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Claim Your Free Copy of Top 100 FLSA Overtime Q&As

We’ve compiled a list of the 100 most commonly asked questions we have received on the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime regulations.
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This report, "Top 100 FLSA Q&As", is designed to provide you with an examination of the federal FLSA overtime regulations in Q&A format, including valuable tips for bringing your workplace into compliance in an affordable manner.

At the end of the report, you will find a list of state resources on wage and hour issues. This report includes practical advice on topics such as:
  • FLSA Coverage: How FLSA regulations apply to all employers and any specific exemptions from the overtime requirements
  • Salary Level: Qualifying for exemptions and nonexempt employees
  • Deductions from Pay: Deducting for violations, disciplinary reasons, sick leave, or personal leave


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March 14, 2006
Personalize Benefit Statements for Maximum Impact

For a Limited Time receive a FREE Compensation Special Report on the "Top 100 FLSA Q&As," designed to provide you with an examination of the federal FLSA Overtime Regulations in Q&A format, including valuable tips for FLSA Coverage, Salary Level, and Deductions from Pay. Download Now
Because of the steady increases in those costs that we've all experienced in the last few years, savvy human resources professionals are always on the lookout for something that will help them squeeze every last drop of employee loyalty and goodwill out of their benefits dime.

Consider the results from the Society for Human Resource Management's 2005 Job Satisfaction Survey. Of the top five aspects of job satisfaction, survey respondents placed benefits in the number one position.

Here's the rub: Employees need and want top quality benefits, but companies are less and less able to afford them. So what can you do?

Nelson L. Griswold III, senior vice president of communications at Cornerstone Enrollment Services says part of the answer is to offer employees a range of benefits they can purchase on their own. However, voluntary benefits alone are not enough. Rather, the way in which you communicate your benefits can mean the difference between a program that works and one that doesn't.

Clear communication is always important, but never more so than at benefit enrollment time. "There has to be an extremely strong emphasis on professionally done, professionally produced, pre-enrollment communication," Griswold says. "The problem is that, all too often, the materials are written from an insurance industry perspective. They use a bunch of language and a bunch of terminology that employees simply don't understand."

Take-Home Pay Only Part of Story

Open enrollment time is an opportunity to make sure employees understand and appreciate what the company is really doing for them, says Griswold. He suggests personalized benefit statements, detailing the costs of everything from gross pay and retirement contributions to the value of your noncash programs such as the employee assistance plan: "This is possibly the most effective tool HR can use to generate morale and enthusiasm among employees about their benefit package and their compensation level. Most employees, in our experience, tend to judge their worth by the net amount they see on their paycheck every pay period."

"Any HR pro will tell you that's a small percentage of what's being provided by the company to the employee," Griswold continues. "A benefit statement, properly done, will lay out all of the cash compensation and the noncash compensation. By looking at this, the employee gets a bird's eye view of the overall compensation package that he or she is actually receiving."

The results of this kind of communication can be dramatic. Cornerstone, a provider of enrollment services for companies nationwide, was asked to conduct a voluntary benefits enrollment for a mid-sized hospital. "They have about 735 eligible employees," he explains. "The enrollment was entirely voluntary--no employee had to participate, and there was no requirement that any employee meet with a benefit counselor."

Griswold's company prepared customized benefit statements for rank and file employees, and invited them to meet with an enroller to review the statements. "I think there was some question on the part of most people involved as to how much of an impact (the personalized benefit statements) would have on enrollment participation.

"As it turned out, almost 100 percent of eligible employees met with a benefit counselor and went over their benefits in the statement. A large percentage then chose to participate in one or more voluntary benefits that the company offered to them. It was very successful." So successful, in fact, that the hospital's CFO requested benefit statements be provided to the executive management team.

Voluntary Benefit Customers Reap Rewards from Providers

But why is enrollment in voluntary benefits important? Say it with us one more time: the rising cost of health care. Griswold points to the SHRM survey in which the workforce places the greatest importance on benefits. "Employees are looking for great benefits," Griswold says.

"And yet, in HR, people are trying to figure out how they're going to pay for the major medical and any other benefits they already offer, never mind additional benefit offerings. Voluntary benefits provide employers the opportunity to give their employees a choice of additional benefits, at preferred rates, even guaranteed issue for life insurance. That means that an employee who would not be eligible to get insurance in the open market would be eligible for life insurance through the enrollment offering. And this is at no cost to the company," he continues.

The company also benefits through, in many cases, better rates on employer-paid benefits. "We've been very successful with a number of carriers in providing better rates on the employer-paid benefits companies offer, such as short-term disability insurance, or long-term disability insurance, if they also offer voluntary benefits," Griswold says.

"The carrier will say, for example, 'If you're offering our long-term disability, we'll give you a lower rate on it if you'll allow us to offer your employees a whole life policy and a critical illness policy.' At least one carrier I know about will even offer an employee assistance program at no charge to the employer. So there are bottom line benefits to the employer for offering voluntary benefits. But more important is the whole morale boost, and the greater level of security that the employee has because of these additional benefits," he explains.

Separate Enrollment Focuses Attention

While many companies offer voluntary benefits during their annual open enrollment period, Griswold believes a more effective approach is to hold a second enrollment period focused solely on voluntary benefits.

"We prefer to have the voluntary benefits offered off-cycle, maybe 4 to 6 months after the regular open enrollment," he says. "From HR's standpoint, when an open enrollment includes voluntary benefits--which require some education--having an enroller sit down with an employee and go over the benefits can eat up too much time. It can keep the employee off the line too long.

"By breaking it into two enrollments, you're actually talking about a much shorter amount of time for each enrollment period that the employee has to be away from his or her desk or away from the production line. It also puts the employee's focus on these additional benefits that are being offered. That supports part of HR's agenda of emphasizing a broader and deeper benefit offering."

Having been through open enrollment time, you may be shaking your head and cringing at the thought of a second one. Not to worry, though. Companies that specialize in enrollments can handle the whole process.

"Unlike the major core benefit enrollment, a voluntary benefit enrollment is minimally invasive," Griswold continues. "The enrollment firm does most of the work. We can prepare and provide all of the pre-enrollment communication materials; all we need is a census spreadsheet from HR in order to create our enrollment platform.

Then at the end of enrollment we produce and submit to HR a very clean deduction file that is simply plugged in payroll. It's a very simple process from HR's perspective. The process can be completed while HR is focusing on much more pressing and demanding issues."

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