Workers’ Compensation for a Bee Sting?

workers' compensation for a bee stingWorkers’ compensation insurance for nannies and other household employees is becoming a crucial issue for household employers to address, and here in New York, if you employ a nanny who works 40 hours in any week of the year, you are required to have coverage. Without coverage, if your nanny is injured or becomes sick while working, you may be responsible for medical bills and lost wages. The following example demonstrates another issue that may arise, especially during the summertime.

Yesterday your nanny was playing with the kids outside and was stung by a bee. She’s allergic and had to go the ER. Are you responsible for workers’ compensation for a bee sting?

Possibly. Whether or not this work injury qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits will depend on a few factors. The sting was not work-related, but the nanny was on the clock. Your workers’ compensation carrier will have to assess whether or not the sting arose out of and in the course of employment. A preexisting condition or existing illness is often only covered under workers’ compensation if it was worsened by working conditions or by performing the job duties. It may come down to how much either party wants to press its case. An ER visit may or may not be worth an insurance battle and the time of the lawyers involved.

We recommend you offer the workers’ compensation paperwork to your nanny, letting her know that she must file a claim in order to receive any workers’ compensation benefits. If she chooses not to file, then ask her to put the decision in writing and note on the workers’ compensation form that the nanny did not want to file a claim. Remind her that you will not retaliate against her either way.

In most circumstances, we recommend allowing your employee to file a claim and contacting your insurance carrier to inform them of any concerns. Once the carrier has the claim and related information, they can analyze the claim and decide how much they want to contest the benefits. In general, it’s best to let them handle the complicated appeals and approval process. After all, they want to control costs just like you do.

No matter how this particular claim plays out, you should inspect your home and arrange for safe removal of any beehives or other pest infestations that present a hazard.

For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Senior Care Tips: Estate Planning

senior care tipsThere are many issues that arise when it comes to senior care – one of the senior care tips to keep in mind regards estate planning. You’ve likely been repeatedly advised to ensure for your own estate planning, but as you take on caring for your elderly loved ones, you may also need to become familiar with their estate plan.

If your elderly loved one has not put his or her affairs in order, it should be done immediately, so you can be sure about his or her wishes before he or she becomes too incapacitated to communicate those wishes to you. Wills need to specify not only wishes for “handing on” precious keepsakes and possessions but also written directives as to how your elderly loved one wishes his or her remains disposed of, funeral and burial plans, and so on. Advance directives include the senior’s living will, which states his or her wishes in case he or she is near death and wants no life-saving, artificial measures taken to restore or preserve life, and medical power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy, enables the senior to designate a loved one as the decision maker for medical concerns in case he or she is unable to do so. A power of attorney allows the senior to give another the power to act on his or her behalf if he or she is in unable.

Be sure your senior caregiver is aware of where these important papers are kept (or has copies of them) and can access them in order to provide medical professionals with these critically important instructions during medical emergencies . For instance, emergency medical professionals in an ambulance or at a hospital emergency room will request copies of a patient’s  do not resuscitate order (DNR) or medical power of attorney.

Advance directive

This is a legal document that specifies that you do not want to be kept alive on artificial life support and can direct other aspects of health care if the elder is unable to speak for him- or herself. As with most legal documents, this needs to be as specific as possible, providing instructions regarding respirators, feeding tubes, and pain medication, among other things. Advance directives usually include a DNR, a living will, and a durable power of attorney.

  • Do Not Resuscitate: known as a DNR, is a written order directing health care professionals to not resuscitate a patient in case of cardiac or respiratory arrest. DNRs are generally given when resuscitation would only delay the inevitable and leave the patient severely and permanently incapacitated.
  • Durable power of attorney: enables a senior to authorize a specific person to make financial or health care decisions for him or her. Durable powers of attorney are most often effective when a doctor certifies that the patient is incapacitated; however, a durable power of attorney could begin upon signing the document. It will depend on the document’s wording as to when the powers begin.
  • Living will: a document that states in detail acceptable medical procedures and life-sustaining measures. It does not name someone to act on a senior’s behalf like a health care proxy, or medical or durable power of attorney. Living wills should be made available upon admission to any health care facility and to doctors, as well as kept on hand in the elder’s home. (A living will is not necessarily legally binding—state laws vary widely. Some hospitals and physicians may refuse to honor a living will in an attempt to keep the senior patient alive.)

Legal guardianship

A guardian is appointed by the court to have custody of another. Legal guardians may be appointed on a temporary basis (for a fixed period, i.e., one year) and for a senior’s medical consent. In short, a guardian may make medical decisions for the senior and work directly with medical professionals.

