Florida Announces $8.65 Minimum Wage Rate for 2021

Editor’s Note: Currently, Florida voters are voting on if Florida should increase its minimum wage to $15 over a 6-year period. If 60% of Florida voters approve, we will update this post.

Florida has published new minimum wage posters announcing an $8.65 minimum wage rate for 2021. Florida’s minimum wage rate is adjusted annually to reflect changes in the cost of living.

The new rate becomes effective Jan. 1, 2021. Employers should be mindful of local laws, ordinances and any rule or regulation that may increase an employee’s minimum wage rate.

Tipped Employees

Florida allows employers to pay their tipped employees a minimum wage rate of at least $5.63 per hour.

A tipped employee is an employee who engages in an occupation where he or she customarily and regularly receives more than $30 per month in tips.  Employers are required to subsidize a tipped employee’s minimum wage rate if the employee’s tips and gratuities are insufficient to allow the employee to receive wages that are at least equal to the state’s minimum wage rate.

Posting Requirement

Employers must display the 2021 minimum wage poster in a location where employees can easily see it. The Florida 2021 minimum wage poster is available in English, Spanish and Creole.

Next Steps for Employers

Florida employers should review and adjust their payroll systems to make sure nonexempt employees receive wages that are at least equal to the state’s minimum wage rate.

If you have any questions regarding your required posting notices, please reach out to Libertate Insurance Services at 888-501-0014.

Layoff Considerations and How to Prepare for Potential Claims

Layoffs are an unfortunate reality for many businesses. Whether a layoff is planned or unplanned, a business can suffer major reputational harm or even be taken to court following a large-scale termination.

In fact, it’s not unheard of for layoffs (and even just the threat of layoffs) to increase workers’ compensation claims, particularly in a tight job market. This is because individuals faced with a loss of income, temporary unemployment benefits and the likelihood of unaffordable health insurance may look to workers’ compensation as a way to sustain their income.

Although employers must never attempt to stop any individual from filing a workers’ compensation claim (legitimate or otherwise), there are steps you can take to help minimize your business’s liability for future claims.

Communicate With Your Insurance Carrier and Legal Professionals First and foremost, it’s crucial that you let your insurance carrier know about any downsizing plans. This is because your carrier can provide tips for dealing with any workers’ compensation claims that may follow the downsizing.

Working closely with a legal professional can also help you understand the relevant workers’ compensation laws in your jurisdiction.

If a claim does arise, you should immediately report any suspicions you have about the claim —along with all the reasons for your suspicions—to both your workers’ compensation carrier and legal professionals. The earlier you voice concerns, the more opportunities you’ll have to investigate the claim, gather medical evidence and discuss defense strategies.

Have Strong Reporting and Investigation Procedures in Place

Workers’ compensation claims are not often decided by a singular bit of information or evidence. Rather, employers must cover multiple angles in order to defend against questionable claims effectively.

For instance, employers could provide documentation of anecdotal evidence (e.g., no one saw the individual get hurt). Objective evidence (e.g., an independent medical exam’s X-ray or MRI) is also important for a strong defense. To help gather this kind of evidence and stay ahead of potential claims, accident reporting and investigation is crucial.

Regularly revisit your accident reporting policies, and require all employees to report accidents immediately, no matter how minor. Following a reported incident, you should investigate immediately. Consider separating witnesses from each other in order to get an accurate picture of what happened. Document these incidents and investigations thoroughly, and secure witness statements and signatures whenever possible.

Finally, as part of an employee’s exit interview, you should consider having the employee sign a form stating whether he or she has been involved in any unreported accidents or hazardous exposures while on the job. This can help you defend against unexpected claims that arise after a layoff.

Maintain Strong Recordkeeping Practices

When it comes to combating questionable future claims, accurate recordkeeping can make all the difference. Above all, employers need to know where employee records are kept and should secure photocopies of them as backups. Employers should also:

  • Assign a trustworthy employee to oversee employee records. This individual should be able to provide and explain these records in court.
  • Maintain a photographic or video record of your premises. This can help illustrate the conditions of your building and workspaces in the event of a claim.
  • Consider using and keeping records of termination interviews in order to help determine the risk of any future workers’ compensation claims. You may also want to consider performing termination physicals, as these can be useful in case an employee files a claim after being laid off. Specifically, these physicals can help establish an employee’s health and fitness at the time their employment ended.

Finally, employers should ensure employee records are not destroyed, since payroll, schedules and accident reports may become vital evidence.

