HR & Compliance

Add SBAM offers a full spectrum of human resources services to keep you compliant and help your business run more efficiently and profitably....

Human Resources Solutions

ASE LogoLooking for help with tough HR issues? 

SBAM partner ASE has the answers about hiring, firing, FMLA, ADA and more! Get access to a FREE HR hotline, affordable and cost-effective research consultation services, discounted employee handbooks and workplace posters, and more.

Section 125 Plan, FSA, HSA & HRA Administration


KUSHNER & COMPANY LogoLooking for ways to contain health care costs?
With the cost of health insurance continuing to rise, most employers require their employees to contribute to the cost of health insurance premiums. SBAM partner Kushner & Co. can help you put a tax-favored, consumer-directed plan in place that benefits you and your employees.


COBRA Administration

Personalized, affordable administration for your business. 

If you have 20 or more employees, your company is required by federal law to offer continued health insurance coverage via COBRA and will face huge fines if it's not administered correctly.  Let SBAM help you stay compliant for as little as $35 per month. 

Summary of Benefits & Coverage

There has been some recent confusion as to the difference between a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC) and a Summary Plan Description (SPD). Both are required by law and relate to a company's group health insurance plan. Please read on to learn the differences, and who will be providing each of these documents to your SBAM customers.  

Summary of Benefits & Coverage
According to the regulations, an SBC must be provided to employers and individuals “when shopping for coverage, enrolling in coverage, at each new plan year, and within seven business days of requesting a copy from their health insurance issuer or group health plan.

Our interpretation is that the carrier must provide the SBC to participants and others who qualify for coverage.  This has to be done effective for plan/policy years and open enrollments beginning on or after September 23, 2012, health insurers and self-insured group health plans will be required to provide a standard summary of benefits and coverage. 

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network provides the SBC and is planning on being ready to provide the SBC to all of their customer groups.  The SBC must be distributed with other open enrollment materials for open enrollments that begin on or after September 23, 2012, and by the first day of coverage if the content has changed. The information must be provided to all employees during open enrollments starting with the first open enrollment that begins on or after September 23, 2012.

Summary Plan Description
The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) requires all employers with one or more employees to disclose certain items to benefit participants in a Summary Plan
Description (SPD). The regulations cover all types of employee benefit plans including health insurance plans. 

An SPD describes the rights and responsibilities of both 
the employer and employee under the group benefit plan by providing detailed information about the health plan itself. 

The Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) provides a free, customized Summary Plan Description (SPD) to our members enrolled in a sponsored Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network plan.

If you would like clarification or more information about an SBC or an SPD, please contact us today at (800) 362-5461. 

Positive Guidance on $2,500 Health FSA Cap

by Ben Cohen, Practice Leader – Health and Welfare Benefits
Kushner & Company 

The IRS recently issued Notice 2012-40 to clarify how the upcoming cap on employee salary deferrals to a health FSA will work.  The guidance is very welcome, and provides positive news for non-calendar year health FSA plans.
The key provisions included the following:
  • The cap only applies to Health FSA plans that begin on or after January 1, 2013.  This cleared up uncertainty regarding non-calendar year plans beginning in 2012; the cap will not apply to such plans until the following plan year start date.  For example, a health FSA plan that runs from July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 will be exempt from the cap until July 1, 2013. Note however that a plan sponsor cannot adopt a non-calendar year plan year solely in order to postpone the new cap.  There must be a legitimate business reason for making such a change.

  • For plans that have adopted the optional 2-½ month grace period, amounts carried over during the grace period do not count toward the cap. 

  • Relief is provided for certain salary reduction contributions that exceed the cap that are due to a reasonable mistake and not willful misconduct and are corrected by the employer.

  • Employers have until the end of 2014 to amend their plan documents (if not done already) to incorporate the cap (the cap, however, will apply beginning in 2013 regardless).

