The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) gives workers and their families who lose health benefits the right to choose to continue the benefits provided by their health plan for a limited time following the loss of a job, death, divorce or certain other life events.

This temporary extension is required of health plans sponsored by employers with 20 or more employees. And if you need to provide workers the opportunity to elect continuation coverage, it’s important you do it right or you risk fines, penalties and even civil lawsuits.

Here’s what you need to know to comply with COBRA regulations.


If you’re a private employer with 20 or more full-time equivalent employees that offers group health plans, COBRA applies to you. Plans offered by state and local government are also subject to COBRA.


The plan administrator (in some cases, the employer) is responsible for providing eligible individuals various notices: 1. the plan’s Summary Plan Description (SPD) that describes COBRA rights; 2. a general notice provided to each employee and spouse (this requirement can be met by the SDP as long as it’s provided to the employee and covered spouse); 3. election notice; 4. unavailability of continuation of coverage notice; and 5. termination of coverage notice.

Covered Benefits

If an individual elects continuation coverage, the health coverage given must be identical to what’s currently available under the plan to similarly situated active employees and their families (generally the same coverage they had immediately before the qualifying event). Individuals receiving continuation coverage are also entitled to the same benefits, choices, and services that participants or beneficiaries receive under the plan, such as the right during open enrollment season to choose among available coverage options.

Participant Eligibility

To be entitled to elect COBRA continuation coverage, the individual must be a qualified beneficiary for that event, meaning covered by a group health plan on the day before a qualifying event occurred. Only certain individuals can become qualified beneficiaries, specifically, a covered employee, their spouse or dependent child. In certain cases, a retired employee, their spouse or former spouse, and dependent children may be qualified beneficiaries. An employer’s agents, independent contractors, and directors who participate in the group health plan may also be qualified beneficiaries.


COBRA requires that continuation coverage last from the date of the qualifying event for a period of 18 or 36 months depending on the type of qualifying event. When the qualifying event is the employee’s termination of employment or reduction in hours, qualified beneficiaries are entitled to 18 months of coverage. When the qualifying event is the end of employment or reduction of the employee’s hours, and the employee became entitled to Medicare less than 18 months before the event, coverage for the employee’s spouse and dependents can last until 36 months after the date the employee becomes entitled to Medicare.


A group health plan can require individuals to pay for COBRA continuation coverage. However, the amount charged to qualified beneficiaries cannot exceed 102 percent of the cost to the plan for similarly situated individuals covered under the plan who have not incurred a qualifying event. In determining COBRA premiums, the plan can include the costs paid by employees and the employer, plus an additional 2 percent for administrative costs.

Non-compliance with COBRA regulations can be costly – with a fine of $110 levied per day just for a delinquent COBRA notice. For more assistance with understanding your responsibilities as an employer, download our COBRA checklist. Or contact Complete Payroll Solutions at 877.253.9020

Form 5500 is used by employers or pension or welfare benefit plan administrators to satisfy annual reporting requirements under ERISA and the Internal Revenue Code. The form requires information about the qualification of the plan, its financial condition, investments and operations. And if it’s not filed on time, the fines can add up: The IRS penalty for a late filing is $25 a day up to a maximum of $15,000 and the DOL can assess up to $1,100 with no limit.

So what do you need to know to be in compliance?

  • Who Must File?
    Sponsors of any plan subject to ERISA (e.g. medical and dental, life, 401(k), pension plans and others) must complete Form 5500. Health and welfare plans with fewer than 100 participants that are unfunded, fully insured, or a combination, are exempt. For other plans with fewer than 100 participants, sponsors can file the short form, Form 5500-SF.
  • What Information is Required?
    The form requires a range of information, including a schedule of assets and liabilities; information about insurance contracts; a list of service providers; loans, fixed income obligations, leases in default and uncollectible transactions; actuarial details; and an accountant report.
  • How is the Form Filed?
    The form must be filed electronically through EFAST2.
  • When is the Form Due?
    The form is due the last day of the seventh month after the plan year ends (so July 31 for a calendar-year plan or the next business day if July 31 is on a weekend). Extensions must be requested on Form 5558.
  • What Common Errors Should be Avoided?
    The IRS uses the information on the returns and reports to select cases for compliance checks. So be sure you enter correct information and codes, make entries on the right line, and don’t leave any fields blank. If you notice an error after filing, you can amend the return or file a corrected information report.

Don’t wait until you receive a letter of noncompliance! A third-party administrator can help you avoid costly penalties and ensure your Form 5500 is filed on time. Learn more here with our filing requirements for form 5500. For more information about how Complete Payroll Solutions can help, contact us at 877.253.9020.




