Compensation and Staffing News
October 2019

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2020 Open Enrollment and Insurance Plan Rates
November - Maddi Bazzocco - Unsplash
Open Enrollment for the UUA Health and Dental Plans is in November. Enrollment materials will be mailed soon to participating individuals along with all congregations and other UU related employers.
Base rates for the UUA Health Plan are going up 5% for 2020. And, since everyone is a year older than they were a year ago, there is also a small age-related adjustment, varying by age.  With the small increase in the 2020 rates, our total rate increase over the last three years has been only 1½%, far below the market trend of about 15% over the same period.
2020 rates for UUA Dental, Life, and Long-Term Disability plans will be finalized soon. (Please remember that there is no open enrollment for Life and LTD plans.)
Clearing Up Common Sources of Confusion
The new program year has brought to our attention a variety of questions and concerns regarding employment agreements for ministers and other staff. Please look over this list. If you see anything you don't understand, or if think you may have done something incorrectly, contact Jan Gartner , UUA Compensation and Staffing Practices Manager about clarifications and next steps.
  1. Nearly all workers in our congregations are employees. Some workers who should be employees are instead being treated as independent contractors. Refer to our Employee or Independent Contractor? page in the searchable LeaderLab Resource Library.
  2. Congregations are prohibited from withholding or remitting Social Security/Medicare taxes for ministers. Even though they are nearly always employees for other purposes, ministers are considered self-employed when it comes to Social Security/Medicare taxes. This means that they pay all of their Social Security/Medicare tax (SECA) directly, and there's no employer contribution. We urge congregations to include the self-employment tax offset (or payment in lieu of FICA) as part of the minister's compensation; this is equal to what the congregation would pay in FICA tax for a non-minsterial employee earning the same salary. See our Ministerial Compensation 101 and Ministerial Tax Status resources.
  3. First determine an appropriate salary and then add the cost of benefits. Some congregations are using a "Total Cost of Ministry" approach to compensation. An employee's salary should be independent of the benefits they receive.
  4. Your congregation must be offering any benefits you promise to an employee in their employment agreement. Occasionally, a benefit gets written into an agreement when the congregation is not actually participating in a plan for that benefit. This is a burdensome situation to remedy later.
  5. Reimbursing an employee for individual health insurance is no longer legal. However, you may reimburse them, tax-free, for group insurance that they carry through a spouse or another employer. See "Staff Carrying Other Health Insurance" in the February 2018 issue of Compensation and Staffing News.
  6. Employees must enroll in UUA Life and Long-Term Disability insurance within 60 days of their start date. There is no annual open enrollment for Life or LTD. There are no "qualifying events.” A continuing employee will only become newly eligible if they have an increase in hours (from fewer than 750 hours to 750 or more hours per year).
  7. "Eligible for" employer contributions to the UUA Retirement Plan means must receive employer contributions. Employees who have met the Year of Eligibility Service criteria in the UU Organizations Retirement Plan may not opt out nor can they negotiate with their congregation to shift their retirement contribution amount to another form of compensation. This is true even for employees who have reached retirement age. See our May 2018 issue to determine who is eligible for (i.e., must receive) employer contributions.
  8. Unused professional expenses cannot be converted to salary. Doing so nullifies the Accountable Reimbursement Plan and turns the whole expense line into taxable income. See "Unused Professional Expenses" in our June 2018 issue.
Exempt or Nonexempt? Fair Labor Standards Act Change for 2020
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that protects workers by establishing standards for a minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment. Every employee of your congregation needs to be properly classified as exempt or nonexempt .

A change in the FLSA salary threshold for "white-collar exemptions" (executive, administrative, and professional exemptions) goes into effect on January 1. In 2020, the minimum salary needed for exempt status under the FLSA will increase from $455/week to $684/week, or $35,568/year for a 40-hour, 12-month employee. (This threshold is not prorated for those who work fewer than 40 hours/week.) Some of your staff who currently meet the exemption criteria may need to be reclassified as nonexempt; this has important payroll and recordkeeping implications. Keep in mind that to qualify for any of these exemptions, certain duties tests must also be met.

There is also a ministerial exception to the FLSA, which applies to ministers and staff who have "essential religious duties." This exception falls outside of the FLSA, so no salary threshold applies – it is based only on responsibilities.

Our Fair Labor Standards Act resource page includes a detailed FAQ document about exemptions and recordkeeping, as well as a Compliance Guide that walks you through a process of assessing compliance and making necessary adjustments.

Important Reminders
  • The executive, administrative, and professional exemptions are based on not only salary but also duties. An employee who earns at least $684/week is not automatically exempt; they must also meet the duties tests for a particular exemption, as outlined in our FLSA FAQ.
  • As an employer, you must keep records of daily and weekly hours worked for every nonexempt employee.
UUA Office of Church Staff Finances
24 Farnsworth Street | Boston, MA 02210