The Saxon Advisor - May 2020

Compliance Check

what you need to know


Eligible Automatic Contribution Arrangement (EACA). For failed ADP/ACP tests, corrective distributions must be made towards participants within 6 months after the plan year ends – June 30, 2020.

SF HSCO Expenditures. The last day to submit SF HSCO expenditures, if applicable*, for Q2 is July 30, 2020. *Applicable for employers with 20+ employees doing business in SF and Non-Profits with 50+ employees.

Form 5500 and Form 5558. The deadline for the 2019 plan year’s Form 5500 and Form 5558 is July 31, 2020 (unless otherwise extended by Form 5558 or automatically with an extended corporate income tax return).

Form 8955-SSA. Unless extended by Form 5558, Form 8955-SSA and the terminated vested participant statements for the plan year of 2019 are due July 31, 2020.

Form 5558. Unless there is an automatic extension due to corporate income tax returns, a single Form 5558 and 8955-SSA is due by 2½ months for the 2019 plan year.

Form 5330. For failed ADP/ACP tests regarding excise tax, Form 5330 must be filed by July 31, 2020.

401(k) Plans. For ADP/ACP testing, the recommended Interim is due August 1, 2020.

In this Issue

  • Upcoming Compliance Deadlines:
    • Eligible Automatic Contribution Arrangement (EACA)
    • The deadline for the 2019 plan year’s Form 5500 and Form 5558 is July 31, 2020.
  • Providing an HSA, FSA, or HRA Health Plan for your Employees
  • Fresh Brew Featuring Lexi Kofron
  • This month’s Saxon U: How To Legally Work With Gig And Contract Workers
  • #CommunityStrong: Families Forward Donation Drive

How To Legally Work With Gig And Contract Workers

Join us for this interactive and educational Saxon U seminar with Pandy Pridemore, The Human Resources USA, LLC, as we discuss how to legally work with Gig and Contract Workers.

Providing an HSA, FSA, or HRA Health Plan for your Employees

Bringing the knowledge of our in-house advisors right to you...


When open enrollment hits annually, it is not uncommon for employers to feel exasperated when staring down a list of acronyms such as HSA, FSA and HRA. As it should go without saying, the most common first thought is, “What does any of this mean?” Even the most seasoned experts have difficulty with understanding the complexities of various care options.

““It is your account; yours if you leave the employer and can contribute as long as you have an HDHP and can use the funds until they are gone, even if you are no longer in an HDHP.” said Kelley Bell, a Group Health Benefits Consultant at Saxon Financial.

Advice from Kelley

Fresh Brew Featuring Lexi Kofron

"Stay calm and collected on phone calls, and stay organized!"


This month’s Fresh Brew features Lexi Kofron, a Client Service Specialist at Saxon.

Lexi’s favorite brew is a Cinnamon Dolce Latte. Her favorite local spot to grab his favorite brew is at Starbucks

Scott’s favorite snack to enjoy is Pretzels and Hummus.

Learn More About Lexi

This Month's #CommunityStrong:
Families Forward Donation Drive

This May the Saxon family donated a bunch of household items and outdoor activities to Families Forward. Their staff goes out each week in masks and gloves to hand out these donations to the families in need through their program. Here are some pictures they provided when they passed out the donations and our trunk load of donations!

Are you prepared for retirement?

Saxon creates strategies that are built around you and your vision for the future. The key is to take the first step of reaching out to a professional and then let us guide you along the path to a confident future.

Monthly compliance alerts, educational articles and events
- courtesy of Saxon Financial Advisors.


Meal program provides healthy lunches to remote workers

The coronavirus pandemic has placed many disruptions in the day-to-day lives of employees, which has caused both mental and physical challenges. Research has shown that more people are now snacking or eating more now, due to the quarantine brought upon many. Read this blog post to learn more.


Disruptions from the coronavirus have infiltrated the daily lives of employees, causing challenges to both our mental and physical well-being. Focusing on proper nutrition is on the back burner for many.

Twenty-seven percent of people reported snacking more during coronavirus, and 15% said they are eating more often than usual, according to a study by the International Food Information Council. Forty-two percent have been relying more on pre-packaged foods than in the previous month, despite believing they are a less healthy option.

“The quality of fuel we put in our body ultimately controls the output,” says Michael Wystrach, CEO of Freshly, a meal subscription service. “So how well our brain functions, how our emotions and hormones are released, how productive we are, it really does start with diet.”

The coronavirus has exacerbated the challenge of accessing healthy food for many across the United States. While there has been a skyrocketing demand for groceries and grocery delivery services during the pandemic, 37 million Americans are considered “food insecure,” meaning they lack access to affordable and nutritious food options.

To address those concerns, Freshly created a new meal service called Freshly for Business to provide healthy and affordable meals for employees working remotely. The program allows employers to offer free or subsidized meal plans consisting of up to 12 meals per week. Employers including PwC and KPMG, among others, are partnering with Freshly, which costs an average of $8 per meal per employee.

“We used our platform to solve the needs of customers who are saying, we have a lot of employees working at home who are working hard but are strained and have a lot of challenges on their plates,” Wystrach says. “Employers wanted to provide them a benefit of healthy food by signing up a few dozen to thousands of employees very quickly.”

Lack of proper nutrition can have devastating and expensive consequences: In the U.S., 40% of adults are obese, and 90% of overweight individuals have prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, a condition often caused by poor diet. According to the American Diabetes Association, the cost of medical expenditures and lost productivity due to diagnosed diabetes was $327.2 billion in 2017, the most recent data available.

