In 1931, the Davis-Bacon Act established the prevailing wage under federal law. In this act, subcontractors and contractors should pay their laborers an hourly prevailing wage. This takes effect when they work on a federally-funded construction project exceeding $2,000. The Department of Labor of the United States determines the prevailing wage usually basing on the wages of employed workers on the same projects in the same area. This act wants to put an end to contractors who deceptively offer low estimates of their project's proposed costs putting their workers' wages at stake. Other states have their own laws regarding prevailing wage names as the "little Davis-Bacon" act.
So, is the prevailing wage basically a laborer's hourly wage? The answer is both yes and no. This is actually composed of two parts. The first part is the hourly rate of a worker, and the second part is the "fringe benefits" amount (a separate amount paid to workers per hour as part of their wages). Fringe benefits are used to finance the "bona fide" benefits plan which includes health and life insurance, holiday pay, vacation pay, and apprentice training programs.
So, if a worker gets a base wage of $30 per hour on a project with an additional $10 per hour for the fringe benefits, then he gets a total of $40 per hour. Or, the $10 can be put to their employee benefits plan.
What is more beneficial, the bona fide benefits plan or cash? Well, most contractors choose to pay out their fringe benefits together with their wages because it seems to be the easiest with regards to complying with the law. Although this is true, contractors might find this more costly on their part. This is due to the fact that all wages need to be taxed like federal unemployment taxes, state unemployment taxes, social security taxes, general liability insurance, and workers' compensation insurance. While the rate may vary, the additional cost Prevailing Wage Contractors have to pay is roughly 25 centers per dollar.
On the other side of the coin, once the Prevailing Wage Contractors puts the fringe dollars for the bona fide benefits plan, the amount is exempted from payroll taxes. This means that contractors can save up to hundreds of dollars per year.
If the contractor makes use of fringe dollars in the proper way, they can improve the existing benefit programs. One, employers who are enjoying benefits, paying cash for the fringes can mean funding the benefits in double. The fringe dollars can be used to the advantage of both the employer and employee, reducing the possible extra expenses. Two, employees look for the total compensation packages and the benefits. The fringe dollars help companies to bolster their existing programs. This is done by offering desirable benefit coverage and offering additional benefit options. Last, owners and key employees can use the fringe dollars to give more contribution to their retirement not having to put the company's retirement plan annual testing at risk.
All in all, the prevailing wage comprised of hourly cash wage and benefits wage both give benefits to the contractors and laborers working on public-funded construction projects.