Invest in Employee Assistance Programs

Terminations can put employees in an antagonistic frame of mind, which can lead them to bring questionable claims that they wouldn’t make otherwise. However, this risk may be reduced if an employer demonstrates that it cares about an employee’s well-being during an exit interview.

To accomplish this, many employers provide resume counseling, therapy and other services that demonstrate concern for a former employee’s welfare. These simple actions can ensure employees don’t take a layoff personally.

Watch for Risk Indicators

To better protect themselves, employers should be aware of certain indicators that they may be at risk of a future claim:

  • The employee is disgruntled after being fired or laid off.
  • The employee has been told his or her employment is about to end.
  • The employee is having financial difficulties.

It should also be noted that a lack of witnesses and medical evidence can indicate that a claim is questionable. Make note of these instances, as they can come in handy in the event of a claim.

Have a Strategy in Place

While employers must never attempt to prevent an employee from making a workers’ compensation claim, the above tips can assist in avoiding and defending against questionable claims. Employee reductions can pose a significant challenge for employers and are often devastating turns of events for employees. It is important for employers to have a layoff strategy broken down into goals and an action plan for the company.

For more workers’ compensations strategies and advice, contact Libertate Insurance Services today.

Cyber Crime Continues to Rise. Are you protected?

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and a good time to insure your business is protected. The continued rise in the amount of information stored and transferred electronically has resulted in a remarkable increase in the potential exposures facing businesses. In an age where a stolen laptop or hacked account can instantly compromise the personal data of thousands of customers, or an ill-advised post on a social media site can be read by hundreds in a matter of minutes, protecting yourself from cyber liability is just as important as some of the more traditional exposures businesses account for in their general commercial liability policies.

Why Cyber Liability Insurance?

A traditional business liability policy is extremely unlikely to protect against most cyber exposures. Standard commercial policies are written to insure against injury or physical loss and will do little, if anything, to shield you from electronic damages and the associated costs they may incur. Exposures are vast, ranging from the content you put on your website to stored customer data. Awareness of the potential cyber liabilities your company faces is essential to managing risk through proper coverage.

Possible exposures covered by a typical cyber liability policy may include the following:

  • Data breaches: Increased government regulations have placed more responsibility on companies to protect clients’ personal information. In the event of a breach, notification of the affected parties is now required by law. This will add to costs that will also include security fixes, identity theft protection for the affected and protection from possible legal action. While companies operating online are at a heightened risk, even companies that don’t transmit personal data over the internet, but still store it in electronic form, could be susceptible to breaches through data lost to unauthorized employee access or hardware theft.
  • Intellectual property rights: Your company’s online presence, whether it be through a corporate website, blogs or social media, opens you up to some of the same exposures faced by publishers. This can include libel, copyright or trademark infringement and defamation, among other things.
  • Damages to a third-party system: If an email sent from your server has a virus that crashes the system of a customer, or the software your company distributes fails, resulting in a loss for a third party, you could be held liable for the damages.
  • System failure: A natural disaster, malicious activity or fire could all cause physical damages that could result in data or code loss. While the physical damages to your system hardware would be covered under your existing business liability policy, data or code loss due to the incident would not be.
  • Cyber extortion: Hackers can hijack websites, networks and stored data, denying access to you or your customers. They often demand money to restore your systems to working order. This can cause a temporary loss of revenue plus generate costs associated with paying the hacker’s demands or rebuilding if damage is done.
  • Business interruption: If your primary business operations require the use of computer systems, a disaster that cripples your ability to transmit data could cause you, or a third party that depends on your services, to lose potential revenue. From a server failure to a data breach, such an incident can affect your day-to-day operations. Time and resources that normally would have gone elsewhere will need to be directed towards the problem, which could result in further losses. This is especially important as denial of service attacks by hackers have been on the rise. Such attacks block access to certain websites by either rerouting traffic to a different site or overloading an organizations server.

Cyber liability insurance is specifically designed to address the risks that come with using modern technology; risks that other types of business liability coverage simply won’t. The level of coverage your business needs is based on your individual operations and can vary depending on your range of exposure. It is important to work with a broker that can identify your areas of risk so a policy can be tailored to fit your unique situation.

Libertate Insurance, Your Coverage Guide

As reliance on technology continues to increase, new exposures continue to emerge. As your business grows, make sure your cyber liability coverage grows with it. Libertate Insurance is here to help you analyze your needs and make the right coverage decisions to protect your operations from unnecessary risk.

