306 6th Ave. San Mateo, CA 94401 | Ph: (650) 348-6234 | Fax: (650) 401.8234 | admindesk@aeisadvisors.com

In 2017, a federal bill passed that repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, a tax penalty for individuals who are not enrolled in a health insurance plan. The repeal of the Federal Individual Mandate penalty fee took effect in 2019 but if you live in California a new mandate may be coming your way. Last year in 2019 the California legislature passed a budget bill that included a state-level individual mandate for those without health insurance.

According to the California Franchise Tax Board, the California mandate took effect on January 1, 2020, and requires all Californians to be enrolled in a qualifying health insurance plan or possibly face a tax penalty.

The penalty amount depends on your state income and the number of people in your household. Depending on your situation, when you file your 2020 state income tax return in 2021 your penalty could range from $695 to thousands of dollars.

How to Avoid Paying the Mandate

The mandate only applies to you if you pay taxes in California.

If you already have health insurance, whether through your employer, the individual marketplace, or a government-sponsored or subsidized plan then you don’t have to worry. The penalty only applies to people who don’t have health insurance.

If you don’t have health insurance, you could still qualify for an exemption from the penalty. The exemption reasons vary from excessive cost of obtaining insurance (exceeding 8.24% of household income in the 2020 taxable year) to have a short coverage gap of 3 consecutive months or less to many more exemption qualifications.

If you and your dependents don’t qualify for an exemption then you, your spouse or domestic partner, and your dependents all need to enroll in a health insurance plan for every month beginning on January 1, 2020. Otherwise, you may have to pay a fee under your 2020 tax returns when you file in spring 2021.

We encourage you to call us today to make sure that you and your employees are covered in a plan. For more information on the California individual mandate and how to get the best coverage for your business group, call us today at 650-348-6234.

How AEIS Can Help You and Your Business

Advanced Estate and Insurance Services, Inc. (AEIS) is a family-owned business with over 30 years of experience in the San Francisco Bay Area. As your broker, our goal is to maximize the ROI from your benefits and to free up your time and bandwidth. Our role is to advise and advocate on behalf of your company and your employees on all benefits-related items. We are not just a broker, but your trusted partner. We serve as an extension of your team to help grow your business.

 

Disclaimer: Any compliance-related information in this blog is intended to be informational and does not constitute legal advice regarding any specific situation. Should you require further compliance assistance or legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney.

Being a little over halfway through 2019, this is the time of year we check in with all our contacts to learn what is going on in their world and to give them insight into what is happening in ours. Here’s what we’ve been working on:

This year we are excited to announce that we have begun a new partnership with Rippling!

Among the many changes we’ve seen over the years in our industry, none have been as nuanced or as rapid as the ever-expanding capabilities of technology. It wasn’t long ago that cloud based payroll, benefits and HR platforms were new and novel concepts. As important a breakthrough as these innovations have been for the way employers now operate, there is a problem we’ve seen many employers experience.

Even employers who adopted these technological innovations often faced the issue of having multiple separate platforms that operate completely independent of each other. Double entry of data and potential for errors in transcribing and reconciling data can almost cause more headaches than not using technology at all.

Another layer to the problem has been that the technology exists, but a gap has existed in the relationship between the companies developing it and benefit advisors, meaning employers are often forced to choose whether they wanted the tech or the advisor.

For years we’ve heard employers explain these issues and we’ve been determined to find a solution. After vetting numerous potential partners over several years, we’ve finally found the perfect fit that allows our clients to have the best technology without having to sacrifice having licensed, experienced benefits advisors.

Rippling is a fully integrated Payroll, HR, IT and Benefits administration system that integrates with hundreds of apps like salesforce, zoom and slack. It allows everything to be in one place making it easy for employees and employers/administrators. Schedule a Demo.

To learn more about Rippling and our partnership, you can see our blog post on our website or click this link see what Rippling has to say and schedule a demo. https://aeisadvisors.com/aeis-rippling-forge-alliance/

 

Compliance Updates

We have always placed tremendous value and focus on keeping our clients in the good graces of “The Departments” (IRS, DOL, etc.), but we also know that just the words “Healthcare Compliance” often inspire one of two emotions from employers and plan administrators: apathy or anxiety. As if there wasn’t enough to keep track of for employers in CA, the PPACA has given employers even more to juggle in recent years. While it may not be fun to hear about compliance, we’ve created new tools to make it easier to understand.

