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Employee Benefits: How to Retain Your Best Employees—and Attract More Like Them

Benefits are a major draw for prospective workers and a flexible reward for your valuable employees. Yet, as hiring becomes more competitive, what used to be known as fringe benefits are now a necessity to attract and retain your workforce.

If you already offer traditional benefits packages, you may want to expand your benefits to make your workplace even more attractive to employees.

Let’s take a look at 3 types of employee benefits you can offer—including some no-cost options that can be a win/win for your small business and your employees.

Traditional Benefits for Employees

Many employees seek out employers that provide traditional benefits, including:

  • Medical insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Vision coverage
  • Life insurance
  • Retirement plans and contributions

In fact, 79% of American workers say it’s very or extremely important to them that their job offer employer-sponsored health insurance. Even when a worker has a spouse or parent who can cover their health insurance, companies that offer additional plans and options are more attractive than those without these benefits.

Expanded Benefits for Employees

When you offer extra benefits beyond health insurance and retirement plans for your employees, you set your company apart from the competition. Even better, some benefits give you tax incentives!

Financial Planning Services

Money is the number 1 source of stress for Americans: student loans, credit card debt, college planning for their kids, estate planning, you name it. Your company can help relieve some of that stress by offering your employees access to a certified financial planner.

Tuition Reimbursement

Investing in your employees’ education shows you value their professional development and their dedication to your company. Further education can also prepare your employees for future promotions or advancement within your company.

Tuition reimbursement policies can be tailored to suit your company’s and your employees’ needs. You may choose to reimburse:

  • coursework employees complete in a field of study relevant to their job
  • coursework through pre-approved educational institutions
  • tuition up to a certain amount

Dependent Care Assistance

Did you know 1 in 3 Americans are caregivers for ill or disabled relatives? That’s on top of the 34 million households with children under age 18.

Employees with dependents are juggling a lot. They may need to call out of work unexpectedly or use up all of their paid time off (PTO) to care for their family. But you can alleviate some of this stress and improve their productivity by offering dependent care assistance. This could take the form of:

  • flexible spending accounts (FSAs)
  • daycare allowances
  • paid leave

Employee Assistance Plans (EAP)

Let’s face it: employees’ personal lives affect their work lives. If an employee is struggling with marital problems, substance abuse, or their mental health, their job performance may suffer.

An Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) is an added benefit that provides voluntary, confidential services to support your employees with personal difficulties.

No-Cost Benefits for Employees

Creating the kind of work environment that attracts good candidates and makes your best employees want to stay doesn’t have to break your budget. Think about what other perks you can offer.

Flexible Work Hours

Many employees want a job that fits their lifestyle, rather than having to fit their life around work. Parents may appreciate being able to work from home for 1-2 hours in the afternoon to get their children off the school bus. Night owls may work best if they can start at 9:00am instead of 7:30am.

Flexible work hours can take a variety of forms:

  • Shift to a 4-day work week. (Who doesn’t love a 3-day weekend?)
  • Start the work day earlier or later.
  • Offer weekend or home office hours.


Autonomy is a magnet for self-motivated people. Employees who thrive on their own and are willing and able to set goals may appreciate the ability to work from home or work with limited input/supervision.

Team Engagement

Do you talk with your staff and exchange constructive feedback outside of annual reviews? Do your employees feel like their input is heard and valued?

Workers who get regular feedback report better relationships with their manager. Yet 1 in 4 workers say they rarely or never get feedback. Regular engagement with your staff can:

  • inspire fresh ideas
  • build a team mentality
  • generate buy-in
  • create a loyal workforce

On-site Wellness Services

Health practitioners like massage therapists or concierge chiropractors may come to your office at no cost to you. Your employees can get treatment during their breaks, and two small businesses benefit.

