Q: I have an employee that is on long term disability. How do I handle their health insurance benefits since they are no longer actively employed? … Read More »
by Jeanne Knutzen | February 24, 2015
Q: I have an employee that is on long term disability. How do I handle their health insurance benefits since they are no longer actively employed? … Read More »
by Jeanne Knutzen | November 24, 2014
A Complimentary Webinar for the Clients and Friends of PACE Staffing Network! MARK YOUR CALENDAR – December 10, 2014 @ 9 AM (PST) After compliance, learn what comes next! Featuring nationally acclaimed ACA attorney, Alden Bianchi. The Affordable Care Act radically restructures how heath care is funded. In 2014, its mandates impacted individuals. In 2015, its mandates impact employers. For the staffing industry and its customers, Obamacare represents the biggest compliance challenge our industry has ever faced. It impacts all of us who do or utilize staffing services—agencies and customers. The PACE Staffing Network, in conjunction with the Affiliated Staffing Group, has arranged for Alden Bianchi, a nationally recognized expert on the ACA and the Group Practice Leader for Mintz Levin’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Practice to present a complimentary webinar for PACE customers and friends on Wednesday, December 10 from 9am-10:15am PST. Click here to register! Webinar topics will include:
by Jeanne Knutzen | November 24, 2014
0 ACA Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Hiring.Best Practices Affordable Care Act, Affordable Healthcare – ACA Smart, Co Employment, Employee Benefits, Employee Hiring Decision, Employee Placement, flexible workforce strategies, Workplace Harassment
With the launch of the employer mandates of the Affordable Care Act in January 2015, staffing agencies and their clients have one more reason to worry about co-employment. While the ACA clearly states that only the “common law” employer is responsible for “offering insurance,” and case law strongly supports the notion that the staffing agency is the “common law” employer, what happens if your staffing agency doesn’t offer ACA mandated benefits as required by law. Is there any way you might be liable for fines or penalties? Questions about co-employment get triggered any time two parties share rights and responsibilities inside the traditional employer relationship which is the case with all staffing arrangements involving a third party staffing company and their clients.
by Jeanne Knutzen | October 28, 2014
0 ACA Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Legal Issues - Staffing, Management.Supervision ACA and Temporary Staffing, ACA compliance, Affordable Healthcare – ACA Smart, Employment Agency Bellevue, Employment Agency Everett, Employment Agency Kent, Employment Agency Seattle, Employment Agency Tacoma, Employment Agency Washington State, Hiring Bellevue, Hiring Everett, Hiring Seattle, Hiring Tacoma, Temporary Staffing Bellevue, Temporary Staffing Everett, Temporary Staffing Kent, Temporary Staffing Seattle, Temporary Staffing Tacoma, Temporary Staffing Washington
The PACE Staffing Network has been preparing for the employer mandates of the ACA for well over two years. As members of the American Staffing Association (ASA), we provided input into several areas of proposed regulation, and attended countless hours of ACA related training. With the ACA’s employer mandates ready to launch January 1 2015, we wanted to share information on the specifics of how the ACA impacts your use of temporary/contract employees. For ideas on how to better manage your needs for staff in light of new ACA mandates, contact a member of our Partnership Development team by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 425-637-3312.
by Jeanne Knutzen | September 23, 2014
0 ACA Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Legal Issues - Staffing Employment Agency Bellevue, Employment Agency Everett, Employment Agency Kent, Employment Agency Seattle, Employment Agency Tacoma, Employment Agency Washington State, hiring, Hiring Bellevue, Hiring Everett, Hiring Seattle, Hiring Tacoma, Temporary Staffing Bellevue, Temporary Staffing Everett, Temporary Staffing Kent, Temporary Staffing Seattle, Temporary Staffing Tacoma, Temporary Staffing Washington
Part II. ACA Requirements and Penalties - 2015! Yes, the 2,300 pages it took to write the law, followed by the 10,000+ pages of regulatory interpretation can be daunting, but with the January 1st launch of our transitional year just around the corner, we are taking the time to boil down the complication into the “critical few”—things our clients MUST KNOW about what lies ahead. In Part I, we provided a complete glossary of ACA terms—just so you would have a playbook. In Part II, we are providing a simple outline of employer and employee requirements for 2015.
