No Requirement to Offer Benefits

September 1, 2008

I am thinking about opening my own practice. If I have only three or four employees, am I legally required to set up a retirement plan for them? Also, in the same situation, do I need to provide them with a health insurance plan, or could I pay them a higher salary and have them get their own health benefits?

Question: I am thinking about opening my own practice. If I have only three or four employees, am I legally required to set up a retirement plan for them? Also, in the same situation, do I need to provide them with a health insurance plan, or could I pay them a higher salary and have them get their own health benefits?

Answer: State rules may vary a bit, but generally, no, you are not required to offer health benefits or a retirement plan. Of course, you might have a hard time recruiting if everyone else in your area offers these benefits.

Some physicians use a PEO - professional employer organization - to manage such issues. A PEO will find, retain, and manage your staff, and because they have lots of employees in addition to yours, they can get good rates on benefits. Of course you have to pay them, but it might be worth it. Just Google “PEO” in your part of the world. Also, note that I recently wrote a Bigger Picture column on some pros and cons of PEOs; read “No More HR Headaches” for more tips.