“Type 2 diabetes is the fastest growing disease in America, and it’s principally caused by poor diet. It takes a huge toll on employers and employees,” Wystrach says. “One of the challenges now is the traditional lunch hour is gone and convenience is the pinnacle. But we make poor decisions when we rely on convenience with our food.”

Providing food in the workplace is a much desired benefit, with 73% of employees saying they want healthy cafeteria and snack options at work, according to a survey by Quantum Workplace and Limeade. However, just 32% provided free snacks and food, and only 17% had an onsite cafeteria available for workers, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

As employers begin considering their return-to-work strategies and how they will make their offices safe and their benefits supportive of the health and well-being of their employees, providing meal options should be a major consideration, Wystrach says.

“Especially as we think about social distancing, the less you’re sending your employees out, the safer everyone is,” he says. “Employers will also be thinking about healthcare costs post-COVID. How do they keep overall healthcare costs down? It’s really in everyone’s benefit to provide benefits that promote health and wellness.”

Meal offerings and proper nutrition are a win-win for employers and their workers, Wystrach says.

“Health and happiness ultimately creates a more productive employee,” he says. “When you’re trying to find a win-win for everyone, it drives productivity, it creates happy employees, and it reduces cost over time. There will continue to be a focus on benefits that provide that.”

SOURCE: Place, A. (12 May 2020) "Meal program provides healthy lunches to remote workers" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/meal-program-provides-healthy-lunches-to-remote-workers


Guidance Clarifies COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Mandate

As many know, on March 18, 2020, the president had signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which ultimately includes a requirement that health plans cover COVID-19 testing. Read this blog post for frequently asked questions and their answers provided from SHRM.


The Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and the Treasury recently issued a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that provide guidance to group health plan sponsors on various issues related to implementation of the COVID-19 diagnostic testing mandate.

Background

On March 18, 2020, the president signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which includes a requirement for group health plans to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing—including the cost of office, urgent care, ER and telehealth visits in order to receive testing—without cost-sharing or prior authorization. The following week, he signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which expands the COVID-19 diagnostic testing mandate provisions.

Departments' FAQs

The Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and the Treasury (the departments) issued a set of FAQs on April 11 that provide guidance to group health plan sponsors on various issues related to the implementation of COVID-19 diagnostic testing requirements. The departments anticipate releasing additional guidance in the future.

The FAQs address the following issues.

Which group health plans are subject to the mandate?

Most group health plans are subject to the mandate. This includes grandfathered plans under the Affordable Care Act, non-federal governmental plans, and church plans. The mandate does not apply to retiree-only plans or to excepted benefits, such as dental, vision, and most EAPs.

When are plans first required to comply and for how long?

Plans are required to cover items and services relating to COVID-19 diagnostic testing that were furnished on and after March 18, 2020, and to continue to do so through the end of the public health emergency. Unless extended or terminated earlier, the public health emergency related to COVID-19 will end on June 16, 2020.

What types of testing must be covered?

The guidance clarifies that in addition to tests that determine whether an individual has the virus based on the presence of COVID-19 virus genetic material in the body, a group health plan must also cover serological testing to detect COVID-19 antibodies. All tests must be either: (1) authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), (2) under review by the FDA, (3) developed and authorized by a state, or (4) determined appropriate by the Secretary of Health & Human Services.

What items and services must be covered in full during a visit?

Health plans "must cover items and services furnished to an individual, during visits that result in an order for, or administration of, a COVID-19 diagnostic test." The FAQs clarify that if the attending provider determines that other tests, such as influenza or blood tests, should be performed during a visit to help determine whether COVID-19 diagnostic testing should be conducted, "and the visit results in an order for, or administration of, COVID-19 diagnostic testing," the plan must cover those services in full.

If COVID-19 diagnostic testing is not ordered or administered as a result of the visit, full coverage for these services is not required.

Can a plan impose any cost-sharing, prior authorization, or medical management requirements for COVID-19 testing?

No.

Does the requirement to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing without cost-sharing apply to out-of-network providers?

Yes. This requirement applies to out-of-network providers, including HMOs that otherwise do not cover non-emergency out-of-network services. Out-of-network providers would be reimbursed based on the cash price listed by the provider on a public website or the amount negotiated by the plan with the provider.

Under what circumstances are services considered to be furnished during a visit?

The FFCRA requires plans to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing services during office visits including in-person and telehealth visits, as well as urgent care centers and emergency rooms. The guidance defines the term "visit" broadly "to include both traditional and non-traditional care settings in which a COVID-19 diagnostic test … is ordered or administered."

While the guidance does not require group health plans to include a benefit with a telehealth provider, any services offered by a provider through a telehealth visit or other remote visit for COVID-19 diagnostic testing must be covered in full.

What participant communication requirements apply?

The ACA requires group health plans to provide participants with at least 60 days' advance notice of a material modification to information contained in a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC). The FAQ states that the departments will not enforce this advance notice requirement to the enhanced coverage of items or services related to the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19. The non-enforcement policy will also apply to the addition or expansion of telehealth and other remote care services. However, plans "must provide notice of the changes as soon as reasonably practical." The guidance notes that the departments would continue to take enforcement action against a plan that attempts to offset the cost of the COVID-19 diagnostic testing requirement by eliminating or limiting benefits or increasing cost-sharing on other services.

