Contractors who have been competing in the prevailing wage market are typically well-versed in the rules, regulations, and reporting requirements that come with these types of projects. However, one unique aspect of these regulations is often overlooked – the potential impact to the company-sponsored 401(k) plan. When managed properly, employers and employees will benefit from a 401(k) plan designed to maximize fringe dollars, which are required to be paid on public works projects.

The Benefits of a Prevailing Wage 401(k) Plan

Contractors have the option of paying fringe dollars to their employees as cash wages or using the funds to provide qualified benefits to their employees. When paying fringe dollars as cash wages they are processed through payroll, leading to higher payroll taxes and workers’ compensation premiums. However, if the employer has a 401(k) plan with the ability to accept fringe dollars as employer contributions to the plan, fringe dollars can be removed from payroll, reducing payroll taxes and the cost of workers compensation premiums. This leads to a substantial labor cost savings for employees and an average of 10% reduction in overall labor costs on these jobs.

The next piece of the puzzle is to ensure your 401(k) plan is properly designed to accept and maximize these contributions to your plan. This is why it is especially important to make sure you are working with a company that specializes in prevailing wage plans vs. traditional 401(k) plans.

One Plan is Better than Two

One common misconception is contractors thinking they need to setup and manage two separate retirement plans – one for prevailing wage employees and one for non-prevailing wage employees. While this type of arrangement is possible, it comes with added costs and risks. Managing two retirement plans doubles the fees you are paying, increases administrative work, and increases your fiduciary and compliance risks. 401(k) providers who specialize in prevailing wage plans can offer one plan to fit the needs of your business and all of your employees.

Another way for employers to improve their 401(k) plan is by using fringe dollars to offset or meet matching requirements that they may choose to include in their plan. This includes discretionary employer match, safe harbor, or profit-sharing contributions to the plan. Contractors are often hesitant to include matching contributions to their retirement plan due to the costs. Utilizing the prevailing wage dollars to meet a portion of these contributions allows you to offer more retirement benefits to all your employees at a reduced cost to the company.

Required annual compliance testing for all 401(k) plans can be extremely complicated and are put into place to ensure that all participants are benefiting equally from the plan. When working with a plan administrator who specializes in designing retirement plans for prevailing wage contractors, you can ensure that you are staying compliant and offering the best solution for all your employees and the owners of the company.

Beneco has been in business for over 30 years helping prevailing wage contractors navigate the challenges and complexities of these jobs. Please reach out to us to learn more about how we can help support you and your business in the years ahead.