Month: September 2014

Should Employers Provide Pet Insurance?

by National Peo National Peo No Comments

Many Employers Are Starting to Provide Pet Insurance

Pet InsuranceFamily health insurance policies are more than common among policies offered by employers — they’re ubiquitous. Even while many governments require companies to provide family benefits, most job hunters directly look for employers who are going to go above and beyond in providing for the health of employees and their families. Besides compliance with laws, it is beneficial to provide family benefits to employees: It inspires loyalty and raises morale.

However, almost all employers who offer these family benefits are leaving out one crucial member of the traditional American family: the pet. Most pet owners love their furry companions almost as much as they love their human kids, and many of them are clamoring for health benefits for pets on par with those offered the rest of their family members.

With more than 80 million dogs and 96 million cats owned by Americans, fewer than 2 percent of them are insured. This is surprising, considering pet owners spend about $13 billion on pet health every year. Advances in health care technology for humans have a direct impact on the health care technologies for pets, which has become a blessing and a curse for some pet owners. A diagnosis of cancer in a beloved family dog is no longer a death sentence, which means families have to make a hard decision between paying exorbitant out-of-pocket costs and fees or letting the dog go. When companies offer pet health insurance, that decision is easier to make.

More and more companies are starting to see the benefit of providing employee pet insurance. As many as 3,600 companies, including about a third of the Fortune 500, are willing to provide discounts and subsidies on pet health insurance. Here’s why you, as an employer, should follow in their footsteps.

Improved Employee Retention

Most modern employees don’t stick with their companies for more than four years, but for millennials, the generation now entering the workforce, the duration is half that. Employee retention is a major headache for most employers, as it costs about a year’s salary to hire and train a new employee. However, it’s quickly becoming evident that the employees want to stick around when they feel a connection to their employers, which means employers must offer their employees something besides a salary and standard benefits.

Offering pet health insurance shows that your company is a cut above the rest in caring about your employees’ health and well-being. Employees who believe their employer is looking out for them are more willing to give their job their all. So, not only do you have a better chance of attracting and keeping top talent, but you are getting a boost in productivity as well.

Pet Insurance PoliciesPolicy Flexibility

As with health care policies for humans, health care policies for pets come in as many shapes and sizes as our furry friends. You can cherry pick the plans you want to offer your employees based on what you can afford — though be aware that employees can often smell it when you’re being cheap.

The oldest and largest supplier of pet health insurance is Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI), who supplies the plans for most of the companies currently offering employee pet benefits. There are other organizations that provide pet health insurance, like the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), but their reach is drastically smaller than VPI.

The simplest policy you can get costs about $30 per month for a young, healthy animal. However, you can scale the plans you provide, and most employees can choose to add pets and special treatments, like pet acupuncture or hydrotherapy, at extra cost. While a vast majority of currently held policies cover dogs — 85 percent, in fact — plenty of plans are available for cats, and VPI is the only organization that has policies for exotic pets like reptiles, rodents, and birds. However, it is important to realize that many pet insurers will not cover pets in breed predisposed to expensive health problems, like hip dysplasia and epilepsy in pure-bred dogs.

The Bottom Line

Testimonials abound from happy pet owners who have been saved significant financial hardship from their employers’ pet insurance programs. No one can predict when or if a beloved family pet will fall seriously ill, either from disease or accident. But, with pet insurance, most costly procedures that will keep your pet alive become significantly more affordable, and in situations when previously you’d need to put your pet down, you can choose to prolong its life.

Top job candidates are becoming more and more interested in the benefits a company can provide rather than salary. Many are willing to relocate frequently when a company is no longer providing the benefits they need for their changing lives. If you want the best people working for you, consider offering more benefits, like flex time, remote connections — and pet health insurance.

