As the HR Director of a company with 56 people, Obamacare is on the top of my mind. My company is on the fence about what we should do. We don’t want to let go 7 people to be under the magic number of 50, but we want to avoid the steep penalties. What are your thoughts on how to best handle this new law as an employer or business owner?
Dear, Seeking a Solution:
Thank you for the question! Business owners and employers are all struggling with the looming question of how they will handle the coming implementation of Obamacare’s penalty provisions. I am glad to hear that my readers are already thinking about the subject and beginning to get their strategies in order now. In your situation with just over 50 employees, you are in the category that must provide affordable health insurance or face hefty fines.
After doing some research and evaluating the options, I have determined that the best course of action for businesses like yours is to move your excess employees over to a staffing firm’s payroll. Here is how I came to this conclusion.
By migrating 7 workers to a staffing firm’s payroll, you can cut your “full-time equivalent” staff below the 50-person limit, which means your company will not be subject to fees and penalties. The staffing company becomes the official employer of record and is responsible for providing health care or absorbing the penalty. In our reader’s case, if they were to move the 7 people from their payroll to a staffing company, it could save them $14,000 in penalties and potentially even more in insurance costs.
Lower insurance rates for your employees. Larger staffing firms have so many employees on their insurance plans that they are able to negotiate great group rates. This cost savings can be passed on to you.
By moving your a portion of your workforce to a staffing firm, you will not be required to comply with the complex reporting requirements. The employer must report regularly to the IRS, its employees, and to all states in which the company does business. This will reduce costs and provide a savings in administrative overhead.
On a recent episode of his CNBC show Mad Money, financial analyst Jim Cramer noted that the demand for temps is mushrooming, “fueled in part by the pending implementation of Obamacare.” He says: “Businesses of all sizes are searching for ways to cope with this law, and the easiest way to avoid paying these expenses is to hire more temps.”
Employers, what are your plans for managing the Obamacare mandate? Will you be turning to staffing firms for help?
I am a small business owner with about 45 employees and have some questions about Obamacare. I have heard a lot of buzz about the subject but not much concrete information about the effects of its implementation. Can you help shed some light on how my business and I need to adapt to these changes in the law?
Dear, Unsure About Obamacare:
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, has been on the minds of business owners and managers across the country. Though the next round of changes isn’t scheduled to begin until January 1, 2014 (can you believe we are halfway through May already!), now is the time to get the facts straight and figure out what steps you need to take to prepare. Below are some basic points all employers and managers need to keep in mind:
The Affordable Care Act applies only to employers that have 50 or more employees or full-time equivalents. Because you have 45 employees, you will not be required to “pay” (a $2,000 penalty for each employee after the first 30 not covered by insurance) or “play” (and provide coverage for each of your full-time-equivalent employees) come 2014. However, if your business grows and you need to add 5 or more full-time employees, you will be subject to these rules. Note that “50 full-time-equivalent employees” means that the total hours among all full- and part-time employees equals the amount of hours worked by 50 full-time employees.
State exchanges will provide individuals and small employers (those with less than 200 employees) a marketplace to purchase group health coverage plans.
Comprehensive health plans used by employers to leverage employment deals and keep the best talent on staff are subject to an additional tax. In 2016, health benefits that are valued at $10,200 for single coverage or $27,500 for family coverage will be taxed at 40%.
If the health care plan you offer your employees is too expensive and exceeds 9.5% of their income, you will be subject to a hefty fine. This piece is a growing concern for employers like manufacturing firms, restaurants, and retail establishments that offer positions at a lower wage. Employers will be facing a penalty of $3,000 if the plan is deemed unaffordable or inadequate.
If your head is swimming, you’re not alone. It’s a complex law but an important one for everyone to understand, especially you as a business owner. Because I’ve also received questions about Obamacare from employees and job seekers, I’m going to be writing a series of posts on this subject over the next couple of weeks. So check back next Tuesday!
In the meantime, you might want to watch the video below, in which CNN medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen explains which parts of health care have changed or will change soon as a result of Obama’s health care reform.
Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom with my team and me. We look forward to your post every week and have a question for you. What elements or structure do you need to have a highly productive and effective group of employees? We are looking to boost and build our team to the next level!
Dear, Eager Leader:
It warms my heart when I get questions from my faithful readers. There isn’t much that will put a bigger smile on my face than you all do. Okay, I’ll lay off the mushy stuff. As for your question, I have seen plenty of professional teams, both good and bad. Through my observations and research, I have whittled down the big picture to find the special ingredients for a flexible, efficient, and effective team. I hope you’ll find them beneficial.
Clear goals. As a manager, you must set clear goals and expectations for your team. This will make sure that each person both understands what is expected of them and has the direction to work toward a common goal.