Check out our new infographic that briefly explains what regulations to look out for and how to determine if your organization is subject to them. For employers with employees in San Francisco we even created a separate graphic that addresses the many regulations that are particular to the city.

Once you have figured out what to be aware of, refer to our Compliance checklist to be sure you’ve got everything you need.

If you have any questions about any of these regulations or want to speak with us about a specific situation, please feel free to reach out to us at (650) 348-6234

 

Hotel Via Event to celebrate our partnerships!

We’re hosting an event on Monday 8/19 at the Hotel Via rooftop lounge (across from the Giants ballpark on King St. in SF) with a couple of our channel partners and we wanted to invite you to go. The cost for the event to the public would normally be $50-$75 per person (there will be drinks and appetizers) but this link will let you register for no cost.

Our goal is to have Technology & SaaS, Human Resources, Real Estate, Social Media, Finance, Marketing and other businesses come together for drinks, appetizers and networking.

Our cohosts will be Rippling and Keating Consulting. You may have read about them above, but Rippling is a new technology partner of ours that provides integrated administrative processes like payroll, HR and benefits. Keating Consulting is an accounting firm and consultancy providing interim financial leadership and back office support to startups and early-stage companies.

If you have any other colleagues or contemporaries you think would get value out of this event, please feel free to share the link with them so they can register for no cost: https://business-buzz-aeis-82019.eventbrite.com?discount=AEIS

We hope you’re able to make it!

While more and more perks — catered lunches, on-site gyms, immunizations programs — are about employee health, wellness, and happiness, they ultimately are also designed to keep workers at work. A recent article in Quartz at Work points out that more than anything, employees want more time off and out of the office. Unlimited time off, to be exact.

Once the perk of tech firms and startups, more companies are beginning to explore unlimited paid time off. And, though still rare at only one to two percent of companies, it’s a popular request in part because workforce demographics continue to shift. Nearly half of employees are Millennials, whose priorities are changing the benefits conversation. For this group, finding more balance and having more control of their time are key. In part, this may be because time off has fundamentally changed. Well and Good looks at the fact that, with near-constant connectedness, vacation days often still involve checking email and getting other notifications.

Add to that cultural and workplace expectations of accessibility and availability, and workers are at risk for burnout. One in four workers report feeling burned out all the time and almost half feel burned out sometimes. This burnout can cost employers in lost productivity, and employees in terms of health and happiness. Today, someone doesn’t need to psychically spend 90 hours a week at the office to be working 90 hours. With our always-on lives, restorative time off is rarer but still as important to prevent burnout.

That doesn’t mean every business is jumping on the unlimited time off bandwagon. Want other ideas? A writer for The Guardian suggests a middle ground, with more days off the longer an employee has worked at a company. And, while rollover sounds generous, it may make employees less likely to use it. Want to give it a try but concerned about misuse? Business Management Daily suggests it’s also more than reasonable to consider limits on unlimited and critical to set sound guidelines around pay as well as whether days off can be all in a row.

For many employees, unlimited time off offers the extra flexibility for life’s challenges and can aid satisfaction and retention. Before HR Departments worry the system will be abused, research shows that people take significantly less time off when it’s unlimited. In fact, what may be more impactful is a minimum number of days off may be required so as to ensure employees take advantage of a benefit meant to restore and replenish their energy, creativity, and engagement. To work, it needs to be modeled by managers and other higher-ups, as a CEO details in a Chicago Daily Herald article.

By Bill Olson

Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

Question: Can an employee change a pretax plan election after the employer’s open enrollment window has closed but before the plan year has begun? Are there any potential downsides for allowing this?

Answer: Yes, an employee may make a change to his or her benefit election after open enrollment has ended but before the plan year begins. However, there are potential downsides for allowing such a practice.

In general, open enrollment is a period of time set by the employer for employees to enroll, terminate, and/or make changes to their existing benefit elections for the following plan year. The purpose of the deadline is to ensure timely and accurate administration of such elections, and to treat employees similarly.

In deciding how to handle this situation, the employer would want to consider:

  • Does the insurance carrier or the group policy have specific requirements?
  • If an exception is made, other employees must also be allowed to change their elections after the open enrollment deadline. Employees must be treated similarly; the employer cannot make an exception for one person.
  • How clear were the open enrollment written communications in stating changes could not be made after the deadline (except in connection with a qualifying event)? Employers must make sure their communications clearly state when and how changes may be made after the deadline.

Allowing changes after the deadline typically involves more work on behalf of the administrator, subjects employees to coverage and claims errors, and leaves employees with the understanding that exceptions will be allowed. Employers should review their policies carefully and make sure they are clearly communicated.

