Are you ready for a year-end like no other?

Sometimes, it feels like 2020 is a year that will never end — in more ways than one. But with just about a month and a half left, the conclusion to a year that can most charitably be described as “difficult” is not too far away. As an HR leader, you would have had a lot on your plate at this time in a year that was entirely ordinary, which 2020 distinctly was not.

This time around you’ll be dealing with responsibilities that are perennial in your profession alongside tasks that mostly arose in 2020, some of which pertain to regulations passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the interest of making these trying times easier for you and your team, we’ve put together a year-end HR checklist to help you make sure you cover all necessary bases, saying goodbye to 2020 the right way and setting yourself up for a strong 2021.

Evaluating enrollment

If you haven’t already finished enrolling employees in the health insurance plans you’re offering for the coming year (and collecting waivers from staff who voluntarily opt out of that coverage), you’ll be doing so very soon. Once the sign-ups are over and you’ve submitted enrollment paperwork to your insurer, it’s essential for your department to dig into how the process actually unfolded: Was it a success, a failure or — as is often the case — a blend of both?

Ideally, you handled at least some of this evaluation while enrollment was still taking place, but only after the fact can you look at the sign-up period in a comprehensive fashion.

businessman standing behind graphics of the words HEALTHCARE BENEFITS and a rising arrowEvaluation of health plan enrollment sets you up for a better future.

Assessing open enrollment is worthwhile not only for determining its successes, but also for establishing a solid foundation for benefits administration in the year to come. Look for telling patterns in the data, such as a significant number of employees switching from one plan to another. You’ll also want to consider how the HR team communicated during the several weeks of enrollment (emails, informational sessions, one-on-one conversations and so on) and make a judgment on whether those efforts were effective, based on direct feedback from the workforce.

Payroll and tax classification essentials

Many organizations went through staff upheaval of some kind during 2020, whether it was layoffs, furloughs, switching workers between full-time and part-time status, relying more heavily on contractors or a combination of those issues. You’ll need to make sure records and classifications accurately reflect changes in employment status. For example, if a worker’s overtime exemption from Fair Labor Standards Act requirements fluctuated over the course of the year, or if they had workweeks of varying length as defined in the Labor Department’s final rule, it’s vital that their classification (and compensation) is accurate going into 2021.

Along similar lines, you’ll want to ensure all employee records are accurate so W-2s and similar documents are properly distributed. Then you have to consider the organization’s tax filings, including Form 941 for 2020’s final quarter and 940 for the year as a whole. Plus, if you brought on contractors for the first time, you’ll need to submit 1096s for all of them.

COVID-related clarifications

Both the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and CARES Act allow for tax credits: the former for any paid leave stemming from coronavirus infection or quarantine, the latter based on any suspension of operations or “significant decline in receipts” clearly attributable to the pandemic (between March 12 of this year and New Year’s Day 2021). Ensure these circumstances are accounted for by making any necessary earnings code corrections in your tax filings. Do the same for any Social Security withholdings you deferred under the terms of August’s presidential memorandum.

Last but not least, you may need to add COVID-19 safety training to your annual instructional requirements per state law. Even if you’re not mandated to do so, implementing such training is common sense. It shows staff that the organization is committed to their well-being going forward, in the wake of a strange and challenging year.

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