Update on the Affordable Care Act – a must-read

By Jim Annis

 

Got an extra $3 million in the bank? If not, pay attention. Even if you do have $3 million, pay attention. This is huge.

The biggest news: In 2015, most companies with less than 100 full-time employees or full-time equivalents did not have to make a decision regarding the “pay or play” portion of the Affordable Care Act. Those companies did not have to decide if they wanted to “play” (provide health benefits for employees working at least 30 hours per week) or “pay” (incur a penalty for not doing so). In 2016, the ACA lowers that threshold from 100 to 50 full-time employees or full-time equivalents. So, in 2016, if a company has more than 50 full-time employees or full-time equivalents, that company needs to decide to “pay or play.”

Insurance plans, programs, and cost increases: Conversely, in the health insurance world, the definition of “small group” is in Nevada is moving from 50 full time employees or full time equivalents to 100 full time employees or full time equivalents.  This is important because it is the “small groups” who need to deal with “community rating”. HeathCare.gov defines community rating as “a rule that prevents health insurers from varying premiums within a geographic area based on age, gender, health status or other factors”.

UPDATE: President Obama signed the PACE Act (Protecting Affordable Care for Employees Act) into law on Oct. 7, 2015 – which now keeps “small group” at 50 full-time employees or full-time equivalents. So why is the above paragraph crossed out? We wrote it on Oct. 6, a day before the PACE Act was brought into law. The ACA is constantly changing, and must be kept up with in order to stay compliant.

Realizing the aggregate financial impact: In 2016, employers with more than 50 full-time employees or full-time equivalents have to decide to face a $2,000 penalty per full-time employee if not offering minimum essential coverage to 95 percent of full-time employees; or $3,000 per full-time employee if the coverage offered by the company is not affordable and does not meet minimum value standards and if the employee gets a subsidy from the State Health Exchange. It is a crapshoot trying to figure out the company’s actual financial exposure.

Also, there is a new “army” to enforce these penalties. The ACA is managed by three government agencies: the Department of Health and Human Services, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Labor. The IRS alone is hiring thousands of new agents to administer the law. The IRS has also just recently released unofficial updated penalties for both 2015 and 2016. That $2,000 for 2015 could now be $2,080 per employee and in 2016 could be $2,160 per employee. Under Section 4980H (b) the $3,000 (or $250 per month) could now be increased to $3,120 for 2015, and in 2016 could be $3,240. Under the ACA there will be inflationary adjustments. This is assuming the recommendations are accepted. The point is, those penalty amounts are not static and will only go up.

Compliance, penalties, fines and reporting requirements: Finally, you never saw this coming. It’s going to hit you between the eyes if you don’t follow it closely. Reporting penalties are here. IRS now has the forms ready. Kicking the can down the road is over. Now, if you have more than 50 100 full-time employees or full-time equivalents, if you do not comply one way or another and do not properly file, it will cost you. The penalty for failing to file required information returns with the IRS is $250, plus an additional $250 for not providing the information to impacted full-time employees as well. Depending on the size of your company, this particular penalty alone could reach up to $3,000,000.

The bottom line is if you want to keep your $3 million – whether you have it or not – see your ACA trio (your CPA, your insurance broker or PEO and your attorney) to help you navigate this minefield. Premiums and fines are going up, and so it the administrative burden. If you have not paid attention to ACA yet, it may whack you on the side of the head sooner than you expect.

Jim Annis is president and CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

Read article in the RGJ here.

Desserts and decorations… and something else

By Funmi Sheddy

 

It’s only October… yet you’ve probably already seen holiday décor at the local store, and if you haven’t – it’s coming soon.

So, is it too early to start preparing for the fall and winter holidays?

In my opinion, no.

Now, I don’t mean preparation in the traditional sense – wish lists, holiday recipes, and the like…

Or maybe I do – but not only for the purpose of blessing you, your close friends, and treasured family – but also with the goal of gifting people you’ve never met.

Perhaps you as an individual – or you as a workplace – would like to start preparing to fulfill the wish list of a child in need, a homeless shelter, or an animal rescue organization.

