December 2020 Pennsylvania HR Legal Updates

Pittsburgh Mandates COVID-19 Related Paid Time Off

What happened?
Effective December 9, 2020, the City of Pittsburgh has enacted a law requiring employers with 50 or more employees to provide paid time off for employees working in the city who miss work due to reasons related to COVID-19.

What are the details?
The employees entitled to paid time off are those who (a) work in the city; (b) normally work in the city, but are now teleworking from outside the city; and (c) employees who work at various locations, provided that at least 51 percent of their time is spent in the city.

An employee is eligible for paid time off after being employed for 90 days. Once an employee has been employed for 90 days, they are immediately entitled to take the full allotment of time off. There is no obligation to first accrue the paid time off.

The amount of paid time off is 80 hours for employees who work at least 40 hours per week. Part-time employees are entitled to paid time off in an amount equal to the average number of hours they are either scheduled to work or actually work.

Employees may utilize the leave for any of the following reasons:

  1. The employee is self-isolating because the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19, or is experiencing symptoms or seeking a medical diagnosis related to COVID-19;
  2. The employee is told by a public official, health care provider, or the employer that the employee’s presence at work would jeopardize the health of others;
  3. The employee is exhibiting symptoms that could jeopardize the health of others, regardless of whether the employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19; or
  4. The employee is taking care of a family member who meets the standards in one through three above.

The ordinance will remain in effect until the end of the state of emergency declared within the City of Pittsburgh.

The full text of the ordinance can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers with 50 or more employees, with any working within the City of Pittsburgh should update their paid time off policies and update their management teams about the new requirement.

December 2020 New York HR Legal Updates

NY Department of Labor Releases New Proposed Rules for Statewide Paid Sick Leave Program

What happened?
On December 2, 2020, the New York Department of Labor (DOL) issued draft regulations under the New York Paid Sick Leave Law.

What are the details?
The proposed regulations would further define certain terms in the Paid Sick Leave Law, like Domestic Partner, Family Offense, Human Trafficking, and Mental Illness. The regulations would also include additional clarification on what documentation employers may ask for to verify the need to provide Paid Sick Leave. Namely, it clarifies that employer may not require employees to provide documentation of the need to take leave, as a condition to utilize the leave initially.

Employer size is clarified on, but not how most multi-state employer would have wanted. Instead, the regulations simply clarifies that if an employer falls below a Paid Sick Leave threshold, and then goes above another one in the middle of the year, they must provide the higher paid sick leave required of the larger size, throughout the entire year, regardless if they fall back down to the lower employer size bracket.

For example, if an employer starts 2021 with 95 employees, they must allow employees to begin accruing up to at least 40 hours of paid sick leave that year. If, however, the company hires more employees, bringing them up to 100 or more on any day, then, at that point, the employer must increase the maximum annual accrual and usage to 56 hours prospectively. The maximum accrual/usage would not fall back to 40 hours for the rest of the year under any circumstances.

The regulations end by clarifying that employees do not need to work a  flat 30 hours to accrue an hour of Paid Sick Leave, and instead accrue it as they work. An employee working 35 hours a week is not only accruing one hour of paid sick leave a week, for example, and would instead accrue more due to the additional 5 hours worked each week.

An article going more in depth on the changes can be found here.

The proposed regulations can be found at the bottom of the Paid Sick Leave page provided by the State, found here.

What do employers need to do?
New York Employers should review the above information and ensure their Paid Sick Leave policies are in alignment with these proposed regulations. 

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NYC Seeking to Eliminate At-Will Employment for Fast Food Industry

What happened?
On December 17, 2020, New York City Council passed amendments to the Fair Work Practices chapter of the New York City Administrative Code, referred to as the “Fair Work Week Law,” that will significantly alter the relationship between covered employers and employees of fast food establishments.

