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Archive for the ‘Employee Benefits’ Category

The Top Employee Benefit Trends You Need to Know About in 2018

2018 has seen the prediction of many employee benefit trends that it’s essential to know about, whether you’re an employee or an employer of a small to large sized business. These trends include changes that may need to be made to finances in response to the new tax bill, customization of benefits, and the introduction of more wellness programs.

Here are five of the top employee benefit treads you need to know about in 2018:

  1. Service Automation

Automation is a big thing in 2018, and many businesses are jumping onboard the train and better automating their business. As technology has advanced, automation tools, like chatbots, have made it much easier for businesses to streamline their processes. Expect to see a rise in chatbot use, as it helps to solve problems in the workplace and even streamline the employee recruitment process.

  1. Tailored Benefits

Instead of offering employees a range of benefits that they don’t really need, many businesses are looking to create a tailored benefit plan, on top of the required benefits, like those stipulated in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Not only do personalized benefits retain existing employees, but they help to attract new employees.

Tailored benefits for employees could include:

  • Medical care or childcare on-site
  • Dry cleaning services
  • Memberships to off-site or on-site gyms
  • Free lunches
  1. Reforms for Tax

The response from businesses in regard to the new tax bill is very likely to vary, but the likelihood is, there are going to be a number of businesses that start offering their employees more benefits. The trend has already been set by major businesses, like Walmart, who are introducing additional benefits for maternity and paternity plans.

There are a number of ways that you can offer your employees better benefits, including:

  • Extra health benefits like coverage for dental and vision
  • Improved health care budgets
  • Higher retirement plan match rates
  1. Wellness Programs

Wellness programs have already been implemented and improved in many businesses, but the trend seems to be stronger than ever. The discounts available for employees that take part in wellness programs have certainly helped with this popularity, although businesses need to make sure they are protected against lawsuits and potential liabilities.

It’s highly likely that more lawsuits are going to crop up in the remainder of 2018, covering the ongoing issues with wellness plans and the sharing of certain employee health information.

  1. Reform for Health Care

It’s very likely that health care will go through another set of changes in 2018, and that means that more changes to your business might be needed. Some of the major employee benefit trends of 2018 are likely to be centered around the health care laws that are going to affect all businesses.

Need advice on lawsuit protection and business insurance, or healthcare reform and health insurance? Get into contact with us today, and make sure you know where you stand with insurance and employee benefit trends.

Preventing Age Discrimination – The Importance of the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act

When a business has to lay off employees, for whatever reason, it’s essential that they give extra consideration to the older employees of their workforce. There are a number of key things that employers are not allowed to do in relation to older employees, including:

  • Specifically targeting older workers when reducing the workforce
  • Terminating employment on the grounds of age
  • Giving workers no choice but to sign waivers for age discrimination claims

These rules are governed by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA). But what exactly is the OWBPA, and what do employers and employees need to know?

What Is the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act?

OWBPA is an Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) amendment and is designed to protect employees over the age of 40 from age discrimination. This includes all cases of:

  • Hiring new employees
  • Terminating employee contracts
  • Work duties

Under OWBPA, to prevent older workers from vulnerability in the working environment, they’re entitled to additional benefits, like no pressure to sign waivers and severance pay. Understanding OWBPA and ADEA rules are crucial to protect the rights of employees and businesses in every industry sector.

The OWBPA applies to workforce reductions, involuntary terminations, exit incentive plans, voluntary departures, insurance provisions, and early retirement plans.

OWBPA and Worker Layoffs

In order to terminate the employment of an employee over the age of 40, a business has to make sure that they provide other grounds for termination that are not related to age. The employer must also provide extra worker considerations when laying off older workers – to prevent issues arising with OWBPA and ADEA.

The regulations are given an even greater weight when an event arises that means more than one employees layoff occurs at once – known as group termination. Age discrimination waiver claims will need to be signed and severance pay information provided, even in cases where group reductions occur with a considerable time in between.