by Jeanne Knutzen | August 19, 2014
0 ACA Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Legal Issues - Staffing ACA and contract staff, ACA and temporary staff, ACA compliance, ACA Definitions, ACA glossary, ACA vocabulary, Affordable Care Act and temporary staffing, Variable Hour Employees
Part I. A Glossary of “ACA Speak” With the employer mandate of the Affordable Care Act just around the corner (January 1st, 2015 for employers with 100+ FTEs), employers everywhere are facing the last round of ACA challenges. To make sure our clients and friends are tracking with ACA requirements, particularly those that impact their use of temporary or contract staff, we will be publishing a series of informational pieces about the ACA called “ACA Smart.” We will be identifying those provisions in the law that we know will drive up your staffing costs, but also the opportunities we see to drive down these costs by making adjustments in how temporary and contract staff are put to work. “ACA Smart” will also cover the operational policies we recommend employers put in place to protect themselves from unanticipated costs or penalties stemming from misguided co-employment protocols. In Part I of “ACA Smart,” we offer a dictionary of ACA terms - all those new words that will soon become part of the regulatory landscape. Key ACA Terms and Definitions Applicable Large Employer (ALE): In 2015, refers to an employer with 100 or more full time equivalent employees. In 2016 will be adjusted to include employers with 50 or more full time equivalent employees. Only ALE’s are subject to the employer mandates and related penalties. Full Time Equivalent (FTE): A term frequently used in the context of determining an employer’s size – the number of people they employee. When applied to a part-time or non-classified employee, it is used to determine what percentage of a full time employee each part-time worker represents. Employer Size: The size of an employer’s workforce is determined by counting all full time employees and adding to that number a calculation of the aggregate number of FTEs stemming from part-time or non-classified (variable hour) employees. The FTE assigned to a part-time employee is calculated as a percentage of the number of hours actually worked during a month divided by 120 hours. For example, if a part-time employee works 110 hours, their FTE = .917 or 110 divided by 120. (Eligible) Full Time Employee: Any employee who averages at least 30 hours per week (130 hours per month; 1560 hours per year). Only full time employees are required to be covered under ACA employer mandates. (Non-Eligible) Part-Time Employee: Any employee who averages less than 30 hours per week (130 hours per month; 1560 hours per year). Part-time employees are not required to be covered by an employer, but must be included in a calculation of company. Seasonal Employees: Employees working less than 120 days in a year for “seasonal” reasons. Seasonal employees are automatically excluded from ACA coverage. Variable Hour Employees: Refers to employees who, at the time of hire, cannot reasonably be classified as either part or full time. Variable hour employees are classified as either part or full time depending on the number of hours actually worked during either an “initial” (IMP) or “standard measurement” period (SMP). Many temporary or contract workers, but not all, will be classified as “variable hour” employees depending on how the conditions of their assignment is described. Your staffing agency is responsible to classify each employee as full, part or variable hour at the point of hire. Ongoing Employee: An employee who has been employed for at least one standard measurement period (SMP). Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC): The requirement to be ACA compliant is a healthcare plan must cover certain healthcare basics – “the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease.” All individuals are required to purchase MEC compliant plans, unless they are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIPs) or a Veteran based plan that is automatically classified as MEC compliant. MEC plans are also referenced as “skinny” plans. Of note, is that most of the healthcare plans currently available for temporary or contract workers are “fixed indemnity plans” that do not meet MEC standards. Minimum Value Coverage (MVC): The requirement to be ACA compliant is a healthcare plan must cover over at least 60% of the overall costs associated with, 1) physician and mid-level practitioner services, 2) hospital and emergency care, 3) pharmacy costs, and 4) laboratory/ imaging services. Of note, is that prior to the ACA, most employer plans had an actuarial value exceeding 85%. The lack of availability of 60% plans in the insurance marketplace is a significant issue for all employers focused on containing costs. Affordability: Refers to the ACA requirement that the employee’s share of the costs associated with their purchase of a healthcare plan for themselves (not their spouse or family) can be no more than 9.5% of the employee’s gross income. If an employee earns $2,000 per month, (approx. $11.60/hr.), they cannot be asked to pay more than $190/month towards their healthcare plan in order for the plan to be considered “affordable.” A plan costing an employer $400/month will, therefore, require that employer to contribute $210/month. Play: Refers to the decision an employer makes to offer a healthcare plan that provides Minimum Essential (MEC) coverage to 70% of its full time employees and their dependent children under age 26 in 2015, 95% in 2016. NOTE: 1) It is not mandatory to offer coverage for spouses, only dependent children under age 26 and 2) employers who “play” are still subject to penalties if:
by Jeanne Knutzen | May 22, 2014
0 ACA Affordable Healthcare, Blog, What's New in Staffing? Affordable Care Act, Affordable Healthcare – ACA Smart, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, staffing services bellevue, staffing services tacoma, Temporary Employee
Are You Ready?