Pet-Friendly Policies

Yep, you read that right! Pet-friendly policies can attract dog owners and animal lovers alike. When done right, allowing pets in the workplace can:

  • relieve stress
  • improve employee morale and communication
  • reduce pet care costs for employees who pay for a dogwalker or doggy day care while they’re at work

Create an Ideal Employee Benefits Package for Your Small Business

Employee benefits packages can help you attract and retain the best employees for your company. But the cost and complexity of providing benefits can be real obstacles for small business owners. How do you find time to research options—let alone qualify as an employer group and manage enrollments?

Employ-Ease specializes in helping Rochester small business owners like you secure and manage benefits for your employees. Another way we make it Easy to Employ!

To discuss your employee benefits options, schedule a free, confidential call with Employ-Ease owner Lisa Kretzer.

E-Verify NextGen Bringing Changes to the Employment Eligibility Process

Among your many responsibilities as an employer is to make sure your employees are legally eligible to work in the U.S.

Easier said than done, right?

The federal online system E-Verify can help, but it takes extra work on your part and leaves room for errors. An updated version of this system, called E-Verify NextGen, will be released in January 2024—bringing with it some important changes to the employment eligibility process.

As a busy small business owner, E-Verify NextGen may be a welcome change for you. Let’s explore your options, so you can decide what’s best for you and your business.

How Do I Confirm My Employees Are Eligible to Work?

The employment eligibility process starts with Form I-9.

With each new hire, you and the employee must complete a Form I-9. You must retain that form for 3 years after you hire them or 1 year after the end of their employment at your company—whichever is later.

E-Verify goes one step further.

This system compares information from your new employee’s Form I-9 to records on file with the Department of Homeland Security. This confirms whether they’re authorized to work in the U.S.

Using E-Verify may prevent you from hiring illegally, protecting you from liability, monetary penalties, and damage to your credibility as an employer.

Some states require employers to use E-Verify. Surprisingly, New York State does not… yet. However, some contracts with municipalities and state or federal contractors may.

What’s New with E-Verify NextGen?

There are 3 important changes to E-Verify with the updated system:
  1. Data entry
  2. Status notifications
  3. Verification forwarding
E-Verify E-Verify NextGen
Employer is responsible for entering employee data. Employee is responsible for entering their own data.
Employer must notify new hires when further action is needed to verify their employment. NextGen notifies the employee directly if further action is needed to verify their employment
New Form I-9 is required every time an employee starts with a new employer. Employee’s verified Form I-9 carries over to new employers. No new form required.

Data Entry

The current E-Verify process relies on the employer to input information from a new hire’s Form I-9. It’s easy to misread someone’s handwriting or make a typo when you manually enter data. And these innocent mistakes can cause inaccurate results or delay the verification process.

With the updated system, your new hire submits their own information using their personal myE-Verify account. The rationale being the employee will be less likely to make a mistake with their own data.

Status Notifications

When the current E-Verify system needs further action to determine a new hire’s eligibility, it notifies the employer, who then must notify the employee.

But with NextGen, you don’t have to be stuck in the middle. NextGen will notify the new hire directly if further action is needed, eliminating an extra task for you and speeding up the verification process.

Verification Forwarding

I would argue this is the most revolutionary aspect of NextGen: Employees bring their verification status with them in their myE-Verify account.

What does this mean for employers like you?

  • A lot less paperwork
  • A faster onboarding process
  • No time wasted verifying their eligibility again

Instead of completing a new Form I-9 with each new job, an employee can use NextGen to forward their already-verified Form I-9 to their new employer. Considering the historically high rate of job changes since the pandemic, this feature can ease job transitions for both employees and employers.

How Do I Use E-Verify?

If you choose to use E-Verify, follow this process:

  1. Register at
  2. Take the online training course and pass the exam to show you understand the E-Verify system.
  3. Use E-Verify for every new hire within 3 days of employment—not before.
  4. Follow up with any employees if further action is needed to determine their employment eligibility.

How Do I Use E-Verify NextGen?

