When every day is bring-your-kid-to-work day

Canopy, a software developer, has adopted many family-friendly employee benefits, including a benefit that allows employees to bring their newborns to work up until they are about 6 months old. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


When recent college graduate Hanna Arntz first interviewed for a job at Canopy, a Utah-based startup that develops practice management software for accounting firms, the recruiter asked her about her long-term career goals. Arntz wasn’t sure about what she wanted, but she was sure of one thing: She wanted to be a mom.

The recruiter told Arntz that Canopy was developing benefits for pregnant and working mothers. Arntz was interested, and accepted a position at the company in 2017. She is now a talent acquisition manager, a role that allowed her to witness the company’s development of family-friendly benefits firsthand.

“We had a lot of focus groups for parents within Canopy to understand what parents need in the workforce and how to retain them, particularly mothers,” she says.

Canopy now offers 10 weeks of maternity leave, plus a two-week ramp period where parents can work part-time to readjust to work. The company also offers two weeks of paternity leave. In addition to these policies, Canopy has an unusual offering: It allows parents to bring their newborns into work every day up until they are about 6-months-old.

Canopy CEO Kurt Avarell says many of the employees on the more than 300-person team have children, and there is a level of understanding when new parents bring their little ones to work. The company also welcomes older children into their office from time to time.

“Pretty much any day is a bring-your-kid-to-work day,” he says. “It’s pretty typical to have kids in the office.”

Arntz gave birth to her son, Jude, seven months ago. After taking maternity leave, she returned to the office with her newborn. Initially, she was nervous about bringing him to work.

“I was worried he was going to be crying in meetings,” she says. “There was so much anxiety around that.”

Since she has returned to work, though, colleagues have not treated her any differently, she says. Balancing her work with taking care of her son can be tough, she admits, but the company has been supportive.

“Even if the baby was crying and I was bouncing him, they’d still be looking at me in the eye and engaging me in conversation,” she says.

Employers like Canopy are beginning to recognize the value of adding family-friendly benefits with many beefing up paid parental leave, breast milk shipping, and free babysitting services. For example, dozens of companies including Bristol-Myers Squibb, CVS Health, Dollar General, Eataly and General Mills made changes to their paid parental leave benefits in 2018. Meanwhile, Home Depot, Trip Adviser, Vox Media and Pinterest added breast milk shipping benefits, and Starbucks began offering subsidized child care as a benefit.

In addition to its maternity and paternity leave benefits, Canopy has a flexible paid time off policy that allows new parents to work from home. The company also has separate mothers’ and fathers’ rooms in the office and provides new parents with a gift of diapers, clothes, baby care products and gift cards.

Avarell says offering family-focused benefits is a good way to retain employees because it shows workers that they are supported at home and in the office. It’s a part of Canopy’s culture that he hopes to maintain long-term.

As for Arntz, the benefits have played an integral part of her staying at the company.

“The company has invested in me for a reason,” she says. “They want to retain me.”

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (7 January 2019) "When every day is bring-your-kid-to-work day" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/when-every-day-is-bring-your-kid-to-work-day?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


4 ways to help employees make better choices about what they eat

Are you looking for ways to help your employees reach their wellness goals? The RAND Corporation reported that 60 percent of Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition. Read this blog post to learn more.


Doughnuts in the conference room. Soda and chips from the vending machine. Cookies in the office kitchen. A recent CDC study of employees across the U.S. found that the foods people get at work tend to contain high amounts of salt, sugar and empty calories.

When people are busy and on-the-go — a common reality for full-time employees who spend more than a third of their day at work — it’s all too easy to fall into poor eating habits. And poor eating habits contribute to poor health. According to a RAND Corporation Study, 60% of American adults suffer from at least one chronic condition (like diabetes or high blood pressure) and 42% have more than one. These conditions are costly, and not just for individuals themselves. The CDC estimates that productivity losses related to health issues cost U.S. employers $1,685 per employee per year, or $225.8 billion annually.

For employers that care about wellness, improving food and beverage offerings represents an untapped opportunity: Better nutrition at work can not only have a powerful impact on employee health but also contribute to a happier, more focused and productive workforce. Making large-scale changes across an organization is not always easy, however, especially when it comes to ingrained habits and preferences. What can today’s employers do to incentivize their employees to make healthier choices?

1. Make healthy food and beverages a benefit.

According to Deloitte’s 2018 survey on Global Human Capital Trends, 63% of employees surveyed cited healthy snacks as something they value highly when it comes to wellness. People want to eat healthier, which is great, but when they are busy, they’ll pick up what’s easy and available. And in too many of today’s offices, that means vending machines and office kitchens stocked with ultra-processed foods high in sugar and salt. Not only are these items unhealthy, they can also lead to sluggishness and lethargy as blood sugar levels spike and then crash.

