7 Common Questions from APS Employees
This time of year is filled with the hustle and bustle of holiday celebrations, open enrollment, and year-end processing. HR managers tend to get pulled in a lot of directions, so when employee questions pop up, it can be time-consuming to answer them. Wouldn’t it be nice to get answers from someone who has been in your shoes?
In parts one and two of this three-part series, we talked about typical payroll and HR questions your employees will ask you and how to proactively manage this part of your job. In our final part, we’ve gathered the answers to seven common questions APS employees frequently ask our very own HR Manager, Tracy Maranto-Phillips, and how you can address them with your employees.
1. How Often are We Paid?
“I tell our employees that we are paid semi-monthly, on the 15th and the last day of the month,” says Maranto-Phillips. “A semi-monthly pay schedule (set pay dates each month) is not the same as a bi-weekly schedule (pay dates that occur every other week), so it’s important to explain the difference so there’s no confusion.”
Why Did I Not Receive an Extra Paycheck?
“Again, this has to do with the type of pay schedule utilized. Since our company uses a semi-monthly pay schedule, employees are paid on two fixed dates each month,” says Maranto-Phillips. “On a semi-monthly pay frequency, there are 24 pay periods versus 26 with a bi-weekly schedule. Either way, you are paid the same amount of money annually.”
You can easily answer these types of pay questions by addressing them during orientation with new hires and providing your company’s pay schedule in a self-service portal for all employees to easily access. This is also great information to include in your company’s employee handbook.
2. How are My Overtime Hours and Overtime Rate Calculated?
“In our case, APS uses a seven-day workweek that begins on Monday and ends on Sunday. For hours up to 40 (worked, PTO, holiday) from Monday through Sunday, employees are paid at a regular hourly rate,” says Maranto-Phillips. “For hours worked in excess of 40 during the work week, employees are paid one-and-a-half times their regular hourly rate. I always tell our employees to keep in mind that hours paid for PTO and holidays are paid at a regular rate and do not factor into the 40 hours per workweek threshold for overtime purposes.”
When this question comes up with your employees, it will depend on whether the employee is exempt or nonexempt. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), it is required to pay overtime to nonexempt employees for hours worked over 40 during a workweek.
3. How Will The Number of Exemptions I Claim Impact My Net Income?
“I always tell our employees that I can explain to them how their claimed allowances work, but I am not able to provide tax advice,” says Maranto-Phillips. “An employee can claim as many exemptions as they want during the year, regardless of their actual status. But the more exemptions claimed, the less tax is deducted from an employee’s pay throughout the year. The fewer exemptions claimed, the more tax is deducted from their pay. This can result in either an underpayment or overpayment of taxes for the year.”
Make sure your employees are aware that when they file their tax return at the end of the year, they will have to file their actual status. Based on the actual tax status, other eligible exemptions and liability. If an employee claimed too many exemptions, they may have under-withheld for the year and owe taxes. If the employee underclaimed on exemptions, they may have overpaid and would receive a refund.
If an employee is not sure of their actual status and liability and made no changes throughout the year because of a life-changing event (marriage, birth, home purchase, etc.) they may want to review their previous filing for a guide or consult with their CPA or tax preparer.
Can I Change My Payroll Tax Exemptions Throughout the Year?
Employees can make changes to their withholdings any time during the year by completing and submitting an updated W-4 or state form (if applicable) to their HR manager.
4. How Can I Change My 401(k) Contribution?
“Our employees have the ability to log in to their retirement account and edit their contribution rates. They can also send an email to our HR department requesting the contribution rate change for their 401(k) payroll deduction,” says Maranto-Phillips. Communicate to your employees how the retirement contribution change process works in your company. Provide them with the necessary steps by uploading instructions to your employee self-service portal.
5. How Do I Update My Medical Coverage?
“Employees can update their medical coverage any time an employee experiences a qualifying event such as marriage, divorce, birth/adoption of a child, job change resulting in loss/gain of coverage, or a spouse job change resulting in loss/gain of coverage, etc.,” says Maranto-Phillips. “I always explain that an employee has 30 days from the date their coverage is impacted to make coverage changes with APS. If there is no qualifying event experienced, changes to coverage cannot be made until our open enrollment period, which is the month of October for changes that become effective November 1.”
Make sure to explain qualifying events to your employees and inform them of when your company’s open enrollment period is, if applicable. If your company does not have bundled coverages, make sure your employees also understand that they can elect coverages independently of each other. For example, an employee can have medical and dental coverage, but not vision
6. Can You Explain the Difference Between a Copay, Deductible, and Coinsurance?
“I explain to APS employees that copays, deductibles, and co-insurance are their portions of the cost paid under the insurance plan for medical treatment,” says Maranto-Phillips. She breaks down the explanation of each portion the following ways:
- Copays: Copays are the cost paid for office visits. Medical treatment not covered under a copay applies to the deductible.
- Deductible: The deductible is the set amount an employee is responsible to pay before their insurance will cover medical treatment.
- Coinsurance: Once the deductible is paid, employees move to a coinsurance payment of continued costs for medical treatment that are in excess of the deductible and outside of copays. This is paid at a shared cost rate between the employee and the insurance plan.
Depending on how your company’s medical insurance plan works will determine how you answer these questions (copay rates, deductible amounts, and coinsurance percentages). Make sure benefit plan information is handed out to employees for their reference and make electronic copies available to them either through a company internal site or a self-service portal.
7. Can You Explain How the Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) Works?
“APS’ medical plan has a $1,000 deductible per person on the plan, with a max of $2,000 per family. If one of our employees has medical treatment that is not covered under a copay, charges for the treatment will be subject to the deductible and coinsurance,” Maranto-Phillips explains. “We also offer a health reimbursement account, in which employees are eligible to be reimbursed for $500.00 per person covered under the plan for medical charges applied to the deductible. This means the employee is responsible to pay the first $500.00 per person.”
If your company offers an HRA, make sure your employees are aware and understand how it works. It can be beneficial to hold benefits classes at your company or even allow employees to sign up for one-on-one appointments with you so they can get all of their benefits questions answered. Some carriers will also conduct on-site meetings with groups of employees or individual appointments to answer questions prior to open enrollment.
Proactively Manage Questions From Employees
After reading these frequently asked questions from APS employees, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “my employees ask these types of questions too.” We hope that by providing these questions and answers from a seasoned HR manager, you can create or update your own employee FAQs sheet and share it with your workforce. Now is the perfect time to refine your answers for the new year.
We hope this three-part series on payroll and HR questions employees tend to ask their HR managers not only gives you a quick way to help your employees, but also show you how technology can help you proactively manage this type of transactional task.
Whether you bookmark this blog series, send it to your HR team, or upload them to your self-service portal for employees to view, these FAQs can streamline this process so you can focus on more HR-related tasks.
HOW APS CAN HELP
APS offers a unified HR platform with a self-service portal that empowers and engages your employees with access to relevant HR information. Self-service gives your employees and managers the power to be more productive from any device. Communicate important information, delegate tasks, and ensure accountability all from one centralized solution.
For more information, please visit www.apspayroll.com or call 855-945-7921.
For more updates on state unemployment wage base changes, visit our SUTA Wage Bases page.
For more updates on state eligibility, visit our FUTA Credit Reductions page.
Visit our Payroll Taxes: Rates and Changes page to make sure you stay compliant.