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Is Your Employee Benefits Plan in Compliance?

Is Your Employee Benefits Plan in Compliance?

Life is becoming increasingly complicated for businesses that provide retirement and health benefits for their employees.

Among the reasons are the reporting and disclosure requirements under Health Care Reform as well as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Compliance is critical, which is why you need a qualified insurance professional to guide you, but ultimately you, as the employer, will be responsible. If you are an employer who has taken on the role of plan administrator, keep an attorney skilled in business law on retainer.

“Noncompliance can result in fines, so make sure you’re providing the right documents at the right times,” advises Peter Abitanto, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing with Brown & Brown Benefit Advisors, an insurance brokerage that manages employee benefits and provide guidance to over 400 employer groups. www.advisorsbb.com

Even if your plan administrator is on top of things when it comes to compliance under ERISA, Abitanto suggests that you should be aware of the key components of the law. That means you are required to share all your documents upon request from the Department of Labor and should be prepared for an audit. Keep your documents current and understand what may trigger an audit.

ERISA is governed by the U.S. Department of Labor and enforced by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA)

Here are five things you, as an employer, should know:

  1. A Summary Plan Description (SPD) must be provided within 30 days of a written request. The SPD provides information on coverage levels, including rights and obligations.
  2. Many employers are out of compliance due to lack of awareness and prior limited enforcement, which has increased substantially in recent years.
  3. Common audit triggers include plan participant complaints, incomplete or inconsistent information reported on the plan’s Form 5500.
  4. If an employer receives notice of an audit, they have up to 49 items that could be potentially reviewed, which include the Plan Document and SPD.
  5. There is a timeline of plans and forms to be filed, including the aforementioned IRS forms, and Abitanto recommends a simplified overview at http://www.advisorsbb.com/pdf/ERISA_Compliance_Timeline.pdf.
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5 Things to Know About Duty of Care

One of the most crucial factors new businesses must consider when establishing and running their practice is the safety and wellbeing of their employees. Indeed, it is quite an in-depth process to learn what the law dictates to be a healthy and secure working environment. To prepare yourself to protect your employees and business, we have broken down an overview of the precise duties of care you owe your staff below

1. Compensation

Businesses are held to certain safety standards by various measures including both legislative and common law. If you as an employer are at fault in the event of one of your employees injuring themselves –you may then be liable to compensate them for breaching duty of care. Most employees will have some basic WorkCover benefits available including weekly payments and medical treatment. Speak to legal professional such as Sinnamon Lawyers if you require more information on compensation claims and how they work.

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2. Coverage

Depending on your state where your business is located, the definition of an injury may vary but will likely include points such as any diseases contracted during employment (if the work in question represents a major contributing factor) or a worsening of any existing injuries or medical conditions. Psychological grievances caused by any reasonable demotion, performance review, redundancy, dismissal or even disciplinary action cannot be claimed.

3. Insurance

As an employer, you must take out a relevant insurance policy that covers liabilities such as worker’s compensation in the event of an office hazard causing an employee injury, for example. The premiums of employers are frequently based simply on their total wage expenditure. Not having insurance in the event of a claim is illegal and can result in criminal charges being brought against you, though a claim can still be made to the relevant state’s WorkCover authority.

 

4. Safety

You are also required by law to do as much as possible to ensure the safety of every member of your staff. As an employer, you will need to provide your staff with adequate safety information

The legalities of exporting to China for small businesses

The legalities of exporting to China for small businesses

China owes much of its prosperity to an unrivalled production chain and the competitive prices of its products, which made it the world’s biggest exporter over the last decade.

But increasing standards of life, taxes and regulations introduced over the last few years now mean that the country is finding it harder to keep such levels of competitiveness in the export market, with effects being felt already and sales down 15 percent year on year and 9.7 percent towards Britain alone.

On the other hand,  despite imports to China dropping 12.1 percent year on year, the country still holds huge and mostly untapped opportunities for British trade. British exports to China grew 7.6 percent in February 2015 over the previous year, and the government’s indicators suggest that there is room for even further expansion going forward.

If established British companies doing business with China are continuously honing their strategies to build upon such growth, many more want to move their first steps into this market and meet local demand for British products.

The good news is, thanks to the internet and e-commerce even small business owners can now find cost-effective ways to look East and start selling. But exporting to China can be a rather complex legal matter given that a free trade agreement is not in place.

First of all, you will need an Economic Operator Registration Identification number and register for the National Export System.

Depending on the product you intend to export, you may then need to obtain a licence. Few small businesses actually need a licence, as these are required only for weapons, agricultural products, chemicals, live animals and fish.

Thirdly, you will have to make an export declaration to customs via the National Export System. Such declaration is needed to prove to HMRC that you’re fulfilling all your VAT and licensing requirements.

