, with his or her employees, is crucial.

Managers can do a lot to address workplace rumors. Here are some top picks:

  • Values. Ensure values are in line with the rest of staff. Managers should make an effort to state what will not be tolerated.
  • Open door policy. Managers should welcome feedback from all employees to speak about the company and their own job positions. When managers avoid direct communication with employees, employees often feel compelled to engage in conversation about “what ifs” to what may be happening. Employees assume future developments involving staff and business practices about products or services may be changed.
  • Confidential suggestion box. Managers can put up a suggestion box that allows for employees to anonymously submit in their concerns or comments in regards to what is bothering them or how things are going for them.
  • Discipline. Manage employees who continue to engage in rumors and or are not mindful about workplace productivity.
  • Third-party mediation. Gain more neutral input by having a third person take notes at the mediation and keep everyone on track. More specifically, if the tone / content of the conversation becomes inappropriate, they can help bring it back to an appropriate level.
  • Employee independence. Employees should learn how to handle gossip on their own. Whenever a gossiper is confronted, he or she will think twice about doing it again. Avoid using the word “you” but having the person who is the target of the gossip state something in an “I” statement.
In today’s workplace, it can be difficult to escape workplace gossip issues. Those who engage as the senders of workplace gossip and those who are the recipients tend to hear different things and build different interpretations which can lead to infectious discontent. It is encouraged for employees and managers to speak to one another on-going about decisions, upcoming plans, etc. to fill in communication gaps. By doing so, it will greatly help prevent rumors from starting and speculation from occurring.
 
 To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 6/28/20120 Entries
The New Protected Class
By HR Pros of the HR Support Center

In today’s economic times, a competitive job force embraces workers with various knowledge, skills, abilities, education, and experience levels. Hiring managers attempt to compare and contrast these items when determining the best job candidate for a specific position. With respect to experience, many hiring managers consider long gaps in employment history on the resume or employment application to be a strike against a potential job candidate. However, due to the high levels of unemployment the country has experienced in the past few years, lawmakers are taking measures to ensure the job candidates who have experienced recent periods of unemployment are still considered viable candidates.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the agency that oversees discrimination in hiring practices. Some of the traditional protected classes include race, color, religion, national origin, age (40 and over), disability, military or veteran status, etc. Protected classes were developed from previous anti-discrimination laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Equal Pay Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

On April 5, 2012, President Obama signed into law the JOBS Act (Jumpstart Our Business Startups) that is intended to prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants because they are unemployed. Under the Act, it is “an unlawful employment practice” if a business with 15 or more employees refuses to hire a person “because of the individual’s status as unemployed.” Unselected job applicants will have the right to file a complaint with the EEOC if they are disqualified from consideration due to a recent period of unemployment. The JOBS Act contains the “Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011” (FEOA) that treats unemployed job applicants as a protected class under Title VII. The FEOA would make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer or employment agency that:

  • Fails or refuses to consider or hire an individual based upon his or her status as unemployed.
  • Instructs an employment agency to disqualify an unemployed individual from consideration, screening, or referral for employment.
  • Refuses to consider or refer an unemployed individual for a job opportunity.
  • Publishes advertisements which indicate that unemployed individuals are disqualified or will not be considered for employment opportunities.
Employers are encouraged to look carefully at their hiring methods (especially when viewing recent gaps in employment history) and to assess the role an applicant’s unemployed status has on hiring decisions. There are several remedies that apply within the JOBS Act that include injunctive relief, reinstatement, lost wages, punitive damages, emotional distress damages, and reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Employers need to use caution when inquiring into the reasons underlying an applicant’s current unemployment status. Remember, anything more than a minimal investigation into an applicant’s current status (i.e. unemployed) may be considered as an influencing factor in the hiring decision. This can expose the employer to liability if the individual is not ultimately considered or hired for a position.
 
To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 6/17/20120 Entries
Small Business Payroll | Administration & Management | 404-920-8668
By Sonia Furini

Small Business Payroll: Administration & Management

Most small business owners would agree that their primary focus is building their enterprise. So, unless your business is in payroll  administration or payroll management, it's likely that you haven't considered the sophistication of the payroll process. Of course, we know there is more to small business payroll than simply writing and handing out checks to employees. 

