Certification

When your wage floor is at $18/hour or higher and you offer health insurance, Certified status is for you.

If you’re on a path to meeting these qualifications, start with Committed while you progress toward certification.

Two Paths
  • Certified
  • Committed
Certified

Certified

Good Wages Certified employers meet the $18/hour wage threshold and offer health insurance to full-time employees. Part-time employees, apprentices, interns, new hires and minors may be excluded. Certification lasts for 2 years and is available for businesses with an office in Marion County, IN. The Good Wages Initiative showcases Certified employers through community-wide marketing, promoting this group of employees to job coaches, and much more.

Apply: Certified
  • 1. Apply

    Being designated as Good Wages Certified starts with completing the online application. A .pdf version is available to help you prepare. Our FAQs and the Employer Handbook address common questions. Feel free to reach out to the Good Wages Initiative team with any questions. After receiving your application and the application fee, Good Wages Initiative staff will arrange a discussion with you so we ensure an accurate understanding of your application.

  • 2. Receive

    Once approved, you will receive a Welcome Kit complete with door signage, an electronic Good Wages Certified emblem, press release template, sample social media announcements, and more.

  • 3. Promote

    Share your Good Wages Certified status with the community. Reference your status in your job postings. Highlight it on your online careers page. Especially if you raise wages in order to qualify, leverage certification as a way to celebrate with your employees how you value them. Announce your Certified status on your website’s home page so all can see how you approach employee compensation and support your community.

Committed

Committed

Committed employers intend to become certified and are working through a Certification Plan they designed to raise wages and (as necessary) expand health insurance access. Committed employers confirm that they will meet certification criteria by March 31, 2024, or soon thereafter, and apply for Certified status at that time.

Apply: Committed
  • 1. Develop

    Identify compensation and benefits practices do not meet the criteria for certification, and then develop a Certification Plan to raise wages (and expand health insurance access, if necessary) to the required levels by March 31, 2024 or soon thereafter.  See the Employer Handbook for a sample Certification Plan.

     

  • 2. Announce

    Make public declaration of your intent to seek certification.  This communication strategy could include activities like making an announcement via an internal newsletter and on social media channels, and issuing a press release.

  • 3. Apply

    Complete the online application and submit the application fee.  Good Wages Initiative staff will contact you to arrange a conversation about your application.

     

Phillip
Marsha
Profiles

Phillip

When I earned less, life felt very precarious. I couldn't risk taking time off and missing that money. A surprisingly high utility bill felt like a disaster. I didn't want to sign up for benefits at work because I couldn't risk not having the cash.

Now, we've crossed the threshold where we have enough money to take care of the problems. Kitchen table broke when we moved? We can get an inexpensive one from Ikea. Late returning the cable box? The $60 hurts a bit, but it won't break us. We can say yes to the kids when they want a small toy as a treat.

Little decisions about money aren't ruling my life. It's such a weight off my shoulders.

Profiles

Marsha

I went through a five-year period when my income was definitely not enough to cover all expenses. The stress was huge.

I could be physically present at work, but the questions in my mind were constant. “Do I have enough gas to get home from work tonight? Can I get back to work tomorrow? Will my power be off when I get home? If so, how long will be before the little bit of food I have in there is no good?”

It was always constant money juggling. I was finally forced by creditors into bankruptcy. I know this stress hurt my performance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Look here for details about both Certified and Committed status. Want to print this out? The same information is available in our Employer Handbook.

Download Employer Handbook
What are the requirements to be Certified?

To be Good Wages Certified, an employer must currently pay full-time employees at least $18/hour and offer health insurance.

What are the requirements for Committed status?

An employer must develop a Certification Plan (see the Employer Handbook for an example), announce their intentions to raise wages, and apply for Committed status along with submitting the application fee.

If one’s Certification Plan requires more than a year, annual reviews  of progress against the plan will be requested along with the renewal fee (same as the application fee).

What is the difference between Certified and Committed?

Certified employers meet wage and health insurance criteria, and have completed the certification process, whereas Committed employers intend to become certified and are working through a Certification Plan they designed to raise wages and expand health insurance access. Committed employers confirm that they will meet certification criteria and apply for Certified status.

Note that the $18/hour living wage threshold may change during the period of one’s Certification Plan, which would require plan changes so that the new threshold is met at the conclusion of the plan.

What is the process to become Certified?

Employers complete an online application in which they provide information such as the starting wages for workers and worker groups that require special consideration and/or exemption (interns, contractors, tipped workers, etc.). A non-refundable application fee is paid at that time.

Next, GWI staff reviews the application and follows up with the applicant as necessary. On occasion, a handful of very brief interviews of workers may be conducted in order to ensure the integrity of the certification.

GWI’s Certification Committee provides the final decision on applications based on the recommendation of staff.

All information shared with GWI is considered confidential.

How does one receive status as Good Wages Committed?

First, an employer identifies what compensation and benefits practices do not meet the criteria for certification, and then develops a Certification Plan to raise wages (and expand health insurance access, if necessary) to the required levels. (See the Employer Handbook for a sample Certification Plan.) An employer likely has additional details about how their plan will be fulfilled. These details do no need to be shared with GWI. Note that the $18/hour living wage threshold may change during the period of one’s Certification Plan, which would require plan changes so that the new threshold is met at the conclusion of the plan

Next, the employer must make a public declaration of their intent to seek certification. The approach to this declaration is up to the employers. This communication strategy could include making an announcement via an internal newsletter and on social media channels, and issuing a press release.