This article originally appeared on ThinkHR.com

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule for benefit payment and parameters for 2020. CMS also released its draft 2020 actuarial value calculator and draft 2020 actuarial value calculator methodology.

According to CMS, the proposed rule is intended to reduce fiscal and regulatory burdens associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) across different program areas and to provide stakeholders with greater flexibility.

Although the proposed rule would primarily affect the individual market and the Exchanges, the proposed rule addresses the following topics that may impact employer-sponsored group health plans:

  • Changes related to prescription drug policy
  • Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)
  • Prohibition against discrimination
  • Maximum annual limitation on cost sharing for plan year 2020
  • Cost-sharing requirements for generic drugs
  • Cost-sharing requirements and drug manufacturers’ coupons

CMS usually finalizes its benefit payment and parameters rule in the first quarter of the year following the proposed rule’s release. February 19, 2019 is the due date for public comments on the proposed rule.

The 2020 open enrollment period will run from November 1, 2019, to December 15, 2019.

 

by Karen Hsu
Originally posted on UBABenefits.com

 

On September 30, 2018, Governor Brown signed into law SB 1343 which amends the California Fair Employment and Housing Act and goes into effect January 1, 2019.  This new legislation requires all employers in California who employ 5 or more employees on a regular basis to provide sexual harassment training to all employees, both in supervisory and non-supervisory roles.

Employers have until January 1, 2020, to comply with the new requirements.

In short, employees are required to complete this training within 6 months of starting a position.  Employees in supervisory roles will be required to complete a 2-hour course; employees in non-supervisory roles will be required to complete a 1-hour course.  All employees will be required to complete the training once every two years.

The training can be completed online or in a classroom setting.  It can be integrated with other training sessions that you may require for new employees so long as the curriculum meets the requirements for time and content.

Remember that your required posters and fact sheets will need to be updated.  These posters can be requested directly from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Per the regulations, the Department will be providing two online training courses: a 2-hour course for supervisors and a 1-hour course for employees in non-supervisory roles.  These interactive courses will include questions that must be answered before a participant can continue the course.  After the course is completed, the Department will provide an option for the participant to save a certificate of completion electronically or print it.

For employees placed with a company through a temporary staffing agency, the responsibility of sexual harassment training falls to the temporary staffing agency.

For seasonal or temporary workers who are to be employed less than 6 months, training must be completed within the first 30 calendar days of being hired or within the first 100 hours of service, whichever occurs first.

Keep in mind that there are additional requirements for sexual harassment and record keeping per Labor Code section 1684 for migrant or agricultural workers and AB 1978 for employees that provide property services such as janitorial services.

We will provide an update when more information becomes available regarding the training courses provided by the State. If you have further questions, or would like alternate solutions besides the State provided ones, please contact us.

 

By Elizabeth Kay, Compliance and Retention Analyst at AEIS

You have a business and it is growing – Congratulations!

As your company grows and you hire more employees, there are milestones that you will hit.  Some of these milestones come with additional responsibilities that you need to attend to, such as Cobra, HCSO, FMLA, Sexual Harassment Prevention Training and the Affordability Care Act’s Large Employer Mandate.

For example, if you are a company based in California and offer an employee benefits plan that includes medical insurance, you are obligated to allow former or terminated employees and their enrolled dependents to enroll in Cal-COBRA if they are no longer eligible to be enrolled in your plan.  Once you reach 20 employees or more for an average of 50% or more of the previous calendar year, then you are obligated to start offering enrollment in Federal COBRA for those plan participants and enrolled dependents if they are no longer eligible to be enrolled in your plan.

Additionally, if you have any employees working in the City of San Francisco, you would also need to comply with the Health Care Security Ordinance (HCSO).  However, these two things would not happen at the same time because while they both require you have 20 or more employees before you have to comply, they count those employees differently, and over a different length of time.

Federal COBRA counts employees by their classification.  A full-time employee is counted as 1, and part-time employees are counted in fractions.  So you may have 15 full-time employees, and 5 part time employees and you would NOT be subject to Federal COBRA because your part time employees work an average of 20 hours per week, meaning all together they only count as 2.5 full-time equivalents which when combined with your full-time employees puts your count at 17.5.

The HCSO counts employees by head count, and they do it per quarter.  So if you have 19 employees during one quarter of the year, you don’t need to comply.  But if you have 20 employees for at least 13 weeks of the following quarter, you would need to comply.

Is your head spinning yet?