  • If both spouses have an FSA available, each can fund his/her health FSA to the full amount of the cap.  In addition, if an individual is employed by two separate employers who are not members of the same controlled group or affiliated service group (as defined by the IRS ), he or she may establish and fund an FSA at each employer up to the amount of the cap.
The timing and details of this guidance are helpful and positive for non-calendar year health FSA plans.  Prior to this guidance, there were still a number of outstanding questions regarding to the treatment of noncalendar year plans. The guidance avoids potential complicating situations that might have arisen for employees in those plans. 

And (Maybe) Even Better News
The IRS also stated in this guidance that it is considering changing the “use it or lose it” rule to provide relief to employees and to lower or eliminate the risk of loss.  The IRS has invited comments on this issue (including a specific invitation from the Department of Treasury to our President and CEO, Gary Kushner for 
his counsel).  The comment period runs through August 17, 2012.  This is potentially the most exciting news to hit the FSA arena in years, but the 
specific form of the relief could significantly influence the extent to which employers would adopt any modification and employees would understand its value.

Kushner & Company has advocated for the modification or elimination of both the “use it or lose it” rule as well as the “employer risk-shift” rule for over 28 years.  We will continue our in-depth advocacy and coverage as this discussion continues in Washington.

For more information, please visit or contact SBAM at (800) 362-5461. 

Survey says small biz still skeptical about federal health care reform. Details Monday on Business Next!

  • Segment one: SBAM’s health insurance expert Scott Lyon talks about the results of a new SBAM survey of small business owners reveals deep skepticism about the value federal health care reform.
  • Segment two: SBAM’s health insurance expert Scott Lyon talks about the issues being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court in their deliberations over the constitutionality of the federal health care reform law.
  • Segment three: SBAM’s health insurance expert Scott Lyon discusses how to “bend the curve” and  help get health insurance costs under control.
  • Segment four: SBAM’s Director of Government Relations Dave Jessup explains that personal property tax repeal has hit a stumbling block in the State Senate.
  • Segment five: How do you evaluate the effectiveness and profitability of your products and services? Interview with business consultant Perry Ballard, owner of Manage Perceived Value.
  • Segment six: Business consultant Perry Ballard, owner of Manage Perceived Value, describes a six step spreadsheet process for evaluating the value of your client base.
Listen Monday at 10 a.m., 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on the Michigan Business NetworkSBAM members can log in and listen to archived programs anytime on a PC or mobile device by going to the Business Next show page.  

NLRB comes down hard on social media policies

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

By Anthony Kaylin

ASE previously reported on the National Labor Relations Board General Counsel’s previous memos on what are appropriate and inappropriate policy statements with respect to social media.  Now comes the next round of restrictive readings, according to a memo of the General Counsel published May 30, 2012.

The General Counsel boils down the issue to evaluating social media policies on whether the restrictions “would reasonably be construed to chill the exercise of Section 7 rights” by employees under the National Labor Relations Act.   Essentially, under this memo, except for a very narrow exception, all employees’ speech, whether oral, written or virtual is protected under the NLRA.  Basically, it appears that the worst is true, that the NLRB wants all companies to be unionized and that companies have too long restricted the rights of employees to organize.

The following are examples of policies the General Counsel found unlawful because, the General Counsel believes,they would discourage or prohibit discussion by employees in violation of the National Labor Relations Act. Or they are so overbroad as to lead someone to believe so:

