Construction Payroll Guide: Prevailing Wage and the Davis Bacon Act
Construction payroll is never one size fits all. If your construction company works on government contracts or other publicly funded projects, you must submit a certified payroll that demonstrates you pay your workforce prevailing wage in compliance with the Davis Bacon Act.
In this blog, we’ll explain the Davis Bacon Act, define prevailing wages and show how they are calculated. Then we’ll explain how certified payroll keeps you in compliance with the Davis Bacon Act and why it’s crucial to keep accurate, current payroll records.
What is the Davis Bacon Act?
Passed in 1931 by Congress to protect workers from low hourly pay, the Davis Bacon Act requires that prevailing wages must be paid on Federally funded public works projects worth more than $2000. The act covers work such as construction, repair or alteration of public buildings, or construction of public roads or bridges, with a minimum threshold of $2000.
What is Prevailing Wage?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the term is defined as the average hourly rate paid to a majority of workers engaged in a particular job type in a specific labor market area.
Prevailing Wage Laws
Contractors and subcontractors who work on publicly funded jobs must pay the majority of their workers no less than the local prevailing wage rate. That means that it’s not possible to use underpaid, non local labor to undercut local workers.
Are there Penalties for Breaking these laws?
Contractors who try to flout the rules and use less expensive, or non local labor could find themselves in legal trouble. If you fail to comply with prevailing wage laws, you could be liable for unpaid wages, or liquidated damages, and you may even be prosecuted in civil or criminal court. What’s more, you might be hurting your prospects for success in the future as you could be disqualified for seeking contracts for future public jobs.
How Do You Determine Prevailing Wage?
There are two ways to calculate a local prevailing wage.
- Prevailing wage in an area can be determined by surveying local employers and calculating the wage by a simple average that sums up the wage rates and divides by the number of hires, or (more accurately) by a weighted average, which weights the wage results by the number of employees.
- Using the prevailing wage rate published by the United States Department of Labor as per the Davis-Bacon Act and its amendments.
Federal Prevailing Wage Rates
Every Federal construction project is covered by the Davis Bacon Act and must pay prevailing wage to its workers, which is like a Federally guaranteed minimum wage for the construction industry. However, only 32 states have prevailing wage laws. Here are the thresholds for each state that has enacted dollar threshold amounts for contract coverage.
What is Certified Payroll?
Contractors who work on publicly funded construction projects must follow many rules, including the payroll stipulation that workers must be paid at least the local prevailing wage.
In order to be in compliance with these construction payroll rules, General Contractors and Heavy Highways contractors must submit a form called the WH-347, to show they have fulfilled all payroll requirements. The form is submitted to the Department of Labor each week you work on a publicly funded project to prove you have maintained compliance with Davis Bacon requirements.
What Does a Certified Payroll Include?
In addition to the WH-347 form, you must submit the following information with your certified payroll:
- The Name of your Contractor or Subcontractor business
- Business address
- Payroll number
- Last day of the workweek
- Project or contractor number
Additionally, the form will ask you for the following information about your workforce.
- Name of every employee
- Type of work they performed on the project, or their Job classification
- Employee’s wages
- Employee’s benefits
- Hours worked
- Gross wages
- Amounts withheld
Your construction payroll is considered “certified” when you attach a signed Statement of Compliance, which is a declaration that all the forms are correct, and that no employee is paid less than the prevailing wage for their labor on the project.
Davis Bacon Wage Determinations
The Federal government has resources that will help you to determine prevailing wages in your area. And if you’re working in a state with prevailing wage laws, you can find resources for calculating it at the Department of Labor for your state.
Final Thoughts: Use Software that Includes Certified Payroll Reporting
Contractors who work on publicly funded construction projects can make the process of creating certified payroll more straightforward by using payroll software that includes these forms and helps you report on appropriate wage rates.