Living trust

According to AARP, a revocable living trust is a written agreement designating someone to be responsible for managing the senior’s property. It is called a living trust because it is established while the senior is alive. It is “revocable” because, as long as you are mentally competent, the senior can change or dissolve the trust at any time at his or her own discretion for any reason. Typically, a living trust becomes irrevocable (cannot be changed) when the person dies. As a trustee, you (as the senior’s designated relative or friend) can manage the assets, including selling or investing them.  You may also name your spouse as your co-trustee. If every asset is transferred into the living trust while the senior is alive, a living trust may substitute for a will. A pour-over will can be written to ensure that at the time of death any property not in the living trust is poured over into the trust.

Will

This is a legal document in which the senior declares who will manage his or her estate after he or she dies. The estate can consist of anything he or she owns—it may be as big as the senior’s home and as small as the deceased’s grandmother’s cameo pin or even a photograph.

There are professionals, namely attorneys and financial advisors, who specialize in elder law and estate planning. Since laws vary by state and are often subject to change, it is advisable to contact one. New York State’s legal services department may offer help at its Division of Elder Law, or you may access AARP’s prescreened list of attorneys.

For more information about how we help families with senior care issues, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

7 Tips to Retain the Best Nannies

retain the best nanniesWhile there are many quality nannies out there, once you find one you really like, you want to do what you can to make sure she/he wants to keep working for you. Usually this doesn’t mean heaping extravagant gifts on your nanny or giving in to anything your employee asks. Open communication and treating your nanny like the professional she/he is goes a long way to maintaining a strong working relationship. To retain the best nannies, we recommend following the seven tips that follow.

Top 7 Tips to Retain the Best Nannies

  1. Provide a clear and consistent job description. Update the job description when changes in the job occur.
  2. Be sure to orientate your nanny to your neighbors, friends, family, and the general area. Include a list of emergency names and numbers, and any other pertinent family information.
  3. Have a daily meeting in which you and your nanny can discuss the day’s activities. This can also be a time to discuss any concerns or questions regarding the job, children, etc.
  4. To get and keep the most talented employees, employers must treat employees like professionals. Therefore, offering employee benefits is an important consideration for all household employers. Consider benefits such as medical or dental insurance, paid time for vacation or sick leave, a retirement plan, annual pay increases, and flexible hours.
  5. Treat your nanny as a member of the family.  Make sure that she/he can approach you at any time with any concerns.
  6. Ensuring that your nanny is fairly compensated is one of the keys to retaining a quality employee. Employers must make sure that their nanny is paid for all hours worked, including overtime.
  7. Invite your nanny to lunch/coffee at least once a month, away from the home, to discuss the job, the children, and any suggestions for the future. Remember this relationship requires team effort!

For more information and to learn how we help support household employers with their relationships with their nannies, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Eight Steps to a Successful Nanny Share

steps to a successful nanny shareThinking about participating in a nanny share with another family? In a nanny share, the nanny cares for the children of two or more families at the same time.

This arrangement can help you save money and maintain your flexibility with child care. Your children will still receive individual attention from the nanny and get the added bonus of socialization with the other kids in your share.

Remember, a nanny share is a business relationship you enter with another family (or families) and the nanny. To ensure a successful nanny share — one that benefits you, your children, other families, and the nanny — make sure you follow these important steps.

1. Create a Work Agreement
Get together with the other family/families and create a work agreement to specify the nanny’s schedule, wages, benefits, and responsibilities.

2. Communicate throughout the Process
The key to any business relationship is communication. This means between you and the other family/families and with the nanny. Make sure any issues between the families are worked out BEFORE talking with the nanny. This makes sure your communication is clear and eliminates confusing or conflicting messages.

3. Register with the IRS
Each family must register with the IRS and the New York State revenue department. A tax identification number will be issues to each family.

4. Obtain Workers’ Compensation Insurance
New York requires workers’ compensation insurance for domestic employees who work 40 or more hours in any week. For nanny shares in New York, each family must obtain coverage for the nanny.

5. Provide Your Nanny with Employment Forms
Your nanny must complete an I-9 form and a W-4 form for each family.

6. Withhold Taxes from Your Nanny’s Pay
Each family must withhold federal and state taxes from each paycheck.

7. Complete a Schedule H
Each family must complete a Schedule H form when filing their personal income taxes. Schedule H accounts for the federal taxes withheld from your nanny’s pay.

