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A Guide to Employee Benefits for Your Group Practice

By Maureen Werrbach, LCPC on June 12, 2019
A Guide to Group Practice Benefits - TherapyNotes with Maureen Werrbach

You’ve got employees you want to show your appreciation to and the profits to support it. You’re thinking about offering benefits but don’t know where to start. Benefits are a great way to support your employees beyond their paycheck. Be sure to talk with a local attorney before deciding on any one of these options, as there may be specific ways you need to set them up for your staff. Also, consult with your accountant before offering any benefits to ensure you can afford it. It is much harder to take a benefit away than it is to add. They can also walk you through setting up a structure around expectations (like minimum hours worked) to qualify for certain benefits. Further, consider getting a human resource (HR) adviser involved to aid in setting up and communicating benefits to your employees. They can be an excellent resource for determining which benefits to provide, making sure your benefits are clearly defined in your employee handbook, and ensuring that your policies are non-discriminatory.

Pro tip: Be mindful of adding too many benefits at once so that you can keep an eye on how they affect your bottom line.

Below are some financial and non-financial benefits to consider adding for your employees.

Financial Benefits

Paid time off: Paid time off, or PTO for short, tends to be one of the more expensive benefits but can be a great way to provide your staff with paid vacation time. In our private practice world, saving money for time off is often something we have to get used to. Group practices who offer PTO can have a leg up on other group practices when it comes to recruiting new clinicians. Check with your employment attorney though, as PTO often has its own rules around structuring.

Paid sick time: Some states, cities, or counties require paid sick leave, so it's important to check with a local employment attorney to see if this is required for your business. Either way, offering paid sick time can be a nice alternative to paid time off since PTO often has different rules around how it’s accrued, how it rolls over, and what happens to it upon termination.

Continuing education: Some group practice owners like to give an annual stipend to their staff to use on continuing education (CE) training or courses of their choice. Others like to have more control over what they pay for. Purchasing digital courses through a company like PESI or bringing someone in to do a live training are great ways to control the type of training your staff receives. You get to pay for the CEs you find most valuable and beneficial to your group practice, and your staff gets their CEs paid for (and if you do it as a quarterly group training, you can build workplace culture while doing it!).

Retirement matching: This is a great way to show your staff that you care about their future (even beyond their time at your group practice). Start your percentage low. Too often, I see group practice owners start by offering 4% or more in retirement matching. It sounds like a low number, but it packs a financial punch as you hire.

Health insurance: You have options here, whether it be entirely employer-funded, partially funded by employer (a set dollar amount per month or a set percentage of the employee’s total premium), or employee-funded (where the group practice pays nothing into it, but the employee saves on the taxes they pay because their premium is paid before payroll tax). Talk to a local insurance representative who can help you see what your options are.

Life insurance: Another benefit that shows your staff you care about them and their families is life insurance. Life insurance tends to be one of the lower-cost benefits. There are many companies out there, like Aflac, that can help you put together a benefits package that includes life insurance.

Short term disability: If you want to ensure that your staff is financially supported should they need to temporarily stop working (whether due to health concerns, accidents, or maternity/paternity leave), short term disability is a great way to help your staff to feel at ease during these times without hurting you financially as a group practice owner. You pay a set amount per month, and if that employee ever uses it, they will receive a certain percentage of their regular income (typically around 60%).

Bonuses: This can be set up a variety of different ways. Whether you base it on specific measures like a certain dollar amount bonus for seeing an average of 20, 25, or 30 clients a week or by going above and beyond (whatever that means to you), this is one that can incentivize (if set up right) and not break the bank financially.

Profit sharing: Profit sharing goes a step beyond typical financial bonuses. With profit sharing, your employees receive a certain percentage of the profits your group practice makes. Don’t be fooled by the name; it doesn’t have to be a percentage of all the profits. You can set up a profit account (for those of you doing Profit First, you’ll already have this) and have a certain percentage of your overall profits go into the account. Then you can split what is in that account at certain intervals (6 months, yearly) among your staff. The more clients they see and the more you grow, the greater profit your staff receives. They’ll also see the overall impact it has on your group when the group practice doesn’t do so well financially.

QSEHRA: Can’t afford to pay for your employees’ health insurance? The qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement (QSEHRA) is a great alternative. QSEHRA is a program where you pay a certain dollar amount (whatever you can afford) into an account for each of your staff that they can use each month. It’s a “use it or lose it” deal. Let’s say you decide to put $50 per employee into a QSEHRA account. Each month they can decide to use that $50 towards a medical bill or insurance premium, but if they don’t, they lose it, and that $50 goes back to you. Nice, right?

Non-Financial Benefits

Supervision: Supervision, whether for interns, provisionally-licensed clinicians, or fully-licensed clinicians, is a great benefit of working in a group practice. Whether it’s you or your Supervisor/Clinical Director providing that case consultative support, it helps your employees not to feel isolated in their work or alone in their clinical decision making, and it helps them grow clinically.

Leadership training: Looking for a way to support your superstar employees’ desire for upward movement? Offering leadership training and tracks for growth within your group practice not only helps your staff grow and feel invested in your practice and the work they do, but it helps you as well! You can’t do it all, and there will be a time when you need a leadership support team. Start a leadership training program allowing interested staff to grow their leadership skills and get that support from you.

 

There are many more benefits you can offer your employees; these are just a few of them. But importantly, don’t assume that you know what benefits your employees want. You may end up paying into something that they don’t value (and that will cause you resentment). Ask your staff what they value most before adding a benefit. You can do that in a Google Form survey or the old fashioned, pop-into-their-office-and-ask way.

* The content of this post is intended to serve as general advice and information. It is not to be taken as legal advice and may not account for all rules and regulations in every jurisdiction. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.
Maureen Werrbach, LCPC

About Maureen Werrbach, LCPC

Maureen Werrbach, LCPC, is a therapist and owner of Urban Wellness, a counseling group practice in Chicago. She started Urban Wellness in 2012, which has grown into a team of 20+ clinicians with multiple locations. Maureen is also the owner of The Group Practice Exchange (TGPE), a consulting business and platform for current and aspiring group practice owners. TGPE provides guidance for starting a group practice, as well as marketing, organizational structuring, business development, and leadership advice. Visit www.thegrouppracticeexchange.com for more.

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