Quick Hits - April 7, 2021 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

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Quick Hits - April 7, 2021

Remote I-9 extended to May 31, 2021:  ICE has extended permission for remote Form I-9 document review until May 31, 2021. 

Knowing the coming labor shortage, Microsoft takes action: Microsoft Corp said last week that it aims to place 50,000 people in jobs that require technology skills as part of a broader push being undertaken with its professional networking website LinkedIn to help workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic move into new fields.  The jobs will be in what Microsoft calls its “ecosystem” of companies that use or help sell its products.  The effort started last year as pandemic-related business closures hit service workers much harder than technology workers and other white-collar employees who could work from home. LinkedIn made free many of its paid digital skills training courses, covering topics such as software development, data analysis, and financial analysis.  LinkedIn said it will extend the free courses until the end of this year. Microsoft and LinkedIn had aimed to get 25 million people to try the courses and said Tuesday that the figure hit 30.7 million, mostly from the United States but with many from almost every other part of the world.  Creating an employment eligible worker pipeline could alleviate the pain coming down the road.  Source:  Reuters 3/30/21

Benefit plans are evolving:   According to The State of Employee Benefits™ 2021 report by Benefitfocus, nearly three quarters of large employer groups offered a mix of traditional health plans (PPOs) and high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) for 2021, moving away from single health plan strategies. Voluntary benefit offerings continued to expand, specifically income protection benefits, as a way to supplement core coverage and provide greater flexibility and choice. The report also found that while employee health plan premiums saw only a slight increase between 2020 and 2021, employers are paying more as a percentage of the total premium in 2021. PPOs are still the health plan of choice among employees, but HDHPs have grown in popularity across the board, with participation up 30% since 2018. Since 2018, the percentage of Gen Zers with a health savings account (HSA) has more than doubled. Gen Zers, millennials and Gen Xers increased HSA contributions by 10% or more in 2021. And over the last four years, employee participation in hospital indemnity plans has more than doubled and increased by 13% in 2021 alone. Participation in both critical illness and accident plans has grown by 65% or more since 2018.  Source: Benefitfocus 3/24/21

Will Supreme Court hear the Harvard affirmative action case? The state of Texas urged the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to take up an appeal challenging Harvard University's affirmative action admissions policy, arguing that the time is now to reverse what it called "wrong" precedent and eliminate the use of race in the admissions process altogether. Harvard has scored victories at the federal court level twice in the high-profile case. After a blockbuster bench trial in 2018, a federal judge ruled that Harvard met its burden of showing it did not intentionally discriminate based on race. Texas also told the court that the landmark ruling blessing the use of race to benefit underrepresented minority groups, the 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger (The U of M law school case), was "wrong the day it was decided," and wants it overturned.  Source: Law360 3.31.21

Annual VEVRAA Hiring Benchmark is 5.6%:  OFCCP updated the 2021 Annual Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) hiring benchmark on the VEVRAA Hiring Benchmark Database.  Effective on March 31, 2021, the new benchmark is 5.6%. State-level veteran availability data has also been updated in the VEVRAA Hiring Benchmark Database for federal contractors and subcontractors who calculate an individualized hiring benchmark using the five-factor methodSource:  OFCCP 3/30/21

Employee Retention Credit guidance issued by IRS:  The Internal Revenue Service issued guidance for employers claiming the Employee Retention Credit under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) modified by the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 (Relief Act).  Notice 2021-23 discusses  the increase in the maximum credit amount, the expansion of the category of employers that may be eligible to claim the credit, modifications to the gross receipts test, revisions to the definition of qualified wages, and new restrictions on the ability of eligible employers to request an advance payment of the credit.  As a result of the changes made by the Relief Act, eligible employers can now claim a refundable tax credit against the employer share of Social Security tax equal to 70% of the qualified wages they pay to employees after Dec. 31, 2020, through June 30, 2021. Qualified wages are limited to $10,000 per employee per calendar quarter in 2021. Thus, the maximum employee retention credit available is $7,000 per employee per calendar quarter, for a total of $14,000 for the first two calendar quarters of 2021.  Source: IRS 4/2/21

Looking for something to do while home? Visit the Louvre: All 480,000 or so objects in the collection of the Louvre in Paris have been cataloged online for the first time. For free, you can peruse every last priceless painting, armless statue, and any other work—from the Mona Lisa to some half-forgotten Etruscan oddity—at the museum's new collections website.    The database includes entries for everything that's currently on display, in storage, on loan, or part of other Louvre-administered collections including those of the Tuileries Garden, the Musée National Eugène Delacroix, and the Musées Nationaux Récupération, which is made up of works retrieved after World War II and awaiting return to the families that lost them (or had them stolen).  Click a work's thumbnail image to see photos from several angles along with info on what's known about the artist, medium, date, condition of the piece, and other curatorial notes. Visit Louvre.fr to check out the new website or go to Collections.Louvre.fr to delve into the treasures.  Source: Frommers 3/29/21

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