As you move further along and you reach 50 employees, there are more regulations that may now be applied to your company.  They are the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for California businesses, and the Pay or Play provision of the Affordable Care Act.  As one might expect, each regulation counts employees in a different way.

When you have had 50 or more employees over 20 weeks during the current or previous calendar year, you are subject to FMLA.  The weeks do not have to be consecutive weeks.  Additionally, FMLA counts the employees on your payroll register even if they are not being paid.  If they are on your payroll register, they are counted.  Each person is counted as 1, regardless of the number of hours worked.

For sexual harassment prevention training in California, once you have 50 or more employees (regardless of full-time or part time status) for 20 or more consecutive weeks, you have to begin offering training for your management staff every 2 years, and within 6 months of promoting an employee to a managerial position.

The Applicable Large Employer or ALE classification under the Affordable Care Act counts employees in yet a different way.  With regards to determining ALE status, you generally count each full-time employee as 1, and for part-time, seasonal, and variable-hour employees you count the number of hours they all worked collectively during a month (do not include more than 120 hours for any employee), then divide the total hours by 120 hours to get how many Full-Time Equivalent Employees (FTEs) you have.  You then add the number of full-time employees, to your FTE’s to get your total employee count.  If you average 50 or more employees during the calendar year, you are considered an ALE the following tax year.  For example, if you average 50 or more employees during the 2018 calendar year, you would be subject to the Pay or Play Mandate and the reporting requirements associated with it for the year 2019.

If your employee count stays at 50 or above in 2019, you would continue to be an ALE with all associated requirements in 2020.  If your employee count dips below 50 in 2019, then you would not be considered an ALE in the year 2020.

The Pay or Play Mandate (Employer shared responsibility) means that as an ALE you are required to offer minimum value, affordable coverage to your full-time employees and their dependent children, or potentially face a penalty from the IRS.

No one is an expert in all things, which is likely why your business is doing well and thriving: because you fulfill a need or expertise in the area that you specialize in.  As a successful business owner you know it is advantageous to have strong partners in your corner to help lend their strengths to your areas of weakness.

Having a strong benefits advisor to assist you in navigating these hurdles, speed bumps, and curves in the road is essential.  Whether you have the resources to handle these regulations in-house, or if you need someone to recommend a trustworthy third party vendor to handle it for you, we are pleased to be able to fulfill that need for you.

 

by Elizabeth Kay

Managing pay can be tricky. Handled incorrectly, pay can create problems for an employer — everything from the inability to attract the right candidates and losing great employees to the competition to presenteeism (employees who are physically in the workplace but not engaged in their work), employee relations issues, compliance audits, and lawsuits. These outcomes impact productivity. They infect the company culture. And they tarnish the employer brand.

In your role as a trusted advisor to clients who may be struggling with their total compensation programs, you need to be ready to help them determine how to make the right decisions. This requires you to be aware of new trends while also helping clients manage risk by complying with wage and hour rules.

Pay Versus Employee Motivation and Retention

Many employee engagement reports note that pay doesn’t impact motivation as much as other work factors, such as:

  • The quality of the company and its management.
  • Belief in the organization’s products.
  • Alignment with the company’s mission, values, and goals.
  • Ability to make a meaningful contribution.
  • Ability to develop new professional skills.

IBM’s Smarter Workforce Institute’s 2017 study looked at employees’ decisions to leave their jobs and found that the three generations comprising most of today’s workforce would be open to considering new job opportunities for better compensation and benefits: Millennials at 77 percent, Generation X at 78 percent, and Baby Boomers at 70 percent. Those are big numbers, and they shouldn’t be ignored when designing pay plans.

Further, while pay may not be a motivator, it can be a powerful dissatisfier when employees believe that they aren’t being paid correctly for the value they are bringing to the organization, or at the market value of their jobs. Worse yet is the perceived — or real — belief that their pay is lower than what their co-workers are earning. In some markets, this problem is genuine, as companies in hot labor markets struggle with paying new people more than current employees, causing pay compression. Employees do talk and pay information is readily available.

Considering every variable that goes into compensation planning can be complicated. Your clients can start by: setting a compensation strategy to fit their company’s needs and budget; developing compensation programs to fit that strategy, the talent marketplace, and employee demographics; and then administering the compensation program fairly and in compliance with federal, state, and local laws.

