PA Unemployment Compensation Update – Benefit Charge Credit/Adjustments from Automatic Relief from Charges due to COVID19

Pursuant to Act 9 of 2020 that Governor Wolf signed into law on 3/27/2020, contributory employers and reimbursable employers who have an approved 2020 solvency fee election were to receive automatic relief from charges for those employees whose UC claims are due to the COVID-19 outbreak or public health officials’ efforts to contain and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Contributory employers and reimbursable employers who have paid the solvency fee for calendar year 2020 did not have to apply for relief from these COVID-19 related charges.

The benefit charge credits/adjustments from the automatic relief from charges for eligible claims for Article XI reimbursable employers that have an approved 2020 solvency fee election were included on the Statement of Account dated 11/11/2020. For Article X and Article XII reimbursable employers with an approved 2020 solvency fee election, the benefit charge credits/adjustments will be processed in the beginning of January 2021 and appear on the Statement of Account dated 1/11/2021.

The benefit charge credits/adjustments for contributory employers have been processed and their reserve account ledger updated accordingly. To view your reserve account ledger, login to your account, or register for a user ID to login to your account, at www.uctax.pa.gov. After logging in select the Financial Activities option from the menu on the left and then the Ledgers sub-menu option. Select the Reserve Account tab to view the summary of your reserve account ledger and your current reserve account balance.

If you have questions on benefit charging or relief from charges, we have provided some relevant information in the below graphic. You can also visit the relief from charges FAQ page on our website at https://www.uc.pa.gov/faq/Employer/Pages/Relief-from-Charges-FAQS.aspx.

COVID – WHERE DO EMPLOYERS GO FROM HERE?

2020 has been a year of attrition by all means. HR managers are all abated with managing business and without the standard rulebook. As we enter the 4th quarter taxes, charges, staffing, sales, and now COVID workforce outbreaks are all prevalent on our mind. In this newsletter we will attempt to break down three of the aforementioned stressors and provide information to aide you in navigating the final stretch before ending this pandemic year.

What to expect: 4th Quarter 2020 Charges

Important Information: PA UI RELIEF FROM CHARGES
COVID-19 Relief from Charges for Employers
((This information is taken directly from PA UI Website 10/27/2020))
We are aware that employers’ UC-640 charge statements are indicating that employers are being charged for all benefits. All charges which are a result of separation due to COVID-19 will receive credits, retroactively. You do NOT need to contact us, and you do NOT need to send in any paper work. The department is working on the programming needed to grant automatic relief from charges. Benefit charging will resume after the governor declares an end to the pandemic disaster. The UC-640 charge statement shows you all the individuals you would otherwise be charged for if they continue filing benefits after the disaster is ended.
Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act (S.4209)
On August 3, 2020, the Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act was enacted into law. This Act amends the CARES Act and now allows for reimbursable employers that are eligible to receive reimbursement (those that did not pay the Solvency Fee for calendar year 2020) to only pay 50% of the amount due on eligible benefit charges. Previously the CARES Act required that 100% of the benefit charges for the billing period be paid before the 50% reimbursement could be applied. The Department will post the reimbursement to the billing period once the funding for that billing period has been received from the US Treasury. The reimbursement amount will be reflected as a payment/credit on your account and will be applied to the appropriate billing period. If an overpayment exists after the 50% reimbursement is applied, a credit will be created that may be used to pay future benefit charge amounts due.
Questions regarding this information may be directed to the UC Employer Contact Center at 1-866-403-6163 which is staffed weekdays, Monday through Friday, from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm.

Many states are following this protocol. UCM is staying abreast of this information.
Be assured that as your UI tax professionals we will be vigilant in auditing, verifying, and assuring that your UI tax account is not overcharged and the terms the states have set is enforced and applied.

The time has never been more important to have UCM’s tax auditing services.

What to expect: The Workplace and Creating a Bubble

2020 has without argument changed many systems in healthcare, logistic, and certainly retail industries. Many businesses have tried to have their workforce work from home.

We feel the one industry to open to an efficient modified operation plan is professional sports. Surprisingly enough the work bubble has worked for staffing applications. Understanding that in other business controlling and restricting your employee’s whereabouts is not an option, working from home is an option.

Have a plan to limit, control, and moderate any outbreaks that are most probable in the winter months. If employees must report to the workplace, take a note from first responders in limiting exposure to sources outside the workplace and the home.
We suggest creating a personalized memo that affirms your appreciation for them and outlining the importance of their part in staying healthy. UCM has HR and legal professionals to assist you if you would like to create a personalized memo.

In short, the memo should contain the following components:
a. Note your company’s appreciation for their dedication that the sacrifice that they will make in staying healthy while participating in a productive workforce.
b. Give guidelines set forth from professionals for mask wearing, hand washing, ventilation, and limiting outside exposure at social gatherings. This is especially important for workplace employees.
c. Set goals and outline expectations on sales quotas or other productivity barometers that will also serve as a visual aide.
d. Offer employee COVID testing, take temperatures as employees enter a workplace. The goal is to maintain and retain accountability. Offer all the necessary health equipment to assist employees with maintaining a COVID free 4th and 1st quarter.