 

What are the details?
Generally speaking the bills would do the following:

An employer would be prohibited from terminating fast food employees’ employment, reducing their hours by 15% of their regular schedule or by 15% of any weekly work schedule, or indefinitely suspending employees, unless the fast food employer has “just cause” to do so, or is compelled to do so by bona fide economic concerns. The bills would require all fast food employers to adopt clear policies relating to all standards of conduct; institute a progressive discipline policy for less-egregious infractions; perform “adequate training” on the employer’s standards; conduct a “fair and objective investigation into the job performance or misconduct”; and, within five days of discharging a fast food employee, provide a written explanation of the “precise reasons” for the action.  For employees whose jobs are terminated due to economic reasons, the bills would require the selection of laid-off employees to be in reverse seniority order and create functional recall rights for a period of up to 12 months.  Employees would have the right to file for arbitration to challenge whether or not an employer had “just cause” for its actions or otherwise complied with the law.

An article breaking down these amendments which also includes links to the amendments themselves, can be found here.  A more recent article, covering the amendments after they passed can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
New York City employers in the fast food industry should consult with their employment attorneys to know what workplace policies they should update

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New York City Expands Ban-the-Box Initiative

What happened?
On December 10, 2020, the New York City Council passed bill Int. 1314-A, which significantly expands the scope of New York City’s “ban-the-box” law, the New York City Fair Chance Act (FCA).

What are the details?
The changes to the FCA will impact the following subjects 

  • Restrictions on consideration of criminal accusations and arrests pending at time of application
  • Consideration of convictions occurring during employment
  • Non-pending arrests and criminal accusations and adjournments in contemplation of dismissal
  • Violations and non-criminal offenses
  • Restrictions on revocation of conditional offer of employment
  • Affirmative requirement to solicit information for the fair chance act factors

An article going in depth on all of these changes can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
New York City Employers should review the above information and update their hiring practices to bring themselves into compliance with the new restrictions.

December 2020 Massachusetts HR Legal Updates

Massachusetts Provides Updates and Forms Regarding Paid Family and Medical Leave

What happened?
The Massachusetts Department of Family and Medical Leave (PFML) has released two forms for use related to the upcoming Paid Family and Medical Leave program.

What are the details?
The department released two documents for employers and employees to use in relation to the upcoming PFML requirement. In addition to further guidance.

The first document released is an updated PFML Workplace poster. Massachusetts employers are required to have this poster in the place of work. This can be found here.

The second document is the certification form that employees and employers must submit to the Department when requesting to use their PFML under the public program. This can be found here.

The department has also posted a new FAQ about the PFML, as well as an employee guide to the PFML. The FAQ can be found here. While the employee guide can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Massachusetts employers should review the available guidance above if they have any questions about the state ran Paid Family Leave program. 

December 2020 Maryland HR Legal Updates

Montgomery County Amends Ban-the-Box Legislation

What happened?
Montgomery county, the most populous county in Maryland, has amended the Ban-the-Box legislation, Bill 36-14, to be more restrictive.

What are the details?
The amendments make the county wide bill now more restrictive than the state wide Ban-the-Box legislation.

The key changes that were made to the existing law are:

  • Timing of criminal record inquiry: Permitted only after a conditional offer of employment is extended to the applicant.
  • Prohibited inquiries:  Employers may not inquire into whether:
    • The applicant has been arrested for a matter that did not result in a conviction;
    • The applicant has a first conviction for trespass, disturbing the peace, or misdemeanor assault in the second degree; or
    • The applicant has a misdemeanor conviction, if at least three years have passed since the date of conviction and the date that any period of incarceration for the misdemeanor ended.
  • Definition of “employer”:  The amendments redefine employer as “any person, individual, proprietorship, partnership, joint venture, corporation, limited liability company, trust, association, or other entity operating and doing business in the County that employs 1 or more persons full-time in the County. Employer includes the County government, but does not include the United States, any State, or any other local government.”

An article covering all of Maryland’s Ban-the-Box legislation can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers with employees within Montgomery County MD should review their hiring practices and the above changes to ensure compliance with local laws.

December 2020 Colorado HR Legal Updates

Overtime Changes for 2021

What happened?
The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment released the new Colorado Overtime and Minimum Wage Pay Standards (COMPS) Order #37, which expands the administrative and professional employee exemptions, incorporates the Colorado Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA), and mandates pay adjustments for certain employees.

