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Six Payroll Problems To Keep In Mind

It is no secret that 20% of small businesses fail their first year. Payroll mistakes are the primary reason. Getting a grip on your payroll can ease cash flow and help keep your company afloat. As it turns out, payroll is critical. Payroll is also dependent on other systems that you need in place to make sure everything is running smooth. Here are six payroll problems you need to consider as you move your business forward: One: Human Error. Humans make mistakes. Employees enter incorrect hours on time sheets. Time cards get lost. Employees forget to clock out. Supervisors fail to track overtime. Human Resources managers make data entry mistakes. Employees do, too. If simple human error was isolated, the problem wouldn’t be such a concern. Human error, however, often causes a domino effect and can cause trouble down the road. Automated time and attendance can help reduce or even eliminate opportunities for human error to affect your payroll. Two: Missed Deadlines. For most small businesses, payroll comes too often, too fast. If you are the typical small business owner, you spend your week worrying about pleasing customers. Operational demands often come as an afterthought and are the reason we spend late nights at work. Payroll deadlines simply can’t be missed. There are penalties to be paid if you do, and not all of them financial. There are also federal, state, and local tax filing deadlines to worry about. Automation can help you save a lot of time in preparation for payroll. Automated time and attendance, advanced scheduling, and payroll integration are key. It also helps to have a good payroll company to back you up and take the burden. Three: Compliance. Compliance is a big issue that is often forgotten. It isn’t simple, and it requires constant vigilance. Laws change and new regulations are popping up all the time. Compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the most common area of trouble for small business.   Affordable Care Act (ACA) regulations need to be considered. Healthcare providers will be burdened with Payroll Based Journaling requirements. The list goes on. And on. And on. It helps to be running your time and attendance, scheduling and payroll on a system that is up to date. Automated payroll and time-keeping will help alleviate most of the concern. Four: Preparing For Audits and Legal Challenges No one likes an audit, and few business owners think about them until they occur. Preparing for an audit can steal a lot of time from your focus. Preparing for an audit without good records can be terrifying. Preparing for an audit should be a matter of automation. When you use modern time and attendance tracking and payroll integration, your records are always ready. Our time and attendance software runs in the cloud, so backups are off site and available 24/7. Audits no longer need be a frightening event. Five: Improper Employee Classifications. Incorrect employee classification is a common payroll pitfall. It’s amazing that this is a common reason for business failure, but it is. The three critical classifications are:
● independent contractor, ● hourly non-exempt, and ● salaried exempt. The “exempt” refers to overtime protections. Non-exempt employees earn overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week. Exempt employees don’t earn overtime.
Improper classification of an employee can result in fines or non-compliance penalties. Employees might not receive credit for the right pay scale, resulting in a short paycheck. Employee classifications are a thing of the past with our advanced time and attendance software. We can help you get things set up so tracking employee classifications is fully automated. We can even integrate with payroll so records are reliable. Six: Cash-flow. Cash-flow can sink your business quickly. Many of the problems we have discussed have roots in cash flow. When funds are low, owners and managers can become desperate. Scheduling and time and attendance can have a huge impact on cash flow. Unplanned overtime can sink a business without you even knowing. Over staffing can drain your budget when income doesn’t match the resources. Workforce management software with integrated scheduling can help you avoid these problems. Efficient time and attendance management can help you shave time and increase productivity. With workforce management software doing the heavy lifting, you can optimize your cash flow.

What are the Employer Requirements in New York State for Paid Family Leave?

As of January 1, 2018, almost all private employers, with one or more employees, are required to offer paid family leave to their employees. The Family Leave benefits were put in place for you to help your employees care for their families as they need to. Family leave has been shown to boost workplace morale, and increase employee retention. If you’re looking to see how the newly enacted family leave benefit will affect your workplace, keep reading.

What Benefits Does the New York State Paid Family Leave Offer?