Perhaps you are just in time to organize a toy drive for the little ones in a child abuse shelter.

Or perhaps you’d like to facilitate a food drive to benefit the hungry in your community.

I know it can seem a little cliché to do these charitable acts around the holidays.

But so what if it’s cliché?

Think, what harm could it do?

And, what good could it do?

This once-a-year event could be a kick start for something more – for your workplace, and for employees on an individual level. A kick start to a charitable culture, one that strives to help others and give back to the community.

So, why not get together and pull off some charitable event in the coming seasons – big or small?

Here’s to being thankful and making merry!

Connection in the Workplace

By Anastasia Warren

 

The sad desk lunch.

If you haven’t seen the video, watch it here. Although the video is a bit extreme and comical, it has a point.

You spend at minimum, around 40 hours a week at work. The rest you spend sleeping, cleaning, exercising, practicing hobbies, and spending time with your friends and family.

But still, 40 hours is quite a bit of time.

Although it is not necessary to have close friends at work, it is important to remain social. Getting into the habit of coming to work, sitting at your desk, and leaving can be detrimental.

It is important to talk with your co-workers, say good morning and remain connected within your organization. Not only will it build office morale, but it will build your personal confidence and connection to the company as well.

So, if you are a culprit of the sad desk lunch, I urge you to get up from that desk tomorrow. Sit next to a colleague and eat your lunch together.

You’ll be happier, and probably healthier too.

When to cut ties with a so-so employee

By Jim Annis

 

Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. He is tapping his pencil on the desk again and it is driving you nuts. This may be the last straw for this employee. You’ve been looking for a reason … is this “it”? The excuse to get off the fence? We see it all the time. An employee that is, well … meh. Uninspiring. You know the one. You have decided that you will give them 24 chances; then, when they reach 25 – like the pencil tapping above – they’re outta here. For fence sitters who refuse to make a decision, this article is not for you. Here are some ways to jump off the fence, unbroken and without egg on your face:

An objective approach

Step back and reflect on yourself first. Did you consider all variables? Did you communicate all performance expectations? Are you demonstrating a Type A CEO controlling personality? There was a time where I was like that, which was not fair to any employee of mine. I would make a snap decision to “wipe the table clean,” fire him and start over. Avoid that trap by documenting their behavior versus your attitude. Can you prove and document policy violations? Causing damage to others? Safety violations? Keep asking the pertinent questions until you can confirm your own “gut” decision. If you are too close to it, or if it feels too personal, then call in a third-party professional like an HR consultant or professional employer organization. They’ll tell you that you’re probably dealing with one of the following types of employees:

  • Slightly poor performer: If they are a halfway-decent person and someone you want on your team, then make the investment and help them using training and coaching. Create an HR checklist. Ensure that they have a clear job description, organizational structure, clearly defined strategy, values and culture.
  • Mildly abrasive personality: They’re short and curt, but it does not mean they need to go. Their work volume might be average, but the quality is outstanding and their customers love them. The bigger picture outweighs their flaws.
  • Long-term employee in a downward spiral: You have standards to uphold. Even in a marketplace where competition for employees is high, a slacker here can just as easily be a slacker for your competitor. Make room for someone who fits the culture better.
  • Re-returning employee: We wish we could tell you these usually work out. We can’t. The reason they left is still lurking there somewhere. In the headhunting business, if we are dealing with a returning candidate with a counter offer, it is usually about money and not another “real” issue, so best to let them go to the highest bidder (not you).

Is the company going to have the culture of A players or C players? You are the boss. You decide. Any of the above scenarios do not apply to big-ticket items like harassment, or if they are clearly underperforming. When you really sit down and figure out who the valuable people are and are not, you gain perspective on who is helping achieve your vision, and who isn’t.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

 

Read article in the Reno Gazette-Journal here.

Labor laws that often trip up employers

By Jim Annis

It’s lunch time. Your friend and fellow CEO starts to lament about being fined by the state for Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) infractions. What do you do? a) Buy him a beer; b) give him the name of a good labor lawyer; or c) drift off to sleep (the NRS topic is a real snoozer) while wondering, “Have I made the same mistake?” NRS may evoke a yawn, but compliance is important. Take a look at the checklist below for the laws that often trip up employers.