The employer will also need to share essential information with employees, so that the employee can decide for themselves if they wish to agree to the age discrimination waiver. This information includes:

  • Eligibility and time limit of the offer
  • Age of employees retained
  • Age and title of employees terminated

OWBPA and Claim Release

When terminating the employment of an employee over 40, and drafting their release, the employer must follow set rules for a valid claim, including:

  • Contemplation Time – 21 days to consider and 7 days to revoke for individual termination and 45 days to decide for group termination.
  • Legal Consultation – Employers should suggest employee legal consultation.
  • Written Release in Simple Language – Employers must write the release in a way that is easily understandable.
  • Accurate Information – All information provided should be clear and not misleading in any way.
  • ADEA Reference – Employees must refer to the ADEA.
  • Voluntary Consent – Release should be signed completely voluntarily.

Additional consideration must then be given to benefits given, that are more than the current entitlement of the employee. Examples of benefits, include:

  • Reimbursement
  • Expenses for Relocation
  • Severance Pay
  • Health Benefits
  • Notice Pay
  • Services for Outplacement
  • Additional Bonuses
  • Extra Vacation Pay

OWBPA is essential in protecting the rights of all parties involved in employment termination. If you’re worried about employment termination as the employee or employer, and need help understanding the provision of insurance benefits, or where you stand with insurance, then please contact us today.

The Year in Healthcare: A Focus on Cost Management

It appears that cost management is of increasing importance to employers, with employers being willing to experiment with new ways of stemming expenses. There has been a growth of group captives in recent years, whereby employers keep their self-funded plans with group stop-loss insurance. This stems the risk and allows the self-funding of smaller groups.

Although the interest in self-insured captive insurance has grown, there remains to be confusion surrounding the arrangements. The president and founder of Roundstone LLC, Mike Schroeder, outlined 5 common misconceptions in an EBA article recently. Among the misconceptions, it is commonly believed that these captives result in higher costs than fully insured renewals; self-funding them is too complex; and that some businesses are too small to see any real benefits to them.

Mick Rodgers, EBA’s 2017 Adviser of the Year, also reshaped health insurance for his firm, which has a dozen employees serving 256 employers group with 16,530 lives. Rodgers then made 4 healthcare purchasing coalitions, consisting of more than 11,000 members from 64 middle-market employers. The employers had headcounts from 100 to 500 employees, hailing from 35 different states. At a mere $7,065 PEPY as of 2016, their health benefits were 41% less than the US average of $11,990 PEPY.
Healthcare reform efforts go on

Healthcare reform shows no signs of slowing down, with a constant “will they won’t they” situation seeming to surround healthcare reform all through 2017. The Senate didn’t pass GOP legislation, though the industry is still searching for an alternative to the Affordable Care Act’s requirements regarding reporting.

President Trump’s tax reform bill includes a repeal of the individual mandate. This has made employers rather worried if healthy employees decide not to purchase health coverage, as the employers may see potentially adverse selections. The individual mandate’s repeal has worried many business groups, with business groups worrying that it may cause the health insurance marketplace to become volatile and unstable. It may also move costs towards stable health insurance customers and employers too.

Trump signed an executive order in October which ordered federal agencies to take certain actions as a result of federal rule-making. Association health plans could potentially be created by small employers grouping together, allowing them to buy insurance together, rather than via Obamacare. Trump’s executive order also encourages the expansion of low-cost, short-term, limited insurance plans, in addition to using tax-advantaged accounts to pay off healthcare-related expenses.

Employer groups continued to call for the repeal of supposedly harmful ACA taxes throughout 2017. The US Chamber of Commerce and the ERISA Industry Committee wish to see the repeal of the Cadillac tax and the Health Insurance Tax, as these are two notoriously disliked provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

As governments change and power is constantly shifted back and forth in the White House, healthcare plans can inevitably hang in the balance. If you wish to remain abreast of the latest situations (and get great advice) then get in touch with us!