UCM Provides Clients with COVID-19 Relief

With the already negative impact of COVID-19 on employers nationwide, UCM has waived all excess unemployment claim fees for claims processed that are related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many vendors are charging employers overage fees during this difficult time, adding additional negative financial impacts. UCM will not be charing excess claim fees, or any additional service costs during the pandemic. Additionally, there will be no hidden future charges as a result of COVID-19.

The main goal right now is to provide as much relief as possible to clients. Through providing timely responses to COVID-19 claims, ensuring the appropriate auditing of any charges that result from these claims,  and offering exceptional client service are just a few ways UCM is providing additional ROI.

If you have any questions regarding your unemployment account, or need additional assistance, please e-mail us at info@ucmspecialists.com or reach out to your dedicated account management team.

INFORMATION ON IMPACT & FILING FOR EMPLOYERS AND YOUR EMPLOYEES IMPACTED BY COVID-19

  • You should if you have not already posted information or mailed information to your employees on lay-offs, reduction of hours or elimination of positions.
  • Your employees are more than likely eligible for unemployment or workers’ compensation benefits if hours have been reduced, term of hire has been changed or you have eliminated positions.
  • The state departments will continue to provide important employment benefit updates as the situation evolves. For ingoing information log onto our site. www.ucmspecialists.com, or contact your account specialist.

 

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (UC) BENEFITS

IMPORTANT CLAIMANT UPDATES

Your employees may be eligible if:

  • You have temporarily closed or go out of business because of COVID-19.
  • You have reduced your hours because of COVID-19.
  • You have told an employee not to work because you feel your employees may get or spread COVID-19.
  • You have been told to quarantine or self-isolate, or live/work in a county under government-recommended mitigation efforts.

Offer information to your employees on how to apply:

  • In all states, it’s the faster and easier way for your employees to file for UI benefits by going online to the state website. (example in Pennsylvania: www.uc.pa.gov).

Important information for you and your employees to know:

  • If eligible for UC, your employees will receive state correspondence and a PIN.
  • This PIN will typically arrive in the U.S. mail.
  • If approved, first week benefit payment should arrive within approximately four weeks of filing for UC. Charges to your State Unemployment Tax Account (SUTA) account will start on the date the employee was laid off., furloughed or hours were reduced.
  • Employees should continue filing bi-weekly claims (every two weeks) – even while waiting for approval.
  • States are experiencing very large call volumes. 
  • The Waiting Week is suspended.  Previously, claimants were not eligible for benefits during their first week of unemployment (the “waiting week.”) This has been suspended; eligible claimants may receive benefits for the first week that they are unemployed during the COVID-19 Crisis.
  •  Work Search and Work Registration requirements are temporarily waived for all UC claimants.  Claimants are not required to prove they have applied or searched for a new job to maintain their UC benefits.  Claimants are also not required to register with most states where they applied.
  • At this time, benefits are not being extended beyond 26 weeks in most states. Check with specific states for exceptions to this rule.

 

IMPORTANT UPDATES

  • Important information for CLAIMANTS in BANKRUPCTY – Due to COVID-19, regular mail collection to the appropriate state department may be delayed or interrupted for the next few weeks due to large UI filings.
  • If you have sent the state a bankruptcy notice, it may not be reviewed in time to avoid sending you billing notices or automatically offsetting UI benefits.
  • To provide the state with a bankruptcy notice in a timely fashion, please send information about your bankruptcy to your state via electronic communication if available.
  • Please attach a copy of any bankruptcy paperwork to the email to expedite processing. If you are unable to attach the bankruptcy notice, please include your company name and account number. This will help offset refunds and will make filings more efficient.
  • Employees working from home, as a result of COVID-19 may be eligible for benefits if they cannot arrange to work at home or do not have the required equipment. Providing employees equipment (computers, telephones) may eliminate UI filings due to a hardship and/or a change in their original term of hire.
  • Employers should anticipate UI rate increases in 2021. All states have experienced a surge in UC filing s. In February 2020 the Unemployment Rate was 3.5%. It is 14.7% as of July 2020. This means the surplus that each state carries will be in deficit digits. The federal and state variables that are added onto your experience tax rate will increase each employers tax rate despite the number of layoffs.

Idaho Return to Work Bonuses

Return to Work Bonuses

Eligible entities may apply starting at noon MT on July 13, 2020 (subject to available funding).
Bonuses will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis until bonuses are fully expended.
According to a recent study, more than 60 percent of Americans who are out of work as a result of the pandemic earn more with the enhanced unemployment benefits than they do from their normal wages. To offset this short-term unemployment benefit and get workers back into the workplace, a one-time bonus will be provided to each qualified employee.
An Idaho employer can apply for the bonuses for their eligible employees. Awards will be up to $1,500 for full-time work, minimum of 30 hours per week, and up to $750 for part-time work, minimum of 20 hours per week, over the four weeks following return to work.