VAT-wise, your exports will be zero-rated, and you will have to fill in a VAT return form at a later stage for this purpose. You will however have to pay custom clearance and will be charged VAT in China, so you should double-check whether your commercial partner in the country is taking care of this or you need to step in and manage the process.

Once you’re done with this lengthy process, you will be in the position to make the most of the advantages that come with exporting  in the digital age. It is now easy to compare shipping costs online and sending any size of parcel to China is getting cheaper year after year given the high volume of goods being sent to and from the country.

An online presence with an effective sales platform as well as coordination with the British Chamber of Commerce in China will likely help you hit the spot with the country’s increasingly affluent customers. And given their increasing need for luxury fashion, quality food and drink, you will at last be in the position to enjoy all of the perks that come with exporting to China.

4 Things Traffic Lawyers Can Help You With

4 Things Traffic Lawyers Can Help You With

Found yourself with a court order and have no idea what to do? Then it is probably time to get in contact with a professional traffic lawyer who can guide you and help you get the results and outcomes you are looking for. Below are four different things traffic lawyers can help you with to get you through the legal process smoother.

1. Driving Under the Influence

Even the most cautious driver can get caught drink driving. Alcohol stays in the system for a long time; many people get caught drink driving the morning after a night out. The repercussions of driving intoxicated depend on a number of different factors. These include the level of intoxication and prior convictions. Prior convictions can also result in a higher conviction, including fines, loss of licence or even incarceration. Lawyers are there to help you through this process, which can be very traumatic for you and your family.

2. Unlicensed Driving

You could get in trouble for unlicensed driving without even realising that you’re doing so; you might unknowingly be driving on an expired license or using a license after demerit points have been taken off. Depending on circumstances, you may receive an infringement notice or be dealt with a court order. Unlicensed driving will always be viewed less harshly than driving on a disqualification. As such, traffic lawyers are the best place to look after receiving any kind of notice, as they can help you get through the process as easily as possible.

3. Dangerous Driving

A very wide range of offences are covered under ‘dangerous driving’. Because of this, penalties can vary with each offence, ranging from fines or disqualification to possible periods of incarceration. The results or possible outcomes will also greatly depend on whether or not your driving directly resulted in the cause of an injury or death. You should always immediately contact traffic lawyers for legal advice straight after police first make contact with you. This way, you can receive the best possible outcome.

4 Things Traffic Lawyers Can Help You With

4. Work and Special Hardship Licenses

Should you lose your license for any reason, there are two possible options you can pursue to continue driving. These are a work licence, allowing you to travel to and from your place of work within designated hours, and a special hardship order, which can allow you to regain your licence so long as you drive only under very strict circumstances. Lawyers, like those at GC Traffic Lawyers, can help you with your application for a work licence or special hardship order. Professional lawyers always increase your chance of coming through the legal processes with the result you desire.

Traffic lawyers are essential for getting through a legal process as smoothly as possible. They make things easier for you and your family and help alleviate some of the stress that will be placed upon you. Have you used traffic lawyers to help you through court? How did they benefit you? Share your experiences or your thoughts in the comments section below.

5 DIY Marketing Tips for Busy Law Firms

5 DIY Marketing Tips for Busy Law Firms

Marketing takes time and money. If you have lots of both, then great, but most law firms are much too busy providing an excellent service to their existing clientele to be concerned with extensive marketing campaigns. This is the main reason why marketing is often outsourced to a third party company. But whilst utilizing the services of an experienced marketing company is advisable if you want to see results fast, there is no reason why you can’t do a few simple marketing activities yourself. So what are the options?

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing is a fantastic way of reaching a diverse demographic across a wide geographical area. Everyone and their dog uses social media platforms these days and if you don’t have a presence on Twitter, Facebook and the like, you are missing out on some great opportunities to meet new clients. Even a junior employee can manage a Twitter or Facebook account by checking posts and responding where necessary. Or you can make use of automated software applications that post your tweets on a pre-set timetable.

Write a Blog

Blog writing is a useful way of establishing credibility in your chosen field of expertise. For example, nursing home lawyers could post about elder abuse and how to spot the signs. This will reassure prospective clients that you know what you’re talking about and that you have plenty of relevant experience to draw upon if they contact you for help. Blog writing can be outsourced to third parties, but it is often better to write at least some of the material yourself, as it will be more relevant. You can write anything in a blog, but if you want to appear more professional, stick to relevant subjects.

Be an Active Forum Poster

Online forums are places where people come to look for help and advice on a wide range of subjects. They are also popular with people who share similar interests. As a lawyer, it can be useful to find a forum where people might go looking for advice about matters related to your specific field of expertise. You can answer questions and offer support whilst advertising your services.