With the new year upon us, companies of all sizes need to prepare for difficult challenges in 2019. Among the most pressing issues employers face in the coming year are:

1. Healthcare Costs: In a survey of top employer concerns for 2019 conducted by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM), 74% of employers noted the cost of healthcare as their biggest challenge for 2019. While good health insurance is critical to attract and retain talent, proper plan design can help lower expenses. Beyond high-deductible plans coupled with a health savings account, new approaches to controlling costs are growing in popularity like virtual care options.

2. Availability of Workforce: With low unemployment, attracting employees is troubling for many businesses. In fact, multiple reports state that over 60% of businesses have difficulty finding quality applicants. One way to address the shortage of workers is to create a better applicant experience throughout the process by leveraging tools like AI, social media and mobile applications. And be sure to offer the benefits employees want. Download the SHRM survey results to see the top benefits today.

3. Regulatory Issues: Administering employee benefits is a major challenge for businesses who must remain compliant with federal, state and local laws and regulations affecting employers and employees. To stay in compliance, employers should continually monitor new and existing laws, understand which ones apply to their organization, and determine how to best communicate to and train the workforce to meet the requirements. Download our list of required notices by company size.

4. Family and Medical Leave: In an XpertHR survey, 47% of respondents cited challenges with tracking and complying with rapidly changing leave laws across states and 43% reported the administrative burden of managing leave a top problem. Organizations can ease the process by determining the laws that apply to them, communicating rights to employees, and training managers on how to properly schedule and document leaves.

5. Employee Marijuana Use: Employers need to maintain a safe and productive workforce. But with medical and/or recreational marijuana legal in many states (check out our map of states that have legalized the drug.), it can be challenging. To help promote a drug-free workplace, companies should craft policies about the use and possession of marijuana, clearly outlining expectations and consequences. And offer support for those struggling with abuse.

Complete Payroll Solutions can help you prepare for what’s next. Contact us at 888-865-4470.

Required Benefits Notices Chart

In the last month of 2018, Complete Payroll Solutions was very happy to add four new members to our team:

Jonathan Spring, Client Relations Specialist: Jonathan joined Complete Payroll Solutions as a client relations specialist, working collaboratively with organizations to assist them with payroll processing and related issues. Previously, he worked in the retirement plan administration industry in both account management and operations specialist roles.

Teressa Libian, Client Relations Specialist: Teressa is now a client relations specialist in Complete Payroll Solutions’ Springfield office. In this role, she helps process clients’ payroll and troubleshoot issues to ensure timely, accurate processing and optimal service. Previously, she was a sales and service supervisor for an area bank.

Bernice Matheiu, Client Relations Supervisor: From Complete Payroll Solutions’ Springfield office, Bernice Matheiu serves as a Client Relations Supervisor, where she provides knowledgeable service and ongoing support for payroll clients. Bernice brings extensive industry experience to her new role, having spent more than seven years with ADP in client service roles and holding her FPC since 2012. She has a Master of Science degree in Human Resource Management from Johnson & Wales University and is currently pursuing a PhD in Business Psychology.

Linda Sherman, Tax Associate: As a tax associate in Complete Payroll Solutions’ Springfield office, Linda Sherman assists clients with payroll tax accounting, reporting and compliance. Previously, she worked as a Conversion Specialist at Interpay. Linda graduated from Saint Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, New York, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration.

Are you interested in becoming part of the Complete Payroll Solutions team? Check out our current openings.

With the dynamic nature of employment laws and regulations, it’s critical to stay on top of changes every year to remain in compliance. And the start of 2019 marks a good time to review your current employee handbook – and update it with the latest requirements.

What’s the best way to include all the necessary information and communicate it to employees? Here are five tips.

1. Be Clear: Use plain language–not legalese–that’s easy to read so that the handbook is user-friendly. If the handbook is only for full-time employees, determine how you’ll communicate things like benefits to part-time workers. And be sure to spell out that the handbook is not a contract of employment and that the contents can be changed at any time.

2. Set Expectations: Clearly define the expectations of employees in various aspects of their employment, such as attendance. And make sure you enforce the standards consistently. So everyone is on the same page, ask employees to sign and return an acknowledgement page.

3. Give Examples: When explaining certain policies like those about discipline and sexual harassment, use practical examples that employees can understand. For instance, include the types of behaviors that constitute sexual harassment. And reinforce them in any trainings you hold.

4. Get Specific: Laws like paid sick leave have been enacted in many states and localities. If you have offices in multiple locations, it may be best to include an area-specific supplement since general information will not apply to all employees.

5. Provide Contacts: When employees read a handbook, they may have questions about various aspects of the content. So they can get clarification, provide the names, titles and contact information for those in the company they can reach out to with questions.

