BENEFIT ELIGIBILITY

Planting Money - Payreel

The COVID-19 pandemic: Resources to get you through

The COVID-19 pandemic: Resources to get you through 2560 1707 Alicia East

Whether your at-home reality is more demanding than usual because you’re caring for kids while trying to keep up with work or you’re on the other end of the spectrum with little to do and only Netflix to keep you company, reality has changed for everyone.

Below is a list of resources for everything from medical guidelines to financial information to help you navigate the new landscape.

Medical resources:

The CDC is the definitive source of information on the medical side of this thing. The website offers tips for how to protect yourself and what to do if you’re sick. It also includes a video on proper hand washing. On the other ūüĎč,¬†this one, from the Ellen show, goes through the same 7 steps for proper hand washing, while also providing some much-needed levity.

While there’s much research yet to be done, we do know that this is an incredibly contagious virus, so the best thing you can do is to avoid it by limiting exposure to anyone and anywhere you might encounter it. Social distancing guidelines advise that you do your best to stay at home if your work isn’t essential, follow the CDC guidelines to reduce your chances of becoming infected, and follow the guidelines for social distancing.

Financial resources

Check out this CARES Act summary from the New York Times or these highlights from Forbes. You may qualify for some relief.

Find a rundown on the Small Business Economic Disaster Loans here as well as a thorough guide and checklist from the Chamber of Commerce here. These loans may help some small businesses keep employees employed and could also be forgiven completely.

This article, from Forbes, highlights the Families First Coronavirus response Act (FFCRA). Find out if you qualify for sick leave here.

More people qualify for unemployment than ever before and many self-employed people are included. See¬†this article¬†for more information on who qualifies and how to apply. ¬†If you do qualify, visit your state’s department of labor and follow instructions for how to apply.

Many mortgage companies are offering loan forbearance in the form of suspended or reduced payments for a period of time. Find out details on¬†here and contact your mortgage company to get the process started. Due to high call volumes, some companies have special COVID-19 relief sections on their websites. Many utilities, credit cards, car payments, and other loans are suspending late payment fees, offering loan payment holidays, or other forms of forbearance. Get ready to spend some time on the phone. Take heart: It’ll be worth it when you can hit the pause button on some of your most pressing bills.

The bottom line

You know that word you’ve been hearing over and over and over again? Unprecedented. Well it’s true. These are unprecedented times and we are laying the tracks as the train is coming. Hang in there. It will bring out the best and the worst in people: Choose to let it bring out the best in you. We’re all in this together.

overtime payreel - PayReel

What the new DOL proposal means for overtime

What the new DOL proposal means for overtime 4978 3319 Heidi McLean

Heads up: overtime exemptions are about to change. On March 7th, 2019, the Department of Labor (DOL) proposed new regulations which will make more than a million more people eligible for overtime pay.

The proposal raises the salary-level threshold 

The proposal¬†increases the salary-level threshold for white-collar exemptions. Workers earning less than $35,308 a year ($679 a week) will be eligible for overtime even if they‚Äôre classified as a manager or professional. This is a scaled-back version of the Obama administration’s 2016 proposal, which sought to increase the cutoff to $47,476 in 2016 and automatically adjust the threshold every three years.

Other key points

  • Nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level.
  • Workers who earn at least $147,414 ($679 of which must be paid weekly on a salary or fee basis) are considered highly compensated and therefore exempt.
  • The expected effective date will be around January 2020.
  • The DOL will evaluate updates to the salary threshold every four years.

What it means for business

Scandals in the making

Nobody wants to be the center of the biggest scandal of the year. Still, wherever you find guidelines, you’ll also find someone¬†trying to get¬†around them. It behooves companies, however, to be proactive about new guidelines instead of trying to work around them. Just ask the happiest place on earth. For its not so happy dealings (broken down here), Disney agreed to pay $3.8 million in back wages for violations (including failing to pay overtime).

More people will be eligible for overtime 

The key point in the proposal stands to make over a million more workers eligible for overtime.¬†Many companies and industries that traditionally require long hours have always made room for fudging paperwork. In some cases, companies negotiate a flat rate and contractors work as long as it takes to get the job done. Since it’s standard practice, submitting time sheets that read “9-5” when everyone knows it was actually 9-9 hasn’t necessarily seemed unethical or unfair to either party. That’s just the way it is. Or at least the way it has been. As attention increases, workers may start questioning their overtime eligibility.