When your employee is on paid family leave, they will earn a percentage of their average weekly wage, up to the same percentage of the predetermined state average weekly wage, or SAWW. This SAWW is updated annually and determined by New York State. Eligible employees can take their paid time off and receive a percentage of their average weekly wage, which is capped at the same percentage of the New York State Average Weekly Wage. (For example, the cap for 2019 for a SAWW is 55% of the 2017 calendar year SAWW, $1,357.11.) To explain further, an employee’s AWW is the average of their pay over the last eight weeks in which the employee worked and received wages, prior to beginning their paid leave. Does this make sense? Here’s a helpful graphic showing what your employees can expect to receive over the next 2 years.

NEW YORK STATE PAID FAMILY LEAVE BENEFITS 2019 THROUGH 2021
Year Weeks of Leave Employee Benefits
2019 10 weeks 55% of employee’s average weekly wage, up to 55% of SAWW
2020 10 weeks 60% of employee’s average weekly wage, up to 60% of SAWW
2021 12 weeks 67% of employee’s average weekly wage, up to 67% of SAWW

Who Is Eligible for Paid Family Leave?

New York Family Leave benefit requirements have been designed in such a way that they require employers to offer paid family leave and job protection for any employees who qualify for three specific life events. It is worth noting that an employee would not be eligible to take advantage of the family leave benefits for their own illness of health condition. (For the record, FMLA would be the route to pursue for a situation such as this to be covered for an employee, although unpaid, and could be utilized for the following events as well.)

 The qualifying situations include:

  1. Bonding with a new child within the first 12 months of their birth (or to bond with a newly adopted or fostered child within the first 12 months of their adoption/placement).
  2.  Caring for a family member who is seriously ill or has a serious medical condition.
    Eligible family members include:

    •  a spouse or domestic partner of any gender
    • parents or stepparents 
    • children or stepchildren
    • grandparents
    • grandchildren
    • parents-in-law
  3. Supporting family members/family obligations when a military family member is deployed abroad on active duty. This also includes any military events associated with active duty, post-deployment activities, and rest or counseling for service members.

Every full-time New York State employee that has worked for their employer for at least 26 consecutive weeks will be eligible for this paid family leave following a qualifying event. Part-time employees must have worked at least 175 days and do not need to be consecutively worked. 

How Often Can An Employee Request Paid Leave?

It is important to note that there are certain restrictions on the 10 week leave time, so we’ll break that down for you to better understand. Firstly, an employee can utilize their 10 week leave once every *rolling* 52 weeks. This means their eligibility does not renew with the calendar year, but depends on the first time they requested it. The maximum leave amount will reset once every 52 weeks. Employees can request less than a full week of leave at a time.

What Is The Employer’s Role?

As the employer, your first step is to set up the policy, since paid Family Leave is an insurance benefit. Reach out to your insurance company and ask about available policies, as paid family leave is typically able to be added on as a rider to an existing disability policy, but does not replace it. Since this is paid for by employee contributions, this is not an out of pocket cost for you. You pay for your insurance policy using the contributions you collect. 

Currently, In 2019, the employee contribution is 0.153% of an employee’s gross wages each pay period. The maximum annual contribution is $107.97. These numbers are updated annually and determined by New York State. They are accessible at https://paidfamilyleave.ny.gov/cost.

Additionally, make sure to inform your employees of their options in any written materials, like an employee handbook, or any other form of written guidance. Your insurance company will provide you with a notice to post and/or give to employees. Be sure to include what their paid family leave benefits are, and how to file a request. Be sure to respond to requests for paid leave and familiarize yourself with how to handle these requests.

Don’t forget to update your payroll to reflect the employee contributions and offer waiver forms to employees who are ineligible to receive benefits. 

Ultimately, it’s important to be prepared to accept leave requests from your employees. If you already offer paid family leave, be sure that your benefit offers what the law requires, at a minimum, but it is your choice to supplement these benefits. If you choose to pay full wages to your employees while they are on paid family leave, you may request reimbursement from your insurance provider up to the amount payable under your family leave policy.