E-Cigarettes in the Workplace

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The New Rise of Smoking: E-Cigarettes in the Workplace

Vaping in the WorkplaceIn the early 2000s, plenty of experts predicted smoking’s imminent demise, as all the signs pointed toward the end of cigarettes. However, smoking regained prominence in the public eye when e-cigarettes were introduced to U.S. smokers at the end of the last decade. The e-cigarette industry, which includes everything from one-hitter disposable units to complex rigs to unique customized modifications to myriad flavors, has grown drastically in the past few years to become a $2 billion industry, and many experts expect e-cigarettes to surpass traditional tobacco cigarettes within the next decade.

Governments around the country are dragging their feet in passing regulations on e-cigarettes, and the FDA is struggling to pass an opinion on the devices with the limited research available regarding health effects. In the meantime, many corporations aren’t sure what to do with employees who want to vape in and around workplaces.

Current Research

Everyone — even smokers of 50 years — know how terrible tobacco cigarettes are for the body, but no one knows exactly what effects e-cigarettes can have on vapers and those around them. However, as e-cigarettes gain popularity, researchers are receiving more funding to study their components and their effects on vapers as well as second-hand vapers. While the results trickle in, this is what is currently known for certain regarding the health of e-cigs.

The ingredients in e-juice (also known as e-liquid, or the fluid in e-cigs that is heated and inhaled) can be myriad depending on the producer, but the main components are generally the same across the board: nicotine, propylene glycol and vegetable glycerin.

While some studies have linked nicotine ingestion with increased risk of heart disease, these studies largely utilize data from tobacco smokers instead of vapers. In any case, e-juice tends to include drastically lower amounts of nicotine than cigarettes, and many vapers have transitioned to e-cigs as a means of quitting smoking and nicotine altogether.

Propylene glycol is an agent that helps the e-juice transition to vapor for inhalation. While the name looks distressing, this is actually a common ingredient in plenty of foods and medicines (like toothpaste and cough syrups) as well as in the fog created by fog machines at concerts or plays. The FDA has long considered this ingredient safe for consumption. The FDA has also asserted the safety of vegetable glycerin.

Some e-juices have been shown to produce harmful chemicals once the liquid is heated to vapor, but it is noteworthy that the amounts of these chemicals can range from nine to 450 times lower than they are in traditional cigarettes. Generally, scientists believe the amount of toxic chemicals emitted by e-cig vapor isn’t enough to cause concern.

Current Policies

e-cigs in the workplaceOnly a small handful of states have attempted to regulate the sale and use of e-cigarettes. While no states have any type of outright ban, many have simply amended previous tobacco laws to include e-cigarettes, meaning e-cigs cannot be purchased or used by minors, and e-cigs cannot be used in public spaces. While states drag their feet, many localities have enacted harsher restrictions, disallowing citizens from vaping in enclosed areas like restaurants and workspaces. Meanwhile, everywhere else vapers are puffing away wherever they desire.

Additionally, among companies who don’t operate in cities with strict regulations, policies vary wildly. For example, Walmart restricts smokers to designated areas outside the store, while Starbucks forbids its employees from smoking of any kind within 25 feet of any doors. Further, CVS and corporate-owned McDonald’s have an outright ban on all smoking anywhere, and on top of a complete smoking ban on the premises or in trucks, UPS requires its smoking employees — and vaping employees — to pay an additional $150 in insurance premiums to cover potential health care costs.

How to Proceed

It seems most prudent to err on the side of caution and ban e-cigarettes alongside cigarettes — but this could inspire claims of discrimination among vaping employees. Plus, there are other downsides to forbidding e-cigs in the office. For one, many employees demonstrate noticeable increases in productivity when they are allowed to indulge in their nicotine habit, which has an obvious positive impact on the company at large. For another, as mentioned previously, some smokers transition to e-cigs to stop smoking for good. Separating a quitting smoker from his or her cessation tool is asking for a relapse, and forcing your employee to go back to tobacco products is not only immoral but opens companies up to colossal health care costs in the future.

While you craft your policy on e-cigarettes, it’s best to make sure you’re complying with labor laws and governmental regulations and keeping the health of all your employees in mind. A PEO is an invaluable tool for keeping track of the ever-changing legalities of e-cigarettes, which most business managers and executives don’t have time to monitor. Keep your company healthy by keeping your employees happy — which may mean different policies regarding the use of e-cigarettes.