Governor’s Opinion on Return to Work bonuses
News Release: More details available on Return to Work bonuses, Idaho’s conservative approach to strengthening workforce, continuing strong economic rebound, saving taxpayer dollars

HOW DOES THE EMPLOYER APPLY ON BEHALF OF THE EMPLOYEE?

The Idaho State Tax Commission will handle applications. Employers must first establish a secure Taxpayer Access Point (TAP) account to protect their personal and business information on submitted applications. Small businesses interested in applying should start this process immediately.
Applications are submitted by employers on behalf of their eligible employees.
If you are a tax professional without a TAP account and you intend to apply on behalf of an employer who is your client, you’ll need to follow the registration steps below. Once your account is validated, you can request access to your client’s accounts. Click on the Advanced Use of TAP link below for instructions on requesting access. This process will take longer and requires your client’s permission. We suggest you request a TAP account right away.

To apply, follow these steps:
Step 1- Log in to your TAP account
Step 2 – Skip to step 3 unless you are a third party filing on behalf of your authorized client
Third parties, select your client from the client list
Step 3 – Click the ‘Return To Work’ link in the “I Want To” section at the top right
Step 4 – Complete and submit your application
Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis:
July 13: applications for employees who returned from May 1 through June 14.
July 20: applications for employees who returned from May 1 through July 15.
Applications will be accepted through August 14, 2020.

DETAILS

Total Program: $100 million
Return to work bonus: $1,500 full time (minimum of 30 hours per week), $750 part time (minimum of 20 hours per week) and have been back to work for at least four weeks
Only one bonus per employee

Subject to qualification

Targeted to those employees that forgo additional unemployment and return to work
All bonuses will be reported by individual on Transparent.Idaho.Gov.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO APPLY?

Any eligible Idaho employer with Idaho employees who stop collecting unemployment and return to work can apply for a Return to Work Bonus.
Idaho employers can apply for the bonuses for their eligible employees who meet the following criteria:
The employee must be a resident of Idaho who’s worked for an Idaho employer in 2020
The employee submitted a request for and was not denied Idaho unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic starting on or after March 1, 2020
The employee has completed four consecutive weeks of work for a private or non-profit employer
The employee returned to work with the employer any time from May 1, 2020 through July 15, 2020
The employee’s wages are $75,000 or less annually
The employee’s position is intended to continue beyond four weeks

HOW IS “ELIGIBLE IDAHO EMPLOYER” DEFINED?

An employer who issues W2s to Idaho employees directly or through a contract with a professional employer organization.

WHEN CAN A BUSINESS APPLY?

A business can apply on or after noon MT on July 13, 2020 if they have any employees who have completed the four-week work requirement.

WHAT ARE THE AWARD AMOUNTS?

Employees averaging 30 hours or more per week during the four-week qualifying period:
Returned to work from May 1, 2020 to July 1, 2020 = $1500
Returned to work from July 2, 2020 to July 8, 2020 = $1000
Returned to work from July 9, 2020 to July 15, 2020 = $500
Employees averaging 20 hours or more per week during the four-week qualifying period:
Returned to work from May 1, 2020 to July 1, 2020 = $750
Returned to work from July 2, 2020 to July 8, 2020 = $500
Returned to work from July 9, 2020 to July 15, 2020 = $250

DOES THE EMPLOYEE HAVE TO HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED BY THE BUSINESS PRIOR TO MARCH 1, 2020?

No. They may be returning to work with a new employer.

CAN AN EMPLOYER FILE MULTIPLE APPLICATIONS AS MORE OF THEIR EMPLOYEES QUALIFY?

Yes. Employees can be added as they meet the qualifications and bonus funds are still available.

CAN AN EMPLOYEE WITH MORE THAN ONE JOB GET MULTIPLE BONUSES?

No. An employee can only receive one bonus from this program. The bonus amount will be based on the job where the employee works the highest number of hours per week.

Example: An employee works two jobs – one for Employer A, where they work 20 hours per week; and one for Employer B, where they work 30 hours per week. Both employers submit an application for the employee to receive a bonus. The bonus amount will be $1500 as it’s based off the job with the highest number of hours worked per week (amounts will be prorated for start dates after July 1, 2020).

CAN AN EMPLOYER SUBMIT AN EMPLOYEE WITH AN ITIN?

No. An employee must have a valid Social Security number issued to them by the Social Security Administration to file for Idaho Unemployment and be eligible for the bonus.

HOW CAN EMPLOYERS HELP IN THE PROCESSING OF EMPLOYEE BONUSES?

Employers can help by ensuring they have reported all new employees and rehired employees with the Idaho Department of Labor. Go to https://labor.idaho.gov/dnn/Businesses/New-Hire for more information.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE FOR MY EMPLOYEE(S) TO RECEIVE THEIR PAYMENT AFTER MY APPLICATION IS SUBMITTED?

We anticipate approximately one week after the application is approved.

WHAT INFORMATION WILL BE REPORTED TO TRANSPARENT IDAHO?

The Transparent Idaho website will include a list of bonus recipients that includes the individual’s name, the Idaho industry sector, the primary city location, and total bonus award.