A cultural shift 

The proposal also brings into question current pay practices and the broader culture they exist in. The more the press highlights these points, the more the people talk. And the more the people talk, the more the wink and nod approach will¬†come under scrutiny. The frequency of corporate scandals similar to Disney’s points to a broader culture that tolerates or encourages finding a way around¬†the rules. A¬†2014 study found that ‚ÄúNearly nine in 10 (89%) fast food workers report that they have been the victim of wage theft at their fast food job, and most have experienced multiple forms of wage theft.”¬†

Nothing shifts culture quicker than attention. As laws change and contractors and workers start thinking¬†‚Äúthis relates to me,‚ÄĚ there will be pushback against industry norms. And it’s not just the workers. The media love to find and expose wrongdoings.

The benefits of compliance are bigger than complying

A mutual expectation of a flat rate for an undetermined number of work hours doesn’t count as compliance. Duties and level of pay dictate whether or not someone is eligible for overtime, not tradition.¬†Disney isn‚Äôt the only company bending the rules. They just got caught. While the circumstances differ, any industry can learn a few lessons from Disney about how to walk above board¬†and avoid¬†ending up in court. Disney said in a statement to the Orlando Sentinel, ‚ÄúWe are adjusting our procedures to avoid this in the future.”

The benefits of complying with rules go far beyond avoiding scandals and fines. Companies who get ahead of the game and comply‚ÄĒwithout before being forced to do so in the courts‚ÄĒstand to maintain consumer and employee trust. Such trust is hard to earn¬†but even harder to win back after losing it.¬†Why gamble your business instead of just recognizing eventual changes to overtime regulations now?

 

About PayReel:

At PayReel, we minimize the time and effort it takes to get you ready for your project. Rely on PayReel to assume all of the risk associated with worker classification and get back to the business at hand. We make sure everyone gets paid quickly and easily and have Client Relationship Managers on call around the clock to answer your questions. All you have to do is call 303-526-4900 or email us. The PayReel team makes live event, corporate media, and brand management payroll easier, faster, and seamless.

workers comp - PayReel

When workers’ comp sucks: a cautionary tale

When workers’ comp sucks: a cautionary tale 6500 4333 Heidi McLean

An insurance company says a doctor provided false info. The doc has no comment. Meanwhile, the¬†psychologist says the insurance overruled his decision and handled the case so poorly he’s not going to take workers’ comp cases anymore. And then there’s Neil Eckelberger — the guy in the middle of it all trying to get on with his life after a devastating accident at work left him with ringing ears and painful skin grafts. Seventeen months later, he’s still fighting with insurance. It’s a cautionary tale.

Any form of insurance is a gamble and we don’t expect it to be perfect. But we keep our end of the bargain by paying our premiums and we expect insurance companies to keep their end by covering the unexpected incidents we’ve insured against. The above story shows just how vulnerable we are to the companies we trust with our insurance policies. So let’s dig a little deeper into who needs workers’ comp insurance and where the industry is going.

Who needs workers’ comp insurance?

Offering proper insurance is crucial for every company with employees. Of course, the best claim is the one that’s never filed and we talked recently about how companies can mitigate risk when it comes to workers’ comp. The point remains, though. At its best,¬†insurance protects the employee¬†and¬†the employer. By putting the onus on the insurance company to address claims, companies ensure against lawsuits for accidents and injuries that occur on the job while still ensuring workers get the care they need.

While some companies don’t want to offer coverage on such a small scale, some suggest that even freelancers need coverage. The higher the job risk, the more important the coverage. Freelancers who feel this investment might be important for them may consider checking if their state has a state-sponsored workers compensation fund where self-employed contractors may apply for coverage.

What else?

The cautionary tale above ends with the reporter saying the whole thing highlights the need for reform. Maybe it’s to be expected that a complex subject like workers’ comp would come with some issues. Take the following headlines (from this week alone!) for example:

  1. Do high health plan deductibles lead to more workers’ compensation claims?
  2. Participants in $200 million dollar workers’ comp scheme sentenced
  3. Workers’ compensation costs rise; Unified focuses on safety¬†
  4. Buffett confirms Berkshire Hathaway selling workers comp unit

These headlines indicate that workers abuse the system, employers are attempting to curb costs, health insurance issues may bleed over into workers’ comp, doctors are fed up, and Buffett is bailing. Perhaps these issues point to the canary in the coal mine that this battle is just beginning.

The bottom line

The list of reforms is long and everyone has a different opinion. But one thing isn’t up for debate: workers’ comp is important to both employers and workers.

