Controlling Overtime Costs

Controlling Overtime Costs

In light of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) recent changes to overtime pay rules—issued on May 18, 2016—more business owners are concerned about controlling overtime costs. The increase in the minimum salary an employee has to earn in order to be exempt from overtime pay (from $23,660 to $47,476) is expected to increase the number of workers eligible for overtime by 4.2 million. Complying with this change will add to companies’ payroll costs and may also impact their administrative and legal expenses as well. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize the effects of the new rule on your business bottom line and remain in compliance.

Review your workers’ job classifications. Exemption isn’t just based on earnings; it’s also determined by the type of work the employee does. Workers who earn more than the threshold amount ($47,476) but who do not perform primarily executive, administrative or professional duties(all relatively high-level work), cannot be classified as exempt and are eligible for overtime pay. A summary of exempt job duties can be found here. Carefully examine the job descriptions, roll requirements and hours worked for all positions within your organization. If you have workers performing those duties but earning less than the threshold, you’ll need to reclassify them.

Compare the costs of payment options. Let’s say you have a previously exempt worker who is earning a salary of $46,000 a year and whose position regularly requires him to put in more than 50 hours a week. You’ll probably save money in the long run by raising his salary to $47,500 and continuing to classify him as exempt than by keeping it where it’s at and paying him overtime every week.

On the other hand, maybe you have a previously exempt employee who earns a salary of $23,000 a year and who usually works 50 hours or more a week. Raising the employee’s salary above the new threshold may cost more than reclassifying him as non-exempt and paying overtime. You could also look at hiring a part-time employee to take on some of the work (eliminating the need for him to work overtime altogether) or otherwise redistributing duties to reduce his workload.

Monitor employee hours carefully. In the event of a lawsuit or DOL investigation, you’ll need to be able to document the number of hours your non-exempt employees worked and any overtime hours for which they were paid. Wage and hour claims account for the greatest percentage of litigation in employment law, and many of those lawsuits arise as a result of misclassification issues and wage violations. While the DOL does not require employers to use automated time-management systems, manual time tracking can increase errors and reduce the accuracy of your payroll process. Automated systems not only continuously track time worked but can also help you more closely monitor overtime and creative cost-effective work schedules.

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