On the Massachusetts legislative front, several
employment-related laws take effect in 2013:
Fair Share Employer Contribution for Health Insurance
The major health legislation, An Act Improving the Quality of
Health Care and Reducing Costs through increased Transparency,
Efficiency and Innovation, changes the fair share employer
contribution measurement in a small but significant manner. It
raises the fair share contribution threshold, the point at which
employers become subject to fair share assessment laws, from 11 to
21 full-time employees. Additionally, it no longer counts employees
who have health care coverage through a spouse, government program,
or elsewhere towards an employer's fair share contribution. The
rules go into effect on July 1, 2013.
Additional changes to the fair share law were made in the 2012
Economic Development bill, which will take some pressure off of
employers who are found out of compliance with the fair share
contribution requirements. Under the new law, the Massachusetts
Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) must allow an employer
60 days, rather than 10, to appeal a finding of noncompliance. The
DUA cannot remove funds from an employer's bank account while
an appeal is pending. Under prior law, an employer would accrue 12%
interest on what it owed to the fair share contribution from the
day it was issued a finding by the DUA. The new law forbids this
practice while the appeal is pending, but may impose the interest
if the appeal fails. Finally, the DUA must issue a written decision
on the amount an employer must pay within 90 days of its final
decision for companies with more than 50 employees and within 30
days for those with 50 or fewer.
Tax Incentives to Employers for Creating Wellness Programs
The legislation An Act Improving the Quality of Health Care and
Reducing Costs through increased Transparency, Efficiency and
Innovation also includes a provision that will provide employers an
annual tax credit of up to $10,000 for instituting wellness
programs for their employees. The tax incentives provided in the
new law will take effect on January 1, 2013. The Massachusetts
Department of Public Health is expected to issue regulations with
details on how employers can ensure that their wellness program
qualifies for the tax credit.
Temporary Workers Right to Know Act
The Temporary Workers Right to Know Act amends existing
Massachusetts laws governing the temporary staffing industry in
three specific ways by: (1) requiring staffing agencies to provide
much greater detail about new assignments to its employees,
including the applicable wages, the duration of the assignment, and
any risk to personal safety; (2) prohibiting staffing agencies and
worksite employers from charging certain fees to temporary
employees; and (3) requiring staffing agencies to reimburse their
employees' transportation on days where no employment actually
existed. Certain professional employees are exempt. The new law
will take effect on January 31, 2013.
Potential Legislative Activity
Several noteworthy employment-related bills are likely to be
reintroduced in the coming legislative session, including: (1)
efforts to mandate paid sick leave; (2) bills that would curtail or
negate entirely the protections of noncompete agreements; (3) an
attempt to amend the current definition of "independent
contractor" that has been problematic for employers; (4)
increasing the minimum wage; and (5) clarifying amendments to the
provision of the Massachusetts Personnel Records Law mandating that
employees be notified promptly of adverse entries in their
personnel records. In addition, legislation providing protection to
victims of domestic violence and their immediate family members by
guaranteeing up to 15 days of leave from their jobs in any 12-month
period, which already passed the Senate, is expected to be enacted
into law in the 2013 session.
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As insurance premiums rise, and more companies self-insure, "wellness programs" have emerged to merge the interests of employees in being well and employers in keeping them well and away from the medical establishment.