The HR Specialist: Compensation and Benefits

For most employers, open enrollment for health insurance benefits in 2012 has come and gone. So now’s the time for comp and benefits professionals to start planning for the next health insurance renewal go-round. An early start will give you a fighting chance to keep costs under control in 2013.

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Employees who work for technology/wireless communications firm BTS enjoy a unique vacation benefit: They can use a company-owned condominium in Florida—and $250 in spending money. That’s just one of the generous benefits that CEO Sean Lane says are important for attracting employees long on ideas and energy.

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The IRS has clarified that em­­ployers can take a current-year tax deduc­­tion for a fixed amount of bonuses that will be paid to employees during the following year, even though the amount that each employee will re­­ceive, and even the identity of employees, aren’t known until after the tax year ends.

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Q. An employee’s spouse has become disabled. Even though this employee is younger than 59½, he’d like to take a distribution out of his 401(k) account. Can we accommodate him?

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Q. We reimburse employees for the business use of their personal cellphones. To cut down on paperwork, management has suggested that instead of having employees submit their cellphone bills, we give them a flat allowance. This sounds like we’re giving them extra pay. Would those allowances be taxable?

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Tax services firm Ryan & Co. measures employees’ work performance by results achieved, not hours worked. The result: an ultra-flexible workplace that allows employees to choose their hours, where they work and how much time to devote to work each day.

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Federal rules that took effect Jan. 1 require group health insurers to spend 80% to 85% of every premium dollar on medical care and health-care quality improvement. Insurers that fall short must start paying rebates to insurance plan participants, starting Aug. 1. Now the DOL has clarified how those rebates should be disbursed.

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Health insurance and flextime aren’t the only perks employees consider benefits. Most of the companies that won “Best and Brightest” awards from the National Association for Business Re­­sources earned accolades from their employees for these offerings:

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Pressured to demonstrate that they’re responsible stewards of tax dollars, states have begun to experiment with variable pay for government employees. Indiana is pointing the way …

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Sears Holdings has publicly vowed to increase its hiring of veterans by 10% over the next year. Sears’ senior VP of human resources is a Navy veteran, who says as more military members return from active duty, U.S. employers have an obligation to support them, especially by offering jobs.

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