WHAT INFORMATION WILL EMPLOYERS NEED TO APPLY?

The State Tax Commission will handle applications. All applicants must first establish a Taxpayer Access Point (TAP) account.
Register with TAP for the Return to Work Bonuses
On the TAP home page, click “Don’t have a logon? Register here” beneath the “Log In” button.
Leave “No” selected where you’re asked if you received a code. Click “Next.”
Fill in all the required fields. If a field turns red/pink, hover over it to see the error and correct it. (Call the efile Help Desk at (208) 332-6632 if you’re unable to correct the fields in error.)
For the “You Are” field, use the drop-down arrow to select:
– BUSINESS if you’re an owner or employee of a business (but not the sole owner)
–If you’re the sole owner of a business and have employees
– 3RD PARTY TAX PROFESSIONAL if you’re a tax preparer or accountant managing your clients’ taxes
Click “Submit.” The Tax Commission will send you a letter. This letter has a registration code. When you receive your letter, return to the TAP home page and click “Don’t have a logon? Register here” beneath the “Log In” button.
Click on “Yes” to indicate that you have a registration code, then click “Next.”
On the “Verify” page:
Enter the registration code exactly the way it appears in your letter (it is case sensitive)
Select the option under “You Are” that matches the selection you made during your pre-registration
Enter the EIN or SSN that you used during your pre-registration
Click “Next”
Complete the required fields
Click “Submit”
You now have full access to your TAP account.
If you don’t receive a letter within five business days after your request was successfully submitted, contact us at efilehelp@tax.idaho.gov or call (208) 332-6632.
If you’re a tax professional who needs to file/pay for clients, read our Advanced Use of TAP guide.
After logging in to TAP, applicants will need the following information to complete their application:
Their Employment Identification Number (EIN) if applicable.
Employee name, SSN, address, contact number, average hours worked per week, number of weeks worked, and bank account for direct deposit of the bonus.

WHY CAN’T I SUBMIT A PAPER APPLICATION FOR THE RETURN TO WORK BONUSES?

The program is intended to get cash into the hands of your employees as soon as possible. Manually processing paper applications would severely slow down the program and limit its effectiveness.

IF I DON’T HAVE A COMPUTER OR SMART PHONE, HOW CAN I SUBMIT AN APPLICATION?

Your tax professional or a close family member may be able to help you set up a Taxpayer Access Point (TAP) account and fill out the Return to Work application.

WHO CAN I CONTACT FOR MORE INFORMATION?

The bonus application and approval process is intended to be fully automated, allowing bonus payments to be issued rapidly. Information about the status of your bonus application can be found in your TAP account. For more information, email ReboundIdahoBusinessGrants@tax.idaho.gov or call 833-492-0068 toll free. High call and email volumes may delay responses.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law. A nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus package, the Act provides an estimated $260 billion in enhanced and expanded unemployment insurance (UI) to millions of workers throughout the country who are being furloughed, laid off, or finding themselves without work through no fault of their own because of the COVID-19 pandemic and our public health response to it.

The CARES Act creates three new UI programs: Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. All three programs are fully federally funded. This fact sheet will discuss all three, as well as “short-time compensation,” laying out what benefits are available to workers who find themselves without any or enough employment or work in these difficult times.

A Temporary Boost to Unemployment Compensation

The CARES Act temporarily supplements UI benefit amounts and extends the duration of those benefits.

Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC)

From the date the bill is signed through July 31, 2020, all regular UI and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance claimants will receive their usual calculated benefit plus an additional $600 per week in compensation.

PUC is a flat amount to those on UI, including those who are receiving a partial unemployment benefit check. PUC also goes to those receiving the new Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program described below.

PUC may be paid either with the regular UI payment or at a separate time, but it must be paid on a weekly basis.

PUC is not income for purposes of eligibility for either Medicaid or CHIP.

Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC)

The CARES Act also provides an additional 13 weeks of state UI benefits, which will become available after someone exhausts all their regular state UI benefits. All but eight states offer 26 weeks of UI benefits.[1]

To receive PEUC, workers must be actively engaged in searching for work. The bill explicitly provides, however, that “a State shall provide flexibility in meeting such [work search] requirements in case of individuals unable to search for work because of COVID-19, including because of illness, quarantine, or movement restriction.”

PUC, PEUC, and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (discussed below) are fully federally funded. States will also receive additional administrative funds to operate these programs.

Non-Reduction Rule. There is a “non-reduction rule” in the Act, which means that as long as the states are participating in these programs, they may not do anything to decrease the maximum number of weeks of UI or the weekly benefits available under state law as of January 1, 2020.

Waiting Week. In addition, most states have a statutory one-week “waiting period” for people to receive UI benefits. But under the CARES Act, states that waive the one-week waiting period will be fully reimbursed by the federal government for that week of benefits paid out to workers plus the administrative expenses necessary for processing those payments.