Payroll administration and payroll management are important parts of any business, but they are also among the most complex and frustrating tasks. In processing small business payroll, your employees could have bonuses, commission payments, overtime compensation, as well as varying deductions and required taxes that must be withheld. And, full-time and part-time employees might be paid differently than contractors. Understandably, it is easy to get lost in all of legal demands of payroll administration

Running a small business isn't as easy as it may seem, and if payroll management is looming over your head like a heavy raincloud, your productivity levels could be down, and that could put your expenses even higher. Together, we can build a cost-conscious payroll process shaped your individual business. It will have all of the characteristics of a well-oiled machine, because it will be! 

From timekeeping to viewing and printing online pay advices, your employees will have 24/7 access to our secure online portal. Your management personnel will have all the tools they need for payroll administration and payroll management to process your small business payroll whenever you want. 

We're sensitive to the confidentialty, privacy and security of your employees and your small business payroll, too. You should be confident that your outsourced payroll processor is handling your employee's information with equal care and respect that you provide. 

So, how does Atlanta Payroll Services differ from large payroll processing houses? Our experienced payroll specialists are your personal payroll experts. We provide payroll management that is tailored to your specific needs - and processing that is fast and precise. And, if you get stuck, don't worry, we have an exceptional customer service department just a phone call away who is waiting to help.  

Posted: 6/17/20120 Entries
The Value of Employment Branding
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center
Employment branding is the process of positioning an organization as an employer’s choice in the labor market. Employment branding is essential to analyze because employers can understand what motivates individuals to work for and continue working for particular organizations. Some employers such as Google, Apple, Sony, etc. have created images that are universal icons which remain competitive in the labor market. Employers can analyze their own employment branding simply by seeing into their strategies employed.

Employment strategies cover several components which often influence retention. Some strategies encompass:
  • Creating positive, compelling images of the organization that convey social responsibility and industry impacts.
  • Providing clear and consistent messages about what it is like to work at the organization through viral phrases such as “commitment to innovation”,” teamwork”, etc.
  • Encouraging the best potential candidates to apply for jobs with advertisements using media.
  • Decreasing the time-to-fill and cost-per-hire ratios.
  • Lowering turnover by offering competitive packages and enjoyable work environment.
  • Linking the employment brand with the company’s product brands by reinforcing the public’s image of the organization.
  • Giving employees a sense of pride in their company by knowing they are working for an employer that has a competitive edge and/or positive contribution to society.
To help build and/or improve on a brand, it is vital to consider the channel of how employment branding is marketed upon others. Some popular channels are the company’s website, media ads (on television, radio, print), collateral materials such as brochures, having appearances at job fairs, campuses, or at other types of sponsored or non-sponsored events.

In today’s job market, employment branding is becoming important as the demand for skilled and talented workers increases. With the latest reliance on technology, the job searching and recruiting process has also impacted who is and who is not applying with particular organizations. The need for employment branding cannot be overlooked since it implies that hiring and retention rates may be stabilized. The goal is to make sure employees are satisfied, ensuring business goals are met, while being competitive and unique to one’s own core values.
 
To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
Posted: 6/11/20120 Entries
Atlanta small businesses are smart to outsource payroll processing
By G Bennett
Are you a Georgia small business located in the metro Atlanta area?
 
If you are, congratulations! Your small business is located in one of the most progressive, thriving and fastest growing small business community in the United States. As you already know, running a small business is is very challenging and takes true sacrifice, dedication and many hours, sometimes away from your loved ones to succeed.
 
One of the ways many of the Atlanta small businesses have mitigated some of the time consuming and risky responsibilities is to outsource their payroll to a payroll company that specializes in payroll administration, payroll taxes, new hire reporting, timekeeping and year end reporting. Many Atlanta small businesses choose national payroll companies like ADP, Paychex or Ceridian that are domiciled in other states.
 
Did you know that Atlanta Payroll Services can provide your Atlanta Small Business with exactly the same payroll administration services as those companies?
 
