Tips and Resources on Compensation and Personnel Matters

Compensation and Staffing News
May 2018
Employer Contributions to the UUA Retirement Plan:
When Does an Employee Become Eligible?

Your Music Director should have started receiving employer contributions to their Retirement Plan account on the anniversary of their date of hire, but nobody noticed until nine months later. Your Office Assistant works 10 hours/week, so you thought they weren't eligible - but they also serve 20 hours/week at a neighboring congregation that participates in our Plan. You didn't realize that your congregation elected to include the minister's in lieu of FICA payment when calculating their employer contribution.

Mistakes happen and we're here to help you set things right. But it is anxiety-producing to discover errors and time-consuming to fix them retroactively. And, of course, it's an unexpected hit on the congregation's budget. As with so many things, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this case, "prevention" entails knowing the ways that employees become eligible for employer contributions and paying attention to key dates.

There are three paths to eligibility for employer contributions. Please make sure you understand all of these, and remember that the amount of the contribution is determined by your congregation's Employer Participation Agreement (on file with our Office).

PATH #1: Anyone who has successfully completed a UU ministerial internship  (per UUA Ministerial Credentialing Office records) is immediately eligible for employer contributions if serving a congregation that participates in our Retirement Plan.

You might ask:
  • What if they haven't passed the MFC yet? They're still eligible now!
  • What if they haven't worked for us for a year yet? They're still eligible now!
  • What if their position is only 5 hours/week? They're still eligible now!
  • What if they hold a non-ministerial role, like Music Director? They're still eligible now!
Remember: Successful completion of a UU ministerial internship grants immediate eligibility.

PATH #2: Anyone who already met the Year of Eligibility Service provision 
while working for a UU employer that offered our Retirement Plan is immediately eligible for employer contributions when hired by another participating congregation.
You might ask:
  • What if they haven't worked for us for a year yet? They're still eligible now!
  • What if their position is only 5 hours/week? They're still eligible now!
  • What if it's been a few years since they last worked for a UU congregation? They're still eligible now!
Remember: Once eligible, always eligible.
PATH #3 applies to all employees who don't meet the criteria of Paths 1 or 2. An employee begins receiving employer contributions from a participating congregation after completing 1,000 hours of service in 12 consecutive months of employment:
  • within 12 months from date of hire OR 
  • in any subsequent calendar year (starting with the year of their first anniversary of date of hire)
You might ask:
  • What if they put in 1,000 hours ahead of the one-year mark? They're not eligible for employer contributions until they've worked 12 months.
  • What if they work part-time for two employers? Their hours are combined for the purpose of determining eligibility. (Once the employee is eligible, both congregations make contributions, based on their respective Employer Participation Agreements.)
  • What if they worked 1,000 hours in a past year and became eligible, but now their hours are getting reduced? They remain eligible. (See Path #2, above.)
  • What if we have a special or complicated situation? Contact Linda Rose, Retirement Plan Director,
Remember: For each and every employee not yet receiving employer contributions, check for eligibility (i.e., do a "look-back" for 1,000 hours) one year from date of hire, then annually in late December, until they satisfy the Plan's provision.
One more reminder:
Every staff member (age 18 and up), regardless of hours, can enroll in our Retirement Plan  immediately upon hire for the purpose of authorizing voluntary deferrals from their pay. In this way, the UU Organizations Retirement Plan serves as an employee benefit to every  UU staff member in a participating congregation. Be sure to educate new hires about this opportunity, and remind your whole staff annually. Thank you for helping your entire staff save for their later years!
It Could Happen to Your Beloved Staff Member:
When an Employee Becomes Disabled
Your minister gets cancer. Your administrator can no longer perform their duties due to cognitive decline. Your religious educator falls off a ladder while painting their house. Nobody expects it to happen to them but, every year, we hear of situations in which a much-loved member of a congregation's staff becomes unable to work for an extended period of time due to illness or injury. 

What's truly heartbreaking is finding out that the employee was eligible for  UUA Long-Term Disability insurance through a participating congregation - but was not enrolled. Now, after the disability comes to light, the congregation wants to know what they should do to take care of their staff member. Especially since the congregation usually needs to pay someone to assume the employee's responsibilities during their absence (or to launch a search for a long-term replacement), it can be financially challenging to do what's right for the person who became ill or injured. It is also emotionally burdensome.

All employees scheduled to work at least 750 hours/year (about 15 hours/week, year-round) are eligible. UUA Compensation Guidelines call for the congregation to pay the premium, which equals 1.2% of salary (or salary + housing for ministers). As an example, the annual premium for an employee who earns $28,000 per year is $336, or $28/month. Remember: staff must be enrolled within 60 days of the start of their employment (or 60 days of becoming eligible due to increased hours). Otherwise, they must submit an Evidence of Insurability Form for underwriting approval, which is not guaranteed.

Our LTD coverage replaces two-thirds of an employee's pre-disability income after a 90-day waiting period. (Congregations typically self-fund the first 90 days, once regular sick time is used up.) Payments continue until the maximum period of payment, which can be years. Enrolling your staff in Long-Term Disability is a critical and affordable way of taking care of those whose job it is to take care of you.

Important tax note! To prevent any benefit paid out from being taxed, you should impute (add) the amount of the LTD premium to each employee's W-2.
Great Resources for Leaders
Have you seen the UUA's new LeaderLab? This Leadership Development Learning Center features a searchable collection of resources (webinars, videos, articles, and blog posts) on a wide range of leadership topics. Here are two of the  pieces that come up if you search using the tag "Finance for Congregations."
Jan Gartner | Compensation and Staffing Practices Manager |
 UUA Office of Church Staff Finances
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