5 Ways to Eliminate Costly Employee Benefit Mistakes

Employee benefits can be costly for a small business, often increasing an employee’s base salary by as much as 40%. Despite the costs involved, these benefits are often required in order to keep employees happy and to stop them from working for your competitors.

Many business owners, however, forget about the fees and fines which can be issued when common mistakes occur with their employee benefits. Here we’ve outlined 5 ways of eliminating costly employee benefit mistakes, allowing you to save money and rest assured that you’re doing the right thing.

1. Don’t give them all away for free

If employee benefits are free, the vast majority of people will simply take them. Why? Because they’re free, so they might as well – it’s not coming at any cost to them. However, if you provide benefits which the employee has to pay for or subsidize with their salary, they may think twice about how much they want that benefit. This is a good way of ascertaining how much your employees “actually” want certain benefits.

2.Covering unqualified employees or non-employees

Some (though not many) employees cover relatives or friends by purchasing group health plans. Claim denials, investigations and cancellations can easily come as a result of this. To easily see who is eligible for insurance, check your employee’s working hours via their WR-30.

3. Give them benefits that they actually want

Consider how much your employees are actually benefitting from the benefits you are providing them. For example, if you’ve got a workforce full of Millennials and Gen-Z-ers who are largely 30 and under, they’re probably not too concerned with life insurance coverage or pension plans at this stage in their lives; they’d probably rather have a pay rise!

4. Misinforming your employees about their benefits

Many employees will expect that you, as their employer, are providing them with adequate insurance coverage. If this is not true, however, you need to inform them. You could get yourself in a lot of trouble if you misinform your employees about their benefits, or even if you fail to inform them at all. Consider drafting an annual or quarterly statement for all your employees, informing them of the full scope of their employee benefits.

5. Not filing paperwork correctly

It can be very difficult to file insurance plans for different employees’ specific jobs if you aren’t completely familiar with their duties. Assuming you aren’t micromanaging your employees 24/7, you may find it difficult to detail their duties correctly. You can also run into similar paperwork problems for group health plans, as there is only a small window of time in which to enroll new employees onto the plan. Filing paperwork incorrectly can inevitably lead to costly legal fees should issues arise.

Providing employee benefits allows any businesses to build employee morale and thrive among their competitors. Nonetheless, it can be easy to make mistakes which will cost your business money down the road. Looking for more information and advice on employee benefits and insurance? Get in touch with us now!

Wellness Program Ideas Worth Leveraging

A healthy and happy workforce is key to controlling costs in the workplace. By reducing stress and emphasizing wellness, employees benefit and spend less time on sick leave. The company benefits too with increased morale, productivity, and reduced insurance costs.

Other company’s are leveraging these techniques and you may want to consider them as well…

Run “Biggest Loser” Contests

Create a competition to reward the biggest healthy loss of weight within a definite period of time. Rather than measuring actual pounds lost, concentrate on percentage of body weight. This way, individuals who are sensitive about their weight can safely participate. Give bonus points for employees that achieve a healthy BMI regardless of percentage weight loss.

Zero-Gain Challenge

Offer employees the opportunity to earn zero-gain rewards around their birthdays and holidays. Participants will weigh themselves on November 1 and again on January 31. For birthdays they could weigh a month before and a month afterward. Award a prize to every worker who maintains his or her weight through the contest period.

Race Entry Reimbursement

Support your team’s fitness goals by sponsoring them for entry fees into races. These events will give them a challenge to train towards completing those races, furthering your wellness program efforts. Encourage your employees to race together, and you can realize team-building benefits as well.

Fitbit Challenge

Everyone can benefit from moving. Encourage your employees to walk, jog or run more each day by organizing a Fitbit challenge. Provide participants with tracking devices (you may be able to negotiate a discounted price if you purchase in bulk from a retailer) and set a variety of goals to accommodate workers at different fitness levels. Attach a reward to the achievement of each goal; you can award anything from medals or plaques to gift cards and extra time off.

Need other wellness program ideas? Contact us today for assistance with this or any other employee benefits assistance.

Do You Need a Workplace Anti-Bullying Policy?