With the first tier of the “postponed” ACA employer mandates just around the corner, (January 1, 2015), large employers (defined as employers with 100 or more employees) are once again getting poised to offer healthcare insurance to their eligible workforce or be subject to penalties. This time the requirement is that 70% of their eligible employees need to be offered coverage – a slight break to account for issues with Medicaid eligible employees. Less large employers (defined as employers with 50-99 employees) have until January 2016 for the employer mandates to kick in.
It has been a long winding road getting us to this place with regulatory guidance filled with potholes of uncertainty and confusion. There are over 15,000 pages of rules and another 45,000 pages of guidance. The delay in the employer mandate gave regulators one more year to clarify their intent, and those of us in the staffing industry one more year to prepare ourselves and our clients for what lies ahead. Most of us are just now getting back into the ACA saddle. With the new deadline only six months away, we need to start our readiness count down now!
As a context for our clients with large flexible workforces, there are several unique features of the ACA that are specific to the staffing industry and need to be shared with our customers as part of their readiness process. We are subject to the law as are all employers - but the difference is that most staffing companies have further to go to become compliant. As an industry we have never been benefit rich. Our workforces are short lived and transient, with most employees coming to us for interim work, with no expectation of benefits. The low levels of healthcare insurance specifically written for staffing companies fall well below ACA minimums and are being discontinued as we speak. The ACA will significantly impact our cost structures whether we elect to pay or play.
Your staffing provider faces three big challenges which hopefully by now they are discussing with you. They face the challenge of 1) new cost structures that are likely not absorbable, 2) limited access to insurance solutions that fit the needs and requirements of flexible workers, and 3) an enormous amount of new administrative complexity. Not all staffing companies will have the capacity to comply with the new ACA regs, even if they wanted to.
Most of our issues as well as some of our customers revolve around issues of employee eligibility – who is and who is not eligible to receive benefits. Our employees work for our clients in so many different ways – short, long term assignments, full time, part time, auditioning for hire, project work, day labor – it is hard to get our arms around who will not be considered full time, eligible for benefit coverage at point of hire.
In the last three months, regulators have offered several new employee classifications that are exempt from ACA mandated coverage:
Seasonal Employees – employees who have been hired into positions where the customary duration of the job is six months. Agriculture, retail, and other highly cyclical industries will not be required to offer coverage to employees who meet the “seasonal” requirements.
Part Time Employees – employees who work less than 30 hours a week. While some employers, like Home Depot and Trader Joes, have announced plans to cut back the hours of work for all their part time staff to contain their benefit costs, other employers like Starbucks, Costco etc. have renewed their commitment to provide benefits to their large and loyal part time workers.
For staffing companies and their customers, greater attention must be given to nailing down the actual number of hours our employees will be required to work each week so as to properly classify them as part or full time employees. An employee’s classification as either full or part time while working on assignment can impact your bill rate your staffing provider has to charge you just to cover increased costs!