Atlanta Payroll Services offers local payroll administration and payroll processing services right here in Atlanta, Georgia or in other words "right in your back yard". We have over 20 years of payroll management experience with local, Atlanta Ga customer service reps that are focused on what your Georgia small business needs are. Our affordable payroll outsourcing services include:
 
 
  • Traditional Input Options Available
  • Intuitive Workflow
  • Direct Deposit
  • SecurePay
  • Paperless Payroll
  • Tax Service
  • Manager Self Service
  • Online Timekeeping
  • Traditional Time Keeping
  • Report Writer
  • Paid Time Off Accruals
  • Deduction Details
  • General Ledger
  • Mandatory New Hire Reporting
  • Workers Compensation
  • Certified Payroll Report
  • Payroll Summary
  • Payroll Details
  • Check Register
  • Deduction Report
  • 401k Report
  • Change Report
  • Employee Detail
  • General Ledger
  • Job Costing
  • Labor Distribution
  • Paid Time Off Detail
  • Restaurant Reports
  • Federal and State Summaries
 
 Outstanding LOCAL Atlanta Payroll Service
 
We have a knowledgeable, experienced, and friendly payroll management staff available to assist you with any questions or needs you may have. Our implementation process is easy, accurate, and fast. Contact us today!

404-920-8668

 

 

 
 
 
Posted: 6/11/20120 Entries
Solutions for Small Business Challenges
By Sonia Furini

Solutions for Small Business Challenges

In March 2012, the city of Atlanta ranked second in a tie with Marietta and Sandy Springs for entrepreneurial activity by metro area in Georgia. That said, at , we know firsthand the excitement of doing business in Atlanta and we understand small business challenges. We iron out the complex regulations of payroll taxes and unemployment taxes for you.   

Atlanta Payroll Services is based in downtown Atlanta and gives expert attention to your small business challenges. As you know, doing business in Atlanta means understanding and confronting every element of small business challenges head on. Yet, business owners can't grow their business while being hindered by convoluted rules around small business payroll, payroll taxes and unemployment taxes.

Imagine being able to focus on producing revenue and strengthening your core business functions, while feeling completely confident that your payroll management is in great hands.

Our focus is on providing a wide range of payroll services for small companies throughout Georgia. Having employees demands tax responsibility, which brings small business challenges that cannot be avoided. While you devote energy to achieving your goals, we relieve your business concerns by confidently handling payroll taxes, unemployment taxes and other small business payroll matters.  

 

Over the last 10 years, Georgia experienced the second largest increase nationwide in entrepreneurial activity, and the competition continues to grow. We want your business to reach its highest potential and we assist in that by expertly administrating small business payroll and all of its intricacies. In other words, we eliminate the guesswork and offer you the confidence of a job well done. Your time will be spent on growing your business instead of being consumed by sorting through payroll processing and compliance. 

If the overwhelm of payroll taxes, unemployment taxes and payroll record-keeping have you baffled, Altanta Payroll provides the solutions to make your business responsibilities less of a burden. Our experts understand confusing unemployment taxes, payroll taxes and the convoluted regulations of small business payroll. We understand the personal liability associated with employment and payroll taxes. Let us help you free up time, so you can meet every business opportunity. Our group of driven experts offers the small-town attention and personalized customer service your business deserves. 

Posted: 5/30/2012
Atlanta HR Alerts
By Atlanta Payroll

IRS Mileage Rate. Beginning on January 1, 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be 55.5 cents per mile for business miles, 23 cents per mile for medical or moving purposes miles, and 14 cents per mile for service of charitable organization miles.

HHS Final Rule on Medical Loss Ratio Requirements.Regarding the Affordable Care Act’s Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) requirements, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a final rule that is effective January 3, 2012. The new health care law mandates that health insurance companies in the small group markets spend at least 80% of premium dollars on medical care and health care quality improvement. In addition, employer-sponsored group health plans receiving rebates must ensure that the enrollee portion of the rebate is properly distributed for the benefit of enrollees.

Mobile Phone Use Restriction. Effective January 3, 2012, a new Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation restricts commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers from holding, reaching for, or pressing more than one button to operate mobile phone devices while operating their vehicles. CMV drivers may still use devices as long as usage is in compliance with the new rule (i.e. devices must be mounted or securely within reach of the driver’s control panel).

Required NLRA Labor Law Posting. As a reminder, do not forget that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a Final Rule that requires employers to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Private-sector employers, including labor organizations, are required to post the NLRA employee rights notice where other workplace notices are typically posted. Based on a recent NLRB announcement, this notice must be posted no later than April 30, 2012; the previous date was January 31, 2012.

Form W-2. Employers must complete Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to report wages, tips and other compensation paid to an employee. A copy of this form must be given to the employee by January 31st.

