Lindquist LLP has observed that, in an effort to reduce the time and problems associated with delinquent and/or inaccurate reporting, some employee benefit plans have developed what we refer to as "employer outreach programs." These programs provide employers with guidance and information to help them file accurate and timely reports to comport with their collective bargaining agreements and plan requirements.
Trustees may want to consider implementing an employer outreach program to provide contributing employers with essential tools to help them fulfill their fringe benefit reporting obligations.
What Can an Employer Outreach Program Do?
· Educate the employer representative responsible for reporting about trust agreement and plan requirements
· Provide guidance to employers for properly completing the reporting forms
· Reduce the potential for errors in reporting by assisting employers in understanding reporting requirements
· Clarify interpretations or conflicts in interpretation of reporting requirements
· Alert employers of the ramifications for incorrect reporting
Lindquist LLP serves many employee benefit plans that provide employer outreach programs in various forms. Below are some examples to consider:
Plan professionals provide training and continuing education meetings on proper reporting practices. For example, the plan administrator may provide day-to-day collective bargaining and plan administration procedures and offer best practices for efficient and trouble-free contribution reporting; the plan's auditor may review how to prepare for a random payroll compliance audit; the plan's collection attorney may discuss the ramifications of incorrect and/or untimely reporting.
Though we have not yet seen this implemented, Trustees may consider presenting employer training in a webinar series or digitally recording a live seminar for posting on a Trust-sponsored website.
New Employer Courtesy Audits
Within the first six to twelve months of participating in a plan, new contributing employers receive a "courtesy payroll audit" provided by the plan's payroll compliance auditor. Such audits can catch any reporting issues early to avoid costly findings at a later date and provide on-site training for the employer.
Local Union Representative Outreach
Local union representatives work with the employers to show them how to properly complete the reporting forms and review reporting requirements outlined in collective bargaining and participation agreements. This also helps to ensure that the bargaining parties are in agreement with the interpretation of the reporting requirements set forth in collective bargaining agreements.
Employer Outreach Coordinator
An employer outreach coordinator is appointed to train participating employers on plan rules and reporting requirements. The coordinator has expertise in collective bargaining agreement administration and plan requirements and has direct lines of communication with union representatives and plan professionals to assist in educating the employer.
Written Communications from Administrative Office
Administrative offices provide written communication on a regular basis (as an insert to monthly reporting forms, for example) to periodically remind employers how to properly complete reporting forms or to inform them about common mistakes made in reporting.
Employer outreach programs can help create greater efficiencies in fringe benefit reporting, reduce the potential for reporting errors and provide better communication between the participating employer, local union and plan professionals. The result of these greater efficiencies ultimately allows participants to receive the benefits to which they are entitled, when they need them. There are many options available for providing support to participating employers on proper reporting practices. Trustees can best determine what form of outreach would most effectively serve their employers.
Lindquist LLP conducts 1,600 employer payroll compliance audits per year for more than 80 groups of multiemployer trust funds. Please contact us if you have questions about employer outreach programs or would like assistance implementing one for your trust fund.
Rachelle Hislop is a payroll compliance senior manager in Lindquist LLP's San Ramon office. She has more than 17 years of experience in the employee benefit plan sector, including payroll compliance testing and plan administration. She currently manages payroll compliance programs for 17 trust funds. Rachelle is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She can be reached at (925) 277-9100 or firstname.lastname@example.org.