Networking Events

Nursing home lawyers such as Garcia Law – and other legal professionals – can always benefit from attending networking events. Use the opportunity to reinforce existing relationships and create new ones. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and contacts you make at these events could lead to recommendations further down the line.

Write a Newsletter

Regular newsletters are a useful way of keeping in touch with existing clients. Don’t make the newsletter too long; a couple of pages should be enough. Relevant news, interesting cases, humorous anecdotes, ‘how-to’ tips and the like are all good subject matter. Newsletters can be posted out in the traditional manner, or emailed to people in your client database.

Marketing is always a valuable exercise, but if you are too busy to write blogs or monitor a Facebook page, delegate the task to a junior employee.

Four Famous Celebrities Arrested for DUIs

Four Famous Celebrities Arrested for DUIs

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a common offence. A lot of drivers don’t get caught, but for those who do attract the attention of the cops, a sobriety check can prove disastrous. But whilst it might be inconvenient to end up with a suspended license, it is a whole lot worse if you end up involved in a road traffic accident and kill someone as a result of being intoxicated and in charge of a moving vehicle. So with such dire consequences associated with drink driving, why on earth would a celebrity take such a risk?

The World of Celebrity

Life in the world of celebrity is cushioned from reality. Celebrities earn a lot of cash and spend much of their time surrounded by sycophants who cater to their every whim and say they are innocent even when they clearly are not.

It is a life of massive entitlement, and although many celebrities are mild-mannered individuals who prefer to stay out of the public eye wherever possible, there are plenty who actively seek notoriety and attention. And with notoriety comes excess, which in many cases involves making stupid decisions about whether it is a good idea to drive home from whatever nightspot they happen to have wasted an evening in.

Justin Bieber

Bad boy Justin Bieber was arrested in the early hours of Jan 23 2014, for allegedly taking part in an illegal drag race, driving under the influence, and resisting arrest. It’s not the first time Bieber has had a brush with the law, but in this instance, thanks to a deal struck by his DUI attorney (and a low alcohol breath test result at the scene), Bieber was able to avoid a conviction.

Lindsay Lohan

Lindsay Lohan is no stranger to DUIs. In fact it is safe to say that Ms Lohan is better known for her frequent off-screen bust-ups with the law than she is for her on-screen acting career. Lindsay has been the subject of several DUIs over the years, and has spent time in jail as a result. She was even been fitted with an alcohol monitoring device in 2010 to prevent her from abusing booze and drugs,

Amanda Bynes

Troubled actress, Amanda Bynes, has also had her fair share of brushes with the law. She notched up her first DUI in 2012, but the most recent case was in September 2014. In this instance the LA District Attorney decided not to prosecute.

Reese Witherspoon

Prior to her humiliating arrest for a DUI, most people assumed Reese Witherspoon was a pretty wholesome sort of celebrity. Reese and her husband, Jim Toth, were pulled over by officers in April 2013. Toth, who was driving, failed a sobriety test, but to make matters a lot worse, his wife resisted arrest and caused a massive scene. The news of her spectacular fall from grace went viral at the time.

The moral of this story is: driving under the influence is dumb. Either catch a cab, or stick to drinking water. And if you are caught, make sure you hire a good DUI attorney from a firm like You Are Innocent.

What Does A Real Estate Paralegal Do?

What Does A Real Estate Paralegal Do?

The paralegal that works in law offices with strong real estate practice will have to deal with different duties when compared with paralegals that work with other types of associated law. Paralegals need to hold the necessary knowledge to deal with various documents like mortgages and deeds while monitoring foreclosures, examining title reports, handling a real estate closing and even plotting land legal description.

There are some jurisdictions when the paralegals have to prepare leases, secure transaction agreements, draft complaints, special documents and land sale contracts. In some cases it is important to deal with eviction proceedings and with unlawful detainers.

The real estate paralegal needs to go through the regular accreditation to earn the status of a paralegal, thus gaining the starting salary requirements (you can go here to see what that is) and then go through more specialized classes in order to be able to deal with specifics associated with the real estate industry, thus gaining an increase in salary.

On the whole, if you are solely interested in what the real estate paralegal does, you should know that the following tasks are quite common:

  • Accumulating information and data to complete conveyance instruments.
  • Preparing leases, mortgages, deeds, legal descriptions, contracts.
  • Examining abstracts, preliminary title insurances and title reports.
  • Preparing statements that are necessary for real estate closing.
  • Drafting answers, complaints and various other real estate related legal pleadings.
  • Monitoring mortgage foreclosures.
  • Preparing agreements related to personal property being sold together with real estate property.

Obviously, becoming a real estate paralegal is not at all something that is easy to do. There is so much extra knowledge that has to be gained, besides what is regularly associated with paralegal education. Make sure that you learn all that you can about this and see if it is something that you are drawn to. If so, salary is quite attractive.