Posted: 5/14/2012
Atlanta Payroll Services
By Greg B.

Georgia Small Business Owners Finally Catch a Break; a High-Tech Human Resources Solution with Small-Town Values.

ATLANTA, GEORGIA (March 14, 2012). To whom does a Georgia small business owner turn for professional and affordable payroll and HR assistance?

The needs of small businesses are unique unto themselves. Affordability, customization, employee benefit packages, remaining compliant with state and federal laws are just a few of the concerns facing today’s small business owner.

“One of the most crucial elements of running a small business today is making sure it is compliant with state and federal laws. The last thing a small business owner wants is to fail a government audit,” asserts Greg Bennett Sr., head of business development at Atlanta Payroll Services.

As well, there is the possibility of getting lost in the shuffle with the larger, publicly-traded HR firms. Enter Atlanta Payroll Services, the premier HR Solution that caters exclusively to the small business owner’s needs. Being a locally based entity enables Atlanta Payroll Services’ team of experts to consistently provide friendly, personalized customer service―one of the features that sets them apart. Additional services include plans and packages designed to suit each small business’ individual needs, such as pay-as-you-go worker’s comp insurance, time-keeping solutions, 401K options, background screening, Employee Assistance Programs, (EAP) and more.

Further, Atlanta Payroll Services offers Georgia’s small business owners the technologically advanced HR On-Demand―24/7 online access to Human Resource professionals. Learn more about this invaluable tool, and Atlanta Payroll Services, by calling 440.996.1729. Or, you may visit the company website: http://wwwatlantapayrollservices.com

The focal point of Atlanta Payroll Services is to provide optimum customer service while supplying Georgia’s small businesses with professional HR solutions, outsourcing and payroll services at affordable prices.

Posted: 12/1/20110 Entries
Annual Employee Training
By Atlanta Payroll Services

 

Annual Employee Training

Annual Training is an investment that any organization should make in its workforce. Employees become inundated with the day-to-day matters of their jobs, so once a year, it is suggested that the organization implements an annual training day as a “refresher” on company policies and procedures.  During such a training session, it is important to reference the employee handbook, as it establishes the basis for the organizations policies. If your organization does not yet have an employee handbook, or if your existing handbook would benefit from a review by a Human Resources Professional, please visit the HR Support Center to learn more about employee handbooks, and how they can serve your organization’s needs.

Posted: 5/29/2010
Financial Statements: The Balance Sheet
By Findlaw.com
The balance sheet is a snapshot of the company's financial standing at an instant in time. The balance sheet shows the company's financial position, what it owns (assets) and what it owes (liabilities and net worth). The "bottom line" of a balance sheet must always balance (i.e. assets = liabilities + net worth).

The individual elements of a balance sheet change from day to day and reflect the activities of the company. Analyzing how the balance sheet changes over time will reveal important information about the company's business trends. In this lesson we'll discover how you can monitor your ability to collect revenues, how well you manage your inventory, and even assess your ability to satisfy creditors and stockholders.

Liabilities and net worth on the balance sheet represent the company's sources of funds. Liabilities and net worth are composed of creditors and investors who have provided cash or its equivalent to the company in the past. As a source of funds, they enable the company to continue in business or expand operations. If creditors and investors are unhappy and distrustful, the company's chances of survival are limited. Assets, on the other hand, represent the company's use of funds. The company uses cash or other funds provided by the creditor/investor to acquire assets. Assets include all the things of value that are owned or due to the business.

Liabilities represent a company's obligations to creditors while net worth represents the owner's investment in the company. In reality, both creditors and owners are "investors" in the company with the only difference being the degree of nervousness and the timeframe in which they expect repayment.

ASSETS
As noted previously, anything of value that is owned or due to the business is included under the "Asset" section of the Balance Sheet. Assets are shown at net book or net realizable value (more on this later), but appreciated values are not generally considered.

Current Assets

Current assets are those which mature in less than one year. They are the sum of the following categories:
  • Cash
  • Accounts Receivable (A/R)
  • Inventory (Inv)
  • Notes Receivable (N/R)
  • Prepaid Expenses
  • Other Current Assets

Cash

Cash is the only game in town. Cash pays bills and obligations. Inventory, receivables, land, building, machinery and equipment do not pay obligations even though they can be sold for cash and then used to pay bills. If cash is inadequate or improperly managed the company may become insolvent and be forced into bankruptcy. Include all checking, money market and short term savings accounts under Cash.