Lastly, the application fee is paid and the online application is completed. The application includes providing a Certification Plan that includes the wage milestones they will achieve and confirmation of intent to apply for good wage certification. All information an employer shares with the Good Wages Initiative is confidential.

Committed status is good for one year. For multi-year plans, Good Wages Staff staff will review with employers their progress toward the annual milestones included in their Certification Plan, and the employer will pay the renewal fee (see table below).

What is the application fee to become Certified?

The fees for initial applications and subsequent 2-year renewals are as follows.

What is the application fee for Committed status?

What kind of employers can participate?

The Good Wages Initiative seeks to certify an array of businesses, non-profit organizations, faith institutions, and government entities. Certification is open to any Marion County employer with at least 2 employees, regardless of industry or structure.

Can any employees be exempted from the wage and health insurance requirements?

Yes. The following may be exempt:

  • Employees working less than 30 hours/week*
  • Interns (with internship no longer than 5 months)
  • Temporary, project-based employees (no more than 4 months)
  • Apprentices**
  • New hires during an introductory period of (no more than 90 days)

Employers with additional special circumstances are strongly encouraged to talk with Good Wages Initiative staff.

*In keeping with the Good Wages Initiative spirit, an employer may not qualify for certification if, within the 12 months preceding their application, full-time positions have been eliminated and replaced by part-time positions making under $18/hour.

**Apprentices should be part of a qualifying apprenticeship program that a) provides industry-recognized training, b) includes mentoring, and c) results in a living wage upon completion.

 

Are there any specifications for the health insurance?

There are no stipulations related to premiums, deductibles, coverages or other details of the offered health insurance plan. The only requirement is that an employer offers all full-time employees (i.e., those working 30 or more hours per week) group health insurance.

If our business provides benefits like a 401k, free meals or uniforms, can we get a “credit” against the wage requirement?

While these benefits certainly have value to employees, certification is based solely on actual wages and health insurance access, consistent with the Good Wages Initiative’s focus on employees being able to cover their basic needs.

Can a business with tipped workers participate?

Yes. The compensation for tipped workers must meet or exceed the $18/hour threshold when wages and tips are combined.

Must contracted workers meet the wage threshold?

If an employer’s workforce is 20% or more contractors (i.e., 1099 workers), then contractor wages are considered as part of the application. The minimum hourly wage for contractors is $19.37/hour, which factors in the additional taxes contractors pay when working as contractors rather than employees.

What if we have a union or other collective bargaining agreement covering employees?

Good Wages Certification is compatible with collective bargaining agreements. At a minimum, such agreements would stipulate a wage floor of at least $18.00/hour for employees working 30+hours/week.

In keeping the spirit of the Good Wages Initiative, applications for certification will not be considered during collective bargaining negotiations or when organizing activities are underway.

Can self-employed people be certified?

Not at this time. Entities with two employees or more may apply.

What if my business has multiple locations?

All criteria apply to employees based from a company site in Marion County, IN, regardless of where employees physically live or work. If an employer has employees based elsewhere, such employees are not considered as part of the certification review. Please see the Employer Handbook for examples.

We have employees who make less than the threshold and refuse wage increases because they impact benefits (e.g., SNAP, student loan payments). Would this disqualify us from certification?

Employers may choose to allow such employees to exempt themselves from a wage increase voluntarily. Employers should consult with legal counsel regarding such a policy, including what documentation to obtain from employees. Such employees can be excluded from an employee’s overall wage analysis for GWI certification.

How will GWI promote certified employers?

A high priority for the GWI team is making the certification status of employers recognizable by consumers and job seekers who can then consider this when spending money and seeking work.

A significant portion of GWI’s budget is for strategic marketing targeting consumers and job seekers through various channels, which may include print advertising, digital advertising, billboards, events, earned media, etc. GWI’s website and social media will showcase certified employers. GWI will also work closely with career coaches and workforce development programs to equip them to guide job seekers toward certified employers.

Additionally, GWI will provide certified employers with tools and resources to support their self-promotion. Door signage, digital emblems, and templates for incorporating one’s status as living wage certified in job postings, product marketing, PR statements, and more will be part of the package provided to employers by GWI.

How long is certification good for?

Certifications are good for two years unless an employer’s wage floor drops below $18/hour. Toward the end of their certification period, an employer may recertify similarly to how they initially certified. Re-certifications will be issued based on the most current living wage threshold adopted by the Good Wages Initiative. The Initiative team will contact employers about upcoming certification expirations and any changes to criteria.

What if the $18/hour threshold changes?

When we are aware of the upcoming adoption of a new living wage standard for Marion County, the Good Wages Initiative will contact all Certified employers, Committed employers, and those we know pursuing either path. The Good Wages Initiative will provide details about changes to certification and timelines for employers based on how they are part of the Good Wages Initiative.

How long could we stay at Committed?

An employer starting at Committed should have a plan to qualify and apply for certification. For specific deadlines, contact Good Wages Initiative staff to discuss.

Note that the $18/hour living wage threshold may change during the period of one’s Certification Plan, which would require changes to the plan so that the end of the plan results in arriving at the new threshold.

We don't qualify for certification yet, but want to achieve this. Does GWI have resources to help us build a Certification Plan?

GWI will host panel discussions and/or workshops featuring compensation and benefits consultants, HR leaders, and/or CFOs to offer counsel on developing plans. As they are available, GWI will provide examples of Certification Plans and limited details of the strategy for achieving the plan (scrubbed for anonymity and shared with permission). GWI staff can also provide referrals to business finance experts and strategic HR consultants who can assist with planning.

Be one of the first Good Wages Certified or Committed Employers