Employee Benefits Information
Comprehensive benefit packages are attractive to job seekers, particularly if benefits extend to their families. Offering a competitive benefit package can give you the edge you need to hire and maintain a quality, dedicated staff.
Types of Employee Benefits
There are two types of employee benefits:
• Those the employer must provide by law; and
• Those the employer offers as an option to compensate their employees.
Examples of required benefits include Social Security and workers' compensation, while optional benefits include health care and retirement. Both required and optional benefits have both legal and tax implications for the employer.
Employee Benefits Legal Compliance
While employers largely have discretion to choose what benefits to offer their employees, and how, employee benefits are also highly regulated by law. Thus, as employers explore the Employee Benefits section, they should keep the following ideas in mind:
• Which benefits must be provided by law to employees- such as family and medical leave and continuation of health coverage- and which benefits are voluntary.
• For each benefit, determining who is a covered employer, and who is a covered employee, keeping in mind whether your workers are properly classified as independent contractors or employees.
• Knowing whether the benefits you provide are regulated by federal and/or state law. For example, health coverage and retirement plans, while optional, are both governed by the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).Health insurance is further subject to a variety of other federal laws, including the Affordable Care Act (Health Care Reform), and state laws that add to or expand federal law.
• Finally, employers should understand the tax consequences of employer-provided benefits, such as cafeteria plans.
As you develop your employee benefits program, it is vitally important to understand the laws which can potentially impact your program, including Health Care Reform, COBRA (if your company has 20 or more employees),and the Family and Medical Leave Act (if your company has 50 or more employees).
Under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), employees are legally entitled to as much as 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during any one 12-month period for one of three circumstances: birth and care of a child, care of a close family member in critical or serious condition, or care for an employee’s own critical or serious health condition. This means employees must be guaranteed their position once they are ready to come back to work. Group health benefits must also be maintained if employees continue to work.
In addition, under the Affordable Care Act, businesses with 100 or more full-time employees are required to offer health insurance to at least 70% of their full-time workers by 2015, and at least 95% by 2016. Most large firms already offer health insurance as a benefit, but moving forward, it will be required. Firms with between 50 and 99 employees will need to start offering health insurance to full-time workers by 2016, and firms with fewer than 50 employees will not be affected.
Other benefits you offer are entirely up to you. When considering which benefits to offer, keep in mind your company’s budget, stability and size, and how important it is for you to retain talent. Generally, employers who offer better, more comprehensive benefits have a greater chance of keeping their employees around for longer. Balance these potential benefits with the direct costs to you, the employer.