5 Year-End Planning Tips that (actually) Matter

Posted by benefitexpress on December 16, 2016

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December is here, which means wrapping up this year's projects while planning the office holiday festivities. When January rolls around, you'll be juggling reporting requirements, generating forms for employees, and implementing your plans for the new year. Instead of having a dozen vague resolutions, initiate these 5 effective goals for smooth sailing into 2017.

1. Up your data security game – While moving to electronic records makes accessing and analyzing employee data easier, it also opens you up to identity theft. The wealth of information you store on your employees is seen as actual wealth by hackers, who are increasing their attacks. The penalties for data breaches (both monetary and in public relations) are steep. Talk to your employees about securing their passwords and review your post-breach plan.

2. Double check your classifications – Hopefully you reviewed all of your employee records in preparation for the for the delayed Overtime Rule. While companies can hit pause on any immediate action, you need to check how you’ve classified employees one more time. Everyone is focused on employees’ compensation for determining their exemption status, but it's more important to review your employees’ work duties. These have not changed, but it’s easy to lose sight of those requirements over time, or for employees’ duties to change.

In order to be considered overtime exempt, employees must be paid on a salary basis, make over the salary limit (a key change in the proposed Overtime Rule), and pass the primary duties test. There’s more information on what duties can be considered exempt in our Overtime Guide. While the actual duties have not changed, the widespread coverage of the new overtime rule has made incorrectly classified employees aware of their right to overtime. The penalties for improperly classifying an employee are steep, and the employee can usually collect all back wages, even if it has been years (like this case of a Dunkin Donuts manager, owed hours of overtime spanning three years).

3. Lock Down PHI - Previously, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) only audited doctors and hospitals for HIPAA compliance. In March of 2016; however, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) announced the launch of phase 2 of the audit program - auditing all businesses which handle Protected Health Information (PHI). If you're not in healthcare, it's easy to assume you don't handle PHI. However, if you provide health insurance to employees, you probably come into contact with protected information. Review our HIPAA audit checklist and solidify your compliance strategy for 2017.

4. Prepare to File - The IRS has now extended the good faith compliance standards from the 2016 reporting season. If you file on time and can demonstrate an attempt to complete the forms, penalties can be waived. To benefit from this extension, it's critical to file on time and take this reporting year seriously. Use it to evaluate your reporting process and plan improvements for next year. Make it easy and push a button to file with the IRS.

5. One Size Doesn't Fit All - The coverage this year has been all about the multigenerational workforce. Millennials will comprise the majority of workers by 2020; it’s time to update your benefit strategy to reflect that. They have a distinct buying behavior from their predecessors, especially when it comes to benefits. We covered millennial benefits by the numbers earlier this year; review how you'll use your newfound knowledge to attract top talent in 2017.

2016 has been a big year for benefits, and 2017 promises to bring even more changes. These 5 steps, along with our benefit experts, will help you roll with everything the new year brings.

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