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(Adapted from Employee Benefit News)pay-to-play
The play-or-pay penalties will be enforced next January, and employers should already be focusing on getting ready for 2015. Benefits lawyer Peter Marathas, of the firm Proskauer Rose and its Health Care Reform Task Force team, says there are three areas to prepare for today.

We don’t need to remind this audience that the employer mandate was delayed, on July 2, 2013, to January 2015. Many of you were already in the know about play-or-pay. Marathas, who spent time working on the implementation of the Massachusetts health law, says affordability, full-time hours, and employee status are the three areas you should be focusing on.

1. Affordability
“If you haven’t already done so, you need to determine whether your plans will be affordable in 2015. The starts and stops in this law have led many to drop the ball. Many have been slow to pick it up again. Now is the time to do so,” Marathas says.

2. Full-time hours
In Massachusetts, Marathas says, penalties are assessed “because employers can’t prove they’re compliant.” He adds: “Employers should be working with payroll and HRIS vendors now to create systems that will flag hours employees work and maintain them in a form that will be suitable for use to prove to the government.” Back in Massachusetts, he says all penalties were around this full-time status issue. This year should be spent upgrading systems to capture employee hours fully.

3. Employee status
“Employers who use a substantial number of independent contractors, freelancers and similar classified individuals are at some risk of being assessed” the penalty of $2,000 per employee for not providing health coverage. “Because the IRS may disagree that the independent contractors and others are not employees and may deem them employees. If the group of reclassified individuals exceeds 5% of the workforce, the employer will fail the test and be assessed the penalty,” Marathas says, adding that employers with this type of workforce need to hire legal counsel to ensure they are in compliance before 2015 hits.

Employers with multi-state operations must remain abreast of developments in state and local wage and hour legislation, such as increases in state minimum wages. Many states provide for annual increases based on the U.S. Consumer Price Index and inflation. The states and localities appearing below have increased minimum wages effective Jan. 1, 2014, except as noted. Because hospitality and similar employers also need to be aware of changes to the permissible tip credit, which in turn affect the minimum wage they must pay to customarily tipped employees, such increases also appear below. Of course, these changes also affect overtime pay calculations.

Arizona – General minimum wage increases from $7.80 to $7.90 an hour. Minimum wage for tipped employees increases from $4.80 to $4.90.

California – General minimum wage increases from $8.00 to $9 an hour, effective July 1, 2014. (California law does not allow employers to take a tip credit against minimum wage for tipped employees.)

Colorado – General minimum wage increases from $7.78 to $8 an hour. Minimum wage for tipped employees increases from $4.76 to $4.98 an hour.

Connecticut – General minimum wage increases from $8.25 to $8.70 an hour. Minimum wage for tipped bartenders will remain $7.34 an hour and minimum wage for hotel and restaurant tipped employees other than bartenders will remain $5.69 an hour.

Florida – General minimum wage increases from $7.79 to $7.93 an hour. Minimum wage for tipped employees increases from $4.77 to $4.91 an hour.

Missouri – General minimum wage increases from $7.35 to $7.50 an hour. Minimum wage for tipped employees increases from $3.68 to $3.75 an hour.

Montana – General minimum wage increases from $7.80 to $7.90 an hour. (Montana law does not allow employers to take a tip credit against minimum wage for tipped employees.)

New Jersey – General minimum wage increases from $7.25 to $8.25 an hour. Minimum wage for tipped employees remains $2.13 an hour by virtue of federal law.

New York – General minimum wage increases from $7.25 to $8 an hour, effective Dec. 1, 2013. Subject to certain caveats outside the hospitality industry, the minimum wage for tipped employees will remain $5 an hour for food service workers (i.e., servers, runners and bussers) and $5.65 an hour for service employees (i.e., delivery persons and coat checkers).

Ohio – General minimum wage increases from $7.85 to $7.95 an hour. Minimum wage for tipped employees increases from $3.93 to $3.98 an hour.

Oregon – General minimum wage increases from $8.95 to $9.10 an hour. (Oregon law does not allow employers to take a tip credit against minimum wage for tipped employees.)

Rhode Island – General minimum wage increases from $7.75 to $8 an hour. Minimum wage for tipped employees remains $2.89 an hour.

Vermont – General minimum wage increases from $8.60 to $8.73 an hour. Minimum wage for tipped employees increases from $4.17 to $4.23 an hour.

Washington – General minimum wage increases from $9.19 to $9.32 an hour. (Washington law does not allow employers to take a tip credit against minimum wage for tipped employees.)

Localities — Certain localities also have implemented minimum wage legislation. For example, in San Francisco, the minimum wage will increase on Jan. 1 from $10.55 to $10.74 an hour. Moreover, San Jose, Calif., will increase its minimum wage from $10 to $10.15 an hour. (As stated above, California law does not allow employers to take a tip credit against minimum wage for tipped employees.) In addition, the Albuquerque, N.M., minimum wage will increase from $8.50 to $8.60 effective Jan.1. However, the minimum wage in Albuquerque will be $7.60 if an employer provides healthcare and/or childcare benefits to the employee during any pay period and the employer pays an amount for these benefits equal to or in excess of an annualized cost of $2,500. Minimum wage for tipped employees will increase from $3.83 to $5.16.

The Obama Administration has postponed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) employer mandate penalties for one year, until 2015. The Department of the Treasury announced the delay on July 2, 2013, along with a similar delay for information reporting by employers, health insurance issuers and self-funded plan sponsors. The delay does not affect any other provision of the ACA, including individuals’ access to premium tax credits for coverage through an Exchange. The Treasury plans to issue more formal information about the delay within a week. To read the complete bulletin, click here.

Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 must be completed by all job applicants – both citizens and non-citizens – to verify the applicant’s identity and authorization for employment in the United States. On March 8, 2013, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) published a revised Form I-9. According to USCIS, the “improvements to Form I-9 include new fields, reformatting to reduce errors, and clearer instructions to both employees and employers.” Read more

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If you are among the millions of people who have included wellness in their new year’s resolutions, there are lots of great apps for your smart phone that will definitely come in handy. Whatever your goal, there’s an app for your phone or tablet to guide you and track your progress. In many cases, these apps are free. The key is to use the apps as tools to help you stay on track — and to not get overwhelmed by their bells and whistles. The best ones are simple and useful, motivating you to stay on course. Here are 10 of the top wellness apps to consider for the New Year. Read more

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