What are the details?
The COMPS order includes clarifications about the transportation worker exemption, including the addition of taxicab drivers into the exemption. The administrative employee exemption has had its definition revised, making it more encompassing. The professional employee exemption has been changed to be more similar to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), in that it now includes “creative professional(s)”. The order includes some additional information about the Healthy Families and Workplaces Act, which employers may recognize as the legislation mandating Paid Sick Leave effective January 1, 2021. The COMPS order finishes off with information on the new minimum wage, ($12.32) and the increase to salary thresholds that accompany the change to minimum wage.

A more in depth breakdown of the COMPS order can be found here.

COMPS Order #37 can be found here.

 

What do employers need to do?
Colorado employers should review the above information and work with their payroll administrators to ensure compliance with any wage related legislation.

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Updated FAQs: Colorado’s Equal Pay Rules for Job Posting and Pay Transparency

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment recently released their Interpretive Notice and Formal Opinion #9 (INFO #9), which includes further clarifications on the final rules of the equal pay rules that will be effective January 1, 2021. Husch Blackwell LLP has provided an FAQ that answers questions employers may have using the information on INFO #9. This FAQ can be found here, in the bottom half of the article.

December 2020 Federal HR Updates

COVID-19 Relief Bill: What It Means for PEOs & Small Business

What happened?
On Monday December 21, the House passed an omnibus spending bill that included $1.4 trillion to fund the federal government and $900 billion of additional COVID relief by a vote of 399-53. The Senate then passed the legislation by a vote of 92-6. 

What are the details?
Below is a summary of the key provisions in the bill impacting PEOs. 

Tax Provisions
The omnibus spending bill – which is almost 5,600 pages long – contained many tax provisions that impact PEOs. Randy Hardock and Courtney Zinter of Davis & Harman (NAPEO’s outside tax counsel) have prepared this document which contains the details of these provisions and how they apply to PEOs.

Specific tax provisions of interest to PEOs include:

  • Paid Sick and Family Leave Credits
    • Extends the paid sick and family leave credits against employment taxes from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for three additional months to March 31, 2021.
    • The bill does not extend the FFCRA’s mandate to provide paid sick leave or paid family and medical leave beyond December 31, 2020.
  • Changes to the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)
    • Repeals the provision denying the ERTC to employers receiving a PPP loan. Instead, mechanisms would be created to prevent the same wages from being used for both PPP loan forgiveness and the ERTC.
    • Extends the ERTC to apply to wages paid before July 1, 2021 (instead of January 1, 2021).
    • Increases the credit percentage from 50 percent to 70 percent of applicable wages.
    • Increases the per-employee limitation on applicable wages from $10,000 total to $10,000 per calendar quarter. In combination with the increased credit percentage, this would increase the maximum credit per employee from $5,000 to $7,000 per quarter (up to $14,000 for the first two quarters in 2021).
    • The following language was added to the ERTC provisions that specifically addresses PEOs: Any forms, instructions, regulations, or guidance described in paragraph (2) shall require the customer to be responsible for the accounting of the credit and for any liability for improperly claimed credits and shall require the certified professional employer organization or other third-party payer to accurately report such tax credits based on the information provided by the customer.
      It is not clear whether this provision applies retroactively or just towards new credits taken in 2021.
    • Makes the ERTC available if the business experienced a decline of at least 20 percent in gross receipts (instead of a 50 percent decline) as compared to the same calendar quarter in the prior year.
    • Modifies the small employer definition of qualified wages to apply to employers that have 500 or fewer employees (instead of 100 of fewer employees).
  • Creates a temporary employee retention credit of 40 percent of qualified wages up to $6,000 (maximum credit of $2,400 per eligible employee) for eligible employers affected by certain qualified disasters. This credit is retroactive and does not apply to COVID-related disasters.
  • The bill also extends the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for five years.

