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Bits ‘N Pieces

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Paying employees to volunteer

Volunteer Time Off (VTO) policies are on the rise among businesses that are committed to corporate social responsibility, according to volunteermatch.org.

About 20 percent of companies say they give workers a bank of paid time off dedicated specifically to volunteering in the community, according to a 2013 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management. That’s up from 15 percent in 2009. VTO is separate from paid time off banks and from any companywide volunteer activities.

Companies that offer these policies are finding that not only do they benefit employees and the organizations they are volunteering for, but the company itself benefits as it helps recruit engaged, committed people in a competitive marketplace. Studies have also found that giving employees paid time off to volunteer increases loyalty and positive feelings about your business.

In addition, beyond the benefits to you and your employees, your community gains much-needed time and talent at a time when many charitable organizations are struggling to find the resources to meet the needs they are in business to serve.

So next time you’re thinking about writing a check to charity, or fretting that you’re unable to donate financially as much as you’d like to, think again. While charities can always use your money, the donation of your employees’ time might turn out to be a greater gift for everyone involved.

Opportunities in Cuba

New regulations published early this year by the Office of Foreign Assets Control greatly ease travel to Cuba and create new business opportunities for the U.S.

While amendments to the Cuba Assets Control Regulations do not mean Cuba is wide open for business, there are potential opportunities for U.S. businesses, particularly those in telecommunications, banking, agriculture, construction, travel and importing/exporting. However, businesses looking to expand their reach into Cuba must be cautious, as the embargo is still in effect.

The new regulations, among other things, allow financing for private entrepreneurs. Because Americans will find it easier to travel to Cuba, they will have increased opportunities to market, negotiate, deliver and sell products, services and equipment to entrepreneurs there.

Voluntary benefits

With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, employers are increasingly offering voluntary benefits to their employees.

Voluntary benefits include accident insurance, disability income, pet insurance, critical illness and auto/homeowners coverage — and employers can offer these at no cost to themselves, with the employee picking up the entire cost.

Employers gain the benefit of cost control and of being more attractive to potential employees. Employees gain access to a wider range of benefits and the ability to choose products that best meet their needs. In addition, the cost of these benefits is often lower than employees could find on their own, and benefits can often be purchased through payroll on a pre-tax basis.