Hobby Lobby & You

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Hobby Lobby and You: How the Supreme Court’s Ruling Affects Your Company

Hobby Lobby and YouPresident Barack Obama faced a mountain of obstacles when he signed his revolutionary health care reform into law in 2010, and though plenty of previously uninsured or underinsured citizens are finally receiving crucial health care services, there are still some intricacies to work out. At the end of June, a new issue with enforcing the ACA came to the forefront of the political stage, and its effects on the way the ACA works for companies are still being sorted out.

The Contraceptives Debate

On June 30, in the case Burwell v Hobby Lobby Stores Inc, the Supreme Court issued a ruling that stated family-run companies need not abide by the ACA’s mandate that companies must provide their employees contraceptives or else face financial penalties.

The companies (or families) who brought the case to court were the Greens of Hobby Lobby fame and the Hahns who own a cabinet-making company. Both families hold their companies closely and choose to run them with Christian ideals in mind; thus, these families take issue with providing their employees contraceptives when these medications contradict their firmly held beliefs against abortion. The case effectively challenged whether a federal law can become exempt when it opposes with a company’s religious opinions.

With the First Amendment and the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act on their side, the Greens and Hahns argued that their corporations engaged in religious exercise and thus should be as free from the restrictive mandates as not-for-profit organizations, like churches and other religious institutions, are. Despite the governments opposing statements that the Greens and Hahns do not personally employ their workers — Hobby Lobby and the other companies do — the court ruled in favor of the families, stating that these particular companies are “closely held” and thus are subject to protection under the 1993 law.

Did This Strike Down the Contraceptive Mandate?

Though the Supreme Court ruling did affect some companies’ adherence to the ACA contraceptives mandate, most corporations are still required to provide their employees coverage of all contraceptives under their company health plans. This ruling applies only to these two families and the companies they hold, though it has the potential to spread to other “closely held” companies in the future, depending on the federal definition of “closely held.”

Are Other Companies Challenging the Mandate?

There are other court cases still in proceedings that challenge the ACA’s contraceptive coverage requirements. More than 50 for-profit companies have lodged complaints seeking relief from the penalties and fines. Many of these cases have been on hold while the Supreme Court drafted their opinion on the Hobby Lobby case, and now that a ruling has been published, the lower courts can evaluate the claims from these other corporations to determine their adherence to the ACA’s rules.

Moreover, 300 individual not-for-profit organizations, including schools and charities, are fighting the mandate, and 100 strictly religious organizations continue to test the boundaries of various ACA mandates. Many of these may come before the Supreme Court in the coming months. These not-for-profits are likely to see positive rulings, as in the past few months, the federal and lower courts have ruled against the ACA in 28 out of 34 cases.

Hobby Lobby Contraceptive What Does This Mean for Company Health Plans?

The Greens and Hahns must continue to comply with the majority of the ACA’s health care mandates, and in fact Hobby Lobby continues to provide 16 contraceptive options to its female employees — only those that contradicted the family’s views on abortion were stricken from the list. Many family businesses will be able to take these contraceptive options out of their employee health care packages, but they and all small, medium, and large corporations must continue to provide sufficient health care options.

Are There Other Challenges to the ACA?

As we mentioned in the introduction, the ACA has a seemingly unending list of obstacles it must tackle before it is fully functioning. As with any new governmental regulation, there will be a number of issues that must be worked out before things start running smoothly.

Though this case was careful to outline that it pertained only to a specific handful of contraceptive options mandated by the ACA, plenty of other health care requirements, for example vaccinations and blood transfusions, are being challenged in courts.

Plus, many suits are being filed regarding other aspects of the ACA legislation. Members of Congress are currently exempt from penalties and fines, a law many businesses are finding unjust. Most recently, federal subsidies are coming under question in the courts as contradicting rulings are being issued that threaten to dismantle the whole system. It’s clear that for many years yet we can expect to fine-tune the ACA and make it suitable for every citizen and organization.