Paid Leave for Employees if School/Daycare/Summer Camps are Closed

With the new school year fast approaching and some schools electing to delay the start date, we want to make sure employers are plugged into the requirements of FFCRA. Small businesses are required by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to give employees paid leave from wok in certain circumstances relating to COVID-19. One requirement is that the child’s school/daycare/summer camp must be unavailable because of COVID-19.

The below article from FUBA helps breakdown the requirements of FFCRA.

Small businesses are required by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to give employees paid leave from work in certain circumstances relating to COVID-19. Employees who cannot work due to very specific reasons related to COVID-19 are entitled to two weeks of paid leave, with an additional 10 weeks of paid leave if they have to stay home to care for a son or daughter whose school, daycare, or summer camp is closed due to COVID-19.

If you have an employee who cannot come to work because they have to take care of a child because the child’s summer daycare – a school, camp or other program in which the employee’s child is enrolled – is closed or unavailable for a COVID-19 related reason, the employee may be entitled to paid leave.

Keep in mind that the child’s school/daycare/summer camp must be unavailable because of COVID-19. School being closed for summer vacation does not qualify an employee for paid leave because school is always closed during the summer and that closure is not related to COVID-19. If school does not reopen in the fall due to COVID-19, that may qualify employees for paid leave. However, if schools reopen but the employee’s children are attending online or digitally, the employee may not qualify for paid leave.

If an employee requests paid leave, you should get the following:

  1. The employee’s name and the dates the leave is requested
  2. A statement of the COVID-19 related reason the employee is requesting leave
  3. A statement that the employee is unable to work or telework for this reason
  4. Documentation supporting the reason for leave

The employee also needs to give you the name and age of the child they will be taking care of, the name of the daycare/summer camp that has closed, and they must provide a statement that no one else will be caring for the child while the employee is on paid leave. If the child is older than 14, the employee must show that special circumstances require them to stay home with the child during daylight hours.

Employees taking paid leave because their child’s daycare/summer camp is closed due to COVID-19 must be paid two-thirds their regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day. Learn more about calculating pay here.

You can offset the cost of their leave by keeping a portion of the quarterly federal employment taxes you would otherwise deposit with the IRS. If the cost of the leave is more than your federal employment tax bill, you can request an advance refund from the IRS using form 7200. To claim a payroll tax credit, you must retain the documentation described above and comply with any IRS procedures for claiming the tax credit. For more information about how to claim these payroll tax credits and what documentation is required, click here. For more information about form 7200, click here.

Click here to learn about other reasons that entitle employees to paid leave.

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This article was written by FUBA Workers’ Comp

Hurricane Season Reminders

This year’s hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th. We encourage our clients to prepare their business for the 2020 Hurricane Season. Take action early to protect your assets and your people.

Pre-Planning

Review all of your insurance policies and understand what is covered.

Verify Employee Contact Information

Maintaining accurate employee contact information is critical during an emergency. COVID-19 has led to an increase in remote working and the need to know where each employee is located-not just in a directory, but in real time. Send a quick memo to your employees asking them to update their contact information. This will help management check on their well-being and keep them informed.

Build Your Emergency Plan

Refer to websites like FEMA and National Hurricane Survival Initiative to help you build your company’s emergency plan. You will want to include details on securing your business assets, ensure your data is backed up, review contracts, customer communication strategies, and recovery plan.

Create an Emergency Response Team

Define clear roles and responsibilities for essential staff members.

Group Management Services Acquires Corporate Business Solutions

GMS expands its footprint with addition of Georgia-based HR outsourcing provider.


prnewswire.com/news-releases

RICHFIELD, Ohio, June 19, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Group Management Services Inc. announced today the acquisition of Corporate Business Solutions, a Georgia-based Human Resources Outsourcing provider.

CBS was founded more than 20 years ago as a third party 401(k) administrator, developing over time into handling a full array of HRO services. This acquisition will add about 70 clients and 3,500 worksite employees to GMS.

As a Professional Employer Organization (PEO), GMS provides a suite of comprehensive HR solutions, allowing clients to focus on core business. These services include Payroll, Human Resources, Risk Management, and Benefits.

Both organizations share an emphasis on giving their clients a competitive edge when it comes to the technology, service levels, and human resources they provide. This is evident in the fact that they share a 90-plus percent client retention rate, well over the industry average.