The non-enforcement policy applies during the public health emergency period. If the benefit changes are continued beyond the public health emergency period, then plans will be required to update plan documents and terms of coverage.

Employers should communicate the coverage changes to participants as soon as possible. Using updated SBCs for this communication is an option for employers, but not required.

What about SMMs?

Unlike the SBC requirements, unless there is a material reduction in benefits, a group health plan does not have to issue a statement of material modification (SMM) for a change until 210 days after the close of the plan year in which the change was adopted. Nevertheless, sponsors may want to consider providing notice of the changes in the form of an SMM.

Can an employer offer benefits for COVID-19 diagnostic testing under an EAP or onsite medical clinic that constitute an excepted benefit without impacting its excepted benefit status?

Yes, diagnostic testing coverage can be provided without impacting the excepted benefit status of the EAP or onsite medical clinic.

While the guidance strongly encourages plan sponsors to promote the use of telehealth services, similar relief was not provided for telehealth benefits. Some employers are considering offering a standalone telehealth benefit to employees who are not eligible for medical coverage, or who have waived coverage. However, a standalone telehealth benefit would not satisfy the ACA market reform requirements unless it qualifies as an excepted benefit.

Use of onsite medical clinics to provide testing could be part of an employer's return-to-work program.

In Closing

The FAQs provide important guidance for employers on implementation of the diagnostic testing requirements and include actions employers need to take to communicate these provisions to employees.

 

Richard Stover, FSA, MAAA, is a principal at HR advisory firm Buck. Leslye Laderman, JD, LLM, is a principal in the firm's Knowledge Resource Center. This article originally appeared in the April 15, 2020 issue of Buck's For Your Information. © 2020 Buck Global LLC. All rights reserved. Republished with permission.

SOURCE: Stover, R.; Laderman, L. (21 April 2020) "Guidance Clarifies COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Mandate" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/guidance-clarifies-coronavirus-diagnostic-testing-mandate.aspx


Job Hoppers Seek Better Rewards, Recognition and Career Growth

Did you know: Only 33 percent of employees state that they are committed to staying at their jobs. If employees are disengaged from their work, it is easier for them to find other opportunities with promising recognition, rewards, and growth. Read this blog post to learn more about why employees might be searching for more generous benefits.


Employees have high expectations when it comes to job perks, and, if their employer doesn't offer what they want, they'll find another that will, new survey findings show.

Only one-third of employees (33 percent) say they are committed to staying at their jobs in 2020, compared to the 47 percent who had the same intention for 2019, according to the 2020 Engagement & Retention Report by employee-recognition software firm Achievers.

As the labor market stays tight, it's easy for disengaged employees to find work elsewhere. And they might try to: Just 19 percent of employees surveyed consider themselves "very engaged," while 14 percent say they are fully disengaged. Even the 32 percent with "average engagement" said they were open to new job opportunities.

The survey, conducted in October 2019, received 1,154 responses from employees across North America who were asked about their intentions for 2020.

"A substantial portion of today's workforce already has one foot out the door," said Natalie Baumgartner, Achievers' chief workforce scientist. Unless employers take steps to reverse these feelings, she said, "the risk of turnover and underperformance in 2020 is immense."

The survey found that the top three reasons employees are considering leaving their jobs are:

  • Compensation (cited by 52 percent of respondents).
  • Career growth (43 percent).
  • Recognition (19 percent).

Employees Feel Unheard, Unrecognized

Ninety percent of workers said they are more likely to stay at a company that asks for, and acts on, employee feedback. But when asked how good their manager and company are at soliciting feedback, the most common answer was just "OK," asking for it once or twice a year. As for their employers acting on feedback, "OK" was again the most common response, at 44 percent. These employees said their manager and company only talk about feedback and make few changes based on it.

Companies should make sure that employee feedback reaches managers, Baumgartner advised, and equip managers to use this feedback to address staff needs "in a personalized and timely way." These actions, she noted, can range "from small acknowledgements to larger changes that improve the employee experience and, as a result, improve engagement and retention."

As for recognition, 82 percent of surveyed employees "strongly" or "somewhat" agreed that they wished they received more recognition at work, and another 30 percent of employees said they feel "not very" or "not at all" valued by superiors.

"When organizations recognize everyday behaviors that align with their culture and goals, they help reinforce them as well as the role each employee plays," Baumgartner said.

Frequent vs. Infrequent Job Changers

After wanting more money, feeling unappreciated is the top reason infrequent job changers could be driven to leave, another recent survey found.

Joblist, a website that compiles jobs from leading job boards, last October asked nearly 1,000 workers throughout the U.S. what would make them consider accepting an offer from another employer and then compared responses from frequent and infrequent job hoppersthose who had held two or more jobs in the past five years and those who had held just one job during the same period.

The average minimum salary increase that respondents seeking other jobs would accept to stay at their current employer was $15,491, which represents a 25 percent increase, on average, over the past five years. Perks such as unlimited paid vacation, student loan assistance and paid parental leave were cited by frequent job changers as factors that would make a potential employer more attractive.

"These perks may appeal more to younger workers who are less likely to have a 'lifer' mentality" toward their employer, according to Joblist.

While both frequent and infrequent job switchers said they would leave jobs for better pay, "people who switch jobs infrequently are more likely to leave because of feeling underappreciated or undervalued," according to Joblist. "For the most part, people who don't change jobs often have made an emotional commitment to their employers, so when they feel slighted because that investment isn't being reciprocated, they're more likely to leave." Conversely, people who leave frequently are more likely to see the employer-employee relationship as transactional, "so they're less affected by those feelings."

