Don’t have a benefit admin? BernieHR aims to deliver guidance

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For smaller to mid-sized companies that may not have a dedicated benefits or HR executive, Bernard Health has released BernieHR, a cloud-based tool that works alongside the benefit brokerage and technology provider’s updated version of BerniePortal, its benefits and HR administration platform.

Like BerniePortal, the a la carte service BernieHR is an SaaS tool that aims to deliver basic HR functions, help employers update their employee documentation, and keep companies in ACA and other regulatory compliance throughout the lifecycle of an employee.

Keeping firms in compliance is a key focus of BernieHR. “There are over 82 different federal or state compliance requirements that [companies] need to keep up with, and it's just hard. We’ve developed BernieHR to try and meet employers where they’re at,” says Brian Tolbert, employee benefits practice leader at Bernard Health.

BernieHR is designed to cover the HR and employee benefit needs of firms with two to 500 employees from an employee’s first day of employment up until the day they leave or retire. The tool helps with file administration, general HR questions and support, ACA and other forms of compliance, time-off management, and payroll solutions.

It also addresses a common problem among HR professionals: updating the employee handbook. According to Tolbert, firms are notoriously slow to refresh their employee handbooks, often waiting until a crisis has passed before a new edition is approved and released to workers.

“For the majority of employers, the last time they updated their handbook was the last time they had a legal claim against them. That could have been 15 years ago,” Tolbert says.

BernieHR also focuses on employers with a workforce in multiple states that may have conflicting employment requirements and statutes.

“Legal compliance is one of the biggest pieces of the entire offering. We’re guiding multi-state employers through that process,” says Rebekah Michel, who leads the BernieHR division.

“It’s not easy for those companies to talk with their employees about these rules. The whole point of BernieHR is to make that complexity simple for them,” she says.

Maternity leave and how it interacts with short-term disability is one area where BernieHR can help the CEO or CFO of a small business to avoid mistakes when dealing with new mothers as they return to work. Tolbert says employers who have a paternalistic relationship with employees may overstep their bounds and become involved in areas that are not their legal concern.

If they do, “guess what — they just got themselves into a compliance situation, because you cannot pressure that new mother back to work sooner than she’s ready,” he says.

The BernieHR helpdesk, Tolbert adds, “is meant to provide an extra layer between that concerned business owner and their employee so when that question comes in, BernieHR can say, ‘This is really a question that needs to be discussed between your insurance company and the employee’s doctor. The employer really cannot get involved.’”

Bernard Health, which has a brokerage presence in Nashville, Indianapolis, Austin and Atlanta, started as a benefits brokerage and built its first benefits technology platform in 2008.

According to Tolbert, BernieHR is aimed at two types of firms: new or small firms that do not have a dedicated HR professional or a firm that has seen a lot of turnover in the HR or benefits department.

BernieHR is an a la carte service and final pricing is still being determined, according to Bernard Health.

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