Start the New Year off right by dusting off your handbook to be proactive in human resource management. You can also reference our list of “must-haves” for your employee handbook in this blog post. For more information about handbooks, contact Complete Payroll Solutions at 888-865-4470.

HR Outsourcing for Every Budget

Depending on where your business is located, winter weather can pose a variety of workplace challenges. And one of the biggest is knowing how to handle closures due to snow storms. To help you prepare for inclement weather this season, here are five things to keep in mind when it comes to deciding to close the workplace for all or part of the day.

  1. Assign a Team: Before snow storm season gets too far underway, create a team consisting of necessary management and other personnel and assign tasks that need to be handled before, during, and after a potential weather closure.
  2. Develop a Weather Policy: Make sure you include inclement weather protocols in your employee handbook so that all employees understand what may prompt you to close such as school or government closures, how they’ll be contacted, what to do if workers can’t safely make it in, and so on.
  3. Communicate Compensation Considerations: Depending on your employees’ status, you may need to pay them even if you close. While nonexempt employees must only be paid for the hours worked, exempt employees must be paid for the entire work week if they worked any part of it. To eliminate confusion, share these details in your handbook.
  4. Address PTO: Employers can require both exempt and nonexempt employees to use vacation time or PTO when the office closes due to weather. Consider your options, including allowing employees to work remotely instead of taking time off, and include the policy in your handbook.
  5. Put Safety First: Significant snow or ice can cause power outages, slippery surfaces, and other hazardous conditions in the workplace so be sure you adequately protect employees, vendors, and customers against dangers.

With some businesses deciding to close when as little as a few inches of snow accumulate, find out your risk this winter by downloading our map. And before the severe weather hits, call Complete Payroll Solutions at 888-865-4470 for more assistance with how to prepare for HR issues that may arise.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) can be a valuable way for employees to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for certain out-of-pocket healthcare expenses. But unlike Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), the unused funds generally don’t roll over from year to year unless your plan’s design allows for a carryover of up to $500.

To help your workers utilize the funds before the “use it or lose it” deadline of March 15, 2019, be sure to remind them about an FSA’s eligible expenses – which include some items that health plans may not cover like vision and dental. (You can get a list of eligible FSAs here.) Then educate them about ways to maximize the benefits of these accounts before they expire. For example, to help employees take full advantage of their FSA, make them aware of the following savings opportunities:

  • Stock Up on Supplies: If employees use blood sugar testing supplies, for example, they can purchase large quantities this year.
  • Baby Planning: For those workers who may be thinking about starting a family in 2019, items like pregnancy tests and breast pumps can all be bought with FSA funds now.
  • Schedule Specialty Services: If they need it, employees should try to squeeze in another acupuncture or chiropractic visit before the end of the year since both can be paid for with an FSA.
  • Stay Sun Safe: FSAs can be used to cover the costs of prescription sunglasses and sunscreen that’s at least 30 SPF.
  • It’s all in the Family: Remind employees that FSA funds can be used for medical dependents as well so schedule any eligible treatment for family members who may need it.

To learn more about FSAs and how they can be used to help your workers offset the costs of health and related expenses, contact Complete Payroll Solutions’ benefits group at 877.253.9020.

It’s never too early for young employees to start saving for retirement.

But rising healthcare costs, inflation, and increased longevity can make it challenging to know just what an individual will require to retire comfortably. Employers can help younger workers prepare for retirement planning through employer-sponsored plans such as 401(k)s and  Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

To help employees get started with retirement planning, Complete Payroll Solutions offers a retirement-planning worksheet that shows how different levels of contributions impact finances down the road. That way, workers at various ages and salaries can see how much they should save for retirement.

Get The Retirement Planning Worksheet

Once workers have an accurate picture of their income needs during retirement, if they’re like the majority of Americans, they’ll likely realize they need to save more. In fact, the 2018 Retirement Confidence Survey from EBRI revealed just 17 percent of workers feel very confident in their ability to live comfortably.

To boost their confidence and help employees successfully prepare for the next stage of life, you can offer employer-sponsored plans like 401(k)s and Health Savings Accounts (HSAs).

  • 401(k)s

    These plans allow workers to make pre-tax contributions from their paychecks and invest them, without having to pay taxes on the money they set aside until it’s withdrawn. But many employees aren’t contributing enough to their 401(k)s. To increase participation in these plans, automatically opt workers in. And automate contributions to make it easy for workers to save, and even consider an auto-increase feature.

