Understanding Employee Benefits

Article Summary

  1. Employee benefits can be categorized into 1) those required by law and 2) those an employer chooses to offer voluntarily.
  2. The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Florida law both require employers to allow employees to take leave from work for federal or state military service or duty.
  3. In Florida, employers must allow employees to take unpaid time off for jury service, and it is prohibited from threatening or firing an employee who is called to jury duty.
  4. Florida law requires employers with at least 50 employees to give employees up to three days off per year to handle certain matters arising from domestic violence against themselves or their family members.
  5. Some states also require employers to give employees paid sick days, however, neither Florida nor federal law requires employers to offer any paid leave benefits.

Employee benefits can be categorized into 1) those required by law and 2) those an employer chooses to offer voluntarily.  

Voluntary benefits, also known as fringe benefits, are provided to employees over and above salaries and wages.  These benefits can include overtime, medical insurance, vacation, profit sharing and retirement benefits, etc.  Offering benefits can help attract top level talent to your company.  They are the carrot dangling in front of the horse, both enticing and keeping great employees in your company.  It can also show employees that you are invested in their health and wellbeing.

The required employee benefits include:

Social Security, Medicare, and Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)

FICA is a federal payroll tax used to fund Social Security and Medicare. Employees and employers are both required to contribute to these funds.  Employers are required to withhold Social Security and Medicare tax.

Unemployment Insurance

This assists workers who lose their jobs.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

This provides financial support to people who are unable to work as a result of workplace injury or illness.

Family & Medical Leave

Private firms with 50 or more employees and all public employees are eligible for up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave during a 12 month period for qualifying family and medical reasons.

Military Leave

The federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and Florida law both require employers to allow employees to take leave from work for federal or state military service or duty.  Employees must be reinstated after their leave and cannot be discriminated against based on their service.  In the state of Florida, employees who are called to state active duty have similar rights.

Jury Duty

In Florida, employers must allow employees to take unpaid time off for jury service, and it is prohibited from threatening or firing an employee who is called to jury duty.

Domestic Violence Leave

Florida law requires employers with at least 50 employees to give employees up to three days off per year to handle certain matters arising from domestic violence against themselves or their family members.

While no law directly requires employers to provide health care coverage to their employees, the Affordable Care Act imposes penalties on larger employers that fail to provide health insurance.

Some states also require employers to give employees paid sick days, however neither Florida nor federal law requires employers to offer any paid leave benefits.

What kind of an employee benefits package should you provide?  Here is a quick checklist to help you decide:

Follow the Law

Always follow the letter of the law and provide the benefits you are required to do so.  Of course, you will probably want to provide some other benefits as well, even if you are mandated by law.  These are benefits that employees expect and will attract better employees.

Consider the Cost

Before offering voluntary employee benefits and services, make sure your company or business can afford the extra cost.  Providing benefits then cutting them later to save money will not be a popular decision.  It may even cause employees to quit.

Know Your Industry

Research your particular industry and see what types of benefits are being offered.  Are you being competitive with others in your industry?  What other type of benefit can you offer that may set you apart from your competition?

Know Your Team

Each work environment is unique.  Ask your employees.  Get a pulse on what excites them.  Take your time and be as thorough as possible.  It will help keep your top performing employees and it will also save the company money by not providing benefits that most do not care about.

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