Professional employer organizations (PEOs) enable clients to cost-effectively outsource the management of human resources, employee benefits, payroll and workers’ compensation. PEO clients focus on their core competencies to maintain and grow their bottom line.
Who uses a PEO?
Any business can find value in a PEO relationship. An average client of a PEO member company is a business with 19 worksite employees. Increasingly, larger businesses also are finding value in a PEO arrangement, because PEOs offer robust Web-based HR technologies and expertise in HR management. PEOs can partner with companies that have 500 or more employees and work in conjunction with their existing human resources department.
PEO clients include many different types of businesses ranging from accounting firms to high-tech companies and small manufacturers. Many different types of professionals, including doctors, retailers, mechanics, engineers and plumbers, also benefit from PEO services.
It is estimated that 2-3 million Americans are currently co-employed in a PEO arrangement. The average PEO has grown more than 20 percent per year for each of the last six years. About 700 PEOs that offer a wide array of employment services and benefits are operating today in 50 states. The PEO industry generates approximately $68 billion in gross revenues annually. PEOs have an 88 percent client retention rate due to strong client satisfaction.
Why would a business use a PEO?
Business owners want to focus their time and energy on the “business of their business” and not on the “business of employment.” As businesses grow, most owners do not have the necessary human resource training; payroll and accounting skills, the knowledge of regulatory compliance, or the backgrounds in risk management, insurance and employee benefit programs to meet the demands of being an employer. PEOs give small-group markets access to many benefits and employment amenities they would not have otherwise.
How does a PEO arrangement work?
Once a client company contracts with a PEO, the PEO will then co-employ the client’s worksite employees. In the arrangement among a PEO, a worksite employee and a client company, there exists a co-employment relationship in which both the PEO and client company have an employment relationship with the worker. The PEO and client company share and allocate responsibilities and liabilities. The PEO assumes much of the responsibility and liability for the business of employment, such as risk management, human resource management, and payroll and employee tax compliance. The client company retains responsibility for and manages product development and production, business operations, marketing, sales, and service.
Do the business owners lose control of their businesses?
No. The client retains ownership of the company and control over its operations. As co-employers, the PEO and client will contractually share or allocate employer responsibilities and liabilities. The PEO will generally only assume responsibilities and liabilities associated with a “general” employer for purposes of administration, payroll, taxes and benefits. The client will continue to have responsibility for worksite safety and compliance. The PEO will be responsible for payroll and employment taxes, will maintain employee records and reserves a right to hire and fire. Because the PEO also may be responsible for workers’ compensation, many PEOs also focus on and improve safety and compliance. In general terms, the PEO will focus on employment-related issues and the client will be responsible for the actual business operations.
What is the difference between PEOs and Employee Leasing?
PEOs do not supply labor to worksites. PEOs supply services and benefits to a small business client and its existing workforce. PEOs enter into a co-employment arrangement typically involving all of the client’s existing worksite employees in a long-term relationship and sponsor benefit plans for the workers and provide human resources services to the worksite employer. In most cases, the PEO provides access to health insurance, retirement savings plans, and other critical employee benefits for the worksite employees of a small business client. If a PEO relationship is terminated, the workers’ co-employment arrangement with the PEO ceases, but they will continue as employees of the client.
By comparison, a leasing or staffing service supplies new workers, usually on a temporary or project-specific basis. These leased employees return to the staffing service for reassignment after completion of their work with the client company. Some define employee leasing as temporary employment arrangement where one or more workers selected by the leasing or staffing entity are assigned to a customer frequently for a fixed period of time or for a specific project. . Upon termination of the staffing or leasing company arrangement, the worker has no continuing employment relationship with the client.
What is the difference between Temporary Staffing Services and a PEO?
Like a leasing situation, a temporary staffing service recruits and hires employees and assigns them to clients to support or supplement the client’s workforce in special work situations, such as employee absences, temporary skill shortages or seasonal workloads. These workers are traditionally only a small portion of the client’s workforce.
PEOs do not supply labor to worksites. They co-employ existing permanent workforces and provide services and benefits to both the worksite employer and the employees.
Discussion: ACA created some new language around the “common law employer” that produced some confusion on the matter and some suggested this confusion would stand the industry on its head as to who actually owned the employees. However despite this confusion, most industry experts agree that nothing has changed with ACA – Staffing or Employee Leasing firms own the employees and must provided benefits to their employees the same as any other business. PEOs on the other hand, are simply vendors or service providers to employer groups and as such, have no “legal” ownership of the employees despite the co-employment relationship.
Self-funding Opportunities: As noted above many PEOs offer benefits to the employees of their clients. With “Fully Insured” health plans, this can be accomplished much as it can be with any other MEWA. However, because there’s no common ownership among the covered employees, a PEO would indeed be considered a MEWA and is unable to be covered by a single stop loss policy owned by the PEO. However, each separate employer group could be issued an individual medical stop loss policy if their size permits it. Staffing firms on the other hand have controlling ownership of the leased employees and like any other employer group, would be able to set up a self-funded health plan and purchase an employer stop loss policy.
Note: To completely clarify any confusion about who is the “common law employer”, it is suggested that Staffing Firms include clarify verbiage in their employee leasing contracts that remove any ambiguity about the matter.