Explanation of ACA Exemptions

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All About the ACA Exemptions

ACA ExemptionsA key provision of President Obama’s landmark legislation, the Affordable Care Act, went into effect this March, meaning that almost every American citizen must be covered by health insurance or face an additional tax amounting to the greater of 1 percent of yearly income or $95 with the amount increasing each year. Experts predict, however, that as many as 30 million Americans still won’t have coverage by 2016 and most of them won’t be required to have it. The ACA has built into it certain exemptions that allow certain groups to skirt the health insurance mandate, so roughly 23 million of those uninsured don’t have to worry about procuring coverage or incurring fines.

Exemptions are a tantalizing aspect of the ACA, but only certain specific groups qualify for them. If you’re confused or concerned about the ACA’s exemption policies, read on to find out everything you need to know. If you think you could qualify for an exemption, contact your PEO to determine your next steps.

Who Doesn’t Have to Pay Penalties?

Though the government makes it sound like absolutely everyone must obtain health care coverage under the ACA or else be punished with extra fees, this is not the case. The government has made room for certain individuals or organizations for whom it would be impossible, unfair or unconstitutional to make participate in the program.

American Indian groups don’t have to seek coverage to avoid penalties if they are members of a Federally recognized Native American tribe, identified by the Department of the Interior.

Additionally, religious groups that participate in health care sharing are exempt from the ACA. These organizations are typically ministries that pool members’ savings to pay for the expenses of anyone in the group who needs medical care, perhaps due to illness, injury, or pregnancy. These groups are practically creating their own insurance by promising to cover any one member who needs their aid.Some religious groups also receive reprieve from the mandates of the ACA due to religious objections.

Finally, there are quite a few different types of individuals who don’t have to worry about complying with the ACA. These include:

  • Citizens who are incarcerated — detained or jailed — and not awaiting disposition of charges
  • Citizens who are only uninsured for fewer than three months of the year
  • Individuals who are not lawfully in the United States
  • Citizens who do not earn enough income to file taxes or who have suffered a hardship during the previous year

This last category will be explored more in the next section.

Affordable Care Act ExemptionsWhat Are Hardship Exemptions?

Poverty is ever-present in every country, and with the ACA the U.S. has chosen not to punish those experiencing certain financial hardships with the additional strain of finding and paying for health insurance. Individuals who endure certain circumstances that prevent them from procuring health insurance are thus exempt from the individual shared responsibility payment. These circumstances are determined every year by the Health and Human Services Secretary, and this year there are 14 unique situations that earn an individual freedom from participating in the ACA. You might consult an expert to verify your exempt status if:

  • You were homeless — under the federal definition of homelessness
  • You were evicted or foreclosed upon during the previous six months or were facing eviction or foreclosure
  • Your utilities were shut off
  • You were the victim of domestic violence
  • You survived the death of a close family member — which typically is confined to the nuclear family
  • Your property was severely damaged, perhaps by fire, flood, or some other natural or human-induced disaster
  • You filed for bankruptcy during the previous six months
  • You struggled to pay off extensive medical payments during the past year, bringing you into debt
  • You began caring for a family member suffering from illness, age, or other disability and thus incurred substantial and unexpected expenses
  • Your child lacks health coverage due to denial in the Medicaid and CHIP programs and failure to provide medical support by another party, most likely a separated spouse
  • You became eligible to enroll in a qualified health plan after a period of lack of coverage
  • You became unable to receive benefits from Medicaid because your state did not expand Medicaid benefits under the ACA
  • Your insurance plan was cancelled, and other plans in the Marketplace are unaffordable

One last hardship exemption is a bit of a wildcard; its purpose is to allow groups or individuals to approach lawmakers with various possibly overlooked obstacles to obtaining insurance. Because lawmakers cannot predict every single potential hardship a citizen may face during the course of a year, they have allowed an opportunity for people to submit their own hardships to exempt them from the penalties.