Workplace bullying is a growing concern in the U.S. 96 percent of American employees report having experienced work related intimidation or bullying occurring at least once in their career. Fully 89 percent reported harassing cases that had persisted for greater than one year.

One of the most common kinds of bullying reported was sabotage of the work or credibility of others. While just 4 percent indicate physical abuse, most report extreme verbal abuse and menacing threats as common elements of workplace bullying.

Such bullying invariably leads to negative productivity and is costly to the bottom line of companies. Bullying creates an uncomfortable work environment. Employees doubt their safety. They also doubt the leadership of the company. This brings about lower productivity and higher turnover. It can also lead to lawsuits if the work environment seems to “look the other way”.

While the development of an office anti-bullying plan is necessary, the process can be challenging due to both practical and legal factors to consider. For instance, how do you identify destructive intimidation from friendly teasing? The National Labor Relations Board has complicated the issue having challenged various company bullying policies, usually due to the fact that they find the language within them to be also broad.

As you examine your anti-bullying stand, watch out for these points…

  • Clearly state that your firm is devoted to promoting a considerate, bully-free environment.
  • Define work environment bullying as clearly as you can and include a declaration that your firm recognizes the degrees of harassing that may occur (between managers and also employees, between coworkers, between clients as well as workers, and so on).
    Include a detailed list of the sorts of habits you will not tolerate under the policy.
  • Define the process for reporting bullying incidents. Due to the fact that staff members could be scared of revenge, confidential reporting systems are typically preferred.
  • Outline what happens to employees for violating the anti-bullying plan.
  • Communicate the plan to staff members at all levels within your organization. Make sure each individual signs off that they have read and understood the policy.
  • Take all reported issues of bullying and harassing seriously.

You may want to consult with an attorney specializing in workplace issues to help you form your policy and action plans to be certain they are legal and adequately address the situation.

And once you have established a solid plan, be sure to review your insurance. An EPLI policy can help protect you and your company from claims against your company and its response to reported workplace bullying.

5 Tips for Saving Money on Employee Benefits

 

Employees’ loyalty is greatly enhanced when their employer offers them decent employee benefits. However, offering benefits can be a struggle for small businesses with limited profit margins. Below we offer 5 tips on helping smaller employers to minimize the costs of providing their loyal employees with good benefits.

1. Consider buying cooperatives

Health insurance buying cooperatives can help smaller companies to woo potential insurance providers. Each cooperative has its own unique structure, and may or may not issue superior insurance rates to companies in the regular open market. The value of buying cooperatives is often determined by local insurance underwriting rules and regulations.

A New York City business cooperative, for example, offers members up to 35 health plans to compare and choose from. Though the insurance itself often comes with no discount, members are nonetheless entitled to additional benefits such as free health assessments and discounted dental care.

2. Health Savings Accounts & High-Deductible Health Plans

Employers can use these plans to influence employees into considering their own healthcare costs. People with high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) can use HSAs to harness employee tax funds for non-covered medical expenses. Unused HSA funds can also conveniently be rolled over to the following year. Both employers and employees alike can fund an HSA plan.

Additionally, health reimbursement accounts (HRAs) can also be used in conjunction with HDHPs. Employers use an HRA to set aside funds that can be used to reimburse a fixed amount to employees when it comes to non-covered healthcare expenses and deductibles. The funds are technically owed to the employer, but the employee can nonetheless roll unused funds over to the following year.

3. Look into disease control

Thorough health assessments and preventive healthcare can ease the symptoms and onset of chronic diseases such as asthma or diabetes. Smaller businesses with limited profits and healthcare budgets will often struggle if an employee has a long-term illness that racks up medical bills. In order to avoid this, many smaller companies are now running disease control plans that aim to treat and manage any chronic diseases that their employees may suffer from. Both insurers and third-party organizations provide these disease control plans that can save a smaller business tons of healthcare costs in the long run.