Paycheck Protection Program and Other Small Business Assistance
In addition to the tax provisions, the COVID-19 relief portion of this legislation contains additional assistance for small businesses, which NAPEO has been lobbying Congress in support of. Specifically, it contains the following provisions designed to assist small businesses:

  • Creates a second loan from the Paycheck Protection Program, called a “PPP second draw” loan for smaller and harder-hit businesses, with a maximum amount of $2 million.
  • Creates a simplified application process for loans under $150,000.
  • Expands the expenses that can be covered by a PPP loan.
  • Makes 501(c)6 organizations that do not lobby eligible for PPP loans.
  • Makes the expenses covered by PPP loans tax deductible.

Details on these provisions can be found on this document provided by the Community Banker’s Association.

Unemployment Insurance
The COVID-19 relief provisions also make the following changes to unemployment insurance:

  • Unemployed individuals get an additional $300 per week from December 26, 2020 to March 14, 2021.
  • Extends and phases out Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a temporary federal program covering self-employed and gig workers, to March 14, 2021 and extends benefits from 39 to 50 weeks with all benefits ending April 5, 2021.
  • Extends and phases out Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) which provides additional weeks when state unemployment runs out, to March 14, 2021 (after which no new applications) through April 5, 2021.
  • Extends provisions to March 14, 2021, including interest-free loans to the states.

No federal money was provided to shore up the short falls in state unemployment funds.

Miscellaneous Provisions
The omnibus spending bill contained so-called “tax extenders,” which are temporary provisions in the tax code that are designed to support specific economic activities. There are two provisions of interest to PEOs that have been extended for five years. They are: 

  • The employer credit under section 45S for paid family and medical leave, originally enacted as part of tax reform in 2017.

The expanded exclusion for employer-provided educational assistance, including student loan repayment benefits as enacted as part of the CARES Act. NAPEO has lobbied in support of this provision.

What do employers need to do?
PEOs and small businesses working with them should review the above information to know what benefits may be available to them.

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EEOC Releases FAQs on the COVID-19 Vaccine / Considerations for Employers

What happened?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, has provided guidance in the form of Frequently Asked Questions to employers regarding the practice of employers requiring employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

What are the details?
As the COVID-19 vaccines are administered around the country many employers were starting to wonder what the outlook was on if they would be able to require employees to have the COVID-19 vaccine before coming into the workplace. The EEOC is the first of the federal agencies to chime in with specific guidance, with the DOL only providing information in the form of references to previous stances. The FAQ covers many questions regarding how employers may go about administering this requirement. For example:

“For any COVID-19 vaccine that has been approved or authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine to an employee by an employer (or by a third party with whom the employer contracts to administer a vaccine) a “medical examination” for purposes of the ADA?”

A: “No.  The vaccination itself is not a medical examination.  As the Commission explained in guidance on disability-related inquiries and medical examinations, a medical examination is “a procedure or test usually given by a health care professional or in a medical setting that seeks information about an individual’s physical or mental impairments or health.”  Examples include “vision tests; blood, urine, and breath analyses; blood pressure screening and cholesterol testing; and diagnostic procedures, such as x-rays, CAT scans, and MRIs.”  If a vaccine is administered to an employee by an employer for protection against contracting COVID-19, the employer is not seeking information about an individual’s impairments or current health status and, therefore, it is not a medical examination.”

To read all of the information provided by the EEOC see the guidance provided here. This new guidance can be found by clicking the link and using the find function in your browser (usually ctrl + f) and searching for 12/16.

Additional reading related to this issue can be found in this article. Note: this article was released prior to the EEOC FAQs update. However, it includes some very helpful considerations for employers in regard to deciding whether or not a vaccination program is a good choice for your company.

Additional articles on this subject can be found here: From SHRM, From Jones Walker LLP, and from Dickinson Wright.

What do employers need to do?
Employers who are thinking of implementing a policy requiring or encouraging employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 should review the information about and review the articles listed to get a complete understanding of all the laws and administrative bodies that play a role here.