Accounts Receivable (A/R)

Accounts receivable are dollars due from customers. They arise as a result of the process of selling inventory or services on terms that allow delivery prior to the collection of cash. Inventory is sold and shipped, an invoice is sent to the customer, and later cash is collected. The receivable exists for the time period between the selling of the inventory and the receipt of cash Receivables are proportional to sales. As sales rise, the investment you must make in receivables also rises.

Inventory

Inventory consists of the goods and materials a company purchases to re-sell at a profit. In the process, sales and receivables are generated. The company purchases raw material inventory that is processed (aka work-in-process inventory) to be sold as finished goods inventory. For a company that sells a product, inventory is often the first use of cash. Purchasing inventory to be sold at a profit is the first step in the profit making cycle (operating cycle) as illustrated previously. Selling inventory does not bring cash back into the company -- it creates a receivable. Only after a time lag equal to the receivable's collection period will cash return to the company. Thus, it is very important that the level of inventory be well managed so that the business does not keep too much cash tied up in inventory as this will reduce profits. At the same time, a company must keep sufficient inventory on hand to prevent stockouts (having nothing to sell) because this too will erode profits and may result in the loss of customers.

Notes Receivable (N/R)

N/R is a receivable due the company, in the form of a promissory note, arising because the company made a loan. Making loans is the business of banks, not of operating business, and particularly not the business of a small company with limited financial resources. Notes receivable is probably a note due from one of three sources:

1. Customers,
2. Employee, or 
3. Officers of the company.

Customer notes receivable is when the customer who borrowed from the company probably did so because he could not meet the accounts receivable terms. When the customer failed to pay the invoice according to the agreed upon payment terms, the customer's obligation may have been converted to a promissory note. Employee notes receivable may be for legitimate reasons, such as a down payment on a home, but the company is neither a charity nor a bank. If the company wants to help the employee, it can co-sign on the loan advanced by a bank.

An officer or owner borrowing from the company is the worst form of note receivable. If an officer takes money from the company, it should be declared as a dividend or withdrawal and reflected as a reduction in net worth. Treating it in any other way leads to possible manipulation of the company's stated net worth, and banks and other lending institutions frown greatly upon it.

Other Current Assets

Other Current Assets consist of prepaid expenses and other miscellaneous and current assets.

Fixed Assets

Fixed assets represent the use of cash to purchase physical assets whose life exceeds one year. They include assets such as:
  • Land
  • Building
  • Machinery and Equipment
  • Furniture and Fixtures
  • Leasehold Improvements
  • Intangibles

Intangibles represent the use of cash to purchase assets with an undetermined life which may never mature into cash. For most analysis purposes, intangibles are ignored as assets and are deducted from net worth because their value is difficult to determine. Intangibles consist of assets such as:
  • Research and Development
  • Patents
  • Market Research
  • Goodwill
  • Organizational Expense

In several respects, intangibles are similar to prepaid expenses; the use of cash to purchase a benefit which will be expensed at a future date. Intangibles are recouped, like fixed assets, through incremental annual charges (amortization) against income. Standard accounting procedures require most intangibles to be expensed as purchased and never capitalized (put on the balance sheet). An exception to this is purchased patents that may be amortized over the life of the patent.

Other assets

Other assets consist of miscellaneous accounts such as deposits and long-term notes receivable from third parties. They are turned into cash when the asset is sold or when the note is repaid. Total Assets represent the sum of all the assets owned by or due to the business.

LIABILITIES AND NET WORTH
Liabilities and Net Worth are sources of cash listed in descending order from the most nervous creditors and soonest to mature obligations (current liabilities), to the least nervous and never due obligations (net worth). There are two sources of funds: lender-investor and owner-investor. Lender-investor consist of trade suppliers, employees, tax authorities and financial institutions. Owner-investor consists of stockholders and principals who loan cash to the business. Both lender-investor and owner-investors have invested cash or its equivalent into the company. The only difference between the investors is the maturity date of their obligations and the degree of their nervousness.

Current Liabilities

Current liabilities are those obligations that will mature and must be paid within 12 months. These are liabilities that can create a company's insolvency if cash is inadequate. A happy and satisfied set of current creditors is a healthy and important source of credit for short term uses of cash (inventory and receivables). An unhappy and dissatisfied set of current creditors can threaten the survival of the company. The best way to keep these creditors happy is to keep their obligations current.