8. Issue Form W-2 at End of Year
Each family must issue Form W-2 to the nanny at the end of the year.

The tax responsibilities and legal obligations for a nanny share can be complicated and time-consuming. Doing it incorrectly could mean fines and penalties from the IRS. Being non-compliant with the law — paying your nanny under the table — could lead to audits or employee lawsuits. Using a payroll company like our affiliate company GTM Payroll Services will remove the guesswork, ensure you are compliant, and free up your time for the things in life you enjoy.

Contact us at (518) 348-0400 for more information.

Best Practices When Terminating Your Nanny

best practices when terminating your nannyNo one wants to be in the position of terminating the employment of a nanny or other household worker. Making the process smoother starts with establishing policies and procedures at the time of hire. Here are some quick tips to terminating a household employee the right way:

When the Employee is Hired

  • Establish detailed information in your employee handbook regarding your firing policy and practice as well as severance policy.
  • Obtain a signed confidentiality agreement from your employee.
  • Detail termination procedures in the work agreement.

Before You Inform Your Employee of Termination

  • Prepare a concisely worded termination letter with information on final payment.
  • Practice what you will say. Be prepared, consistent and concise.
  • Gather materials kept in the employee’s file — signed work agreement, performance reviews, history of absences, etc. — to support your termination decision.
  • Ensure that all explanations are legitimate and that your actions can be documented.

When to Inform Your Employee of Termination

  • Avoid any lead time between firing and departing. The best time to set a termination meeting is at the end of the workday.

How to Break the News

  • Meet without children or dependents present.
  • State the decision to terminate twice.
  • Have an adult witness present.
  • Allow for your employee’s response to avoid one-way communication.

What Else You Need to Say

  • Review your severance policy.
  • Let them know they can apply for unemployment compensation (assuming you have been paying “on the books” by paying federal and state unemployment taxes).
  • Reiterate the confidentiality agreement that the employee signed at the beginning of employment. What the employee has learned about the family is private, and that confidentiality was agreed upon for the term of employment, as well as after employment ended.

What Else You Need to Do

  • Provide the employee with a checklist and deadline to return employer property, such as the employee handbook, security codes, keys, car seats, and other family items.
  • Escort the employee from the premises.
  • For security reasons, notify neighbors and your child(ren)’s school that your employee is no longer works for your family.
  • Pay your employee for all hours worked up to termination.
  • Provide a letter of reference for future work (if appropriate).
  • If you have provided health insurance coverage, follow COBRA by offering the employee the option to continue their coverage. Even if exempt from COBRA requirements, consider extending to the employee an option for continued health insurance coverage.

Letting go of a household worker can be stressful and upsetting. With the right preparation and proper procedures in place, you can conduct an effective termination meeting. For more information, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Mileage Reimbursement Rules for Household Employers

mileage reimbursement rulesBefore a family hires a nanny, the nanny’s compensation should be discussed and detailed fully, including any mileage reimbursement that may occur.

Mileage reimbursement rules apply to household employers who choose to let their nanny or other household employee use their personal car for performing their job duties. This includes running errands, picking up and dropping off children from school or other locations, taking a senior citizen to an event, shopping, or any other task that the employer asks the nanny to do which requires the use of his or her own car. Commuting to and from the family’s home is usually not considered reimbursable mileage.

In January, the IRS issued a new standard mileage rate for the year. This rate is used to calculate the deductible costs of driving a vehicle for business. The standard mileage rate for 2015 is 57.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, an increase of 1.5 cents from 2014. Most families use this IRS rate as the standard for reimbursing their nanny for mileage.

Some families may opt to reimburse their employee for gas expenses or provide them with a gas card, rather than compensation for mileage.

Any arrangements made between the employer and employee should be detailed in the Employee Handbook; it may be also useful to include a copy of an expense report to help both parties keep track of any mileage or gas used.

For more information about this or any other household employment issues, contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Social Media Tips for Getting that Nanny Job…and Keeping it!

social media tips for nanniesMost employers today – including household employers – use social media as a form of background checking and screening of job applicants and current employees. Nannies and other domestic workers who post things on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media sites may be exposing certain aspects of their personal lives to potential and current employers. Therefore, it’s important to be aware that anything you post online may not remain private. And while you may feel that you are keeping your personal and professional lives separate, many employers will not draw that distinction, especially when the applicant will be working in the family’s home with children.

Please see our guidelines below on social media tips for getting and keeping your job.