It’s pretty simple: When more nutritious offerings are readily available — and especially if they are free or subsidized — people are more likely to try them. Companies that offer high-quality food and beverages as a benefit will reap rewards not just in terms of a healthier and more productive workforce, but also in attracting and retaining people, like millennials, who value wellness and appreciate the fact that their employer is investing in their health and happiness.

2. Get personal.

Different people have different drivers and different needs. This is why a one-size-fits-all approach to changing habits rarely works. Before making big decisions about your company’s food and beverage services, ask questions: Are some people on special diets or do they keep unusual schedules? What do people like and dislike about current available options? What kinds of foods and drinks do they wish were offered, but aren’t?

With a better understanding of habits, preferences and what drives people to the kitchen or break room in the first place (boredom? low energy? social time?), employers can begin to build a food and beverage profile that’s tailored to their workforce’s individual needs and thus more likely to be embraced.

3. Consider the “psychology” of snacking.

People don’t always make rational decisions — even more so when they are tired, stressed or “hangry.” But when corporations make the healthy choice the easy (and delicious!) choice, it helps. Everything from where snacks and drinks are positioned — are the more nutritious options at eye level? — to the design of kitchen and break room spaces can make a difference in promoting better eating habits.

For example, kitchen spaces that are attractive, comfortable and inviting encourage people to take a little more time and put more thought into selecting their snacks, and can also serve as a welcome place for people to connect with each other and de-stress. Taste is another important consideration. People sometimes assume that healthy food won’t taste as good as the bad stuff, but this is often just a misconception. Special tastings or fun office activities like offering a “snack of the week” can get people to try more nutritious options and see for themselves that they can be just as — if not more — delicious than what they were eating before.

4. Nudge, don’t push.

Don’t expect people to move from potato chips to veggie and quinoa salad overnight. Organizations that start with a few key changes — replacing sugary sodas with flavored water, for example, or swapping out highly-processed snacks and foods with similar, but more nutritious options — will face less initial resistance, and can then build up their healthy offerings over time. Every workplace has their guilty pleasures, whether it’s a specific brand of soda or a favorite candy. Rather than turning people off by taking their “comfort snacks” away, sometimes the best approach is to simply add healthier alternatives and then wait for people discover on their own that these can be equally fulfilling and delicious, and most importantly, make them feel better too.

Workplace wellness initiatives continue to grow in popularity, but there are still questions about whether these programs are as effective as they could be. While health screenings, smoking cessation programs and gym memberships are a good start, corporations shouldn’t overlook a key driver of good health — what their people eat and drink. Providing easy access to a great diet at work is a smart strategy for improving wellness, and one that employees will come to appreciate as a valuable benefit. Plus, healthy, enthusiastic and energized people makes for a much happier and more productive workplace — a win-win for employees and employers alike.

SOURCE: Heinrich, M. (3 January 2019) "4 ways to help employees make better choices about what they eat" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/4-ways-to-help-employees-make-better-choices-about-what-they-eat?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


Compliance: Yearly Deadlines for Health Plans

Do you offer group health plans coverage to your employees? Employers that provide coverage are subject to multiple compliance requirements throughout the year. Certain requirements have been around for many years, while others have been recently added by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Continue reading for a summary of the many compliance requirements and their associated deadlines that health plan providers should be aware of throughout the year. Certain deadlines for non-calendar year plans may vary from what is outlined in this summary. This summary only covers recurring calendar year compliance deadlines. Other requirements that are not based on the calendar year are not included below.

January

Deadline Requirement Description

January 31

Form W-2 Deadline for providing Forms W-2 to employees. The ACA requires employers to report the aggregate cost of employer-sponsored group health plan coverage on their employees’ Forms W-2. The purpose is to provide employees with information on how much their health coverage costs. Certain types of coverage are not required to be reported on Form W-2.

This Form W-2 reporting requirement is currently optional for small employers (those who file fewer than 250 Forms W-2). Employers that file 250 or more Forms W-2 are required to comply with the ACA’s reporting requirement.

January 31 Form 1095-C or Form 1095-B—Annual Statement to Individuals Applicable large employers (ALEs) subject to the ACA’s employer shared responsibility rules must furnish Form 1095-C (Section 6056 statements) annually to their full-time employees. Employers with self-insured health plans that are not ALEs must furnish Form 1095-B (Section 6055 statements) annually to covered employees.

The Forms 1095-B and 1095-C are due on or before Jan. 31 of the year immediately following the calendar year to which the statements relate. Extensions may be available in certain limited circumstances. However, an alternate deadline generally is not available for ALEs that sponsor non-calendar year plans.

 

Update: The IRS extended the deadline for furnishing the 2018 employee statements, from Jan. 31, 2019, to March 4, 2019.  

February

Deadline Requirement Description

February 28   (March 31, if filing electronically)

Section 6055 and 6056 Reporting Under Section 6056, ALEs subject to the ACA’s employer shared responsibility rules are required to report information to the IRS about the health coverage they offer (or do not offer) to their full-time employees. ALEs must file Form 1094-C and Form 1095-C with the IRS annually.