Emergency Assistance to Reach Workers Typically Left Out

.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) provides emergency unemployment assistance to workers who are left out of regular state UI or who have exhausted their state UI benefits (including any Extended Benefits that might become available in the future). Up to 39 weeks of PUA are available to workers who are immediately eligible to receive PUA. The program will expire on December 31, 2020, unless otherwise extended.

Importantly, this program will provide income support to many workers who are shut out of the state UI systems in this country. In fact, workers who are eligible for state UI are not eligible for the PUA program.

Those eligible for PUA include self-employed workers, including independent contractors, freelancers, workers seeking part-time work, and workers who do not have a long-enough work history to qualify for state UI benefits.

(Note that in most states, however, “gig” workers should qualify for regular UI because of the broad definitions of employment in so many state UI laws and should be encouraged and supported in applying for regular UI. States should be encouraged to streamline their applications and to request pay data in bulk from major companies. In states that have passed formal exemptions from UI for transportation network company drivers or app-based workers, PUA will provide crucial benefits.)

Applicants will need to provide self-certification that they are (1) partially or fully unemployed, OR (2) unable and unavailable to work because of one of the following circumstances:

  • They have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of it and are seeking diagnosis;
  • A member of their household has been diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • They are providing care for someone diagnosed with COVID-19;
  • They are providing care for a child or other household member who can’t attend school or work because it is closed due to COVID-19;
  • They are quarantined or have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine;
  • They were scheduled to start employment and do not have a job or cannot reach their place of employment as a result of a COVID-19 outbreak;
  • They have become the main source of income for a household because the head of household has died as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • They had to quit their job as a direct result of COVID-19;
  • Their place of employment is closed as a direct result of COVID-19; or
  • They meet other criteria established by the Secretary of Labor.

Workers are not eligible for PUA if they can either telework with pay or are receiving paid sick days or paid leave. Unfortunately, workers must be authorized to work to be eligible for PUA, meaning that undocumented workers will not qualify.

The PUA program will run from January 27, 2020 through December 31, 2020. Workers will be eligible for retroactive benefits and can access benefits for a maximum of 39 weeks, including any weeks for which the person received regular UI. But eligibility will sunset on December 31, 2020 absent any extensions.

PUA benefits are calculated the same way as they are for the federal Disaster Unemployment Assistance program under the Stafford Act, which is the model for the PUA program. PUA will have a minimum benefit that is equal to one-half the state’s average weekly UI benefit (about $190 per week).

Short-Time Compensation (Work-Sharing)

Short-time compensation (STC), also known as work-sharing, programs help employers avoid layoffs by putting workers on part-time schedules with partial unemployment benefits to help make up for some of the lost income. Under the CARES Act, the federal government will fully reimburse states for all STC programs already in place that conform with the requirements of Section 3306(v) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Act also provides $100 million in grants to states to implement, improve, and promote STC programs. More information on STC programs can be found here.

COVID-19 Support: UCM is here to help.

During this extremely difficult situation with the coronavirus (COVID-19), nothing is more important to UCM than the health and safety of our clients. Our team is in full operation and ready to support all of your unemployment, employment verification, and other HR needs. We have extended our hours, upgraded our systems to more efficiently handle the large volume of unemployment claims, and trained our team extensively regarding the current situation.

Please direct any unemployment questions or concerns to your claim specialist or our general claim inbox uiclaims@ucmspecialists.com

Please direct any employment verification inquires to verify@ucmspecialists.com or visit our website at www.ucmverify.com

For many years, we have been committed to providing the best possible service to our clients, even in the most difficult times. Thank you for continuing to trust us with your HR needs. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been impacted by this global crisis.

Managing Employee Health and Productivity During a Viral Outbreak.

We have all heard, read and searched the internet for information on the current Coronavirus Outbreak. Managing your own health and safety is one concern, managing your employees on the workforce is another.

The personal hygiene checklist to minimize the risk of contracting the coronavirus includes regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing with a tissue or using your elbow, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. WHO (World Health Organization) also suggests that people avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing. We all have experienced a co-worker who attends work while sick with the flu or a cold. This mentality must change if we are to navigate this current health crisis and future viruses.

Employers have a legal obligation to ensure a safe workplace for all workers. In order to protect workers from the risk of exposure to coronavirus in the workplace, employers need to take some precautions. Here are some recommendations.