If you already use E-Verify and opt in to NextGen, here’s how it works:

  1. Your new employee creates a myE-Verify account and enters their information.
  2. The system confirms the employee’s employment eligibility or notifies the employee if further action is needed.
  3. You complete the verification. Review the documents your employee uploaded, then download and store a completed Form I-9 from the system.

Which Process Should I Use to Verify New Hires?

That’s entirely up to you! The original E-Verify and E-Verify NextGen are both optional in New York State.

First, consider how involved you like to be in the verification process. It may sound appealing to remove yourself from part of the process with NextGen. Or you may find you want to maintain a proactive role to onboard new hires and stick with E-Verify.

Second, how comfortable are you and your employees with learning new technology? If technology’s not your strong suit, it may take some time to get up to speed with a new electronic process.

Another option is to work with a professional employer organization (PEO) like Employ-Ease. We can take care of all that HR administration, so you don’t have to.

Here at Employ-Ease, we use E-Verify to protect all of our clients. Another way we make it Easy to Employ!

To discuss your HR needs, schedule a free call today.

This post has been updated from the original article published on May 2, 2022.

How to Spend More Time on Your Small Business & Less Time on HR Administration

When your small business grows to more than your ‘right-hand’ hire, it’s exciting to take your business to the next level. But the HR administration that comes with it? Not so exciting. 

Behind-the-scenes hassles, like paperwork and legal red tape, can take over your time with your employees. Mundane yet mandatory tasks eat up your valuable time that would be better spent cultivating your team and serving your customers.

As a professional employer organization, we see 3 key areas take up a lot of time for small business owners:

  1. Disruptions to profitable daily activities
  2. One-off instances
  3. Competing demands

As we explore each of these categories, consider:

  • How many of these issues do you deal with?
  • How much time do you spend on these issues instead of your core business?

1. Disruptions to Profitable Daily Activities

A few examples of requests that disrupt productivity, but must be dealt with in a timely manner.

  • Department of Labor Requests: Employment verification. Disability claims. Workers’ Comp audits. You may receive a lot of requests from the Department of Labor over the years—none of which contribute to your bottom line.
  • Direct Deposit Changes: In New York State, your employees must complete an authorization form before you can pay them via direct deposit. Anytime an employee changes banks or wants to adjust their deposits, that means more paperwork for you to process. And if an employee’s direct deposit doesn’t go through, it’s up to you to figure out why.
  • Debit Card Loss: A lost debit card needs to be dealt with quickly to minimize your risk and liability for any unauthorized purchases. Are you able to drop everything to contact your bank and make sure your authorized payments are not interrupted?

2. One-off Instances

Important matters will pop up, but probably not often enough for you to be familiar with how to handle them. Instances like:

  • Parental Leave: The thought of losing an employee for several weeks or months can be daunting, especially for small businesses with a handful of employees. How do you make sure your business stays productive without putting too much stress on yourself or your team?
  • Unemployment Claims: When a former employee files an unemployment insurance claim, you must respond to that claim before they will be compensated. If you need to contest a claim, you only have 10 days to provide details explaining why.
  • Employment Record Retrieval: Federal and state regulations require you to keep employee records for anywhere between 1–7 years. How complete is your record keeping? And how quickly can you retrieve a specific record years later?

3. Competing Demands

As a small business owner, you’re constantly pulled in different directions:

  • Keeping your employees happy
  • Complying with regulations
  • Satisfying your customers
  • Marketing your business

Time is a limited resource you can’t afford to waste. A Professional Employer Organization (PEO) can take managing HR, compliance, payroll, and employee benefits off your plate—so you can focus on what matters most in your business.

How Is a PEO Different From a Traditional Payroll Service?

A PEO becomes the ‘employer on record’ with taxation, insurance, and labor agencies. That means the PEO takes on the liabilities for:

  • Producing payroll
  • Reporting and paying payroll taxes
  • Administering workers’ compensation
  • Providing unemployment insurance
  • Managing benefit programs
  • Maintaining employment records

To learn more about how a PEO can help you save time and energy, contact Employ-Ease today.