Daily overtime. Employers as a rule do not comprehend. We’ve simplified it. If your employee makes one and one-half times minimum wage or less they get daily overtime. If your employee makes one and one-half times minimum wage or less they get daily overtime. If your employee makes one and one-half times minimum wage or less, they get daily overtime. Did we get through? And remember, Nevada has a two-tiered minimum wage law depending on the offering or non-offering of health insurance. This makes the daily overtime amounts two-tiered also.

Track ALL employees’ hours. NRS say “all employed,” which means that you must track even salaried employees hours. Employers must track ALL employees hours (said again for impact). For employers with 50 or more employees, 1,250 hours are necessary for an employee to qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). With the Affordable Care Act (ACA), employee hours are needed to perform related calculations to determine when ACA “pay or play” has to be considered.

NO rounding of hourly time. Never. Our labor law attorney advises us to detail down to the minute. If you insist on rounding, round in favor of the employee.

Independent contractors: You can’t just decide if you want to make someone an employee versus an independent contractor.The IRS has a very stringent checklist to qualify as an independent contractor and the labor board will challenge this.

Ban-the-box. Ban-the-box (related to the EEO statement on felonies) laws typically prohibit employers from inquiring about a candidate’s prior criminal convictions on a job application. The law focuses on providing a fair chance to applicants with prior criminal convictions. African-Americans and Hispanics typically are convicted at a rate disproportionately greater than their representation in the population; therefore they may be disparately excluded from employment. On the other end of the spectrum, employers must be proactive in their review of a candidate’s background to avoid claims of negligent hire, reputational harm, and injury to the workplace. An employer can demonstrate business necessity of non-hire by showing it considered three “green factors” in making its decision: 1) The nature and gravity of the criminal offense(s); 2) the time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and 3) the nature of the job held or sought. Nevada does not have ban-the-box laws, but other states, cities, and counties do.

Payment at termination. NRS say payment at termination must be immediate. You cannot take the cost of tools out of someone’s paycheck, no matter how tempting, unless you had a pre-signed arrangement. Once you get someone to go to the labor board and complain, you just opened up the can of worms for all employees — current and former — for infractions. Proactively put a policy in place with expectations and also pursue other means to recover them post-separation.

You are a busy CEO. Save your energy. Instead of figuring out how to not comply with NRS, just know that whatever you think is a good idea has already been thought of and addressed in the law. As HR professionals, we have not come across anyone who has come up with something new. Put your earnest efforts into compliance instead!

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Applied’s COO, contributed to this article.

Read article in the Reno Gazette-Journal here.

3 ways to kick-off fall season right

By Anastasia Warren

 

It’s officially fall. We’re seeing pumpkin spice lattes, a few yellow leaves and experiencing an overall feeling of the new season.

As we enter into the season of football, deadlines and colder weather, it’s important to remain motivated and inspired in our work.

How do we do this? Here are three easy ways:

  1. Write down your goals

Writing down your goals, your desires and your potential accomplishments makes them real. Decide what you want to achieve and set attainable goals and steps to reach it. Write it down. Put it somewhere you see often. Remind yourself of your goals each morning by reading through them and re-committing.

This enables you to be successful.

  1. Set up a new morning routine

Meditate, eat a healthy breakfast, write down 3 things you’re grateful for – whatever you want to do in your morning routine, whatever will help you to start your day right, do it.

Commit to a healthy and productive morning routine, whether that involves exercising or practicing gratitude (or both), morning routines will help you to feel more accomplished and refreshed for the day.

  1. Stay hydrated

According to a recent article in Inc Magazine, your body is made up of 55 to 75 percent water. It is extremely important to stay hydrated and give your body the necessary liquid it needs to survive and thrive.

Water energizes you, fills you up and makes you feel better all-around, incorporate it into your daily routine now by keeping a water bottle at your desk at all times.

There are many ways to make the fall season your best one yet, but these simple changes will make all the difference as you head into the holidays and a colder time of the year.