  • Educate workers on the signs and symptoms of coronavirus, and the precautions that can be taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Identify the nearest medical facility that workers can attend if they require medical attention.
    • Try posting a checklist in the breakroom including a pamphlet in weekly paychecks and/or sending an email outlining the precautions and steps to take if an employee suspects they have the virus. This documentation will protect your employees and your company establishing you are taking steps to maintain a safe workforce.
  • Provide (more) hygienic products in the workplace, including hand washing stations, and facial tissues. Assure bathrooms are stocked with individual paper towels or air dryers. Have sanitize wipes available in your breakroom and encourage wiping commonly handled items such as refrigerators and microwaves.
  • Assess employee risks of exposure by minimizing the need for air travel to hotspots or to other cities where the virus is identified.
  • Evaluate workplace emergency response protocols and consider what, if any. modifications are necessary to address a potential coronavirus pandemic. Protocols should include contact information for employer representatives who can provide additional information to workers about how the coronavirus may impact their safety in the workplace. Update phone contacts and addresses and include a second contact for your employees that is current.
  • Rethink the necessity for work travel and gatherings. Consider rescheduling conventions or large gatherings where personal contact cannot be minimized (and encourage workers to reschedule personal or work-related travel to cities or states where the virus is identified.
  • Keep vigilant for signs of illness. If a worker shows respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, or breathing difficulties, encourage that worker to seek medical attention. If an employee has become sick with these symptoms require the worker to provide medical documentation before returning to the workplace.
  • Encourage social distancing. Hand shaking will evolve into fist bumping and other close contact greetings should be discouraged during this or any viral season.
  • Require workers to work from home (or provide a leave of absence), as permitted by law, where workers show respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, or breathing difficulties, or where a worker has travelled to high risk or now quarantined region.
  • Accommodate medical conditions to the point of undue hardship by allowing workers time away from work to attend medical appointments and to recover. Employer policies or procedures may already provide for this. If the do not reissue a policy that is more lenient.
  • Remain informed of developments and continue to circulate new information to workers as it becomes available. Sources of valuable information include the WHO, the US Centers for Disease Control.

 

 

 

Make Productivity Reviews work for you,

  1. Take Advantage of Technology:

Eliminate extra paperwork. Think green and automate performance management. Reevaluate your process. Use electronic performance reminders. Encourage managers to take advantage of your performance tools. These tools can remind them to regularly provide feedback to their employees.

  1. Establish and Set Trackable Goals:

Performance reviews should include goals for the employee to have as an incentive to aim for in the upcoming year. Your form or program should include lists that inspire the manager to be more positive and focused. Quarterly goals and tracking of goals can be shared between employees and managers via twitter. Outline specific goals and milestones that are measurable throughout the year or quarter and communicate these goals often with social media platforms. Setting timelines and clearly outlining goals becomes more productive when shared often between manager and employee. Social electronic platforms make this an easily achieved benefit of the Performance Review Process.

Creating a system that assist your managers in tracking progress and addressing concerns does not have to be a difficult task. It is as simple as modifying your performance review templates to include a sheet for each quarter that includes a place for notes. Encouraging feedback or praise should be detailed.

  1. Consistent and Positive should be your Goal:

Performance management should be a regular and constant process, even for organizations that use an annual review. Set forth a process whereas your managers regularly and consistently check in with their employees. When communication derives from negative or corrective actions the employee changes his or her mindset maybe inadvertently nevertheless the interaction becomes negative and yields negative results. Change those dynamics and retrain managers to use performance reviews as a regular and consistent communication that can be positive. Praise and acknowledgment achieve more than mere productivity out of employees.

 

 

Federal Earned Income Tax Credit

All employers are required to notify all of their employees of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Employers must give notification within one week of providing employees with an annual wage summary (IRS Form W-2 or 1099).

You must give notification by either handing it directly to your employee or mailing it to your employee’s last known address. Posting of this information on an employee bulletin board will not satisfy the notification requirement.

The notification must include instructions on how to get any notices available from the IRS for the credit, including the IRS Notice 797 (PDF). You can create the notification, as long as it has the same or very similar language as the IRS notice. To learn more, visit EITC Information for Employers.

 

 

 

 

The views expressed in the newsletter are those of the authors, and not necessarily those of UCM Specialists. This information does not provide legal, financial, accounting, or tax advice. The content on this newsletter is “as is” and carries no warranties. UCM does not warrant or guarantee the accuracy, reliability, and completeness of the content. Content and rights are reserved.

Pennsylvania Employer Unemployment Update

INTEREST FACTOR

The Department has determined that the 2020 Interest Factor will be zero (0.0%). This is a reduction from the 2019 interest factor of 0.11 (1.1%). The chart below shows the most recent interest factor percentages by year.

YEAR Interest Factor
2011 0.44%
2012 0.20%
2013 – 2019 1.1%
2020 0.00%

 

Background:

During the most recent recession, the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation (UC) Fund became insolvent because the unemployed workers’ needs for UC benefits outweighed the contributions being collected by employers. As a result, Pennsylvania was forced to borrow funds from the federal government to supplement the difference and meet the needs of unemployed workers.

In 2012, Pennsylvania passed a law (Act 60 of 2012), authorizing the Commonwealth to refinance its debt through the issuance of bonds in the private market. This legislation provided several positive results:

  • The debt to the federal government was satisfied, which allowed Pennsylvania employers to receive full credit for their FUTA contributions.
  • The interest rate of the bonds was significantly lower than the interest rate charged by the federal government, thus saving employers nearly $50 million over the life of the loan.
  • The Act established guidelines for repayment of the bonds and interest to ensure fund stability while paying off the debt in the shortest time possible.