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Proposed Changes to HIPPA Relax Requirements

What happened?
On December 10, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a proposed rule that would revise the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

What are the details?
In its news release, the OCR noted that the changes “seeks to promote value-based health care by examining federal regulations that impede efforts among healthcare providers and health plans to better coordinate care for patients.” The proposed changes come on the heels of the recently delayed Information Blocking Rule, which seeks to prohibit interferences with access, exchange, or use of electronic health information (EHI). The key proposed changes are below:

Relaxing Requirements:
The HHS is proposing some changes that would loosen the standards for disclosing PHI in certain instances and for technical compliance with HIPAA. For example, the privacy standard currently permits covered entities to make certain uses and disclosures of PHI based on their “professional judgment.” This standard permits such uses or disclosures based on a covered entity’s good faith belief that the use or disclosure is in the best interests of the individual. The proposed standard is more permissive and would presume a covered entity’s good faith; however, this presumption could be overcome with evidence of bad faith.

Strengthening Individuals’ Right to Access:
Consistent with the underlying objectives of the Information Blocking Rule, the proposed rule seeks to increase the ability of individuals’ access to their PHI. This could be achieved by allowing individuals to take notes, videos, and photographs using personal resources after arranging a mutually convenient time and place at no cost to the covered individual. Additionally, the proposed changes reduce the time frame allowed for covered entities to response to requests for access, from the previous 30 days, to instead be as soon as practicable but no longer than 15 days.

Disclosures to Social Service Organizations:
The proposed rule would modify 45 CFR 164.506(c) and add a new subsection 164.506(c)(6), which would expressly permit covered entities to disclose PHI for certain social services. Specifically, it would allow covered entities to disclose PHI to social services agencies, community based organizations, home and community based service providers, and other similar third parties that” provide health-related services to specific individuals for individual-level care coordination and case management, either as a treatment activity of a covered healthcare provider or as a healthcare operations activity of a covered healthcare provider or health plan.”

The proposed changes can be found here.

An article providing additional summaries, can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers dealing with electronic health information should keep an eye on these rules and begin making preparations to adjust workplace practices to accommodate these changes, should they be implemented.

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IRS Announces New Standard Mileage Rates for 2021

What happened?
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the 2021 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

What are the details?
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 56 cents per mile driven for business use, down 1.5 cents from the rate for 2020,
  • 16 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes for qualified active duty members of the Armed Forces, down 1 cent from the rate for 2020, and
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations, the rate is set by statute and remains unchanged from 2020.

The standard mileage rate for business use is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

The full notice covering these changes can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the above mileage rates and update their internal policies regarding business travel, if needed.

Prepare for the New Year in a New Normal

2020 has been nothing short of stressful, frustrating, and unpredictable. As businesses approach a new year, it is the perfect time to re-evaluate operational and organizational efficiencies. Preparing for the new normal in 2021 may look a little different than most years as the COVID situation continues to evolve. Some topics that might be worth exploring and addressing include continuing recovery, creating a business strategy for extended remote work and worst-case scenarios, resuming business travel, and year end reviews. Continued Business Recovery Part of survival in any business is adaptability. It is imperative for businesses to be agile in their operational and organizational structure to promptly adjust to unforeseen crises or events that impact such efficiencies, like COVID. One way to continue business recovery is examining areas of improvement. Digital wellness is one area where most businesses can still improve. With a majority of companies shifting to a remote work setting, bridging the gap between IT and HR is one of many ways businesses may boost digital wellness in the virtual workplace. Developing a Business Strategy Developing a business strategy is in the core foundation of business best practices. It helps outline a path and appropriate responses for obstacles along the way. Your business strategy should address remote work, addressing workplace safety, and employee wellness to ensure effective communication is utilized, staffing needs are met, and employee well-being is prioritized. Additionally, developing a crisis management plan – or updating an existing one – to encompass public health crises is integral to effective business strategies. This is where worst-case scenarios should be addressed, such as if an employee receives a positive COVID test result and extensions to remote work policies should the COVID situation continue to evolve in the new year. Resuming Business Travel and Events Some businesses have already resumed business travel, but have restricted employees to travel only for essential business-related events. Additional precautions businesses may implement are self-quarantine periods upon return from business travel, daily employee health screenings, and/or discounts or perks for alternative means of travel (i.e., driving vs flying). A great alternative to attending in-person events is hosting webinars. Webinars are great tools for connecting businesses to a wide range of clients, business owners, and other relevant professionals in their industry. For example, VensureHR has hosted many webinars for various HR topics, such as COVID-related topics, mental health issues in the workplace, and other general HR topics. Year End Reviews As you approach the new year, whether you’ve laid off or furloughed employees since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, end of year reviews are a great opportunity to reward your employees, as well as re-evaluate your business goals for the upcoming year. A year end review template may include four sections, and should be a two-way conversation: 1. Checking in: This can be an opening, casual dialogue discussing general topics (i.e., workflow, holiday plans, etc.) and the overall purpose of this year end review. 2. One-year reflection: This section should include employee progress, addressing obstacles, and areas of improvement. 3. Looking to the future: This part may focus on goal setting, i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) goals. 4. Next steps: To close out the end of year review, recap the goals discussed, as well as any next steps each individual must take. To help prepare you for the New Year in the new normal, partnering with a PEO like VensureHR may be in your best interest. From HR and employee benefits to payroll and risk management, our industry-leading PEO services offer innovative, cost-effective business solutions for companies of all sizes across various industries. Contact us to learn more. Sources: VensureHR: Navigating the Remote Workplace VensureHR: The Power of Webinars VensureHR: Post-COVID Tips for Resuming Business Travel Inc.com