This post has been updated from the original article published on January 4, 2023.

How to Create a Time-Off Policy for Small Businesses

Time off from work is a powerful part of your business’s benefits package. It can help you recruit new employees and retain your current employees. In fact, 62% of American workers say it’s extremely important that their job offers paid time off (PTO) for vacation or minor illnesses—even more important than employer-sponsored retirement programs. Whether their time off is paid or unpaid, employees deserve a written policy that makes it clear when they can take time away from work without jeopardizing their employment. Creating a time off policy for your small business helps set expectations and ensure your employees maintain a work-life balance.

What Should a Time Off Policy Include?

A time off policy should include:

This may feel like a lot to think about. But answering a few simple questions now will help you define a clear policy and make it easier going forward—for both you and your employees.

Let’s take a closer look at each part of your time off policy.

Who Is Eligible for Time Off

First, consider which of your employees are eligible for time off:

How Time Off Is Allocated

Next, define how your employees get time off:

How Employees Can Take Time Off

Now that your employees know they have time off, let’s help them use it. Minimize confusion and any potential disagreements with a clear policy and procedure for requesting time off:

What Happens to Unused Time Off

Let’s say you’ve hired some hard-working employees who didn’t use all of their earned time off. Uh oh, now what?

Scenarios like these are common: 46% of U.S. workers don’t use all of their PTO. So be sure to explain what happens to unused PTO in your policy:

Types of Time Off

Like you, your employees have many demands on their time outside of work. They may be raising kids or caring for their aging parents. They have doctor’s appointments and vacation plans.

Your time off policy can specify approved reasons for PTO, including:

* Subject to mandatory requirements under New York State and federal laws

How to Manage a Time Off Policy

Once you’ve created your time off policy, make sure it’s manageable for your company. Put a measuring system in place to track employee eligibility and time taken.

For some small businesses, a simple spreadsheet with embedded calculations is all that’s needed. For more complex businesses, an app like Clockify can make it easier to track time off and attendance.

Need Help Managing PTO for Your Small Business?

Employ-Ease helps Rochester small business owners like you create time-off policies and set up systems to track PTO. Another way we make it Easy to Employ!

To discuss your payroll and benefits needs, schedule a free, one-on-one conversation with Employ-Ease owner Lisa Kretzer.

This post has been updated from the original article published on April 20, 2022.

It’s Challenging

3 Common payroll challenges

There are several ways for small business to generate payroll. And a few more to manage human resources.  That may lead to an overlap of – or worse – missed obligations.  What I see derailing smooth payroll and human resources are most often are:

The Unknown

  • There are many entities dictating employers including:
    • The Dept. of Labor, IRS, NY State Taxation & Finance and Workers’ Compensation board.  Businesses can find themselves falling down a rabbit hole to finding which rules apply to them.

Regulations may seem elusive and missing one can be costly.

Excessive paperwork requirements

  • Once a company hires just one person it is forced to complete & file over 92 (ninety-two) forms/checks in a year. In addition to just the payroll checks, this includes:
  • Employee applications, new hire reporting, tax withholding forms, Form I-9 and banking information.  Additionally, benefit enrollment and/or decline – including the SECURE Act.
  • Employer Federal and state income tax payments, FICA and Unemployment payments, NYS disability and Workers’ Comp reporting.

Inability to collect, retain and retrieve these can incur penalties.

Low priority vs business building functions

  • Smart, successful businesses spend time and resources gaining new or service existing customers, not tasks that can be outsourced.
  • Revenue producing activities like networking, vendor relations, customer interaction, operational improvements, and marketing efforts are good for the bottom line.
  • While non-core tasks like tax reporting, employee administration, benefit management, and insurance obligations are a drain on profits.

Time is limited – small business cannot afford to waste it.

Meet the Challenge

I think small business owners appreciate a system that solves all three of these problems.  Of course, I suggest a Professional Employer Organization (PEO).  As the name implies, they are in the profession of employing.