Things to Keep in Mind Before Getting the Job

  • Check your privacy settings on Facebook – you should only allow “Friends” to see what you post and anything in which you are “tagged.” Be aware that privacy settings change from time to time, so you should periodically check to make sure yours are set appropriately.
  • Anything you post on Twitter may be seen by the public, including prospective employers – even if they are not following you!
  • Potential employers may look at your grammar and use of language.
  • Most employers will check for posts containing vulgar language, nudity or sexual pictures, and slander (such as bashing a previous employer).
  • Social media sites allow employers to see a glimpse of you beyond what is on your resume or profile.
  • You might wish to take down anything that could be viewed as unprofessional or offensive.
  • Post photos that present you in a professional light – for example, a potential employer that sees photos of you consuming alcohol, drugs, or other objectionable behaviors may decide not to hire you.
  • An agency can only do so much in regards to assisting you in getting the nanny job you want. You have to also be diligent in your efforts to make sure you are presenting yourself professionally to employers.

You Got the Job – Now Keep it!

  • Do not post any photos of the children or other family members you work with, unless you have permission from the parents to do so.
  • Discuss with your employer about social media policies and what they expect of you as a nanny.
  • Do not discuss or divulge any information online or in person about the family you work for. Respect their privacy!
  • When you are with the children, do not “check-in” at any certain place. This will allow others to know your location.
  • Is it a good idea to “Friend” your employer? Unless you have a previous relationship with the family, the experts say no. Plus if your employer can see what time you’re posting things, they might wonder why you’re spending time online instead of watching the kids!

All aspects of social media and your employment should be discussed in detail between the family and the nanny, and then the rules agreed upon should be written down and have a signed approval. This will hopefully prevent any social media problems throughout the employment relationship.

For more information, please contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Retirement Benefits for Nannies

retirement benefits for nanniesRetirement plans are a standard part of U.S. corporate employee benefit packages. While not legally mandated to offer nannies or other domestic workers a retirement plan, household employers may consider doing so in order to attract and retain the best employees. If a retirement plan is offered, the employer must comply with IRS tax requirements and administrative requirements as set forth in the U.S. Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Two popular options for retirement benefits for domestic workers are the Individual Retirement Account (IRA) and the Roth IRA. Both are fairly simple programs to establish as an employee benefit, and therefore, suitable as a household employee benefit.

An IRA is a special savings plan authorized by the federal government to help people accumulate funds for retirement. Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs allow individual taxpayers to contribute 100% of their earnings up to the IRA’s plan-specified maximum dollar amount. Each year, the IRS sets maximum annual contributions for IRAs, with catch-up contributions by contributions for people ages 50 and over. For 2011, maximum contributions are $5,500, with an additional catch-up of $1,000 for those ages 50 or older.

Traditional IRA contributions may be tax deductible, whereas Roth IRA contributions are not. Roth IRA principal and interest accumulate tax-free. A Roth IRA usually is preferred by those ineligible for the tax deductions associated with the traditional IRA or by those who want their qualified Roth IRA distributions to be tax- and penalty-free, which depends on all conditions being met. Some people prefer a Roth IRA as a means to simply build a retirement egg without the worry of paying taxes at a later date (Roth contributions have already been taxed).

A third option is to offer your nanny or other employee a 401K plan. The SIMPLE 401K Plan offered through the National Household Employers Association (NHEA)  will not only give you a recruiting advantage over other families without a 401K plan and a retention tool for your employee, but it will also help your employee build an excellent source of retirement income and experience the benefits of tax-deferred growth.

Key features of the NHEA Domestic Workers Retirement Plan include (effective January 1, 2015):

  • Tax-savings: Household employees have the potential for a pre-tax savings via payroll deferral of up to $12,500; those 50+ years old can invest another $3,000 as a catch-up contribution
  • Flexibility: Household employees have the option to modify deferral amounts
  • Employer contributions: Family/employer MUST make a mandatory contribution on a dollar for dollar match basis up to 3% of the employee’s gross pay, which can be used to reward and retain valuable household workers
  • Self-direction of investments: Household employees have the ability to self-direct their investments from a list of monitored, low-cost mutual funds
  • Employee support: Household employees have access to advisors who can provide them with one-on-one advice

For more information on offering these benefits to your domestic worker(s), contact us at (518) 348-0400.

Try it Before You Buy it!

ANENpostcard---try-itDo you know someone who needs child care, senior care, housekeeping, or any other service we offer? Are they a little hesitant about spending money with a company they aren’t yet familiar with? We have a brand new promotion that may provide the solution!

The first time that they use us for any of our temporary services, we will waive both the membership and agency fees (a $122 value). They can just pay the caregiver directly* and then enjoy the peace of mind we provide!

To book a trial day or for more information on rates, please have them call (518) 348-0400 or email us.

* 4-hour minimum per shift. Hourly cost based on the service requested. After trial day is completed, annual membership fee will apply to future use of services. One trial per family.