Is Turnover So Bad?

Turnover can be disruptive and costly, but it can also be an opportunity for employers to find and develop employees who are enthusiastic about the organization and the direction in which it's heading, according to a November 2019 report from compensation data and software firm PayScale.

"Some turnover is actually good for an organization—especially in the case of overpaid, under-performing employees," said report author Conrado Tapado, content marketing manager at PayScale. "Usually employees stay when they feel satisfied and fairly compensated for their work. But sometimes, employees stay for less positive reasons," he noted, including:

  • They are overpaid. "Being overpaid leaves little incentive for workers to look for another job. They may realize how difficult it will be to find another organization that will match their salary. Thus, they are perfectly happy to stay where they are."
  • They value their benefits. "Benefits are meant to help drive retention, which is generally a good thing. However, sometimes employees remain just for the benefits but would rather be working elsewhere. Eventually, those 'golden handcuffs' will begin to chafe, and your employees may start to feel resentful."

Health care, retirement savings and paid-time-off benefits should be competitive and focused on helping employees remain productive and feel financially secure, without becoming so rich that employees don't feel they can leave, the findings suggest. Pay should be calibrated to reward performance through variable compensation tied to achieving personal, team and organizational goals, with base pay increases made according to merit and not treated as an entitlement.

The Right Benefits Balance

"Creating a benefits package that incentivizes good employees to stay without deterring uninspired employees from leaving can be tricky," said Amy Stewart, PayScale's senior content marketing manager.

That can happen when employers offer benefits with a high monetary value that employees only receive if they stay put and hold tight, such as pensions or stock options that vest over time. People can also stay in an unpleasant situation for benefits that would be hard to find elsewhere, such as a paid sabbatical, a four-day workweek or paid child care, Stewart said.

A possible solution is to "experiment with rewarding some benefits in exchange for high performance, such as Fridays off or opportunities to work from home only if certain metrics are hit," she said.

Compensation is similar, Stewart explained, as employees with above-market pay are often reluctant to leave. "When you have a highly paid employee who isn't performing to a high standard, sometimes the answer isn't a change in compensation or a new job, but a new challenge. If their interest in their current work is waning, they might need new work, but it doesn't necessarily have to be at another organization," Stewart said. "Employees who have stopped learning in their current position may become revitalized in a position that offers them new opportunities to grow."

SOURCE: Miller, S. (06 February 2020) "Job Hoppers Seek Better Rewards, Recognition and Career Growth" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/job-hoppers-seek-better-rewards-recognition-career-growth.aspx


Need a Morale Booster? Therapy Dogs Can Help

Work is stressful by itself, but with added layers of stress from having to process outside emotions and hardships, it becomes difficult to give the best service that is should be offered. Allowing a therapy dog in the workplace can help employees reduce stress, and become calmer throughout the day. Read this blog post to learn more about how therapy dogs in the workplace can be beneficial to the work environment.


The Evergreen Health services facility in Buffalo, N.Y., is buzzing with anticipation several days before Stella arrives. Some staff even seek out Matthew Sydor, the director of housing and retention services at the health care agency, days ahead of time to confirm her arrival. Others have requested a calendar invite from him so they can plan their day around her visit.

The middle-aged golden retriever is a certified therapy dog, and her visits are a hit with employees.

Therapy dogs are common in what Sydor describes as the "helping" fields. Bringing therapy dogs into any workplace, he says, is an opportunity to break up the day for employees and give them something to look forward to at no cost.

"At our agency we work with many people who have gone through traumatic experiences. All work is stressful, but layers of stress are added when you are helping others to process their own emotions and hardships," he explained. "The compounding stress makes it difficult to best serve our patients at a high level. Having a therapy dog in the building helps staff to participate in a self-care activity."

Stella's owner, Krista Vince Garland, Ph.D., is an associate professor of exceptional learning at Buffalo State College. The pair specializes in animal-assisted interventions in educational settings but are receiving an increasing number of requests to visit local workplaces.

"Everyone who visits Stella has the same comments: 'I feel so much better. She's brightened my day,' " Vince Garland said. "Aetna also did a study in 2017 that shows tremendous promise on the benefits of therapy dogs in the workplace. Employee sick days were down, morale was up and interactions among co-workers increased."

Having dogs in the workplace isn't a new concept, but it's a concept that hasn't been widely embraced. Only about 11 percent of companies in the United States allow pets in the office, according to the Society for Human Resource Management Employee Benefits 2019 survey.

Paul LeBlanc is the founder and CEO of Zogics, a Massachusetts-based fitness, cleaning and body care company. S'Bu, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, was LeBlanc's first employee.

"When you look at [Inc. magazine's] list of best places to work, 47 percent of those companies allow dogs in the office," he said. "Studies have shown that petting a dog for five to 10 minutes causes a reduction of blood pressure and the dogs have calming effects on people."

But not all employers are ready to go "all-in" like Zogics. For these workplaces, therapy dogs are a viable alternative. Sydor and Vince Garland share insight into what has made their partnership successful and offer tips any business can use.

Communicate. No one likes a surprise, even if it's a friendly four-legged canine. Talk with staff first to address any questions or concerns. Arrange a quick meet-and-greet to give the dog a chance to get used to the environment before interacting with employees.