Whereas a landscaper got into business to design & build functional and pleasing landscape, and a Restaurateur opened to create delicious and comforting food, A PEO went into business to be an employer.

Your local PEO, Employ-Ease, becomes co-employers to our client’s staff.  In the eyes of Federal and State regulators we are liable for all the payroll and human resource obligations. 

  • So no more confusion over The Unknown – we are in compliance with Dept. of Labor, IRS, NY State Taxation & Finance and Workers’ Compensation board.
  • No more wasted time on Excessive paperwork requirements – we are responsible for applications, new hire reporting, tax withholding form, Form I-9, benefit enrollment.
  • And less frustration on Low priority vs business building functions – we handle tax reporting, employee administration, benefit management, and insurance obligations.

Hold please

“Your call will be answered in the order it was received”

In today’s technology-driven world, attempts at efficiency often override the personal attention small business owners want and deserve.  Especially when it comes to the most important asset of your business – your staff.  That’s what makes 800# mazes, chat bots, pre-recorded FAQs and long on-hold queues unhelpful and frustrating.

Do any of these common scenarios sound familiar?

  • Unfortunately, a worker has a mishap on the job

What steps will you need to take regarding the employee, doctors, and your workers’ comp insurance?  Will you contact your traditional payroll service or insurance agent or both?  Will you be able to talk with someone experienced in coordinating out-of-work and back-to-work timing?

  • A new hire wants to learn and enroll in benefit programs. 

Do you have them watch a video to learn about all their options?  Or browse a website to answer questions they will have?  And can they get that done before the enrollment period expires?

  • Good news! Your employee’s family is expecting a baby. 

Can a chat bot or web-portal explain the paperwork they need to get disability benefits?  If there is a ‘glitch’ with the device they are using to access, print or submit their info – will you have time to help them?  How long will you be on hold to find out how Federal Family Leave coincides with NY State disability?

  • You can print payroll checks each week, but the ‘one-offs’ can get tricky. 

What program do you need to be proficient with, to replace an employee’s payroll debit card?  Where in the portal do you find an employee’s earning history so he can get a loan approval?   And when an agency questions your compliance with the payment or return filings, is your accountant on hand to produce records for proof of compliance?

All these scenarios have the potential to cost you a great deal of time and headaches trying to work through all the details to keep your employees happy.

Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) are co-employers of your staff.  The PEO is not only responsible for your workers’ timely and accurate payroll, but also the administration of your HR obligations.  That is why clear, easy communication is paramount to both the business owner and the workers.  And that is why calls are answered and emails responded to personally by Employ-Ease, usually immediately.  We take our role as employer liaison and employee advocate seriously.

As small business owners ourselves, we understand that you don’t want a learning curve to ensure the rights and protections of your employees – you want concise, accurate answers without a long wait.

In our opinion, directing you to a ‘self-service’ option is just ducking our obligation to provide true service.  We do not over-explain or speak ‘legal-ease’.  We make changes that you request on short notice and happily comply with out-of-the-ordinary needs.  Heck, we are known to answer and return calls beyond the Monday – Friday, 8am -5pm window.

When you partner with Employ-Ease you may be surprised that your call is answered immediately by a real person, very often Lisa Kretzer, the owner.  That’s right, no ‘press one for English’, no long wait listening to static on-hold music, no pre-recorded answers that don’t address your specific question.  

Need proof?  Go ahead, call Lisa today!

Vinyl, CD or Digital, how do you like your records?
Record Keeping For Employers

A particularly tedious aspect of being an employer is collecting & maintaining a document trail of employment forms each with their own expiration date.  The most time consuming part is usually the task of locating specific forms quickly.  Employ-Ease can solve that.