For more information, including Paid Family Leave forms and other resources for employers, visit PaidFamilyLeave.ny.gov or call (844) 337-6303.

How Business Owners Can Decrease the Chance of Fraud When Accepting Credit Cards:

Credit card fraud and fraudulent card returns can be debilitating and costly to any business, but it hits especially hard for smaller business owners. Not only does it put customer information at risk, it potentially places sensitive employee or company information in the wrong hands as well. The good news is that there are a lot of things that can be done to mitigate the potential for fraud as you are accepting credit cards at your store or shop. For the most part, you can spot fraudulent behavior before any criminal activity or theft actually occurs.

Thankfully, many advancements have been made to reduce in-store fraud, and the implementation of chip technology has helped to decrease efforts of fraud as well. In fact, the chip technology is said to be so secure that, as of October 2015, credit card companies will assume liability if any fraud occurs for in person transactions utilizing an EMV compliant device.

Let’s talk about some of the things to look out for in terms of credit card fraud when it comes to your card reader while in a brick-and-mortar store. First and foremost, you and your employees or your team should know the signs of a fraudster before the actual criminal activity happens. It’s better to prevent it in the first place! Any customer that is exhibiting some strange behavior should set off some immediate red flags, but in case you need a refresher, here are some things to look out for.

Suspicious Behavior:

  • Any customer appearing uncomfortable, constantly looking behind their shoulder
  • Someone attempting to very quickly finish their transaction or appearing anxious
  • A customer who checks the name/signature on the back before purchasing
  • A person who doesn’t have a card on hand, but can tell you a card number
  • A customer who completes a purchase and returns shortly after to make another
  • Someone who shops right before store closing, or shortly after opening
  • A customer who is trying to distract the cashier/clerk from the card
  • A person who shares that their card has been giving them “problems” or “trouble”
  • Anyone who buys a very large number of expensive items, jewelry, or purchases clothing without paying much attention to the sizes and costs of their items

Of course, any of the above displays of behavior can be completely normal. A customer spending a high dollar amount or making multiple trips to the store does not mean they are attempting to conduct criminal activity. However, if someone is exhibiting one or more of the characteristics above, your team of employees should know what to look for and to exercise caution when necessary.

Watch Out For Fake Cards:

Another sign of fraud is a card that doesn’t quite look right. Fraudsters will frequently copy and emboss card numbers onto a different card. Looking at the actual card is a key step to take before processing a transaction, in any situation. This remains especially true if the customer has exhibited any of the behaviors listed above.

For example, it may be something that is often overlooked and easily forgotten, but all American Express cards begin with a 3, Visa cards start with the number 4, Mastercard with 5, and Discover cards with the number 6. So if you see an American Express card that starts with the number 5 or 6, you and your employees can spot that it’s a fake before the transaction is processed. Additionally, if the signature strip is smudged or scratched, or the mag stripe appears ruined, these are further warning signs that the card may be a fake. Major credit card companies also have a hologram on their cards, and tilting the card and looking at it under light should help you further determine the card’s authenticity.

When in doubt, train your employees to ask for identification from customers. This allows for dual verification – that not only does the person in front of you match the image on the driver’s license, but the name and signature match on both the card and the identification. While this can be seen as a hassle for customers on a daily basis, you can remind them that it is your highest priority to keep your customers protected from fraud and that it is important for you to keep their information safe.

Education Is Key to Prevention:

Ultimately, the best way to prevent any credit card fraud is to ensure that you and your employees are trained properly to look for warning signs, and will ask the right questions in order to keep your customer information safe and avoid fraud entirely. Don’t allow customers to bully your employees into completing transactions if they don’t feel comfortable. Remind your team that they are the first line of defense when it comes to processing card transactions. They are responsible for recognizing the red flags that accompany a fraudulent transaction. Empower them to trust their gut instinct when it comes to something they feel may not be right.

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