"This also gives the administrator a chance to touch the dog and make sure it is clean and well-groomed. Therapy dogs are required to have a bath within 24 hours of any visit," Vince Garland said.

Distributing a fact sheet helps with the introduction of a therapy team. Once a visit is established, send a reminder a day prior.

"I suggest telling your staff why you're bringing therapy dogs in and advertise it as much as possible to employees," Sydor said.

Verify credentials. Ask about the team's training. Certifications are not required of service dogs and emotional support dogs. However, therapy dogs must complete training. Stella is an American Kennel Club (AKC) Good Citizen and has earned certifications through Therapy Dogs International and the SPCA Erie County Paws for Love.

"There's a lot of fake information out there. If someone is shy about sharing that information, that's a clue that more discussion is needed," Vince Garland said.

Sydor added, "We found Krista and Stella through Erie County SPCA's Paws for Love, and it has been a great partnership. They hold liability insurance for any damage that may occur. All dogs are well-trained, and the handlers are consistent with how they conduct their work."

Acknowledge cultural differences. "Care must be taken to respect cultural sensitivities," Vince Garland said. "Some cultures regard dogs as unclean, others view dogs as nuisances, while others believe spirits may appear as animals."

Designate a point of contact. This person handles scheduling visits, interacting with the team, and confirming vaccinations and liability insurance. The ideal individual works well with people and is animal-friendly, according to Vince Garland.

Create a space for the team. Not everyone will embrace dogs. Designating space separate from the main workflow respects the space of those employees who choose not to interact with the dog.

"Evergreen has given us a room for visits," Vince Garland said. "By being out of the flow, we're able to meet with staff who are interested without making others feel uncomfortable."

SOURCE: Navarra, K. (13 January 2020) "Need a Morale Booster? Therapy Dogs Can Help" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/need-a-morale-booster-therapy-dogs-can-help.aspx


Starbucks Unveils Mental Health Initiatives for Employees

Did you know: One in Five United States adults experiences mental illness. According to the World Health Organization, work is good for mental health but a negative environment can lead to physical and mental health issues. Starbucks has announced that they have launched an app for its employees to improve their mental health along with their anxiety and stress. Read this blog post to learn more about how Starbucks is creating mental health benefits for their employees.


Starbucks has launched an app to help its employees improve their mental health and deal with anxiety and stress.

The global coffee company also announced it will be retooling its employee assistance program based on feedback from employees and mental health experts. It plans to offer training to its U.S. and Canada store managers on how to support workers who experience a mental health issue, substance-abuse problem or other crisis.

Every year, one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness and one in 25 experience serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. And more people are killing themselves in the workplace, according to the Washington Post. The number of such suicides increased 11 percent between 2017 and 2018. Employers, the Post reported, "are struggling with how to respond."

Business Insider reported that some Starbucks employees it interviewed about the initiatives said much of their stress comes from the company cutting back on hours and relying on employees to work longer shifts with fewer people and no pay increase.

The World Health Organization points out that while work is good for mental health, a negative environment can lead to physical and mental health problems. Harassment and bullying at work, for example, can have "a substantial adverse impact on mental health," it said. There are things employers can do, though, to promote mental health in the workplace; such actions may also promote productivity.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles on this topic from its archives and other sources.

Starbucks Announcements Its Commitment to Supporting Employees' Mental Health 

The company released a statement Jan. 6 about additions to its employee benefits and resources that support mental wellness.

"Our work ahead will continue to be rooted in listening, learning and taking bold actions," it said. In the past, that has included tackling topics such as loneliness, vulnerability "and the power of small acts and conversation to strengthen human connection."
(Starbucks)

Mental Illness and the Workplace  

Companies are ramping up their efforts to navigate the mental health epidemic. Suicide rates nationally are climbing, workers' stress and depression levels are rising, and addiction—especially to opioids—continues to bedevil employers. Such conditions are driving up health care costs at double the rate of illnesses overall, according to Aetna Behavioral Health.

Starting workplace conversations about behavioral health is challenging because such conditions often are seen as a personal failing rather than a medical condition.
(SHRM Online)   

Research: People Want Their Employers to Talk About Mental Health 

Mental health is becoming the next frontier of diversity and inclusion, and employees want their companies to address it. Despite the fact that more than 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions each year—$16.8 billion in employee productivity—mental health remains a taboo subject.
(Harvard Business Review)   

Viewpoint: Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace 

Companies are reassessing their behavioral health needs and are looking to their health care partners for creative, integrated and holistic solutions. Many are turning to employee assistance programs for help.
(Benefits Pro)  

4 Things to Know About Mental Health at Work 

Kelly Greenwood graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with degrees in psychology and Spanish. She holds a master's degree in business from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, contributes to Forbes magazine and is editor-at-large for Mental Health at Work, a blog on Thrive Global.

She also is someone who has managed generalized anxiety disorder since she was a young girl. It twice led to debilitating depression. She shared four things she wishes she had known earlier in her life about mental health.
(SHRM Online)   

Employers Urged to Find New Ways to Address Workers' Mental Health 

An estimated 8 in 10 workers with a mental health condition don't get treatment because of the shame and stigma associated with it, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. As a result, the pressure is growing on employers to adopt better strategies for dealing with mental health.
(Kaiser Health News)  

Mental Health 

Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and other mental health impairments can rise to the level of disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act that requires employers to make accommodations for workers with such conditions.