Here’s a quick guide of some things you need to keep record of:

Personnel – (Keep for one year after end of employ)


        Tax withholding (W-4, IT-2104)

        Immigration (Form I-9 must be kept separately from other employee documents and for minimum 3 years)

        Performance reports, policy violation warnings, pro/demotions, transfers, lay-offs, terminations

        Sexual Harassment Prevention training

        Background checks, drug tests, employment history

Payroll – (Maintain three years after end of employ)

        Employee name, address, SS#, gross wages, deductions, net pay

        Pay Rates, changes, additional pay (commission, bonus)

        Compensation by pay cycle (hourly, shift, salary, OT, commission)

        Allowances as part of wages (tips, meals, lodging)

        Written acknowledgement of pay basis (Form 195)


        Options & Eligibility

        Summary Plan Descriptions (SPD) for medical insurances

        Notice of NY Secure Choice Savings Plan availability for retirement

        Enroll or decline forms

        OSHA exposure, material safety data sheets, medical records

Employ-Ease utilizes DocuWare software to retain & retrieve all our client’s required documentation indefinitely – another way we make it Easy to Employ!

That Needs Some Garnish

Garnishment: an embellishment accompanying a prepared item

On food or drinks, a garnishment is a pleasant add-on.  However, a court-ordered wage garnishment is an unwelcomed embellishment on top of an already difficult calculation for tax withholdings.

Child support, tax debt, alimony, student loan demands, and bankruptcy obligations are more common than you may think and more confusing than they need be.

After receiving an order to levy wages, garnishments are to be deducted from the following payroll, payable immediately and continue until a termination order has been issued.  Additionally, employers are required to notify the court or government agency that issued the order if the employee quits or is terminated.

The amount to deduct depends on each wage order. Some are fixed amounts, others based on disposable income – which may fluctuate each payroll. The situation becomes increasingly tricky when there are multiple garnishments. The priority of garnishment depends on the date of notice and type of garnishment.  Child support is usually given priority.

Wage garnishments cause additional paperwork for employers and – no surprise – penalties if done late or incorrectly. It takes time to learn how to set up your payroll process to accommodate your obligation as an employer.

Employ-Ease is responsible for complying with garnishments for our clients, we can do the same for your unwelcomed embellishments!

Are You A Thief?
How You May Be Cheating Your Employees

Knowingly or not, employers are committing wage theft.

Some simply due to ignorance, others due to lack of oversite, but all can create headaches for violating employers, including back pay, fines, and negative headlines.

New York’s Wage Theft Prevention Act went into effect in 2011 with public notices of wage theft, and fines up to $20,000.

Keep your company out of the news and out of debt for these common abuses.

Overtime Violations – When an employer wrongfully denies overtime pay to an eligible employee.

The FLSA recognizes a 7-minute rule wherein the employer may round up or down to the nearest 15 minutes for simplicity in time keeping.

Minimum Wage Violations – Not adhering to minimum wage laws. 

New York’s minimum wage is higher than the Federal requirement, and there is no such thing as a ‘training rate’ that is lower than minimum wage.

Tipped employees may be paid a base wage ($8.80 for 2022) plus tips must reach minimum wage – or shall be paid an additional tip adjustment.

Misclassification Violations – Classifying employees incorrectly, such as independent contractors.

Treating a true “W-2” employee as “1099” worker cheats them of workers’ comp and disability coverage and employer contributed social security benefits.

Illegal Deductions – When an employer takes a portion of an employee’s paycheck for items that do not qualify.

Other than mandatory taxes and state or Federal garnishments, all deductions require the employee’s written consent. 

Off-the-Clock Violations – Failing to pay an employee for work performed when not technically on duty.

For example: an employee who continues to work for customer or project after scheduled hours is still due their regular pay, including overtime. 

Rest Break Violations –  Not adhering to rest break laws.

Mealtime breaks are required during any 6+ hour shift – but are not necessarily paid time.

Other break periods customarily five to fifteen minutes, do count as time worked and therefore paid time.

Clearly, there are several ways employers can run afoul of wage and hour laws.  Employ-Ease helps our clients stay out of wage and hour troubles.