Current liabilities consist of the following obligation accounts:
  • Accounts Payable -- Trade (A/P)
  • Accrued Expenses
  • Notes Payable -- Bank (N/P Bank)
  • Notes Payable -- Other (N/P Other)
  • Current Portion of Long term Debt

Proper matching of sources and uses of funds requires that short term (current) liabilities must be used only to purchase short term assets (inventory and receivables).

Notes Payable

Notes payable are obligations in the form of promissory notes with short term maturity dates of less than 12 months. Often, they are demand notes (payable upon demand). Other times they have specific maturity dates (30, 60, 90, 180, 270, 360 days maturities are typical). The notes payable always include only the principal amount of the debt. Any interest owed is listed under accruals.

The proceeds of notes payable should be used to finance current assets (inventory and receivables). The use of funds must be short term so that the asset matures into cash prior to the obligation's maturation. Proper matching would indicate borrowing for seasonal swings in sales which cause swings in inventory and receivables, or to repay accounts payable when attractive discount terms are offered for early payment.

Accounts Payable

Accounts Payable are obligation due to trade suppliers who have provided inventory or goods and services used in operating the business. Suppliers generally offer terms (just like you do for your customers), since the supplier's competition offers payment term. Whenever possible you should take advantage of payment terms as this will help keep your costs down.

If the company is paying its suppliers in a timely fashion, days payable will not exceed the terms of payment.

Accrued Expenses are obligations owed but not billed such as wages and payroll taxes, or obligations accruing, but not yet due, such as interest on a loan. Accruals consist chiefly of wages, payroll taxes, interest payable and employee benefits accruals such as pension funds. As a labor related category, it should vary in accordance with payroll policy (i.e., if wages are paid weekly, the accrual category should seldom exceed one week's payroll and payroll taxes).

Non-current Liabilities

Non-current liabilities are those obligations that will not become due and payable in the coming year. There are three types of non-current liabilities, only two of which are listed on the balance sheet:

Non-current Portion of Long Term Debt (LTD)
Subordinated Officer Loans (Sub-Off)
Contingent Liabilities
Non current portion of long term debt is the principal portion of a term loan not payable in the coming year. Subordinated officer loans are treated as an item that lies between debt and equity. Contingent liabilities listed in the footnotes are potential liabilities, which hopefully never become due. Non-Current Portion of Long Term Debt (LTD) is the portion of a term loan that is not due within the next 12 months. It is listed below the current liability section to demonstrate that the loan does not have to be fully liquidated in the coming year. Long-term debt (LTD) provides cash to be used for a long-term asset purchase, either permanent working capital or fixed assets.

Notes payable to officers, shareholders or owners represent cash which the shareholders or owners have put into the business. For tax reasons, owners may increase their equity investment, beyond the initial company capitalization, by making loans to the business rather than by purchasing additional stock. Any return on investment to the owners can therefore be paid as tax deductible interest expense rather than as non-tax deductible dividends.

When a business borrows from a financial institution, it is common for the officer loans to be subordinated or put on standby. The subordination agreement prohibits the officer from collecting his or her loan prior to the repayment of the institution's loan. When on standby, the loan will be considered as equity by the financial institution. Keep in mind that notes receivable (officer) are considered a bad sign to lenders, while notes payable (officer) are considered to be reassuring.

Contingent Liabilities are potential liabilities that are not listed on the balance sheet. They are listed in the footnotes because they may never become due and payable. Contingent liabilities include:
  • Lawsuits
  • Warranties
  • Cross Guarantees

If the company has been sued, but the litigation has not been initiated, there is no way of knowing whether or not the suit will result in a liability to the company. It will be listed in the footnotes because while not a real liability, it does represent a potential liability which may impair the ability of the company to meet future obligations. Alternatively, if the company guarantees a loan made by a third party to an affiliate, the liability is contingent because it will never become due as long as the affiliate remains healthy and meets its obligations.

Total Liabilities

Total liabilities represent the sum of all monetary obligations of a business and all claims creditors have on its assets.

EQUITY
Equity is represented by total assets minus total liabilities. Equity or Net Worth is the most patient and last to mature source of funds. It represents the owners' share in the financing of all the assets.
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