2020 has been nothing short of stressful, frustrating, and unpredictable. As businesses approach a new year, it is the perfect time to re-evaluate operational and organizational efficiencies. Preparing for the new normal in 2021 may look a little different than most years as the COVID situation continues to evolve. Some topics that might be worth exploring and addressing include continuing recovery, creating a business strategy for extended remote work and worst-case scenarios, resuming business travel, and year end reviews.

Continued Business Recovery

Part of survival in any business is adaptability. It is imperative for businesses to be agile in their operational and organizational structure to promptly adjust to unforeseen crises or events that impact such efficiencies, like COVID. One way to continue business recovery is examining areas of improvement. Digital wellness is one area where most businesses can still improve. With a majority of companies shifting to a remote work setting, bridging the gap between IT and HR is one of many ways businesses may boost digital wellness in the virtual workplace.

Developing a Business Strategy

Developing a business strategy is in the core foundation of business best practices. It helps outline a path and appropriate responses for obstacles along the way. Your business strategy should address remote work, addressing workplace safety, and employee wellness to ensure effective communication is utilized, staffing needs are met, and employee well-being is prioritized.

Additionally, developing a crisis management plan – or updating an existing one – to encompass public health crises is integral to effective business strategies. This is where worst-case scenarios should be addressed, such as if an employee receives a positive COVID test result and extensions to remote work policies should the COVID situation continue to evolve in the new year.

Resuming Business Travel and Events

Some businesses have already resumed business travel, but have restricted employees to travel only for essential business-related events. Additional precautions businesses may implement are self-quarantine periods upon return from business travel, daily employee health screenings, and/or discounts or perks for alternative means of travel (i.e., driving vs flying).

A great alternative to attending in-person events is hosting webinars. Webinars are great tools for connecting businesses to a wide range of clients, business owners, and other relevant professionals in their industry. For example, VensureHR has hosted many webinars for various HR topics, such as COVID-related topics, mental health issues in the workplace, and other general HR topics.

Year End Reviews

As you approach the new year, whether you’ve laid off or furloughed employees since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, end of year reviews are a great opportunity to reward your employees, as well as re-evaluate your business goals for the upcoming year.

A year end review template may include four sections, and should be a two-way conversation:

  1. Checking in: This can be an opening, casual dialogue discussing general topics (i.e., workflow, holiday plans, etc.) and the overall purpose of this year end review.
  2. One-year reflection:  This section should include employee progress, addressing obstacles, and areas of improvement.
  3. Looking to the future: This part may focus on goal setting, i.e., specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based (SMART) goals.
  4. Next steps: To close out the end of year review, recap the goals discussed, as well as any next steps each individual must take.