Hire competent people. If you team does not have intelligent people that possess skills to contribute to the group, you might as well hang up your hat. Good people are the driving force to being effective and productive. Remember that you are only as good as your weakest link. If you do have a weak link, do yourself, your team, and the “link” a favor and let him go. Though it may be painful at first for all parties, everyone will be better off in the end, including the terminated employee.
Unified commitment. Each person on your team must be dedicated to achieving the end goal and willing to put in the effort to get there.
Lead by example and set standards. Set the tone for your group by your example. Only deliver high-quality work and only accept it in return.
Create a collaborative environment. Encourage all members of your team to give their input and contribute ideas to the group. Being open and accepting will only make your unit stronger.
Recognize and support. When a member of your team or the group in their entirety accomplishes a task or works through a tough problem, by all means, celebrate. Recognition is a great way to motivate your employees and keep the momentum moving.
I hope you will implement (if you haven’t already) these key elements that I believe are the foundation for amazing teams. With a strong structure, clear understanding, and mutual respect, the possibilities are endless.
Manager/Supervisors: What element of your team do you think contributes most to your success?
I was contacted by a recruiter for a position at another company that is very intriguing. The opportunity would be a step up from my current position and offers a higher salary. It may sound like a no-brainer decision, but I really like my situation at my job now and have hopes of being promoted soon. What are your thoughts on discussing this job offer with my current employer? Can there be any benefit to bringing it up?
Luckily, this is a win-win situation for you. Most employees dream of finding themselves in this circumstance. Who doesn’t like being in demand and scouted for better opportunities? You should be very flattered. So let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of your question.
Presenting this situation to your current employer does have its benefits, but only if you are serious about taking this other opportunity. Interest from a competitor or other firm can serve as a little reminder to your superiors of how valuable you are to the company and to the industry. You can use this to your advantage if you are in the position to either stay or make a move. Here are some tips to a situation like this to help boost your salary base and move you up the ladder.
Do not discuss the other opportunity with anyone at your current company. If word gets out that you are contemplating another offer and, as rumors do, it spreads like wildfire, things could turn out very bad for you. My advice: keep your thoughts to yourself until you have all the appropriate players in your current position in the know.
Think long and hard about what you really hope to achieve through negotiations with your current employer or by switching to a new company. Are you entertaining this other offer seriously because the base pay is higher? Are there more opportunities for promotion? Do they offer a better benefits package?
Remember that hiring a new employee will cost your company money. This could put you at an advantage. The Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California at Berkeley reports that the average cost to replace an employee for all categories of workers is about $4,000. The average cost for managerial and professional employees may be as high as $7,000. This doesn’t even factor in the time and energy it takes to train a new employee! Just this alone could help lead you to an increase in salary.
Be prepared that the negotiations may not go as planned or your way at all. Your current employer may be unwilling or unable to meet your demands or the competitor offer. Even if they do raise your compensation to keep you, they may feel as if you’ve proven you’ll leave at the next good opportunity and feel resentful toward you. If you are going to bring the other offer to your current employer, you must be confident that the possible new position is a sure thing and that you are okay with making the move. If not, you may find yourself without a job and without a reference.
Be sure to properly analyze and take into account all angles of your situation. This includes your job performance, relationship with your boss, flexibility, and other factors. It isn’t just the salary number that makes people happy at their job.
Readers: Have you ever been in this situation? How did you approach your boss, and what was the outcome?
I have finally hired a new employee for an open position at my company with the best candidate out of the bunch. It was a tough decision as we had a lot of great applicants but I think I have made the best choice possible. How should I politely and professionally let the other candidates know that the position has been filled?
Dear, Respectful Rejection:
Filling an open position is a great accomplishment. Congratulations on nailing down the leader of the pack! The downside is that you are now charged with breaking the bad news to the other candidates. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
I am always hearing from job seekers that it is often more discouraging being left in the dark on whether a position is still available than not getting the job at all. As a common courtesy, it is important to be open and honest with the status of the opening and send the candidates you didn’t select on their way. They can move on past this opportunity and discover another that lies ahead.
Below are some tips that I suggest you try out when crafting your candidate rejection letter. Once you have the structure written, you will have a template to use in the future.
Always type your rejection letter on company letterhead. Never handwrite the letter as it can become more personal than it should be. Alternately, if the candidate applied via email, you may send an email response with the letter content.
Address the letter to the candidate. Do not use something generic like “Dear,
Applicant.” Rejection is painful enough. No need to twist the knife by not acknowledging the person’s name.
Thank the candidate for their interest in working with you and for the time and energy they spent during the application/interview process.
State that the position has been filled. You can expand on this if you wish, but I believe it is best to cut to the chase.
If you want to lessen the sting, a compliment or two may be included.