This resource center can help employers understand their obligations and address their workers' mental health.
(SHRM Resource Spotlight)

SOURCE: Gurchiek, k. (14 January 2020) "Starbucks Unveils Mental Health Initiatives for Employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/starbucks-unveils-mental-health-initiatives-for-employees.aspx


Saver's Credit Can Spur Retirement Plan Contributions

Many employees are not aware of employer-sponsored retirement accounts, or individual retirement accounts (IRA), which could be costing those more money. Tax season is the best time for employers to educate their employees on how they can earn extra tax credits through their 401(k) plans. Read this blog post to learn more about how to educate employees on what retirement account opportunities that are available to them.


Many workers don't know that they're eligible for a tax credit by saving in an employer-sponsored retirement plan or individual retirement account (IRA)—and that could be costing them money. Tax time, however, is prime time for employers to inform eligible workers about the saver's credit.

The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, or saver's credit, is available to low- and moderate-income workers who are putting money aside for retirement. But only 29 percent of workers with annual household income below $50,000 know about the saver's credit, according to the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies in Los Angeles, which surveyed nearly 6,000 employees last fall.

"Tax season is an ideal time to tell eligible workers how they can earn extra tax credits by saving through their employer's 401(k) or a similar retirement plan," said Catherine Collinson, president of the Transamerica Center. "The saver's credit might just be the motivator for those not yet saving for retirement to get started."

Scott Spann, a senior financial planner with Financial Finesse, a provider of workplace financial wellness programs in Charleston, S.C., said, "Saving for retirement is a challenge for many households in America. Special tax incentives help make the process of saving easier."

What Is the Saver's Credit?

Like other tax credits, the saver's credit can increase a taxpayer's refund or reduce the tax owed. Here's how it works:

The amount of the credit is a maximum of 50 percent of an employee's retirement plan contributions up to $2,000 (or $4,000 for married couples filing jointly), depending on the filer's adjusted gross income as reported on Form 1040. Consequently, the maximum saver's credit is $1,000 (or $2,000 for married couples filing jointly).

The saver's credit "is different than a tax deduction due to the fact that a tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your gross tax liability, which is the total amount of taxes you're responsible for paying before any credits are applied," Spann explained.

The saver's credit also differs from the separate tax benefit of contributing pretax dollars to a qualified retirement plan, such as an employer-sponsored 401(k) or an IRA. "Many eligible retirement savers may be confusing these two incentives because the notion of a double tax benefit"—pretax contributions and an additional tax credit—"seems too good to be true," Collinson said.

Who Can Claim the Saver's Credit?

The credit is available to workers age 18 or older who have contributed to a company-sponsored retirement plan or an IRA in the past year and meet the income requirements shown in the table below. The filer cannot be a full-time student nor claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return.

Income Caps for Tax Years 2019 and 2020

For eligible workers, the amount of the available tax credit diminishes as adjusted gross income (AGI) rises. To help preserve the credit's value, income thresholds are adjusted annually to keep pace with inflation. Below are the AGI caps for tax year 2019 (for tax returns filed this year) and 2020 (for returns filed next year).

2019 Saver's Credit
Tax Credit Rate Single Filers and Married, Filing Separately* Married, Filing Jointly Heads of Household
50% of contribution AGI not more than - $19,250 AGI not more than $38,500 AGI not more than $28,875
20% of contribution AGI of $19,251 - $20,750 AGI of $38,501 - $41,500 AGI of $28,876 - $31,125
10% of contribution AGI of $20,751- $32,000 AGI of $41,501 - $64,000 AGI of $31,126 - $48,000
No credit AGI more than $32,000 AGI more than $64,000 AGI more than $48,000

 

2020 Saver's Credit
Tax Credit Rate Single Filers and Married, Filing Separately* Married, Filing Jointly Heads of Household
50% of contribution AGI not more than $19,500 AGI not more than $39,000 AGI not more than $29,250
20% of contribution AGI of $19,501 - $21,250 AGI of $39,001 - $42,500 AGI of $29,251 - $31,875
10% of contribution AGI of $21,251 - $32,500 AGI of $42,501 - $65,000 AGI of $31,876 - $48,750
No credit AGI more than $32,500 AGI more than $65,000 AGI more than $48,750

Deadlines for Retirement Contributions

"You must make eligible contributions to your employer-sponsored retirement plan or IRA for the tax year for which you are claiming the income tax credit," Spann said.

While 401(k) contributions for a tax year can be made only up to Dec. 31, those who are eligible but did not save last year can still make a tax year 2019 IRA contribution until April 15, 2020.

Filing for the Saver's Credit

Employers can advise eligible workers to take the following steps to claim the saver's credit, according to the Transamerica Center:

  • If using tax-preparation software, including those programs offered through the IRS Free File program, use Form 1040 or Form 1040NR for nonresident aliens. Answer questions about the saver's credit, which may be referred to as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit or the Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions.
  • If preparing tax returns manually, complete Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to determine your exact credit rate and amount. Then transfer the amount to the designated line on Form 1040 (Schedule 3) or Form 1040NR.
  • If using a professional tax preparer, ask about the saver's credit.

Financial planners advise having tax refunds directly deposited into an IRA to further boost your retirement savings.

The Transamerica Center has additional information, in English and Spanish, on its Saver's Credit webpage, along with a downloadable fact sheet.


IRS Free File Program Is Available

Another potentially overlooked opportunity for workers is the IRS Free File program, which offers federal income tax preparation software at no charge to tax filers with an AGI of $69,000 or less.