To help prepare you for the New Year in the new normal, partnering with a PEO like VensureHR may be in your best interest. From HR and employee benefits to payroll and risk management, our industry-leading PEO services offer innovative, cost-effective business solutions for companies of all sizes across various industries. Contact us to learn more.

 

Sources:
VensureHR: Navigating the Remote Workplace
VensureHR: The Power of Webinars
VensureHR: Post-COVID Tips for Resuming Business Travel
Inc.com

Here’s What Employers Need to Know for 2021 Tax Season

Young businessman preparing 2021 taxes on laptop

It’s that time of year again. With multiple extensions to deadlines, legislation modifying processes, and other related events that can impact taxes, this coming tax season will introduce tax code changes along with new charitable contribution opportunities specific to the Coronavirus relief bill.

2021 Business Tax Preparation

  1. Understand which tax return forms you are responsible for filing. The IRS requires different types of businesses to use specific forms. For example, sole proprietors  may utilize Forms 1040, 1040-SR, 1040-ES, 940, 941, 943, 944, W-2, W-3, and/or Schedules C and SE; whereas corporations may utilize Forms 1120, 1120-W, 940, 941, 943, and/or excise taxes. Make sure you understand what your business is categorized as and determine which tax forms you are responsible for filing.

 

  • Mark your calendar for your tax filing deadline(s). Depending on your business and the extensions the IRS provided for filing income and information returns, be sure to note the following tax deadlines:
  • January 31: Wage statements and independent contractor forms 
  • February 28: 1099-MISC forms (paper) that missing Box 7 amounts
  • March 31: Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, and W-2GS (electronic)
  • March 15: Partnerships, multiple limited liability companies (LLCs), and S corporations
  • April 15: Sole proprietorships and single-member LLCs
  • Collect the appropriate records and information needed for filing. To prepare for filing your taxes, you will likely need the following documentation:

 

  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Income statement
  • Balance sheet
  • Receipts
  • Bank and credit card statements
  • Payroll records
  • Previous year’s tax return
  • Estimated tax payments.

Tip: Research potential tax deduction eligibility. For example, a frequently used tax deduction that will likely be applicable for most businesses for tax year 2020 is using your home for business (remote work).

  • Calculate and deduct your estimated tax payments. Most businesses pay quarterly estimated taxes. These amounts should be deducted from the payment total to minimize overpayment during tax season.

Estimating taxes will depend on the type of business you have. For example, estimated taxes for specialized industries like farmers or fisherman will likely differ from that of a white-collar corporation. To explore estimated taxes for different types of businesses, visit the IRS website.

  • Submit your tax return. After you have completed the above steps, you should be ready to file your tax return. Make sure you file by the deadline

Other Business Considerations

  1. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) refunds. The AMT expands income tax by disallowing deductions under regular taxes. To understand if you owe AMT in addition to regular tax, look at the previous year’s 6251 form. Review lines 2 and 3 for entries to determine if adjustments can be made to the taxable income for AMT. 
  2. Leverage current losses. Net operating losses (NOLs) can be claimed only as a carryback refund if the previous year’s tax return has been completed. The CARES Act restores the five-year NOLs in any taxable year before 2021.
  3. Bonus depreciation. Taxpayers are able to amend 2018 and 2019 tax returns to receive a refund, as the retroactive nature of the CARES Act is favorable for completed qualified expenditures.
  4. Payroll tax deduction timeline. The CARES Act allows the deferral of tax deposit and payments for the employer-paid portion of Social Security tax through December 31, 2020.

From taxes 101, such as distributing W2s or classifying workers (i.e., W2 vs 1099), to finding tax breaks and ensuring timely, accurate filing taxes and tax compliance, contact VensureHR. Our tax management team can provide tips, support, and resources to guide you through a smooth 2021 tax season.

