Benefits, HR Basics

On the Health Care Reform Horizon: New Info on How to Handle W-2s

Income Tax Form

With the slew of other new legal disclosures coming up this summer, adding the full cost of medical coverage on W-2s in January 2013 may have fallen off your radar.

We agree that between 401(k) fee disclosures and the Summary of Benefits and Coverage notices, the new mandated information on W-2s is definitely a blip. Yet, it really is the bright spot. Just a bit of your effort will go a long way.

According to a recent MetLife study, 76 percent of employees who are highly satisfied with their benefits are also satisfied with their jobs. It makes sense. In a salary-focused world, it feels good to see how much bigger your compensation really is when you see pay plus benefits.

When increases aren’t possible …

Most organizations have felt the pinch of the last few years. Whether in the form of strategy shifts, layoffs or reorganizations, or small or no bumps in pay, employees have felt pinched too.

Why not play up the value of your benefits when the price tag is so small? And, since you need to head off employee questions about the new data they’ll see on their W-2s anyway, what’s stopping you from promoting the broader total compensation message?

What to do?

If you have a Total Comp Statement

  • Give some room in your enrollment campaign to the value of your health care coverage.
  • Think through timing of 2012 W-2s — before or after your statement mails?
  • Address the differences between the two documents before each mails to homes.
  • Repeat simple FAQs about the W-2s during February or March 2013, when many employees are doing their taxes.

If you DON’T have a Total Comp Statement

  • Consider one.
  • Draft a Total Comp vision — words to summarize your philosophy of pay and benefits today. Review your benefits editorial calendar for an appropriate time to send the ideas.
  • Revisit your Total Comp statement, and address new W-2 format before 2012 W-2s mail.
  • Repeat simple FAQs about the W-2s during February or March 2013, when many employees are doing their taxes.

What will employees ask?

Of course they’ll ask about the basics, but you’ll probably hear a zinger too.

  • Have my costs gone up?
  • Where did this number come from?
  • Is the IRS going to tax me on this? (Answer: No, despite all the Internet rumors.)
  • Will the company always pay this percentage of my insurance?

All employee questions are easier to manage when you’ve proactively communicated any change. Just a few simple steps can help your employees stay focused on their work and feel energized by how much more value they take home in their paycheck every week.

Liz Rowell joined Benz Communications as a senior writer and consultant after spending eight years at Hewitt Associates, where her work received an IABC award along with numerous other internal commendations. Contact her at liz@Benzcommunications.com .