What is a PEO? And How to Choose the Right One for Your Business

professional employer organization

You probably started your business because you enjoyed the work. Maybe you opened your ideal restaurant or started an electrical contracting business. That part was fun, but other responsibilities surfaced. Now, you have to deal with employees’ human resource issues, find ways to offer benefits and make sure all payroll taxes were filed and paid. Fortunately, small business owners don’t have to cope with these responsibilities by themselves. Professional employer organizations can lift those chores off of the owners’ shoulders. This helps business owners focus more on managerial tasks and growing their businesses. Now, what is a PEO, exactly?

What is a PEO?

A professional employer organization and a business enter into a shared relationship known as “co-employment.” Co-employment means that the PEO is the employer on record. They provide human resource support and handle payroll functions – while you, as the owner, keep the authority and responsibility. You’ll still manage your employees’ day-to-day activities.

Through the co-employment model, PEOs:

  • Are responsible for paying wages, managing employee compensation claims and overseeing other wage-related requirements
  • Assist with regulatory paperwork and compliance issues
  • Manage human resource issues and risk management functions
  • Provide employee benefits. Benefits include- but aren’t limited to – health insurance, unemployment insurance, Section 125 plans and other voluntary insurance products.

What are the Client’s Responsibilities?

The business owner is responsible for:

  • Managing employees’ daily activities
  • Maintaining a safe work environment
  • Keeping track of hours worked and reporting these figure to the PEO
  • Making sure payroll funds are paid in advance to the PEO

Advantages of a PEO

PEOs can take time-consuming HR tasks and responsibilities off your plate. A PEO:

  • Handles all human resource activities so you can focus on managing and growing your business
  • Provides competitive benefits and health insurance. A PEO has the purchasing power to negotiate better health insurance rates and more affordable benefits, such as a 401(k)plan, dental and vision coverage. Using the lower-cost benefits from a PEO enables small- and medium-size companies to compete with and attract employees from larger companies.
  • Stays up-to-date on regulations. As a business owner, you don’t have the time to read the latest regulations. A PEO does this for your and makes sure that you remain compliant.
  • Provides attorneys and HR professionals to handle employee-related issues. PEOs give advice on proper employee termination and disciplinary procedures.

Disadvantages of a PEO

Method of pricing

Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine how much you’re really paying. Many PEOs price their programs as a percentage of wage payroll, but this figure can vary monthly. So, sometimes it’s hard to figure out how much you’re actually paying. The other pricing method is the per-employee-per-month. This approach has add-ons for setup fees, administrative fees and costs for running some payroll reports.

Inflexible health plans

PEOs partner with certain insurance companies, and you don’t have a choice. If you like UnitedHealthCare, but the PEO promotes Aetna, you have to accept Aetna.

Customer service

PEOs handle large numbers of clients and employee issues. Customer service responses can sometimes seem rushed and indifferent.

How to Choose a PEO

Choosing the best PEO for your company requires doing your homework. Here’s a list of questions to help you get started.

  • Assess your company’s needs. What do you need help with -Payroll processing, HR issues, employee benefits? Define what you need before approaching a PEO.
  • Is the PEO a member of the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations? Membership in the industry’s trade organization indicates professionalism and respect.
  • Does the PEO have experience in your industry? You want a PEO that understands the daily lives of your employees and the risks they take on their jobs. How many employees do they represent in your industry?
  • Conduct a background check; ask for references to check; get first-hand feedback directly from the PEO’s clients.
  • Are the financial statements independently audited by a CPA? You want assurance that the PEO is legitimate.
  • Are their risk management practices certified by the Certification Institute?
  • Have their ethical practices been accredited by the Employer Services Assurances Corporation? ESAC audits PEOs annually to make certain each PEO has at least a $1 million surety bond.
  • Does the PEO have certification from the IRS? Check for accreditation such as the Certification Program for Professional Employer Organizations from the Internal Revenue Service.
  • Review the fine print in the contract. What guarantees does it provide? How can you terminate the contract if the relationship goes bad?

 

According to NAPEO, the U.S. has over 900 PEOs. While you have plenty of choices and setting up a co-employment agreement with a professional employer organization will relieve you of a ton of administrative tasks, you must thoroughly investigate each PEO candidate before signing on the dotted line. You don’t want any surprises.

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