“Variable Hour” Employees – are employees whose hours of work or the duration of their ongoing work assignments are such that we cannot be “assured” they will average 30 hours of work each week for the number of weeks in the “measurement period” used to baseline the employee's work patterns. Measurement periods can vary from no less than 3 months to no more than 12. Most employers will elect the 12 month measurement period option.
The "variable hour" employees is the classification most applicable to staffing company employees but is also the most difficult to administrate. While on the surface most temp and contract workers are by definition “variable,” the IRS requires the staffing agency to classify each employee as either “full time” or “variable hour” at the time of hire, considering several factors which they have listed in examples and regulatory comment.
Get it wrong and not offer benefits when you should, your staffing company can face serious penalties. Get it wrong and offer benefits not required, and your staffing company's costs can sky rocket, making significant price increases to you, a given.
The gain for both you and your staffing provider comes when employees can legitimately be classified as "variable hour" employees because of the unique position they have under the ACA mandates. Employers are not required to offer variable hour employee's healthcare benefits until their “measurement” period is completed – which can be a delay of up to 13 months. The “variable hour” employee provision can be used to contain costs but only if specific administrative and eligibility requirements are met at the point of hire.
At minimum, employers should expect their staffing providers to work with them to make changes in how they place requests for staff. In the bigger picture, it is more important than ever for employers and their staffing providers to work together to ensure ACA compliance while keeping a sharp eye on ways to contain unnecessary costs!
The PACE Staffing Network is a network based recruiting and staffing company headquartered in the Pacific Northwest with particular expertise in the development and management of flexible workforce strategies. The ACA is of particular interest to us because of its projected impact on workforce organization and cost containment strategies. Our goal is to help employers become ACA compliant while taking full advantage of the special provisions of the law that can provide competitive advantage. For more information on the ACA and its impact on your company contact us at 425-637-3312 or e-mail us at email@example.com.
This article was written by Jeanne Knutzen, founder and CEO of the PACE Staffing Network.
by Jeanne Knutzen | June 28, 2013
0 ACA Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Healthcare Staffing, What's New in Staffing? Affordable Care Act, Affordable Healthcare – ACA Smart, American Staffing Association, ASA, Benefits, Healthcare, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Temporary Staffing, Temporary Staffing
What two years ago seemed like an event too far off to care about, the launch of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this coming January 1st is now just around the corner. While there are still significant gaps in the clarity needed to fully comply with the 2700+ page law, we now know that most of the regulations that are going to be activated in January have been written. It’s now time for employers to make decisions about how they will comply with the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Because we are still hearing our client’s asking questions about the basic components of the law, we wanted to share information provided to us by our national trade association, the ASA (American Staffing Association), which we think does a good job of outlining the key elements of the ACA and what it means to our clients. Since the staffing industry is significantly impacted by ACA mandates, our industry worked closely with the DHSS throughout the writing of the ACA regs. Key ACA Definitions 1. (Eligible) Full Time Employee: Any employee who averages at least 30 hours per week (130 hours per month; 1560 hours per year). 2. Seasonal Employees: Employees working less than 120 days in a year. Generally excluded from ACA coverage because not considered full time. 3. Healthcare Plan—Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC): References the requirement that a compliant healthcare plan after January 1st must cover healthcare basics, “the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease.” Many of the so called “mini med”, wellness, and preventative plans will not meet the MEC requirement. 4. Healthcare Plan—Minimum Value: References the requirement that a compliant healthcare plan cover at least 60% of the overall costs associated with 1) physician and mid-level practitioner services, 2) hospital and emergency care, 3) pharmacy costs, and 4) laboratory/ imaging services. Many high deductible plans will not meet Minimum Value requirements.
