Employers provide funding for unemployment insurance by paying taxes against their payroll into federal and state funds. The program that regulates unemployment insurance has been in place since 1935 with a lasting impact on the economy and wage earners, providing them with a safety net and money for non-deferrable expenses in between jobs. By making unemployment insurance funding possible, employers can take credit for its effectiveness and foster their image of a socially responsible business. Still, this image could be costlier than envisaged for unsuspecting employers if they do not take time to fully understand how their tax rates work and the unemployment insurance effects on their tax rates.
Understanding Unemployment Insurance Taxes
What is the cost of unemployment insurance (UI) for an employer? Is it a burden or just a negligible business expense? The best answer is – it depends. There are several factors that come into play, and UI effects on employers may differ from one type of industry to another, whether a business is big or small, and the frequency of terminations a business sees at any given time.
The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) contributes a federal portion of the tax paid into UI funds. It is imposed at a flat rate on the first $7,000 paid to each employee. The current FUTA tax rate is 6%, but in most states, employers can get a 5.4% “discount” for timely payments, reducing it to 0.6%.
The State Unemployment Tax Act (SUTA) is a tax that goes straight into the funds of the state the business operates in. SUTA differs from state to state, the rate being determined by each state separately and within the state for each employer separately. Unlike the symbolic FUTA amount, this amount could dramatically differ among similar businesses. The exact SUTA amount for each employer is established annually, based on the so-called “experience rating”.
In other words, a good experience rating keeps the SUTA rate low and vice versa. It has direct unemployment insurance effects on employers, so understanding the mechanism behind it can incentivize businesses to achieve and maintain UI compliance and improve their overall unemployment cost management.
Understanding Employer’s Role in Unemployment Insurance Claims
Getting to where they want to be in UI management is neither simple nor easy for most employers. Influenced by a great many factors, businesses may end up getting charged with unemployment benefit claims from their former employers. They ought to take these claims seriously and act responsibly in responding to claim notices. A claim filed by a former employee who was let go through no fault of their own, having worked a sufficient number of hours and having earned a minimum required amount in that period, and who is actively seeking employment, is considered justified. In cases like that, the UI claim need not be contested.
However, there are other instances in which accepting a claim should not be an option. There are situations when circumstances of termination as presented by the claimant do not correspond to the truth, or the employer data indicate other fraudulent activity (ID fraud or other misreported data). This is when employers definitely need to step in and act in the best interest of their company, which is to prevent the UI benefits payments from being awarded to such claims.
To prevent adverse UI effects on employers, it is important for them to understand that the only way to control UI claims cost and SUTA rate increase is to adopt an active and consistent approach to handling unemployment claims.
People make companies. When hiring new members of staff, every employer has the opportunity to improve and strengthen their business. The entire employee lifecycle needs to remain at the center of attention of the HR department to yield positive effects, but also to disable any possible setbacks.
In light of minimizing UI effects on employers and cost management, an employer needs to be aware of the negative impacts a termination can have. To prevent them, they should try to follow best practices in this field: incorporate uniform and strict policies in HR procedures from day on, and document every incident and every issue.
Moreover, employers should hire people that fit their company culture, and are skilled, flexible, and versatile. As a result, they can avoid too high a turnover in staff and layoffs that stem from reasons that could be interpreted as “no fault of their own”. Thus, employers can control UI claims by avoiding the point of receiving a claim in the first place.
Unemployment insurance is just one of the many facets of human resource management. It consists of mandatory federal and state tax payments, part of which employers can control and keep at a reasonable level by decisively implementing a prudent and proactive approach and efficiently handling the UI claims.
Achieving this every step of the way requires dedication, skills, resources, and comprehensive involvement. It may not be an easy task, but it is certainly worth investing in a solution that would enable its successful implementation. One obvious solution in the digital age is to use a customized software platform and automate multiple HR processes.
By outsourcing unemployment management, it is possible to optimize UI effects on employers, achieve compliance with regulatory requirements, ensure the availability of documentation, and secure UI savings for the benefit of your business.