For many people, the end of the year is a time of reflection. A brief moment to look at what was accomplished over the last year and then celebrate accordingly. While HR departments deserve the chance for such self-praise, this same period is an opportunity to look ahead. With the start of 2017 just a few months away, the last quarter of this calendar year should be spent planning and preparing for the new year's benefits plans. Without this preparatory period, companies and employees alike can experience delays or other setbacks in receiving their much-needed benefits.
To ensure every company is ready by the time January 1 rolls around, here's a checklist of the biggest steps you need to take to ready benefits plans:
Setting Up Payroll and Salary
One of the biggest factors in preparing for the new year is to actively discuss payroll issues with employees. However, the real work begins with the actual employees, and they have to ensure their W4 forms reflect any status changes that would directly impact payroll withholding. Workers must also ensure they've updated all their personal information, including addresses and emergency contacts.
From there, HR is responsible for having conversations with employees. Let them know in writing what they can expect in terms of compensation and any increases in the year to come.
The year-end period is also the proper time to make sure bonuses are scheduled and properly disbursed. Finally, this is also a great time in the year to review any other payroll or tax-related issues with employees, and to help them prepare for the necessary filing come early spring.
In 2017 and beyond, compliance with the Affordable Care Act will continue to be a major priority for HR departments everywhere. Form 1095-C is to be delivered to employees no later than Jan. 31, 2017. This form is crucial for everyone to complete their individual tax returns. Employers, meanwhile, have to report several important data points on 1095-C, including employee ID numbers and Social Security numbers as well as the proof of Minimum Essential Coverage. Companies must also make sure they submit forms 1094-C either via paper (Feb. 28, 2107) or electronically (March 31, 2017) to the IRS. These forms are essential to ensuring that every employee was properly offered the MEC.
It's not just ACA compliance that's important, either. Other benefits-centered tasks include distributing insurance cards, dealing with PTO pay-out or carryover, finishing employee open enrollment and analyzing benefits packages for market competitiveness.
Ensuring Ongoing Compliance
Beginning in December 2016, the rules have changed for how employees can be classified as contractors. Those changes - which reflect new updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act - now mean that most employees will be classified as full-time and not simply contractor positions. This will ensure the proper benefits for employees and that companies are paying taxes as required by law.
Once this task has been completed, there are still several other important compliance areas to focus on, some of which have gone by they wayside given other, more significant legislative amendments. That includes revising the company's employee handbook for similar issues, a through audit of all employee personnel files and handling necessary training, like anti-harassment education.
Don't Forget the Housekeeping
As important as some of the aforementioned issues are, they should not be the only areas of focus for HR departments. There are several other general points of business that should be completed in the run up to the new year. Many companies will use this season to conduct both the company holiday party and annual performance reviews; together, these two events are an important part in engaging with employees and ensuring their role is thoroughly celebrated. In honor of the New Year's festivities, some companies will make so-called resolutions for each department. These can be crucial in aligning the work of employees in those varied offices and giving everyone a fresh perspective for what's to come.
Finally, this last few months is a perfect time for other planning work, like various training sessions and company-wide activities. With the right planning, employees are not only better prepared for the work to come, but they can tackle these many challenges and opportunities with the tools they need for lasting success.
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