by Jeanne Knutzen | May 15, 2013
0 ACA Affordable Healthcare, Blog, Human Resource Roles, What's New in Staffing? ACA regulations, Affordable Healthcare – ACA Smart, Health Insurance, Obamacare, PPACA, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agencies, Seattle Staffing Agency, Seattle Temporary Staffing, Seattle WA Staffing, staffing, Temporary Staffing And The Affordable Care Act, Temporary Staffing In Seattle
While we have always known that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka: PPACA, ACA, AHA, Obamacare) would impact the temporary staffing industry and its customers, the regulatory information that has been surfacing over the last several months is starting to reveal the impact of some of the details embedded in the law. We are finding both good and bad news in the newly published regulations—new requirements that will increase the costs of temporary and contract workers; nuances in those requirements that will make flexible workforce strategies an even more attractive model for driving down operating costs. While the law is still very confusing, the reality is that most of the regulations that will be written, have been written to the point where more and more cost conscious employers are starting to re-think how they get work done—what types of employees to put to work when, where, and how. The following information is being provided to PACE customers as a way to lay out the facts of the ACA and its regs, prepare you for what lies ahead, and offer some ideas for not only staying compliant, but mitigating some of the cost increases we are all anticipating. Our comments will focus primarily on the impact of the ACA on our client's non-W2 workforce, which includes not only your temporary and contract workers but any workers performing work on your behalf through the services of a third party employer. ACA Overview Under the ACA, all “large” employers are required to do three things to stay in compliance with the law as of January 1st, 2014.
1. Employers can use a third party employer solution to avoid compliance requirements. For employers who need to add staff, but also want to remain below the 50 FTE (fulltime equivalent) threshold that exempts them from the ACA regulations, using a third party employer solution to channel employees to another employer can delay the point when they must become compliant with the law.
The Employer of Record Service option is ideal for employers who have located an employee they want to hire, but don’t want to absorb the costs or administrative hassles of employing that worker directly. Employer of Record Services is especially ideal for companies who want to either avoid or delay the compliance requirements of the ACA.
We are encouraging our smaller clients to plan now for what lies ahead. We’ve heard stories of regulatory agencies getting ready to target companies who have been sending large numbers of already existing employees to a third party employer as a way to avoid ACA regulation. We do not recommend this strategy.
But for employers who haven’t yet reached that 50 FTE benchmark, a third party employer solution applied to your near term hires can successfully delay when your company falls under the ACA.
Word of caution: using a third party employer solution is considered a short term (one-two year) solution. The administrative rules of the ACA dictate that after one year, all workers in your facility, regardless of who employs them, will be counted as part of your FTE.
2. Employers Can Use a Third Party Employer Solution to Mitigate the Costs of Adding Staff. If you’re an employer who needs to hire but is reeling from the high costs currently associated with each new hire (and targeted to increase after January 2014), it may be time to seriously consider using a third party employer solution as an extended (6-12 month) onboarding strategy.
While you may have already reviewed and walked away from the more traditional temp-to-hire staffing models, the lower cost, Employer of Record Service model offers all the cost savings advantages of categorizing employees as variable, while providing a very behind-the-scenes model of W2 employment.
Whether you use the full service temp-to-hire service model, or the considerably streamlined Employer of Record Service model, the opportunity to onboard a large number of workers at substantially lowered worker costs compared to the costs of hiring directly is the outcome of either choice.
3. Employers Can Use a Third Party Employer Solution to Avoid Administrative Hassles. The ACA is not just a regulation that adds additional direct costs, but is a regulation rich in administrative detail and reporting requirements. Administering healthcare benefits where you have to apply definitions of variable workers, calculate look back, measurement and stability periods, and do e “affordability” testing, is going to be a daunting task for whoever takes it on.
And the penalties for not doing the right administration correctly will be significant.
As a staffing company with a large “third party employer” workforce, one of our core competencies is our ability to manage all federal and state staffing regulations, including the ACA. We are getting ready now to be fully compliant with all regulations by January 1st, 2014 and will be ready to help our customers manage through the transition.For a better understanding of how the ACA will impact your company and what you need to know about the options available for you to mitigate the costs associated with the new mandates, contact firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange for a personal consultation. Our approach to the ACA is not only to be fully compliant by January 1st, 2014, but to help our customers take full advantage of all aspects of ACA provisions that can drive down staffing costs. This article was prepared by Jeanne Knutzen, Founder and CEO of the PACE Staffing Network using information from a variety of legal, staffing, and other professional sources.