4. Utilize FSAs (Flexible Spending Accounts)

Employees can use FSAs to pay for non-covered medical bills with their pre-tax money. FSAs come in the form of special debit cards that cover co-pays and medications that are uncovered by the employee at hand’s insurance plan. The money is taken away from the pre-tax funds that employees reserve. These FSA cards cost very little to own (often $2 or $3 per month) yet several FSA providers include them as added perks with certain insurance plans.

5. Implement a company wellness plan

Whether it’s a free gym membership, healthy canteen, or free periodic health tests, employers can provide their staff with many health-conscious facilities and resources that often see their insurance costs drop. Employer insurance costs can be greatly reduced by promoting health and wellness knowledge among your staff and providing them with the necessary facilities with which to boost their health.

We’re always looking out for insurance information that affects your finances and your health too. Get in touch with us 24/7 and we will answer any insurance-related questions you may have.

Businesses of All Sizes Should Think About Benefits

Benefits are for small businesses too. For many small business owners, benefits seem cost prohibitive. In the interest of short-term gain (or just making the bills each month), a number choose to operate without a benefits structure in place. While limiting monthly expenses can help some aspects of the business, high turnover rates and dissatisfied employees more than outweigh the gain.

Today, more businesses large and small are creating benefits programs to attract and retain talented help. Benefits come in many shapes and sizes, continually growing in numbers firms compete for talent. Topping the list is medical care, yet staff members may also demand disability insurance, retirement plans, and more. The best benefits are better likely to attract the best talent.

Employees satisfied in the workplace, feeling compensated with a benefits structure, are more likely to perform better. That’s according to Aon Consulting Senior Vice President Joe Lineberry agrees, claiming that when employees feel valued attendance and productivity will improve. Great benefits improve retention as well, as employees will want to keep them.

The Simple Benefit Breakdown

Some benefits employers are required to offer. These include:

  • Excusing absences for jury and military obligations
  • Proper withholding and payment of payroll taxes
  • Contributing to state unemployment taxes
  • Compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (depending on size and location, more below)

Beyond these basics, many businesses are including additional benefits to attract the best employees. Today it is common to see businesses of all sizes offer extra benefits such as:

  • Health and dental care
  • Life, disability, and other insurance policies
  • Paid time-off for holidays, vacations, and more

The types of benefits are limited only to the creativity of the entrepreneurs offering them. Competition dictates some companies may offer a combination of benefits programs to stay ahead of their peers. In addition to the types of benefits offered, ease of access factors as well. Simple processes for submitting vacation requests and accessing other benefits is likely to increase morale.

The Family Leave and Medical Act (FMLA)

Business size and operating state may require compliance with the Family Leave and Medical Act. Under the FMLA, employees are eligible for 12 weeks of leave, unpaid. These include welcoming a baby or adopted child into the family, attending to the care of a family member, and personal health concerns. The leave may be taken at once or non-consecutively. To find more about state-specific requirements, contact your state’s labor division.

Compliance and Oversight

Small business owners are subject to scrutiny from enforcement agencies. Small business owners often have limited experience implementing and managing employee benefits programs, and mistakes can be costly. The IRS and the Department of Labor have the ability to audit, fine, and more as enforcement tools. Before launching a benefits program or adding to an existing, contact a financial professional.

Creating employees should be viewed as an investment rather than an expense. Good employees can help your business grow and develop, and low retention rates can help keep you focused on what matters. Be sure to come back often for more tips on small business ownership, and information on other insurance topics.

Want to Know if Your Employees are Happy? Ask!

The average American employee spends almost 25% of each week at the office. Add a commute and overtime and that number begins to climb dramatically. The more employees feel like their time spent working matters, the more likely productivity will improve. Companies investing in employee morale stand to gain. Asking a handful of questions can help discreetly reveal employee opinion in the workplace.

1. On a scale of 1-10, how happy are employees?

Many managers find a simple scale of 1-10 helps gauge satisfaction in the workplace. Staff may have difficulty opening up about particular concerns; a number scale encourages feedback yet allows employees to remain noncommittal about responses. Those comfortable enough to elaborate should be encouraged to do so. The more information managers have, the better they can respond.