 

Sources:
CPA Practice Advisor

December 2020: COVID-19 Distribution Expiring December 31, 2020

The CARES Act provided an opportunity for employers to offer the option of allowing qualified individuals to take a distribution (up to $100,000) from their IRA, 401K or 403B without penalty, and spread the tax impact over a three-year period.
Qualifying individuals must meet one of the following criteria:

  • Diagnosed with COVID-19 by an approved CDC test
  • Spouse or dependent was diagnosed with COVID-19 by an approved CDC test
  • Experience adverse financial consequences as a result of:
    • Being quarantined, furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19
    • Unable to work due to lack of child care as a result of COVID-19
    • Closing or reducing hours of a business that you own or operate as a result of COVID-19

If you offered this opportunity to your employees, the deadline to take advantage of this opportunity is Thursday December 31, 2020. To read more about this distribution click here.

4 Ways to Improve Performance Reviews

Young businesswoman conducting performance review with male professional

Performance reviews are part of the performance management process that requires a supervisor to assess an employee’s performance at work. Here are four ways to improve performance reviews.

  1. Understand the Purpose of Performance Reviews

Performance reviews are valuable tools that:

  • Help identify an employee’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Boost opportunities for professional growth
  • Provide employees and supervisors a chance to offer feedback and set goals
  • Allocate promotions or pay increases properly

2. Performance Review Best Practices

Generally, performance review templates contain the same components, such as frequency, guidelines, and formatting. There are three main components to a successful performance review:

  • Conduct performance reviews on a regular basis. Most companies make the mistake of conducting performance reviews once a year. To provide regular feedback, quarterly meetings are recommended. This allows career development discussions and ensuring adequate support, resources, and tools are in place to help employees reach their goals.
  • Establish clear evaluation guidelines. In preparation and goal setting, it is imperative that clear guidelines are established for measuring an employee’s performance. For example, if an employee wants to move into a supervisory role, layout what types of qualities or tasks they will be evaluated on. This could include general qualities like communication, time management, critical thinking and problem solving, and working under pressure.
  • Communicating performance review format. To prepare your employee for a performance review, layout the format. For example, is this going to be a formal or informal meeting? If it is going to be formal, you could provide the structure of the meeting by explaining what is expected from the employee, what the employee should expect from you, and the goal of the performance review (i.e., annual evaluation, consideration for a raise or promotion).

Some performance review templates vary by company, department, and/or role. For example, “creativity and innovation” may not be as highly appreciated in a workers’ compensation role as a marketing and communications role.

3. Performance Review Template

Performance review templates should include goal setting, feedback from both employee and supervisor, and input from HR.

  • Goal Setting: Typically, performance reviews are intended to provide goal setting opportunities. It is a chance for expectations to be laid out, goals should be developed, and both you and the employee should leave with a strategy for the employee to successfully attain their goal.
  • Seek Feedback: Whether you seek insight from workers who worked closely with the employee or from his or her supervisor, the more feedback you receive, the more performance review information you may provide the employee. Seeking feedback should also be extended to the employee being evaluated. For example, if a supervisor states that the employee needs to work on time management due to missed deadlines, then you may seek feedback from the employee. The employee may provide information that offers feedback or insight for the supervisor. Feedback should always be a two-way discussion.
  • Exercise with HR: If you are uncertain on particular approaches or would like additional feedback, practice with your HR team. Human resource professionals usually have exceptional employee relation experience and can offer you feedback on what works and tips to improve.

Performance reviews are typically are categorized by skills and goals that correlate to each category. The most common performance review examples of skills and goals include:

  1. Creativity and innovation
  2. Adaptability
  3. Communication
  4. Accountability
  5. Attendance and punctuality
  6. Productivity and quality of work
  7. Achievement
  8. Cooperation
  9. Coaching and training
  10. Improvement
  11. Interpersonal skills
  12. Problem solving

4. Invest in a Professional Employer Organization (PEO)

A PEO is a co-employment arrangement where the PEO undertakes employee-related responsibilities allowing the business owner to focus on primary job functions and responsibilities, such as business growth and managing employees. PEOs support core business functions with services, including human resources, payroll, employee benefits, risk management and safety, and workers’ compensation. To ensure proper performance review processes and developing performance review templates, contact VensureHR. Our HR specialists can provide industry best practices, customer support, and the resources and tools to strengthen your business’s performance management practices.

Source:
The Balance Careers


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