In the face of budgetary disagreements, many parts of the federal government shut down on October 1, 2013.
The implications reach beyond the 800,000 temporarily furloughed federal employees and impact private businesses and employees. Below is a list of ways your company may be affected, as well as areas where you can turn to Nextep for additional assistance during this time.
Department of Labor
The Department of Labor (DOL) and its affiliated divisions will cease or reduce operations during the government shutdown. Divisions include:
- Wage and Hour Division (WHD), which governs the proper payment of employees
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which governs workplace safety
- Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), enforcing workplace anti-discrimination laws.
- Companies are still expected to fully comply with DOL provisions, including overtime payments, safety training, and Title VII. Nextep's Human Resources professionals are available to answer any questions or case-by-case situations that may arise for our clients.
The US Post Office is still operational, which means that any compliance notices or other items currently in the mail will continue to be delivered without interruption. There will likewise be no change or delay in payments to various vendors, benefits carriers, partners, or other parties to whom Nextep pays bills on behalf of our clients.
Multi-year funding for unemployment and Social Security benefits was approved in earlier bills; payments will therefore not be interrupted. Most unemployment proceedings are operated by state and local governments, which are still currently operational. Therefore, unemployment claims, responses, and hearings will continue as usual. Nextep's HR Department will continue to respond to unemployment claims swiftly and thoroughly, and work closely with clients to prepare for any hearings, as well as instill best practices to safeguard the company.
Though the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is not available to answer questions or issue tax refunds during the government shutdown, timely tax reports and payment are still due. Nextep will continue our regular schedule of reporting and remitting all payroll and other applicable taxes on behalf of our clients.
Many government employees are on temporary indefinite furlough. This may potentially create a federally approved qualifying event that allows these furloughed individuals to join a spouse's benefit plan. Please contact Nextep's Benefits Department for further details if an employee on your company's benefit plans is interested in adding a furloughed spouse to his or her plan, or needs to obtain coverage for him or herself due to losing coverage under a furloughed spouse's plan.
E-Verify, the online portal mandated in several states and for certain government contractors to verify an employees identity and eligibility to work in the United States, has ceased operations during the government shutdown. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released interim procedures that suspend E-Verify deadlines during the shutdown.
Employers are still required to comply with existing requirements for correctly completing the I-9 form within three days of a new employee's first day. Nextep has released a series of advisories to assist employers in correctly completing the I-9 form and avoiding common mistakes, and Nextep's Payroll and HR professionals are available for questions as well.
For our PEO clients, Nextep also performs verification through the Social Security Business Services Online. Currently, this online service is still operational, though customer support is not available. Nextep will continue to verify social security numbers for new hires and notify clients of any mismatches and the proper next steps.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stopped its seasonal flu outreach and will have significantly less capacity to investigate outbreaks. As flu season approaches, employers are urged to promote awareness and health in the workplace using the CDCs existing educational materials and posters. Nextep advises employers to encourage but not require the flu shot to promote a healthy workplace.
While disaster preparedness programs are suspended, disaster response is still operational under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Any individuals or businesses impacted by explosions, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other catastrophic events will still receive FEMA assistance. Nextep encourages company leaders to review and maintain a disaster preparedness and recovery plan to ensure business continuity in the face of a disaster.
Nextep will continue to closely monitor the situation and inform clients of any impact they may feel as a result. For additional questions, please contact Nextep.