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Healthcare legal policies and ethics infographic

As the topic of health insurance becomes more important, it is critical that consumers and health care providers have a fundamental understanding of the legalities and ethics associated with medical care. As you work toward your master’s in health administration, you will have the opportunity to gain real-world knowledge and practical skills around these legalities and ethics. See more in this new infographic by UC:

Healthcare legal policies and ethics infographic

Tips for Choosing the Right Legal Software for your Business

Tips for Choosing the Right Legal Software for your Business

Software solutions can come in many varieties with just as many functions. Finding the right one for your business can be just as important as finding the right employees. You should think about longevity, function, and a user friendly nature. Having a single software solution will be highly beneficial to build your business; information sharing will be be made simpler, and you can significantly reduce the risk of losing information. Here are some tips to think about when choosing the right software for your business.

Function

What do you need? Most people like simple and intuitive interfaces that can perform every job quickly and efficiently. The software should be an extension of the employee, providing natural and easy ways to complete tasks. A single program, which takes the place of multiple programs that overlap, is ideal. Think firstly about what you want from a software solution. What do you need it to do to compliment your business strategies? Companies like GlobalX specialise in performance legal software and can then help you get started.

Growth

Will this software grow with your business? Solutions change rapidly, with new and more efficient versions coming out all the time. The software solution you choose should be able to perform its role, but not be outdated within a short amount of time. Updates are a necessary aspect of software solutions; you should look at the longevity of each update and how long in between the software can go before being altered. You want a solution that will not be outdated, simply updated; as the demands of your business change, so your solution should go with you.

Tips for Choosing the Right Legal Software for your Business

Demonstration

Before you decide on your software, find a vendor that will do a demonstration in your workplace. Have a hands-on experience with the software that provides real-world scenarios and examples. Allow your staff to practice and provide you with feedback about its practicality. Once you choose your solution provider, invest in the training. Often times, software programs are not utilised with every aspect of their capabilities. Your staff should be invested in learning to use the software to its full potential to maximise efficiency and business standards.

Compatibility

Does this software work well with others? Will this legal software be compatible with your word processing software? What about your email system? The solution you choose should be able to add seamlessly to the rest of the interfaces you and your staff use on a daily basis. Too much clunking around will not be efficient and will end up in a loss of productivity. Look at the way the software works with others. You want a system that adds efficiency to the workload, and not an extra burden from going tediously between systems that do not interact easily.

The software solution you pick should be an extension of your business and what the business does. Test them out and shop around until you find what you are looking for. What are your tips for finding the right legal software?

How to Find the Best Solicitor for Your Case

How to Find the Best Solicitor for Your Case

Whether you’re motoring down the A38 or cruising along the M5 motorway, accidents can happen in Gloucester at a moment’s notice.  If you or your passengers are injured, you’ll need a solicitor to represent you in the litigation that will follow the event; knowing how to find the most experienced team that can pursue the results that you want and need financially is crucial to the satisfaction that you will have.  Let’s take a look at how to find the best solicitor for your legal case.

How to Find the Best Solicitor for Your Case

  • One of the first things that you should do is check the website of the solicitor and their firm so that you can get information about the services they provide, their skills and talents, and the expertise that they can lend to your litigation proceedings.
  • You’ll want a solicitor that has plenty of experience in personal injury cases; you will also want to check their credentials to see that they are properly certified to represent you effectively.
  • Ask your neighbours and friends for referrals and recommendations; word of mouth is the best testimonial for any solicitor and will ensure they are well worth your investment.
  • You’ll want a solicitor that doesn’t require a fee for enquiries or advice about how to move forward with litigation; you don’t want to be forced into filing a claim for which there is no evidence.
  • You should partner with a solicitor that will provide contact information to you so that you can ask questions and communicate with them.  You’ll want the solicitor to be UK-based and preferably an injury solicitor in Gloucester if that’s where you live or work; hiring a team that is close to your home base makes meetings and consultations more convenient.
  • Pay attention to adverts in and around Gloucester, and keep in mind if the services or fees sound too good to be realistic then they probably have hidden fees and costs.
  • You also want to find a solicitor that is passionate about their work and who will understand your particular situation and financial needs.  They will know exactly what you need as far as rehabilitation treatments and other care as recommended by your physician that should be covered by the party responsible for the accident in which you were involved.
  • Find a solicitor that will answer your questions in language that is easily understood, who is concerned with your wellbeing and not just their fees, and one that is respected by their colleagues and officers of the court.  Good manners and professionalism are always in style and the solicitor that you hire must possess both.

Finding the right solicitor for your accident litigation in Gloucester is a matter of doing your homework, asking friends for recommendations, and asking a plethora of questions before you enter into an agreement with any solicitor.  Take your time, plan and prepare accordingly, and look for a true professional committed to honesty and integrity.

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