Overview: Employee benefit programs typically account for one-third of employee compensation costs. HR professionals are charged with managing this investment wisely. This includes ensuring compliance, controlling costs, having an effective communication strategy and making sure the benefits program attracts, retains and engages employees.
This is especially challenging in light of rising health care costs and an increasingly complex regulatory environment. With only so many dollars to spend on employee benefits, a key part of the strategy is to determine how much to invest so that both the needs of the employee and the employer are met. The regulatory environment has a significant impact on how employee benefit plans are designed and administered as employers ensure plans are operated in compliance with ERISA, COBRA and HIPAA.
Having a benefits strategy that is linked to business strategy can serve as a significant competitive advantage for employers. Clearly aligning the vision of employee benefit programs with the employer's business goals demonstrates how HR functions as a business partner and contributes to the bottom line. Effective benefit communications can support this vision and will ensure that both employers and employees get the most from the substantial investment in benefits.
Trends: The newer requirements of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as Health Care Reform or Obamacare, in addition to the repeal of section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act and the legalization of same-sex marriage in numerous states, will challenge HR professionals in both the short- and the long-term as they monitor developments and adjust benefit strategies accordingly.
Author: Tracy Morley, SPHR, Legal Editor
Updated to include final regulations under the Seattle Commuter Benefits Ordinance.
Updated to reflect the repeal of the ACA's "Cadillac" tax.
Updated to reflect the repeal of the ACA's "Cadillac" tax and the extension of the PCORI fee.
Updated to reflect developments regarding the ABC test for independent contractor status, effective January 16, 2020.
The Supreme Court has agreed to decide an Affordable Care Act (ACA) dispute that could limit female workers' access to free birth control.
Updated to reflect rules regarding HRA options, and final regulations regarding § 401(k) plan hardship distributions, effective January 1, 2020.
An appropriations bill signed as 2019 closed repealed the ACA's "Cadillac tax" on certain high-cost, employer-based healthcare plans and enacted the SECURE Act, which eases compliance burdens for certain employer-sponsored retirement plans.
Numerous legislative changes take effect on or about January 1, affecting minimum wage rates, employee leaves, health care benefits and more. HR should take note of these legal developments and take appropriate steps to comply.
HR and legal considerations for employers regarding employee benefit programs. Support on following regulations and requirements on this topic.