Unscrambling the ABC’s of the PEO’s: PART I

By: Shraga Jacobowitz

So you’ve finally decided to partner with a PEO or maybe you’ve been partnered for one for years already. I’m sure you’re excited at the prospect of no longer spending hours of precious company time dealing with issues like payroll and other aspects of HR management, and you’re completely excited about the opportunity to outsource the work to the professionals!! After all, you’ve been told numerous times (in these articles alone) that a partnership with a PEO can save you tons of money and hours of work.

And yet…when researching PEOs or interacting with your current PEO, you’re constantly baffled by the terms the companies are throwing around, and it seems like you are spending almost as much time just trying to navigate and decode the PEO world and terminology.

Like anything else in life, when you partner with a PEO, there is definitely a learning curve, which is of course where a PEO broker and consultant comes in handy — they can literally help you skip to the front of the class and answer all your questions.  But just in case you want to feel like your PEO is speaking English rather than Chinese to you…here is part one of a comprehensive list of PEO terminology and related words broken down into clear, simple English. (Hey, did you really expect us to get all of them into one article?)

Read on for our comprehensive list of PEO terminology and related words broken down into clear, simple English.

  1. ACA – The Affordable Care Act, more famously known as ObamaCare (although we’re not sure what our current president has to say about that) is a federal law that became effective in 2010, requiring all American citizens to be covered by health insurance. While talks of repealing the ACA has been taking place since Trump took office, the ACA is still firmly in place, so whether you’re a fan of the new administration or you’ve terminated your Twitter account in the last year, it doesn’t make a difference, you and your employees must comply with the ACA or risk being fined. 
  1. Admin Fee – An administrative fee or service fee is a monthly fee charged to their clients by the PEO. It can be a fixed dollar amount per employee per month (PEPM) or a percentage of your gross annual payroll. 
  1. Administrative Employer – The Employer of Record in a co-employment relationship, in other words, the PEO. This doesn’t mean the PEO has suddenly become your boss, but instead that they will be responsible for all administrative tasks of HR and compliance, including tax payments, payroll processing and more. And like I’ve said before, no need to feel like you are handing over the keys to the castle. You, the PEO client maintains full direction and control of your company. 
  1. Ancillary Benefits- Sometimes called Voluntary Benefits. This refers to a secondary health insurance that covers miscellaneous medical expenses such as vision, dental, STD, LTD, Life, Group Life, 401k, FSA, HSA, hospital indemnity plan such as AFLAC or other similar programs; to name a few. 
  1. Applicant Tracking System- An applicant tracking system (ATS) is software designed to help an enterprise recruit employees in the most efficient way possible. You can use an ATS to post job openings, screen resumes and schedule interviews with potential employees. 
  1. Carve-Out – While carving out is something you do at Thanksgiving Dinner or wood-working class, this term actually refers to a hybrid PEO arrangement where the client company still maintains their own workers’ comp policy instead of obtaining coverage through the PEO’s master policy. This will occur when you simply already have an attractive policy in place, so why would you mess with a good thing? But no worries, the PEO can still assist you with the administrative side of your own policy. 
  1. Classification Code – Often referred to as workers comp code or class code. This code allows your policy holder to see how the risk exposure your work has (think dangers of real deep sea fishing vs. the relative safety of fishing for sales leads) and classifies the type of work being performed. The classification code provides an associated code so that premium rates can be established in accordance to the work’s level of risk. 
  1. COBRA – No, it’s not about finding a venomous snake in your facilities. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives qualifying employees and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time. This way, you won’t be leaving your employees without coverage. 
  1. COI – A Certificate of Insurance is a document issued by an insurance company that certifies that an insurance policy has been purchased by a specific party. You can’t use this as a substitute for the actual policy, but it is proof that you’ve got insurance. (As if your monthly premiums aren’t proof enough.) 