  • “[i]f you enjoy blogging or using online social networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube, (otherwise known as Consumer Generated Media, or CGM) please note that there are guidelines to follow if you plan to mention [Employer] or your employment with [Employer] in these online vehicles. . . Don’t release confidential guest, team member or company information. . . .”  
  • “Make sure someone needs to know. You should never share confidential information with another team member unless they have a need to know the information to do their job. If you need to share confidential information with someone outside the company, confirm there is proper authorization to do so.If you are unsure, talk to your supervisor.”
  • “Don’t have conversations regarding confidential information in the Breakroom or in any other open area. Never discuss confidential information at home or in public areas.”
  • “You must also be sure that your posts are completely accurate and not misleading and that they do not reveal non-public company information on any public site.”
  • “[w]hen in doubt about whether the information you are considering sharing falls into one of the [prohibited] categories, DO NOT POST.  Check with [Employer] Communications or [Employer] Legal to see if it’s a good idea.”
  • Under a section called “Treat Everyone with Respect”:  “Offensive, demeaning, abusive or inappropriate remarks are as out of place online as they are offline, even if they are unintentional. We expect you to abide by the same standards of behavior both in the workplace and inyour social media communications.”
  • “Think carefully about ‘friending’ co-workers . . . on external social media sites. Communications with co-workers on such sites that would be inappropriate in the workplace are also inappropriate online, and what you say in your personal social media channels could become a concern in the workplace.”
  •  “Legal matters. Don’t comment on any legal matters, including pending litigation or disputes.”
  • “Adopt a friendly tone when engaging online. Don’t pick fights.”

It appears that any overly broad statement that could imply any restriction to an employee’s speech on any subject, with certain exceptions, would not be acceptable to the General Counsel. Furthermore, a savings clause such as “this Policy will not be construed or applied in a manner that improperly interferes with employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act”

More pointers on building a loyal, productive staff

Article courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner AdvanceHR

What does it take to create a workplace in which employees work hard, productively and enjoy their jobs? The Gallup Organization has been studying the question for years. Read on to find out what they discovered -- and how your company's practices align with those Gallup has linked to the best performing organizations.

In trying to create a positive workplace environment, employers often focus on purely financial inducements like pay and perks. Why? Probably because it's easier to adjust them than other practices, according to Gallup research. Unfortunately, "these factors do not really make a difference to the best, most productive employees and workgroups, and they don't explain job satisfaction," Gallup reported in its online Management Journal.

In a previous article, we identified the first half of one dozen dimensions of a great workplace. Here we round out the research with the final half dozen dimensions.

Six More Elements of Great Workplaces

1. "My opinion seems to matter." Employees want to know that they are more than mute machinery in the eyes of the company's owners. "Nothing is more demoralizing ... than being excluded from significant decisions" -- especially those affecting one's job, said Gallup. Not only are such employees less productive, they also can damage customer relations by conveying their sense of powerlessness. Good managers "consult with employees regularly to make sure those close to the action have input into critical decisions" and grasp the reasoning behind the ultimate decisions, according to Gallup. This is particularly critical with decisions that don't follow an employee's recommendation.

2. A sense of purpose. Not every company is in on a lofty mission. Yet employees who clearly understand and respect their employer's mission -- and their part in fulfilling it -- will be more content and productive. Don't assume that simply displaying your company's mission statement will meet this need. "They are often too vague and too broad to allow every employee to connect with them," Gallup has discovered.  Remember that employees' own values vary; some place high importance on competition, others service, and still others, technical competence. "Great managers translate the company's purpose into language that each employee can understand," Gallup maintains.

3. Perceiving a shared commitment to quality.  Employees who care about doing a good job also need to believe they are part of a team whose members share that commitment. They also "want to be part of an organization that challenges and enables [themselves and their coworkers] to excel," according to Gallup. It's important that "quality" as understood within the company means more than the mere absence of mistakes, because such a narrow perspective can motivate employees to cover them up. "In the best workplaces, managers realize that human beings will make mistakes, and can learn from correcting them. In these workplaces, quality is defined as the process of recognizing and solving problems."

4. Having a "best friend" at work. Building trusting relationships "is a significant emotional compensation for employees in today's marketplace," according to the study. Employers benefit when employees have "best friends" at work because the positive resulting employee mindset "may be the true key to effective change, integration and adaptation." While you can't create such relationships for employees, "in the best workplaces, employers recognize that people want to forge quality relationships with their coworkers, and that company allegiance can be built from such relationships." The task at hand is to encourage an environment in which employees are comfortable developing such attachments.