UCMS Acceptable File Format Changes
Effective January 1, 2020

The following changes will be implemented on January 1, 2020:

  • ICESA files will now be accepted for both tax and wage reporting of original files. Currently, the ICESA file can only be used for wage reporting.
  • TAB and SSA file formats will no longer be accepted.
  • CSV files will now require a Federal Identification Number (FEIN) in each E Record and contact information in the A Record.

The File Layouts and Formats for Electronic Reporting of PA Quarterly Unemployment Compensation Wage and Tax Data, form UC-2010, provides information on the acceptable file formats and specifications. After January 1, 2020, the UC-2010 will be updated to remove the unacceptable file formats and specifications. The UC-2010 can be found on the UC Management Page of the Employer UC Services section of the website, www.uc.pa.gov.

For questions regarding the file specifications, please contact the Office of UC Tax Services at 1-866-403-6163 and select option 2.

Modernizing the Unemployment Compensation
Management System

The Unemployment Compensation Management System (UCMS) will be undergoing a facelift! The Department will be replacing the current portal technology with a more modern responsive design, making it compatible with most mobile devices.

The new design features Action Icons, which reduce the number of clicks it takes for a user to complete an action. If you are not sure what the Action Icon does, simply hover over the Icon for information.

A pre-selected group of accounts and users will use the updated system during the 4th Quarter 2019 filing period. All other users will have the opportunity to preview the updated system shortly thereafter. UCMS will be fully converted by the end of March 2020.

Auxiliary aids and services are available upon request to individuals with disabilities.

Strategical Planning to Minimize Future UI Associated Costs

Strategical Planning to Minimize Future UI Associated Costs

When it comes to unemployment cost management strategies, most employers fail to recognize that such cost management, as with any, takes strategic planning. Minimizing UI costs isn’t just a matter of responding to claims and fighting appeals. In fact, those two things alone, are indeed costly, even if you prevail in being granted favorable decisions by the Unemployment Division. Remember that every time there is a claim filed, there is a monetary liability associate with each claim. The best way to simply avoid claims, is to think ahead and plan each working relationship with each employee wisely.

What things can you think of that might be affected by your company’s lack of UI Cost management?
Here are a few areas to have more control of your unemployment costs. You may not have realized that these specific areas have been, currently are, or might potentially impact your bottom line.

1. Your recruiting and hiring practices

a. Unemployment tax management begins the day you decide to recruit a new employee. HR should fully assess each division’s true hiring needs and help select the most promising qualified candidates.

b. While on the hunt for a candidate to fill and empty slot, consider the time and cost to write, post, update, review, and answer recruitment advertisements. The manpower it takes to sift through and scale down the hundreds of potential job seeker responses is quite substantial.

c. Sound and prudent hiring only of workers who are absolutely needed and qualified helps prevent layoffs, resignations, and future terminations.

d. Hiring the right candidates, with the right attitudes, a strong desire, a good work history, and the qualities and qualifications you are seeking for your company culture and competencies will greatly reduce the number of employees you might eventually have to terminate in the future.

2. Your training programs

a. Training a new employee can be an expensive but vital and necessary endeavor. Properly training a new employee requires time, resources, and proper planning.

b. Even if, on paper, a candidate has many of the desired qualities, qualifications, and skillsets your company is looking for, doesn’t negate the power of good in-house, internal training that best fits YOUR company’s need.

c. To be successful, all employees need to be properly and thoroughly trained, monitored, assessed, appraised, and supported.

d. Quality and proper performance management should be on of YOUR primary goals with each and every employee. More time and dedication should be afforded to each new member of your team until you have determined that specific employee can move forward confidently without as much direction and support. Performance management should include regular comfortable and candid Q and A sessions, appraisals, feedback, and goal setting. Not only do these processes help track performance, but also dedication and attitude.

e. Too often claimants are granted UI benefits after being terminated for performance issues, because they did not actually receive quality or quantitative training at the start of and during the duration of their employment.

3. Your company policies and procedures

a. Beyond a detailed training program outlining the duties and require skillsets needed to master the position, your training strategies should include a detailed overview of your company’s policies and procedures.

b. It is vital to future UI cost management, that your workforce all follow the same policies and procedures and that those practices are uniformly enforced across your entire staff.

c. When rules are enforced only sometimes or when some employees are given wiggle room to bend the rules some of the time, you will feel the impact when it comes to UI claims. One of the biggest questions in UI law will be if the Employer uniformly enforced its policies and procedures. If the Employer fails to do so, and the claimant reports it, almost always, will the UI decision be in favor of the claimant.

d. It is no longer really enough to hand employees a policies and procedures packet and collect signature pages. It is not enough to have them click from screen to screen until they reach the box to checkmark that they have read the policies and procedures. While, in a UI appeal, presenting a screen shot receipt or a signature page might help you to prevail in a UI Appeal Hearing, remember the overall goal is to avoid the UI Appeal Hearing or the claim in the first place. The point is retention.

e. The best way to ensure that your staff are following the policies and procedures, is to ensure that they are actually familiar with and understand them. A good way to do that is to have short quizzes or exams regarding the policies and procedures. To go over policies and procedures in team meetings or group huddles, and to conduct semiannual overviews and reviews of company policies and procedures. These are just some proactive, productive, and empowering methods to ensure that all are working as a cohesive entity of the company and are properly trained to avoid future terminations for policy and procedural incompetence’s.