Equal Pay Mandates

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Strategic Enforcement Plan prioritizes enforcing the Equal Pay Act (EPA) to close the pay gap between men and women, and the Trump administration has been silent about changing this direction. This topic is trending, as legislators in more than 40 jurisdictions introduced bills related to equal pay in 2017. California, New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland are setting the pace with laws addressing this issue. These states have set rules that more broadly define the equal pay standard requiring different factors, such as skill, effort, working conditions, and responsibility, in justifying gender pay disparities. These states are also broadening the geographic restrictions for employee pay differentials.

We expect that more states will enact equal pay rules in 2018. Companies should review gender pay differences in their workforce, document the bona fide business reasons for the differences, and correct wage disparities as needed. Permitted differences could include seniority, documented merit performance differences, pay based on quantity or quality of production or sales quotas, or geographic differentials.

Salary History Ban

The issue of pay has traditionally been an inevitable topic of discussion in any job interview. However, in a growing number of places throughout the country, an employer can no longer ask an applicant about his or her salary history. At least 21 states and Washington, D.C., along with several municipalities, have proposed legislation that would prohibit salary history questions. California (effective January 2018), Delaware (effective December 2017), Massachusetts (effective July 2018), and Oregon (effective January 2019) have enacted laws impacting private employers. More bans are expected at both the state and local level.

While the provisions of each law vary, they make it illegal for employers to ask applicants about their current compensation or how they were paid at past jobs. The rationale for these laws stems from the equal pay issue and the premise that pay for the job should be based on the value of the job to the organization, not the pay an applicant might be willing to accept. These laws are designed to reverse the pattern of wage inequality that resulted from past gender bias or discrimination.

For employers, this means:

  • Establishing compensation ranges for open positions and asking applicants if the salary range for the position would meet their compensation expectations.
  • Updating employment applications to remove the salary history information.
  • Training hiring managers and interviewers to avoid asking questions about salary history.

Pay Transparency

Outside of certain industries, the public sector, and unionized environments where pay grades and step increases are common knowledge, historically many employers have had a practice of discouraging employees from openly discussing their compensation. That practice is fast becoming history, due to another notable trend in state legislatures: enacting laws that allow employees to discuss their wages and other forms of compensation with others. Although the provisions of the laws vary, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Vermont now have laws in place allowing pay transparency.

In addition to these state laws, Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows employees to engage in pay discussions as “concerted and protected activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” During the Obama administration, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) broadly interpreted the NLRA’s Section 7 to side with employees’ rights to discuss wages and other terms and conditions of employment. Unless the Trump administration’s NLRB changes direction on this issue, which is not expected, the clear message for employers is to remove any prohibitions of employees discussing pay or working conditions with others.

Be Vigilant

Employee compensation has always been a hot topic, and this year the temperature will continue to rise. Keep abreast of legislative and regulatory changes that impact pay practices to help your clients stay in compliance with the pay laws that are spreading throughout the country.

Now is a good time to suggest that your clients consider conducting pay audits, updating compensation plans, making compensation adjustments where needed, training managers regarding pay strategy and practice, and communicating the company’s compensation strategy and incentive plans to employees.

 

By Laura Kerekes, SPHR, SHRM-SCPz

Originally posted on thinkHR.com

IRS Releases Publication 15 and W-4 Withholding Guidance for 2018

On January 31, 2018, the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Publication 15 — Introductory Material, which includes the following:

  • 2018 federal income tax withholding tables.
  • Exempt Form W-4.
  • New information on:
    • Withholding allowance.
    • Withholding on supplemental wages.
    • Backup withholding.
    • Moving expense reimbursement.
    • Social Security and Medicare tax for 2018.
    • Disaster tax relief.

Read Publication 15 and further details here.

EEOC Penalty Increases for Failure to Post Required Notices

On January 18, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released a final rule increasing the penalty amount from $534 to $545 for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) notice posting requirements.

The final rule is effective February 20, 2018.

Originally Published By ThinkHR.com

 

What an informative luncheon (on Wednesday 10/25) with our very own Elizabeth Kay discussing the most recent updates of the Affordable Care Act! She discussed the most recent executive order and how if it takes effect, it will more likely impact the individual market, not the group market. Thank you to the San Mateo County EAC and the Employment Development Department for putting it all together!

 

Kathy! You are amazing! I was speaking with Dr. John today re a patient and on his own he brought up how you were able to fix his wife and daughter’s insurance in less than 24 hours AND you were so NICE and PROFESSIONAL. He then said you were AMAZING. I absolutely love working with you, Ron, and the entire gang! Just wanted to pass this on - and again thank you for all you do for us!!!!

- Office Manager, Surgical Center in San Francisco

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