Affinity HR Questions & Answers


I have heard you speak about offering Student Loan Repayment as a benefit. How would this work? Is there any tax favorability to it?

Customer

Question: I have heard you speak about offering Student Loan Repayment as a benefit. How would this work? Is there any tax favorability to it?

Answer: In a tight labor market and with a large percentage of new hires carrying student loan debt, this is a great benefit to recruit new hires. Whether it’s paying a portion of the debt every month or paying off chunks of debt at a time, it helps employees alleviate the burden of debt. The benefits are fully taxable to the employee and to you, so there’s no tax advantage. But unlike salary, you will not be paying FICA or other employment taxes on the amount. There are a few companies out there to help with setting up a program like this such as Tuition.io, Futurefuel.io, and Vault. Check them out!

Do you have any creative benefit ideas for trying to recruit new talent?

Customer

Question: Do you have any creative benefit ideas for trying to recruit new talent?

Answer: Absolutely! Here are some things you can offer: additional vacation days, reimburse student loan or credit card debt, allow your employee to work from home once a week or work from the office one weekend day a week, offer a sabbatical after five years of service, reimburse transportation or child-care expenses, pay for continuing education, and, of course, teach your prospective employees about any retirement benefits, such as 401(k) benefits. If you do get creative with your benefits, present them with your offer so that they can weigh the benefits along with your salary offering. Good Luck!

We have an employee who would like to bring a service dog to work with her. Do we have to allow this?

Customer

Question: We have an employee who would like to bring a service dog to work with her. Do we have to allow this?

Answer: Well, the question of whether you "have to" depends. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, which applies to companies with 15 or more employees, an employer should attempt to provide a "reasonable accommodation" to a person with a qualified disability. The act defines what types of conditions would qualify as a disability. If the individual is eyesight impaired and allowing her to bring a dog to work does not create an "undue hardship" to your company, then yes, providing that accommodation would be reasonable. It's a slippery slope from there. What types of animals are service animals? What level of mental health ailment would qualify someone as having a disability? Our best advice is to get some validation from a medical provider for the need for the accommodation and the benefit it would provide and allow the accommodation as you deem appropriate.

Is it possible for us to hire an HR generalist on a temporary basis? We've had mis-hires before and want to try her before we hire her.

Customer

Question: Is it possible for us to hire an HR generalist on a temporary basis? We've had mis-hires before and want to try her before we hire her.

Answer: Absolutely, it is fine to hire someone temporarily on a contract basis. By doing so, you could treat her as an independent contractor or a short-term employee. Be sure to provide an engagement letter discussing the scope of the engagement, the length of the project, the work expected, the pay rate, and, importantly, include your "at-will" language specifying that the engagement does not constitute an employment contract and can be severed "at-will" by either party without notice or cause.