The best workers’ compensation insurers will respond quickly and address claims fairly. As usual, some companies are better than others. You never know how an insurer will handle a claim until you’re involved. This guy Neil likely didn’t lose sleep over his coverage, but now he is really in a pickle.¬†It’s a good idea to get personal recommendations. Ask people in your network who’ve had a front row seat to a claim how they felt their insurance company handled it.¬†While cost is certainly a factor when choosing insurance, it pays to think beyond the numbers. If your coverage sucks, any claim you end up with will suck your time and energy into it. You have better things to do.

About PayReel:

At PayReel, we minimize the time and effort it takes to get you ready for your project. Rely on PayReel to assume all of the risk associated with worker classification and get back to the business at hand. We make sure everyone gets paid quickly and easily and have Client Relationship Managers on call around the clock to answer your questions. All you have to do is call 303-526-4900 or email us. The PayReel team makes live event, corporate media, and brand management payroll easier, faster, and seamless.

men on stilts - PayReel

If your benefits went with you, how far would you go?

If your benefits went with you, how far would you go? 4000 4000 Heidi McLean

The idea of a safety net takes its inspiration from a circus act. The net allows performers to leap from one bar to the next knowing that if they fall, they will be caught by the net instead of falling directly to the earth. On top of a regular paycheck, traditional employment comes with a safety net. Workers at traditional jobs have access to a variety of benefits, including some or all of the following: short-term disability insurance, health insurance, tax-advantaged retirement plans, training and development, advanced education support, workers’ compensation, paid vacation time, and sick pay. There are some real perks!

The idea of a portable benefits system is to provide a form of safety net to non-traditional workers (think contractors, freelancers, and on-demand workers) who do not have access to the same benefits aside from what they buy themselves. The premise is that the security of a fallback plan at its best allows for innovation, flexibility, and freedom. In theory, that in turn creates more entrepreneurs, more jobs, and more spending power.¬†According to the Aspen Institute, a portable benefits system “would improve financial security and empower workers to take more control over their own economic future.”

Who pays for portable benefits?

Okay, so who’s going to buy and build this safety net? This, of course, is one of the foundational questions. Proposals vary, but in one option, workers, the government, and companies all contribute to a portable benefits account. The fund then covers medical insurance, workers’ pension, training and development, paid leave, and employment insurance. Such a system requires heavy government involvement, which has its critics. Another option would be for companies to contribute to a pool of money for non-traditional workers. That money would then be distributed to the workers through intermediaries or by the employers directly.

While some say both workers and employers can benefit, it could be a tough pill to swallow for employers, who may have to pay more, pass on costs to consumers, or limit the number of contractors they take on.

What’s ahead?

There are a lot of dogs in this fight. Uber (which has come under fire for their handling of employee classification) has provided what it calls guiding principles for a system and asked for a collaborative effort from lawmakers. For their part, lawmakers in Washington, California, New Jersey, New York and beyond have made proposals to address the subject. Even our neighbors to the north are wrestling with the options.

All this points to the fact that this subject is very much on the radar. All parties will continue searching for answers. Employers and the government will wonder who should pay for/administer such benefits and what level of involvement (if any) the government should have. No matter where the evolution takes us, it’s a hot topic and it pays to pay attention. And one question might be on workers’ minds above others: If benefits follow them, how far might they go?

About PayReel:

At PayReel, we minimize the time and effort it takes to get you ready for your project. Rely on PayReel to assume all of the risk associated with worker classification and get back to the business at hand. We make sure everyone gets paid quickly and easily and have Client Relationship Managers on call around the clock to answer your questions. All you have to do is call 303-526-4900 or email us. The PayReel team makes live event, corporate media, and brand management payroll easier, faster, and seamless.

woman working with tea and laptop - PayReel

States double down to support women workers

States double down to support women workers 3000 2000 Heidi McLean

Between the famous gender wage gap and a dead last¬†ranking among developed countries for paid maternity leave, the United States isn’t winning the Olympic gold for female-friendly business practices. While the federal government is scrapping Obama-era changes aimed at promoting pay equity,¬†some states are enacting new protections.

 

Protections for family

New York requires paid family leave. 

With a¬†law¬†that entitles men and women alike to paid leave, the operative word here is family.¬†Eligible workers get 50% of their salaries (up to $652 a week) for eight weeks. Workers may take leave to bond with a new baby, adopt a child, or care for a sick family member. The law represents a step towards combating the so-called “motherhood penalty” while also recognizing fathers and male caretakers. New York is now the fourth state (following California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island) to offer similar protections.

Massachusetts and Vermont offer protections to pregnant and nursing workers.

In another attempt to combat the aforementioned penalty to those who are building their careers along with their families, Vermont and Massachusetts expanded protections for pregnant and breastfeeding workers.

Oregon requires greater schedule predictability. 