Free File opened on Jan. 10, 2020, for the preparation of 2019 tax returns. Eligible taxpayers can do their taxes now, and the Free File provider will submit the return once the IRS officially opens the tax filing season on Jan. 27.

For 2020, the Free File partners are: 1040Now, Inc., ezTaxReturn.com (English and Spanish), FileYourTaxes.com, Free tax Returns.com, H&R Block, Intuit, On-Line Taxes, Inc., Tax ACT, TaxHawk, Inc. and TaxSlayer (English and Spanish).

Here's how Free File works:

  1. Taxpayers go to IRS.gov/FreeFile to see all Free File options.
  2. They browse each of the offers or use a "look up" tool to help find the right product. Each Free File partner sets its own eligibility standards generally based on income, age and state residency. But if the taxpayer's adjusted gross income was $69,000 or less, they will find at least one free product to use.
  3. They select a provider and follow the links to their web page to begin a tax return.
  4. They complete and e-File a tax return if they have all the income and deduction records they need. The fastest way to get a refund is by filing electronically and selecting direct deposit. For taxes owed, they can use direct pay or electronic options.

Many Free File online products also offer free state tax preparation, although some charge a state fee. Taxpayers should read each provider's information carefully.

"The IRS has worked to improve the program for this year, and we encourage taxpayers to visit IRS.gov, and consider using the Free File option to get a head start on tax season," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

Nearly 57 million returns have been filed through the Free File program since it began in 2003, and 70 percent of U.S. taxpayers (about 100 million people) are eligible for Free File, according to the IRS.


SOURCE: Miller, S. (10 January 2020) "Saver's Credit Can Spur Retirement Plan Contributions" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/remind-low-wage-earners-about-savers-credit.aspx


The Saxon Advisor - January 2020

Compliance Check

what you need to know


Form W-2s are due January 31, 2020. January 31 is the deadline for employers to distribute Form W-2s to employees. Large employers – employers who have more than 250 W-2s – must include the aggregate cost of health coverage.

Form 1099-Rs are due January 31, 2020. Employers must distribute Form 1099-Rs to recipients of 2019 distributions.

Form 945 Distributions. Form 945s must be distributed to plan participants by January 31, 2020, for 2019 non payroll withholding of deposits if they were not made on time and in full to pay all taxes that are due.

Section 6055/6056 Reporting. Employers must file Forms 1094-B and 1095-B, and Forms 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS by February 28, 2020 if they are filed on paper.

Form 1099-R Paper Filing. Employers must file Form 1099-R with the IRS by February 28, 2020 if they are filed on paper.

CMS Medicare Part D Disclosure. Employers that provide prescription drug coverage must disclose to the CMS whether the plan’s prescription drug coverage is creditable or non-creditable.

Summary of Material Modifications Distribution. Employers who offer a group health plan that is subject to ERISA must distribute a SMM for plan changes that were adopted at the beginning of the year that are material reductions in plan benefits or services

In this Issue

  • Upcoming Compliance Deadlines
  • Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b): What’s the Difference?
  • Fresh Brew Featuring Scott Langhorne
  • This month’s Saxon U: What Employers Should Know About the SECURE Act
  • #CommunityStrong: American Heart Association Heart Mini Fundraising

What Employers Should Know About the SECURE Act

Join us for this interactive and educational Saxon U seminar with Todd Yawit, Director of Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans at Saxon Financial Services, as we discuss what the SECURE Act is and how it impacts your employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b): What's the Difference?

Bringing the knowledge of our in-house advisors right to you...


If you haven’t begun saving for retirement yet, don’t be discouraged. Whether you begin through an employer sponsored plan like a 401(k) or 403(b) or you begin a Traditional or Roth IRA that will allow you to grow earnings from investments through tax deferral, it is never too late or too early to begin planning.

“A major trend we see is that if people don’t have an advisor to meet with, they tend to invest too conservatively, because they are afraid of making a mistake,” said Kevin Hagerty, a Financial Advisor at Saxon Financial.

Advice from Kevin

Fresh Brew Featuring Scott Langhorne

“Pay close attention to detail.”


This month’s Fresh Brew features Scott Langhorne, an Account Manager at Saxon.

Scott’s favorite brew is Bud Light. His favorite local spot to grab his favorite brew is wherever his friends and family are.

Scott’s favorite snack to enjoy with his brew is wings.

Learn More About Scott

This Month's #CommunityStrong:
American Heart Association Heart Mini Fundraising

This January, February & March, the Saxon team and their families will be teaming up to raise money for the American Heart Association Heart Mini! They will be hosting a Happy Hour at Fretboard Brewing Company Wednesday, January 29, from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. to raise money.

Are you prepared for retirement?

Saxon creates strategies that are built around you and your vision for the future. The key is to take the first step of reaching out to a professional and then let us guide you along the path to a confident future.

Monthly compliance alerts, educational articles and events
- courtesy of Saxon Financial Advisors.


Top 4 HR trends to watch this year

How can HR professionals better engage employees, improve an organization's brand, and maximize productivity and profitability? Their success will rely on HR departments staying nimble and leveraging technological advances to help reshape workplace practices. Here are four HR trends to watch this year:


HR professionals can no longer rest on their laurels. They are now looking to implement innovative strategies to better engage employees, improve the company’s brand both internally and externally, maximize productivity and increase the organization’s profitability.

