08 Mar Continuing Education and Compensation: A Quick Reminder
BOP NEWSLETTER • March 2023
Continuing Education and Compensation: A Quick Reminder
by Rebecca Boartfield
We know that continuing education (CE) can be important to any company. Employers want their employees to be knowledgeable and competent in order to be successful. As CE opportunities arise that can enhance employee knowledge, therefore, benefitting the company, it makes sense to want employees to attend. It can be a win-win for the employee and the employer.
But what about compensation? Can employers decide when, or if, an employee’s time will be paid while attending CE events?
To the surprise of many, CE compensation comes under federal regulations and, in some cases, state regulations as well. Under these rules, most, if not all, time spent at CE events will need to be compensated.
How do you know when to compensate employees? Time spent at CE events must be counted as hours worked when any one of the following is applicable:
- The CE happens during an employee’s normal work schedule.
- Attendance is required by the employer outside the normal work schedule.
- The course is directly-related to the employee’s current job.
- The employee performs productive work during the CE event.
Example #1: An employee works Monday through Thursday, 8-5 and wants to attend a CE event that happens on Thursday starting at noon. This is a paid event if the employer allows the employee to attend because the CE happens during an employee’s normal work schedule. This is true even if the other criteria listed above is not applicable.
Example #2: An employee works Monday through Thursday, 8-5 and wants to attend a CE event on Friday when the business is closed. The employee normally works as an Insurance Biller; the class is about sterilizing equipment, which is not part of the employee’s job. This is not a paid event because it is outside the employee’s normal work schedule, is voluntary, is not related to the employee’s job, and no productive work is performed during what is otherwise a day off.
Example #3: The same employee in example #2 now wants to take a class related to insurance billing protocols. This has now become a paid event if the employer authorizes their attendance. This is because the class is directly-related to the employee’s current job. This is true even though all of the other criteria listed above are still not applicable.
CE that is required for maintaining licenses or certifications must also comply with all of the above criteria except “the course is directly-related to the employee’s current job.” This is applicable only to CE that allows employees to obtain CE credits for the purpose of their license or certification, and only if all other criteria are met. If, for example, an employer requires attendance, or it happens during a regular work day, or productive work is performed, then not all criteria are met and the time must be counted as hours worked and be paid. Likewise, if the CE event is for a topic that will not provide CE credits but is directly-related to the employee’s current job, then the time spent attending the event is paid.
If you want a well-run business with quality, well-educated staff, then CE is just a cost of doing business. There are compensation responsibilities that are required of you, but don’t short-change your business for the sake of saving a few dollars. Be conscientious about the regulations and balance that with the needs of your business in a smart and economical manner. Your employees will be thankful and your business will be better off for it.