Wish your candidate the best of luck in their future endeavors.
Let the candidate know you’ll keep their information on file should your needs change.
Sign the document or insert your signature.
Be sure to send the rejection letter in a timely manner — neither immediately after the interview nor four weeks after the position is filled. Think of Goldilocks and find just the right balance. You want the candidates to believe that you thought long and hard before selecting your new hire. At the same time, you do not want to leave them hanging.
I have just joined LinkedIn to aid in my job search. As a novice to the entire site, I was hoping you could offer some advice on how to take advantage of the introduction feature that is available. Some of the lingo is foreign to me and any insight would be great. Thanks for your help!
Dear, Learning LinkedIn:
Congratulations on joining LinkedIn. It is a great tool that will aid in your job search and help you build a strong professional network. For those of you who are now just hearing about LinkedIn, it is a business-focused social networking website that connects users with other professionals, recruiters, and companies of interest. The site offers many tools with the basic free service that everyone should take advantage of.
LinkedIn works through connections. These are to LinkedIn as friends are to Facebook. When you have identified another user with whom you’d like to “connect,” you can make a Connection request, which the other user can accept or deny. An accepted connection is considered 1st degree.
Outside of the 1st-degree circle of connections, you have
2nd-degree Connections: Think of these as a friend of a friend. They are directly connected to one of your professional connections. Keep this in mind when I discuss LinkedIn Introductions.
3rd-degree Connections: Consider these as your 2nd-degree connection’s additional connections. To make it simple, think of this as your co-worker’s friend from graduate school’s boss.
Out of Your Network: TheseLinkedIn users are not currently connected to your 1st-, 2nd-, or 3rd-degree connections.
What I think is a great tool available on LinkedIn is Introductions. We all know that having a person on the inside of a company we want to work for is a step in the right direction. One of your professional connections may be willing to facilitate an opportunity for you to meet an insider who can help you land your next job opportunity.
Here is an example. You want to work as an Administrative Assistant at The Select Family of Staffing Companies and hope that you can find that opportunity by speaking with the head of Human Resources, who you don’t currently know. Your friend Steve, however, is connected with the head of HR at Select. What better way to catch the HR Director’s eye than by having her trusted friend Steve “introduce” you two?
So how do you find these introduction opportunities? I thought you might ask!
Start by going to Company Search and entering the name of the company for which you want to work. If you need to refine your search, you can choose the following parameters that meet your search needs: location, industry, and/or relationship type (2nd or 3rd connections).
Once you have located the company, look to the fair right of the screen and find the “How You’re Connected” section. Click on 2nd-degree connections.
Here, you will see all the people at the company with whom you share common connections. Select the individual to whom you would like to be introduced and hover over to the right of the “Connect” button. A dropdown menu will appear. Click “Get introduced.”
Select from the list one of your closet, most trusted connections and ask for the introduction.
Enter text into the subject line and why you want to get introduced.
Finally click “Send Request” and wait for a response – and hopefully a foot in the door.
I hope this helps you understand just one of the great tools available on LinkedIn. For more information, LinkedIn has put together a short video on how to make the most of the site for your job search:
Readers, what are the tools you use the most on LinkedIn? Have you found it useful in your Job Search?
My mother has recently become very ill and is soon going to be requiring full-time care. Are there any protections for me so I do not lose my job over this family emergency?
Dear, Fear of Being Fired:
Thank you for the question. Caring for a sick family member or parent can be a very challenging and time-consuming ordeal. Luckily, there are some protections and support for you in case an emergency strikes — namely, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Under FMLA, companies that have over 50 employees within 75 miles from the company are required to offer 12 weeks of job-protected unpaid leave to take care of a spouse, parent, or child with a serious health condition. It also covers the birth and care of an employee’s child or that employee’s adoption or foster care of a child.
In order for an employee to qualify, he/she must meet the following criteria:
Employee must be employed by the company for over 1 year.
At least 1,250 hours must have been worked in the last 12 months.
For those that may have a more complicated situation and need to care for someone who is not a legal or biological relation, you will need to prove that the person needing your care is in loco parentis with you.You might be asking yourself, what in the world is in loco parentis? According to the U.S. Wage and Hour Division Fact Sheet #28C, in loco parentis refers to a relationship in which a person has put himself/herself in the situation of a parent by assuming responsibility for a child to whom they are not legally or biologically connected. In other words, the person who needs your care is not your biological or legal parent but took care of you as if he/she was.
To prove your situation qualifies as in loco parentis, be prepared to provide the following information:
How old was the employee when in loco parentis care began?
How dependent was the employee on the person during childhood?
What was the extent to which duties commonly associated with parenthood was provided?
Did the person provide the employee with day-to-day responsibilities of care or financially supported them as a child?