So how can HR professionals go about making this happen? The success of HR will largely be based on staying nimble, evolving their organization’s policies and leveraging technological advances to ultimately reshape their workplace practices.

With that in mind, here are the top HR trends that will take center stage:

The gig economy and the importance of flexibility. The gig economy, which is comprised of individuals with short-term or temporary engagements with a company, is substantially important to employers. Here, workers are seeking increased flexibility and control over their work environments. Since many questions remain unanswered regarding worker classification issues and the application of existing laws in the gig economy, look for the Department of Labor to issue an opinion letter or guidance in 2019 detailing how a company may compliantly work within the gig economy and not run afoul of existing independent contractors.

Flexibility also is important for all employees — not just for the gig economy. While telecommuting and remote positions are not new, they are being emphasized again to better engage employees and increase retention metrics.

The tech effect on future of HR. The strategic and consistent use of workforce data analytics to predict and improve a company’s performance has exploded over the last several years, with additional momentum expected in 2019. While most HR professionals rely on metrics for basic recruiting and turnover rates, more in-depth analytics and trend spotting has become the norm.

Once trends are identified in, for example, turnover rates, an HR professional should have the tools to dive into the data and analyze root causes, such as the need for manager training, review of compensation strategies or a change in the company’s culture. Using predictive analytics in the HR space is helping companies make better informed, dynamic and wiser decisions based on historical data, as well as placing HR on the level of other data-driven company departments, such as finance and marketing.

The collection of this enormous amount of data also poses challenges and potential risks to companies, including negative perceptions among employees about how their data is being used, employee privacy laws and potential security breaches. Strong and comprehensive security policies, protocols and controls are necessary to ensure employers are keeping their employees’ data safe. In 2019, a steady flow of communications to employees regarding advanced security and usage policies is key to prevent data misuse or misunderstanding regarding how information is collected and used.

Artificial intelligence also will continue to be a significant focus driving improvement in the HR arena. Determining which data to collect, analyze and protect will provide opportunities for AI to assume a larger role in HR. Also, in some large organizations, AI already is being used for more than just automating repetitive HR tasks, such as onboarding new employees. The future of AI for most companies will include creating more personalized employee experiences as well as supporting critical decisions. From analyzing performance data to eliminating biases when screening candidates, AI will continue to be a pivotal HR tool.

Strategies for successful recruitment. Running an effective talent pipeline should be the objective of all hiring endeavors. Pipelining is consistently gaining traction as a recruitment tool for new employees. The concept employs marketing concepts to ensure that companies have a diverse group of strong recruits waiting to be hired. Pipelining reduces time to hire and leads to better quality candidates.

Health, wellness and adequate employee training. Another area of importance is multi-faceted wellness programs, which focus on an employee’s total well-being, from nutrition to financial wellness. These programs often include a comprehensive employee assistance program, training and activities during worktime. The training can focus on anything from physical health to development of employees’ knowledge base and technology-focused education. A greater emphasis also is being placed on workplace communication coaching, such as collaboration and negotiation, which are critical to success in the workplace.

Continued training and heightened prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination will be another trend this year. Organizations big and small must ensure that compliant policies are in place and employees are trained on the policies. Several states including California, New York, Connecticut and Maine already mandate that private employers must provide harassment training to workers, and the number of states requiring this training is expected to increase in the coming years.

SOURCE: Seltzer, M. (03 January 2020) "Top 4 HR trends to watch this year" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/top-4-hr-trends-to-watch-this-year


Nonprofit launches student debt benefits program for employees

With the cost of college increasing, employers are trying to help employees tackle their student debt. According to the Federal Reserve, student debt has increased to more than $1.6 trillion. Read this blog to learn about how Northern Rivers Family of Services, a New York-based nonprofit, is paying their employee's student debt.


Northern Rivers Family of Services, an Albany, New York-based nonprofit social services organization, has partnered with IonTuition to bring a student loan repayment benefit to the employer’s 1,400 employees.

Northern Rivers decided to take on the student loan problem by offering employees the valuable wellness benefit, which is also a powerful recruitment and retention tool, company representatives said. Indeed, student loan debt has soared to more than $1.6 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve, yet only 8% of employers offer their workers a student loan benefit, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

“Student loans are a growing concern for today’s workforce,” says Linda Daley, chief human resource officer with Northern Rivers. “Sixty-five percent of our staff holds a bachelor’s degree or higher, and they’re saddled with the burden of student loan debt.”

Some employers that offer student loan repayment programs include Trilogy Health Services, Selective Insurance, Travelers Insurance, Wayfair and New Balance.

Employees with Northern Rivers will have access to a complete suite of student loan repayment tools plus a monthly contribution program, including concierge student loan advising, free accounts for family members, unbiased refinancing, default and delinquency recovery services, and college research tools.

“The repayment program is available for all benefit-eligible employees at Northern Rivers, which is approximately 1,060 of our employees,” Daley says. “With the IonTuition platform, the program was easy to roll out and our employees were immediately equipped with all the tools they need to reach financial wellness.”

Employees must have a minimum of six months with Northern Rivers to sign up for the contribution plan in which the organization will pay $35 a month toward employees’ student loans.

“Attracting and retaining quality talent in the nonprofit space is challenging,” Daley says. “This benefit gives our employees the security that their student loan payments are more manageable. ”

SOURCE: Schiavo, A. (16 December 2019) "Nonprofit launches student debt benefits program for employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/nonprofit-launches-student-debt-benefits-program-for-employees