Find out how PEOs help businesses: https://www.groupmgmt.com/why-gms/education-center/what-is-a-peo/

GMS started in the Cleveland area in 1996, eventually expanding into Columbus and Cincinnati, and now have 10 offices nationwide. The acquisition of CBS will further extend their client base outside of Ohio and increase their presence in the Southeast.

“We’ve been trying to expand our footprint outside of Ohio and have been showing some success in the past five years,” GMS President Mike Kahoe said. “In 2014, we were 99 percent Ohio-based. Today we are 90 percent Ohio-based and this will move us closer to 80 percent, making us a more diverse company.”

CBS President Jim Karle adds, “The acquisition by GMS will enable CBS to further deliver on its promise to provide our clients a wide array of quality insurance products that are affordably priced. Enhancing our clients’ competitive edge has always been core to CBS – this accelerates our ability to do that for our many valued clients.”

GMS plans to continue their expansion and grow organically and through acquisitions moving forward. This is just the beginning of more to come.

About Group Management Services
GMS has partnered with more than 1,500 clients across the country, representing about 26,000 employees from 10 different locations throughout the United States. We enable those clients to outsource all their back-office functions the areas of payroll, human resources, risk management, and workers’ compensation. For more information on GMS, visit: https://www.groupmgmt.com/about-us/.

 

Businesses Can Defer Part of Their Payroll Tax Until Next Year

Employers are responsible for withholding Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes from their employees’ paychecks and paying these taxes along with the employer’s share to the IRS each month.  The Social Security tax is 12.4% total, with 6.2% withheld from the employee’s wages and the employer paying 6.2%.  The Medicare tax is 2.9%, with 1.45% withheld from the employee’s wages and the employer paying 1.45%.

As part of aid to businesses provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), employers can defer depositing the employer’s share of Social Security taxes until December 2021. For payroll periods starting March 27th through the end of this year, employers may defer their share of the Social Security tax (6.2%) and not deposit it with the IRS. Instead of depositing the usual amount of payroll tax, employers can simply hold back their portion of the Social Security tax each month and use it for other operating expenses.  *Please note this only applies to the employer’s portion of the Social Security tax.  Employers may not defer the employee’s part of the Social Security tax, and employers must still deposit both the employee’s and the employer’s portion of the Medicare tax each month.

Employers who decide to defer their part of the Social Security tax have until the end of next year to start depositing the amount they deferred. Half of the deferred payroll tax amount must be deposited with the IRS on December 31, 2021, with the other half due by December 31, 2022.

All employers may take advantage of this payroll tax deferral, including employers who have received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

For more information from the IRS about payroll tax deferral, please click here.

This payroll tax deferral is not the same as the payroll tax credits that employers may take for providing paid leave to employees or the employee retention credit. The IRS has detailed information about these credits here.

Article originally posted on FUBA.org.

 

New Law Provides Flexibility on PPP Loan Forgiveness

Under a new federal law effective June 5, 2020, the requirements for PPP loan forgiveness have been relaxed in favor of small businesses.

What is included in the bill?

The bill, which passed with a bipartisan vote, makes the following amendments to the PPP to provide relief to borrowers:

  • Loan repayment terms—The bill extends the minimum loan term for unforgiven PPP loans from two years to five years.
  • Payroll costs vs. nonpayroll costs— For forgiveness eligibility, the bill reduces the portion of PPP funds that must be spent on payroll costs from 75% to 60%, and raises the nonpayroll cost limitation from 25% to 40%.
  • Covered period extension—The bill extends the covered period during which borrowers must spend the PPP funds to be eligible for forgiveness from eight weeks to 24 weeks from the date of origination of the loan.
  • Payroll tax deferment—The bill permits borrowers to defer payroll taxes without being penalized while still remaining eligible for loan forgiveness.
  • Extension of rehiring safe harbor—The bill extends the rehiring safe harbor by six months to provide borrowers with additional time to restore payroll levels or rehire employees without facing a reduction in the amount of forgiveness for which they are eligible. The original date was June 30, 2020, and the new date is Dec. 31, 2020.

In addition to the provisions above, the bill provides loan forgiveness eligibility exemptions for borrowers that are not able to rehire an employee or a replacement. There are also exemptions for loan forgiveness eligibility for borrowers that are not able to return to the same level of business due to complying with COVID-19-related orders or circumstances.

What’s next?

Borrowers should review the bill carefully and speak to their lender should they have any questions. In addition, borrowers should direct any questions regarding their PPP loan to their lender.

We will continue to monitor any additional developments regarding the PPP and deliver updates as necessary.