2. “If you could change one thing…?”

If employees could make one change to the organization, what would it be? This is a positive approach to understanding how to improve the workplace environment. Suggestions can range from improving the workspace to changing company processes and much more. Approach with an open mind and uncover deeper issues.

3. Is there room to grow?

Goals help increase staff retention and can help boost morale. People want something to work toward. With room for advancement, employees are likely to perform better and tend to feel better about coming to work.

4. Do employees feel like the company cares?

People like to feel acknowledged for their contributions. Encourage excellent performance by recognizing employees for performance. This will help foster stronger relationships in the company and helps encourage others to perform better.

5. Ask employees to describe the company in one sentence.

This is a direct way to gauge satisfaction. Limiting employees to single-sentence responses demands they select words carefully, placing an increased value on the response.

Remember that employees are simply responding to questions they’ve been asked. Treat all responses as constructive criticism. Penalizing employees for responses will create large divides. Increased interaction between staff and management can keep the workplace running smoothly.

Disability Insurance as a Safety Net

Disability Insurance Form Contract Concept

People are natural optimists. For most unthinkable situations the general response is: “it can’t happen to me”. In truth, disabilities can affect anyone ranging from mild to debilitating. Disability insurance is a type of protection paying a portion of income in case of disability. The majority of American workers lack disability insurance and many are unaware the coverage is available. LIMRA, a group of financial and insurance professionals conducted a recent survey on employee insurance protection. 65% of respondents recommended disability insurance for employees, yet only 48% felt a personal need. Of those, a mere 20% actually carried disability insurance leaving the vast majority at-risk in case of the unexpected.

The annual benefits open season is here. Disability insurance may be something to think about adding to benefits packages to add a safety net to coverage. As companies become more competitive with recruitment, this may be an automatic enrollment for many employees. Check with a human resources representative to see about automatic coverage; there may be new additions to benefits packages this season. Disability insurance may be less-glamorous than some other benefits out there yet the payoffs may far outweigh them. Disability insurance is a safety net for truly, often compensating up to 50-60% of annual revenue while disabled.

Individual policy protection will vary depending on the insurance carrier and company options. Many long-term disability insurance policies have a waiting period before taking effect, in some cases up to six months. For protection during this period, short-term disability policies fill the gap. A broken arm or illness can affect weeks or months of work and income yet cancers and musculoskeletal afflictions can last years. Most people lack the savings to support the lost income through this time.

According to the Social Security Administration, 25% of those entering the workforce will be disabled prior to reaching retirement. At one-in-four odds, chances are high enough to consider adding a layer of protection. A 2015 survey by the Federal Reserve Board found nearly half of Americans lack emergency savings. Asked about a hypothetical $400 emergency expense, 46% of those surveyed claimed inability to match that amount. Months or years of lost income due to serious illness or disability would likely cripple them.

A growing number of companies include disability insurance as part of employee packages. LIMRA states 41% of companies offer disability insurance with larger companies leading the way. Depending on the organization, this may be a voluntary option or paid incentive. For employees paying their own premium, the cost is generally affordable with annual costs as low as $250-$300. Employees paying a premium with post-tax income may have more coming in the future if a claim is filed. Employees paying policy premiums may qualify for tax-free benefit payouts in case of a claim.

The benefits of paying for a policy come with a catch, says Carol Harnett, president of the Council for Disability Awareness. She worries employees, when faced with a long list of insurance options, tend to skip disability coverage in favor of more-attractive or less-expensive options. The solution may lie in auto-enrollment into voluntary programs. Leaving it to the employee to opt-out increases participation up to 45% more than opt-in disability insurance programs. Enrolling early is recommended as more companies include health evaluations for coverage. Pre-existing health conditions may affect qualification for long-term disability insurance. Speak to an agent for more information on disability insurance and create a safety net for the future.

We’re always looking for new information on improving health and saving money. For more information on insurance options and protection contact an agent today.