I hope this helps shine some positive light on your situation and that it will help lessen your job-security concerns. As always, in these situations, consult your Human Resources representative to make sure you are all on the same page and to keep them informed on your situation. The more you know and can prepare, the better off you will be.
Readers, have you ever been in a similar situation? What recommendations do you have for Fear of Being Fired?
Here are some additional resources that are worth reading if you are faced with this situation:
Over the past few months I have assembled a great team of individuals to work on a very important project I have in the pipeline. Each person brings their own set of strengths to the table along with a few weaknesses. How can I capitalize on what each team member does best and minimize the impact that these weaknesses may have on our overall performance?
Dear, Smart Supervisor:
Ray B. Williams of Success IQ University said it best, “Organizations are merely a reflection of the individuals in them. Most organizations are like a puzzle put together in a dark room. Each piece is squeezed into place, and then the edges are ground down so they feel well positioned. But, pull up the shades, let a little light into the room and we see the truth.”
Capitalizing on team member strengths can truly transform you from doing a mediocre job to being a powerhouse that produces power-packed results. I commend you for the hard work you have put into finding your A team and for reaching out to me with your question. You have already done the heavy lifting by selecting and assembling your group. Now, you just need to fine-tune it to your exact specifications.
The best way to tackle the weaknesses that are lingering in your team is to first identify each person’s unique strengths and natural talents. Meet with your group members individually and together to discuss what they believe are their best assets and what they hope to contribute to the team. This is where you can really bolster your team’s résumé and gain some ground quickly. Distinguish between what the employee’s natural talents are and what skills they have or can learn on the job. These will be your saving grace in times of trouble and your team’s gold mine.
Once you have a list of team member talents, it is time to assign each person with a set of responsibilities and tasks that best suit their strengths. If you have a person who is fantastic at behind-the-scenes organization and management but may not be the best with client interaction, place them in a role that provides background support. For the boisterous people person, let them be the team ambassador and interact with outside contacts.
The bottom line is that high-performing teams truly understand each other and acknowledge their strengths and shortcomings. Take the time to incorporate group member strengths into the overall strategy and avoid overlooking obvious weaknesses. Capitalizing on individual assets will bring your team closer together, develop a sense of interdependency, and allow each person to have their moment in the sun.
To hear more about how leveraging team strengths are better for your business, watch this video below:
Readers, what are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? What do you do to allow your talents to shine when working on a team?
I took a new job a few months ago in an industry that I am unfamiliar with. I am very eager to learn as much as I possibly can about this new area and want to find a mentor to help guide me through this transition. What should I look for in a mentor and how do I find one that is best suited for me?
Hi, Mentor Wanted:
Mentors are great resources to help build your knowledge in a new industry. I strongly believe that everyone should have a mentor and develop a strong relationship during their career. Good mentors provide a source of inspiration, understanding, motivation, and knowledge. Their guidance and perspective can help shape your decision-making and help you become the best professional you can be.
When looking for a mentor, it is important to understand what you want out of mentor-mentee relationship. Before you begin inquiring about mentee opportunities, be sure you have the answers to the questions:
What are your career goals?
How do you hope to benefit from a mentor?
How do you think you can contribute to the relationship?
How often do you wish to meet or communicate?
What are the expectations for each person involved?
Once you have a clear understanding of what you would like from your mentee experience, it is time to do some digging and find your new mentor. I found a great article called The Wealth of Mentoring from one of my favorite resources, TradePost, that spells out some great tips for finding a mentor that will mesh with you. Coupled with a few of my own, these suggestions are great to keep in mind during your search:
Similar Career Goals: Find a mentor who is not only accomplished in your field but who has career goals that match your own.
Be Selective: Find someone who you think will be the best fit to help you in your career.
Personality Match: Find a mentor whose personality complements your own.
Referrals: Ask your human resources department, colleagues, and friends for good ideas of possible mentors.
Look outside of your office: Finding a mentor that is not directly related to your company can be great. Look to associations, business groups, and even family friends
Your new mentor may be younger: Don’t discriminate because of age. I am a full supporter of teaching old dogs (like me) new tricks!
Don’t limit yourself: Have a variety of mentors to help strike a balance in all areas of your profession.
Keep in mind that finding a great mentor is not a race. Select carefully and spend time developing the relationship. The mentor you decide to work with may become your next business best friend and ally.
Readers: What qualities do you look for when selecting a mentor? What is the most important must-have trait you want in your mentors?
Spring has sprung, and so am I! To celebrate this shift in seasons, this not-so-spring chicken is going to take a little trip of my own. While I won’t be around to respond to all of your lovely comments, I will be hard at work sprouting ideas for new posts!
Until next time, take care and keep the questions coming!
Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.