 

When and Why to Outsource Your Payroll

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When & Why to Outsource Your Payroll

Why to Outsource Your Payroll The economy is growing (finally!) and your business is booming like you haven’t seen in more than six years. You’ve successfully fought your way from start-up all the way through small status to reach the coveted position of medium-sized business. You have more employees — and profits, don’t forget those — than you know what to do with, and your accounting and human resources departments are feeling significantly overwhelmed.

Payroll was a headache when you had four employees and you were working out of your garage, and now with 50 or more people looking for their paychecks every two weeks, you find your time and resources devoted solely to getting everyone paid on-time and in full.

Close down your Excel sheets and throw out your calculator; there’s a much better way to make sure your payroll is completed efficiently and accurately for every employee, and you’ll barely have to lift a finger. Outsourcing payroll services is quickly becoming the only way mid-sized businesses can stay afloat of their rapidly increasing workforce. Here are five big reasons you should shrug the responsibility of payroll onto a trusted and qualified PEO.

Cut Back on Costs

It’s true, you’ll save if you pay someone else to worry about payroll. Many small and medium businesses falsely believe that doing everything in-house will save tons of money, but research shows that this just isn’t the case. Factor in the time and energy your staff is devoting to payroll every week, and you’ll find that you’re retaining salaried employees just to grapple with everyone else’s payroll. Consider these activities that are completely essential to completing payroll every pay period:

  • Calculating total and individual payroll every pay period
  • Printing, verifying and signing pay checks or stubs
  • Distributing pay checks or stubs to appropriate employees
  • Creating and verifying reports for accounting records
  • Generating and sending payroll taxes to various government agencies

Staff tasked with payroll services just can’t get anything else done. If you ease their workload by outsourcing payroll, you’ll find increased productivity, which brings in more revenue, and happier workers.

Avoid Facing the IRS

Because payroll is so complicated, many small and mid-sized businesses fail to accurately report the money they spend on salaries and wages. The IRS states that one in three employers makes a payroll-related mistake on their taxes, which results in fines and penalties incurred by various individual companies totaling more than a billion dollars annually.

PEOs, who basically function as outsourced human resources departments, are practiced hands with payroll. They have all the necessary technology to keep track of employees, salaries and benefits, and they’ll have all the necessary payroll tax information organized and accurate without any intervention from you. Fees and penalties are a useless drain on your company’s profit margins, and you’d do much better to avoid the risk of making a mistake on your taxes.

Improve Your Company’s Security

Your employees forfeit a surfeit of information in order to get paid. Not only does payroll require sensitive information like addresses and phone numbers, but most employers require social security numbers and even bank account information to pay their employees. Even with trustworthy employees and top-of-the-line network security software, you could experience an information leak putting your employees (and your company) at risk.

If you want to avoid identity theft, embezzlement and tampering with records, don’t trust your employees; trust a company that makes its name on the safety and accuracy of its services.

When to Outsource Your PayrollOffer Upgraded Services

Payroll is complicated in and of itself, so for the in-house payroll department, it is virtually unthinkable to add any special bells and whistles to the process. This means your employees must suffer through the old-fashioned activity of receiving their paychecks and visiting the bank to deposit their money. Going to the bank is a chore no matter what the occasion, and antiquated payroll techniques that require it weigh heavily on employee morale.

If you use outsourced payroll services, it’s likely you’ll be eligible to receive more advanced payroll practices, like direct deposit into bank accounts. This speeds the receipt of employees’ payment, making them happier overall.

Get Rid of Pain

We’ve said that payroll is a headache, and it’s not just a metaphor. The stress of payroll is immense, and such intense stress takes its toll on the body. From regular migraines to nausea to insomnia to decreased libido, pains caused by trying to fix your own payroll woes are almost impossible to measure.

Instead of trying to treat the symptoms, treat the disease at its source by getting rid of your in-house payroll system. You’ll find that your nightmares will disappear almost immediately after you have other people worrying about getting everything right. You can rest comfortably and easily while an established and qualified PEO takes care of your troubles for you.