Top Ten Ways to Save on Taxes This Summer

top ten ways to save on taxesAfter a brutal winter in many parts of the country, summer is finally here. While you’re enjoying the warmer weather, it’s still important to remain diligent about business and personal tax planning, especially if you are a household employer. Nannies, housekeepers, and senior care providers, among other employees, cost money. Luckily there are some great ways to offset those expenses by cutting taxes during the next few months.

Here are our top ten ways to save on taxes this summer:

1. Entertain Top Business Clients

You may be eligible to write off 50% of the cost of business meals and entertainment if you entertain clients before or after a substantial business discussion. For instance, after you hammer out a business deal, you might treat a client to a round of golf and then dinner and drinks at a restaurant. The 50% limit applies to all the qualified expenses, including the amounts you pay for the client, yourself and your significant others.

2. Donate Household Items to Charity

Are you planning to clean out the garage, attic or basement this summer? If so, you’ll probably find household goods — such as used clothing and furniture — that you don’t want or need anymore. Consider donating these items to charity. Assuming they’re still in good condition, you may take a charitable deduction on your 2015 personal tax return based on the current fair market value of any donated items. Use an online guide or consult your tax professional for valuations.

3. Send the Kids to Camp

Parents who need to work may decide to send young children to summer camp while school is out. Assuming certain requirements are met, the cost of camp may qualify for a dependent care credit. Generally, the maximum credit is $600 for one child and $1,200 for two or more kids. But this tax break is available only for the cost of a day camp, including specialty camps for athletics or the arts. Overnight camp doesn’t qualify.

4. Buy an RV or Boat

Suppose you take out a loan to buy your recreational vehicle (RV) or boat. Surprisingly, the vehicle or vessel may qualify as a “second home” for federal income tax purposes. In other words, you may be eligible to write off the interest on the loan as mortgage interest on your personal tax return. The IRS says that any dwelling place qualifies as a second home if it has sleeping space, a kitchen and toilet facilities. Therefore, the interest paid to buy an RV or boat that meets these requirements is tax-deductible under the mortgage interest rules. This applies to interest paid on acquisition debt of up to $1 million and home equity debt of up to $100,000.

5. Minimize Vacation Home Use

Federal tax law allows you to deduct expenses related to renting out a vacation home to offset the rental income you receive. With summer already underway, you’ve probably worked out a rental schedule for your vacation home, but remember that you can’t deduct a loss if your personal use of the home exceeds the greater of 14 days or 10% of the time the home is rented out. Watch your personal use to ensure you remain below the 14-day or 10% limit.

6. Rent Out Your Primary Residence

Do you live in an area where a summertime event — such as the U.S. Open golf tournament, the Hampton Classic horse show or the San Francisco Marathon — will be held? If you rent out your home for no more than two weeks, you don’t have to comply with the usual tax rules. In other words, you aren’t taxed on the rental income — it’s completely tax-free — but you can’t deduct rental-based expenses either.

7. Harvest Investment Gains or Losses

Summer is a convenient time to survey your investment portfolio. If you’ve already incurred capital losses from securities transactions this year, any gains you realize between now and the end of the year may be absorbed by those losses. Conversely, if you incurred capital gains from securities transaction earlier this year, the losses you harvest in the second half of the year can offset those gains plus up to $3,000 of ordinary income in 2015.

8. Generate an Energy Credit

If you replace or upgrade your air conditioning system this summer, you may qualify for a residential energy credit. The credit is equal to 30% of the cost of energy-saving devices, including air conditioners, air circulating fans, doors and skylights. Specific credit limits apply to certain items. For example, there’s a $50 limit for air circulating fans. And there’s an overall lifetime energy credit limit of $500.

9. Take Advantage of Business Travel

Suppose you’re required to go on a business trip this summer. You can write off your travel expenses as long as the trip’s primary purpose is business-related — even if you indulge in some vacationing. For instance, if you spend the business week in meetings and the weekend sightseeing, the entire cost of your airfare plus business-related meals, lodging and local transportation is deductible within the usual tax law limits. Just don’t deduct any personal expenses you incur on your side-trip.

10. Support a Recent Graduate

If your child just graduated from college, this is probably the last year you can claim a dependency exemption for him or her. However, you must provide more than half of the child’s annual support to qualify for the $4,000 exemption. To clear the half-support threshold, consider giving the graduate a generous graduation gift, such as a car to be used on the first job. Unfortunately, dependency exemptions may be reduced for high-income taxpayers.

 

 ©2015 Thompson Reuters