4. Your benefits package

a. Remember that retention IS UI cost management. Retention isn’t just a matter of decreasing the number of terminations you issue, but also keeping your employees from resigning for more attractive offers. More often than you might think, professionals aren’t just in it for the big bucks. Employees are looking for more overall fulfillment than just a paycheck. Anyone can get a paycheck, so what other benefits set you apart in such a way, that your current employees won’t be as tempted to go elsewhere for that paycheck?

b. Some of the things that attract and keep modern professionals may look different today and they did 10 years ago. While your dental, vision, and health plans are always of interest, our workforce is looking for more than just stability.

i. Flexible work hours

ii. Work at home options

iii. Overtime options

iv. Day care

v. Maternity and Paternity leave

vi. More vacation or PTO time

vii. Tuition assistance

viii. Higher skill trainings and certification programs

ix. Wellness programs, promoting fitness and diet support like on-site gyms, group yoga, and nutrition challenges

x. Snacks and catered meals

xi. Team bonding events, outings, and retreats

xii. Competitions, challenges, games, and awards

Remember that this is a new age. Millennials and “new-aged” parents are now not only seeking but demanding a flexible work/life balance. According to recent polls conducted by Glassdoor and FlexJobs this type of flexibility is currently of most importance in the current workforce.

5. Your disciplinary action strategies

a. Progressive disciplinary strategies are always going to be the best way to prevail in UI claims and appeals that result from terminations. Progressive disciplinary steps illustrate the employers valid and valiant attempts at helping to support the employee, whilst creating, reminding, and maintaining appropriate and necessary boundaries.

b. Progressive disciplinary steps give employers the chance to reiterate what was covered in the policies, procedures, and training that each employee received.

c. Progressive disciplinary steps put the responsibility back on to employees to police and regulate their own behaviors and practices.

d. These action steps help to change behaviors and habits that may be engrained or have become so habitual that they might take more time and effort to change.

e. Such progressive disciplinary approach gives employers a chance to really exhaust all efforts to maintain the working relationship, in hopes that the relationship can improve and continue toward longevity.

f. Lastly, progressive disciplinary processes, correctly followed, documented, signed, and maintained, help to ensure favorable outcomes for employers at the UI claims and appeal levels.

6. Your record keeping

a. All records from each employee are potentially extremely important, as we cannot foresee which will be and which will not be of interest or use at a later time.

i. Example: You discover an employee falsified their CV and was hired because you were led to believe this individual possessed the experience and credentials to meet the job requirement. However, they are later discovered to not actually possess the credentials necessary to fulfill the role and are thus you decide to terminate them for falsification of records. Having the original record of response to your job ad and the original CV with which the employee used to present their credentials, leaving the employer to conclude that the candidate was indeed qualified and thus offered a position of employment would then be beneficial in a UI claim or appeal. Keeping such records are extremely beneficial to help substantiate and validate such a termination for falsification of records. Records of all documentation and a timeline of events from the interview process all the way through the separation of employment should be kept in each employee’s personnel records and maintained for a minimum of 3 years.

b. Keeping records of all training, acknowledgements, credentials, policy overviews and receipts, meeting attendance records, progressive disciplinary warnings, etc., often become vital in prevailing in UI claims and appeals. Most times that an employer loses in UI and is therefore held liable for UI costs, it’s because they failed to provide enough documentation to substantiate a release of liability or to substantiate wrongdoing by the claimant during their employment. DOCUMENT. DOCUMENT. DOCUMENT.

7. Your management style and employee relations

a. Teams need leaders, mascots, coaches. Students need teachers. Youth need mentors. Children need parents. Most people and groups of people are looking to follow. Being a good leader can make for a very productive and pleasant working relationship which can last for years to come. The happier, the more supported, the friendlier the corporate structure your company culture and environment has, the more individuals come to feel safe and comfortable and thus less likely to walk away or allow themselves to be dismissed.

b. Be firm but supportive, have clear and uniformly enforced rules and boundaries, be approachable, understanding, empathic, and professional. Create trust and keep it. Create support and back it. Create gratitude for your staff and show it.

c. A workforce is only as good as those managing it. If your turnover is high, chances are, your management quality is low. Find out what or who is keeping you from retaining your workforce and perhaps think about training, demoting, or relieving that individual from that specific duty.

8. Your company culture and employee moral

a. No company culture will look or feel the same. Your company culture is really a compilation of all which was mentioned above.

b. Company culture is determined by how each individual participates inside that culture.

c. Your company culture is indicative of your company’s mission, ethical practices, goals, values, and expectations. Some cultures are traditional and based on a traditional formal management style with lots of structure and rigidity, some are casual without many rules or regulations, while others are based on a team culture and ideology formed by the input and participation of all. Whatever your company culture is, make it clear, make it consistent, and hire accordingly.