 

 

 

The Recession Is Over — Now What?

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The Recession Is Over — Now What?

The Recession Is Over 1The news pundits are heralding the end of the six and a half–year long economic downturn lovingly dubbed “The Great Recession.” The United States (as well as much of the world due to America’s behemoth presence in the world economic system) has been experiencing the effects of the Great Recession, which are many and significant, but many politicians and journalists are reporting its final and climactic end. This surprising and seemingly unfounded pronouncement has left many outside the economic sphere scratching their heads. How do they know it’s over? And, perhaps more importantly, what does the end of the recession really mean?

As a business owner and not an economist, financial journalist or invested politician, you probably still have several yet-unanswered questions about the recession and its continued consequences in regards to your business. If you feel like you’re still reeling after the start of the Great Recession and you aren’t sure what to do now that it’s over, here’s some basic information to inform your future business practices.

The Real-World Effects of the Recession

The recession began in late 2007, and the causes of the recession are largely still debated today. Most everyone agrees that the banks scrambling over a burst housing bubble devalued important securities held by those banks, meaning individuals’ saved money was lost by banks hoping to make money on loans and mortgages. This had several measurable effects on the U.S. economy.

First, the national gross domestic product (GDP) dropped pretty drastically in 2008. The GDP is made up of four components:

  • Personal consumption expenditures
  • Private domestic investment — the large investment of companies or individuals in things like factories or houses
  • Net exports
  • Government spending

This means that when the GDP falls, these actions are decreasing. When individuals and companies stop spending and investing, the capitalist system folds and bad things happen.

Next, unemployment rates almost doubled in about a year. Employers, afraid of the reports of decreased spending and lowered economies, were hesitant to invest in increasing their business and instead attempted to hold steady or even decrease their expenditures, leaving perfectly good employees out in the dust. Directly related to this, medium household income dropped dramatically, and more and more people began relying on government aid to survive.

There were other effects of the recession, like decreased housing prices and a significant rise in national debt, but these are less important to companies hoping to learn more about what is currently happening with the recession

Recent Recession Developments

Don’t for a second believe that we’re going to see drastic improvements in the economy simply because the media is proclaiming the recession’s end. The data that the media (or more specifically the economists behind the media) use to make announcements such as this one is data-drawn from the past quarter. Thus, in the past quarter, the contraction of the GDP reversed, meaning the economy is no longer shrinking.

Most economists see this turn of events in a positive light; increased spending and investing, they predict, will continue, meaning a reversal of the effects caused by the recession. People, with distance from the burst housing bubble and more faith in their banking systems, will begin to spend and invest more, allowing companies to increase their spending and hire employees to expand their business.

The End of the Recession and You

Your business is strengthening even as you read this; your clients or customers are upping their budgets and are preparing to overwhelm your company with revenue. This is all well and good, but here’s what you should actually be doing with your newfound income.

Hiring More EmployeesHire more employees. Even if you have remained productive during the recession, your limited workforce has likely been grinding through more than their suggested 40 hours per week to get all their work done. Plus, with the increased demand of your clients, you’ll need more employees to sort through all your new orders. If your interview skills are rusty, a PEO can help you with any stage of the hiring process.

Increase employee benefit packages. You are no longer trying to scrimp and save every penny, so you should give a little more back to your hardworking employees. Your employees have stuck by you through your contracted spending period, and rewarding them for their patience and work will only increase their loyalty and morale, making them more productive. Additionally, better benefits are rapidly becoming the most desirable aspects of positions to job candidates, so you’ll recruit more top talent. Benefits packages may sound complicated to change or organize, but your trusty PEO knows the ins and outs of every plan to help you along the way, so you know you’ll be getting the best you can for your dollar.

Start looking overseas. If the recession taught us anything, it’s how global the economy has become. International businesses are becoming more and more prominent, and if you want to keep up, you might start look into overseas opportunities. If you’re expanding your workforce anyway, international business might just be the next big step for your company.