  • HSAs

    Since the average 65-year-old couple retiring this year will need $280,000 to cover health care and medical costs during retirement, according to Fidelity Investments’ 16th annual retiree health care cost estimate, a triple-tax advantaged HSA, coupled with a high-deductible health plan, is a smart investment strategy because the balances roll over year to year. In retirement, workers can withdraw the funds tax free to pay for Medicare premiums, prescriptions, and more. To help employees maximize the benefits of HSAs, encourage them to fully fund their account each year.

For more information about how Complete Payroll Solutions can help your employees prepare for the future, contact us at 866.658.8800 or through our website.

Retirement Guide By Age and Salary

Paycards, also known as payroll debit cards, are reloadable pre-paid cards onto which employers deposit an employee’s net wages. Workers can then use payroll debit cards to make purchases, withdraw cash, and even pay bills.

And they’re rising in popularity among employees and employers, with one study showing that employers loaded $42 billion in gross dollar volume onto 5.9 million paycards just last year.

Here are the top reasons why and how shifting from paychecks or direct deposit to paycards can boost employee satisfaction and retention and even streamline your payroll process.

1. Paycards Give Immediate Access: Once deposited, the funds are available immediately.

2. No Bank Account Needed: For employees who don’t have a bank account, they can use a paycard and gain a lot of the same advantages without having to worry about monthly fees or other bank charges.

3. No Check Cashing Fees With Paycards: Some check-cashing services charge fees that depend on the check’s value so the cards eliminate this charge, although some cards have small fees for certain transactions.

4. ATM-Friendly: The cards are like debit cards that can be used to withdraw cash at ATMs. Some cards, however, may have limits on the number of transactions or charge fees for withdrawals.

5. Paycards Are Widely Accepted: Like a traditional debit card, the paycards can be used anywhere at participating merchants.

6. Fraud Avoidance: With a card, employees don’t have to worry about someone forging their check if it’s lost or stolen.

7. Customer Service: Depending on the vendor, workers can view their transaction history, make transfers to other accounts, and sometimes access account information via a mobile app.

8. Paycards Are Secure: If the card is stolen or lost, most programs are FDIC insured and/or include fraud protection so the employee’s funds are protected.

9. Paycards Offer Convenience: Employees don’t have to worry about stopping by the workplace to pick up their check or making it to the bank or check-cashing location in time. And many paycard and payroll debit card accounts can be set up online.

10. Paycards Help With Debt Avoidance: The cards don’t allow employees to take on debt so their credit rating may improve.

In addition to improving morale, paycards hold another benefit for businesses: cost savings. With paycards, employers can save on the cost of check deliveries to those employees not electing direct deposit.

To reap the benefits of paycards to employees and your business, just be sure to check if your state has any laws governing the cards (see our map for guidance). For more information about switching to paycards, contact Complete Payroll Solution at 866-658-8800.


This past month, Complete Payroll Solutions was very happy to welcome four new team members:

John Tuttobene, Area Market Manager: John leads a team charged with developing and delivering client-centric human capital management solutions for mid-sized companies to support our growth strategy. John has extensive experience in the industry, having held positions with Paychex for 21 years, most recently serving as mid market manager for Southeastern and Central New England. John received a BA in marketing from SUNY Brockport.

Sean Halloran, Regional Sales Manager: Sean leads a team of sales professionals who help Boston area businesses identify and implement the best solutions to further their objectives. Sean has 20 years of sales experience, most recently as district sales manager SMB Solutions at Paychex, where he was named the 2011 District Sales Manager of the Year, New England Region. Previously, he worked in sales in broadcast media and professional hockey. Sean received a BA and MBA from Clark University.

Cheryl Halliwell, HRIS Implementation Specialist: Working out of our West Warwick, Rhode Island, office, Cheryl assists clients in transitioning to our single-source HR platform by providing custom development, testing, and training and support. Cheryl joined the company with 10 years of benefit implementation experience, serving as a benefit administrator/human capital management consultant with several human resources, healthcare, and payroll processing organizations, including Mercer, ADP, Benefit Concepts, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. She earned her BS in industrial technology/marketing communications from Rhode Island College.

Patricia Lyons, Senior HR Business Partner: Also working out of our West Warwick, Rhode Island, office, Patricia assists clients with short-term and long-term HR strategy, provides expert support for complex issues, and develops policies, procedures and handbooks. Prior to joining us, Patricia most recently served as human resources manager at RALCO Electric, Inc. She also worked as a senior HR business partner at The Hilb Group of New England and HR manager at Wolverine Joining Technologies. In addition to her professional experience, Patricia currently serves as Treasurer for RI SHRM, where she was also past director of certification, and as co-chair of the Education & Safety Committee at the RI Association of Builders and Contractors.

Are you interested in becoming part of the Complete Payroll Solutions team? Check out our current openings.