This law requires larger employers to give new hires more information about their schedules.¬†While the approach may have unintended consequences, it’s based on the fact that unpredictable work schedules make the already difficult task of balancing family commitments¬†especially hard. Companies must also provide workers plenty of advance notice regarding upcoming schedule changes.

Nevada provides time off for domestic violence victims.  

Beyond accommodating growing families and closing the wage gap, Nevada is taking protections to a whole new level. Their new law provides battery and assault victims with protections such as transfers, reassignments, and modified schedules.

 

Closing the pay gap

18 states raise minimum wage.

The reasons for the pay gap are layered and up for¬†debate. Still, the fact remains: On average, women in the United States earn 80% of what men earn. Increasing the minimum wage in 18 states affects all minimum wage workers’ pocketbooks, and¬†nearly two-thirds of these workers are women.

Massachusetts requires equal pay for equal work.

The state joins a growing list¬†and requires equal pay for equal work. Even though the Massachusetts law is considered one of the strongest of its type, it still doesn’t guarantee a true “fix” to the wage gap.

California prohibits questions on income history.

California follows Delaware and New York City and prohibits potential employers from asking applicants such questions. The theory here says asking for income history causes workers to be saddled with their wage gap from job to job.

 

The bottom line

These new laws attempt to protect women from damages to their career and income based on the simple fact that they¬†often simultaneously build families and careers. We will watch how these new laws play out. In the meantime, it’s worth considering what Vermont¬†(the state with the lowest gap) is doing and how other countries compare on the issue.

Note: Click here for an article (which we relied on heavily for our brief overview) with a more expansive view of each of these new laws.

 

About PayReel

At PayReel, we minimize the time and effort it takes to get you ready for your project, make sure you get paid quickly and easily and have Client Relationship Managers on call around the clock to answer your questions. All you have to do is call 303-526-4900 or email us. The PayReel team makes event payroll easier, faster, and seamless.

The next time you work an event or a production, tell your supervisor you love working with the PayReel team.

 

payreel hurricane harvey - PayReel

Hurricane Harvey: How to get support plus unique ways to give it

Hurricane Harvey: How to get support plus unique ways to give it 400 300 Heidi McLean

Hurricane Harvey has left much of America’s fourth largest city underwater. We’ve seen photos of harrowing rescues, and of submerged homes, buildings, and highways. We’ve heard reports of the months of cleanup and billions of dollars in recovery efforts ahead for Houston. Like so many,¬†we at PayReel have been wondering what we can do.

The following resources provide ideas for those personally affected and those who want to support:

 

I’ve been affected. Now what?

The Texas Tribune offers information on shelters, flooded streets, and more here.¬†Once you’re out of immediate danger, a simple way to set your friends’ and families’ minds at ease efficiently is by marking “I’m safe” through Facebook’s Safety Check. ¬†You may also be wondering what’s next or trying to sort through a deluge of information and possible rumors.¬†The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a reliable Hurricane Harvey resource page¬†for everything from safety tips and emergency phone numbers to rumor control.

Know your rights: Hurricane Harvey evacuees and/or first responders may be eligible for worker’s compensation¬†or payroll relief.

As always, stay informed and ask questions.

 

I want to support relief efforts

It’s unfortunate, but true: disaster scammers are out there. Still, you can defend yourself against those ready to take advantage of compassionate hearts and make a few bucks for themselves. Beyond sticking with well-known charities like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, and United Way, you can also find vetted charity efforts through the IRS’s search feature. There are certainly unlisted yet still legitimate options, including Undies for Everyone, which is taking new underwear as well as monetary donations to buy underwear wholesale.

Wherever you choose to support, take the usual precautions. Avoid giving personal information to anyone soliciting donations. Use a check or credit card rather than handing over untraceable cash. You can also report suspected phishing attempts to the IRS here.

Ask your human resources department if your company is matching employee donations. You may even be able to donate the monetary value of sick leave.

In addition to donating food, money, and other items through such charities, you may wish to roll up your sleeves and volunteer your time.

 

The bottom line

Hurricane Harvey is going down as one of the worst natural disasters in America’s history.¬†In these situations, words always fall short, and yet we do want to say that our hearts are with victims and evacuees as well as their friends and families. We also send endless gratitude to the rescue workers and volunteers stepping up to provide lifesaving efforts and comfort.

 

About PayReel

At PayReel, we minimize the time and effort it takes to get you ready for your project, make sure you get paid quick and easy, and have customer service agents on call around the clock to answer your questions. The PayReel team makes event and corporate payroll easier, faster, and seamless.

The next time you work an event or a production, tell your supervisor you love working with the PayReel team!