  1. CPEO – If you’ve been reading my newsletters religiously (which of course I’m sure you have been), you should already be familiar with this term from my July newsletter on the topic. But in case you missed that one, here’s a quick rundown. This term is only a few months old. Effective June 1st, 2017, a Certified Professional Employer Organization is one who’s been certified by the IRS. Like everything else the IRS oversees, becoming qualified as a CPEO involves lots of paperwork, applications and a strict background check. And just in case you want to read that original article (for review purposes only of course) you can check it out here. 
  1. Dividend – A refund of premiums for workers’ comp policies. How cool is that? It’s almost like getting free money! The refund is paid when the claims of the members on the plan did not exceed the premium payments. Dividends are offered, but not guaranteed, by some PEOs. 
  1. DOL– The U.S. Department of Labor; (some of you may know them as Big Brother, because the DOL is always watching). In reality, the DOL is there to promote the welfare of job seekers, wage earners, and retirees by improving their working conditions, advancing their opportunities for profitable employment, protecting their benefits, and helping employers find workers. The DOL also protects workers’ rights to safe working conditions; a minimum hourly wage and overtime pay; freedom from employment discrimination; unemployment insurance; and other income support. What you have to know: treat your workers well and the DOL won’t be a problem for you. 
  1. EEOC – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a federal agency charged with ending employment discrimination in the United States. The EEOC can bring lawsuits against private employers on behalf of alleged discrimination victims. So make sure you always hire fairly! 
  1. Emod –“Experience modifier” is a rate modifier used by the NCCI (National Council for Compensation Insurance) to define the risk of a particular employer. Obviously, the guy who cleans skyscraper windows will have a higher risk than the one who changes the paper in your copy machine. 
  1. Employee Census – Don’t worry; this isn’t a bunch of CEOs knocking on random doors and asking intrusive questions. Rather, it’s a report prepared by an employer that provides the insurance companies the necessary data for the underwriters to determine insurance and benefit rates. In addition an Employee Census may also help ensure that a company’s retirement plan is in compliance with Department of Labor laws and Internal Revenue Codes. 
  1. Employee Handbook – Remember that thick student handbook they gave out in high school? This is kind of the same thing. Sometimes known as an employee manual, staff handbook, or company policy manual, this handbook is distributed to employees and details the company culture, policies, and procedures. 
  1. EPLI– Employers Practices Liability Insurance is insurance purchased by an employer to protect himself/herself against errors in willful and accidental employer practices,  such as wrongful termination, harassment or other ugly situations that can come back to bite you. This way you’re never at risk of losing a year’s profit on one lawsuit! Thankfully, this is something that is usually included and provided to you as part of the services you get when you sign up to partner with a PEO. 
  1. ERISA– The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for most voluntarily established pension and health plans in private industries. You don’t need to fund their retirement cruises, but you do have to give your employees enough to live on in their golden years. 
  1. FICA– The Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) tax is a United States payroll tax imposed on both employees and employers to fund Social Security and Medicare. You have to know that money for these programs is coming out of someone’s pockets, and in this case, it’s yours. 
  1. FLSA – The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards for full-time and part-time workers in the private sector and in all levels of government. And while child labor is a thing of the past in the US, many of these other things can be a real problem for a business owner who doesn’t comply. 
  1. FMLA – We all think family is important, and thankfully for your employee, the government thinks so too. Covered employers must grant employees up to a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons: the birth and care of a newborn child; placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care; caring for an immediate family member with a serious health condition; medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition. 
  1. FUTA – This one sounds waaaaay cooler as an acronym. The Federal Unemployment Tax Act authorizes the IRS to collect a federal employer tax to fund state workforce agencies as well as half of the cost of extended unemployment benefits.

As the title indicated, this is only Part I of this series…Who knew there were so many relevant terms to the PEO industry?  Stay tuned for the continuation of these terms in our next newsletter.

Or can’t wait for the next newsletter and you rather not wade through the confusion alone? Call ARC Consultants and see how we can help clarify the process and navigate PEO partnership for you.