Under Section 6055, self-insured plan sponsors are required to report information about the health coverage they provided during the year. Self-insured plan sponsors must generally file Form 1094-B and Form 1095-B with the IRS annually.

ALEs that sponsor self-insured plans are required to report information to the IRS under Section 6055 about health coverage provided, as well as information under Section 6056 about offers of health coverage. ALEs that sponsor self-insured plans will generally use a combined reporting method on Form 1094-C and Form 1095-C to report information under both Sections 6055 and 6056.

All forms must be filed with the IRS annually, no later than Feb. 28 (March 31, if filed electronically) of the year following the calendar year to which the return relates. Reporting entities that are filing 250 or more returns must file electronically. There is no alternate filing date for employers with non-calendar year plans.

March

Deadline Requirement Description

March 1   (calendar year plans)

Medicare Part D Disclosure to CMS Group health plan sponsors that provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare Part D eligible individuals must disclose to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) whether prescription drug coverage is creditable or not. In general, a plan’s prescription drug coverage is considered creditable if its actuarial value equals or exceeds the actuarial value of the Medicare Part D prescription drug coverage. Disclosure is due:

  • Within 60 days after the beginning of each plan year;
  • Within 30 days after the termination of a plan’s prescription drug coverage; and
  • Within 30 days after any change in the plan’s creditable coverage status.

Plan sponsors must use the online disclosure form on the CMS Creditable Coverage webpage.

July

Deadline Requirement Description

July 31

PCORI Fee Deadline for filing IRS Form 720 and paying Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fees for the previous year. For insured health plans, the issuer of the health insurance policy is responsible for the PCORI fee payment. For self-insured plans, the PCORI fee is paid by the plan sponsor.

The PCORI fees are temporary—the fees do not apply to plan years ending on or after Oct. 1, 2019. This means that, for calendar year plans, the PCORI fees do not apply for the 2019 plan year.

July 31

Form 5500 Plan administrators of ERISA employee benefit plans must file Form 5500 by the last day of the seventh month following the end of the plan year, unless an extension has been granted. Form 5500 reports information on a plan’s financial condition, investments and operations. Form 5558 is used to apply for an extension of two and one-half months to file Form 5500.

Small health plans (fewer than 100 participants) that are fully insured, unfunded or a combination of insured/unfunded, are generally exempt from the Form 5500 filing requirement.

The Department of Labor’s (DOL) website and the latest Form 5500 instructions provide information on who is required to file and detailed information on filing.

September

Deadline Requirement Description

September 30

Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) Rebates The deadline for issuers to pay medical loss ratio (MLR) rebates for the 2014 reporting year and beyond is Sept. 30. The ACA requires health insurance issuers to spend at least 80 to 85 percent of their premiums on health care claims and health care quality improvement activities. Issuers that do not meet the applicable MLR percentage must pay rebates to consumers.

Also, if the rebate is a “plan asset” under ERISA, the rebate should, as a general rule, be used within three months of when it is received by the plan sponsor. Thus, employers who decide to distribute the rebate to participants should make the distributions within this three-month time limit.

September 30

Summary Annual Report Plan administrators must automatically provide participants with the summary annual report (SAR) within nine months after the end of the plan year, or two months after the due date for filing Form 5500 (with approved extension).

Plans that are exempt from the annual 5500 filing requirement are not required to provide an SAR. Large, completely unfunded health plans are also generally exempt from the SAR requirement.

October

Deadline Requirement Description

October 15

Medicare Part D – Creditable Coverage Notices Group health plan sponsors that provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare Part D eligible individuals must disclose whether the prescription drug coverage is creditable or not. Medicare Part D creditable coverage disclosure notices must be provided to participants before the start of the annual coordinated election period, which runs from Oct. 15-Dec. 7 of each year. Coverage is creditable if the actuarial value of the coverage equals or exceeds the actuarial value of coverage under Medicare Part D. This disclosure notice helps participants make informed and timely enrollment decisions.

Disclosure notices must be provided to all Part D eligible individuals who are covered under, or apply for, the plan’s prescription drug coverage, regardless of whether the prescription drug coverage is primary or secondary to Medicare Part D.

Model disclosure notices are available on CMS’ website.

Annual Notices

Type of Notice Description
WHCRA Notice The Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act (WHCRA) requires group health plans that provide medical and surgical benefits for mastectomies to also provide benefits for reconstructive surgery. Group health plans must provide a notice about the WHCRA’s coverage requirements at the time of enrollment and on an annual basis after enrollment. The initial enrollment notice requirement can be satisfied by including the information on WHCRA’s coverage requirements in the plan’s summary plan description (SPD). The annual WHCRA notice can be provided at any time during the year. Employers with open enrollment periods often include the annual notice with their open enrollment materials. Employers that redistribute their SPDs each year can satisfy the annual notice requirement by including the WHCRA notice in their SPDs.

Model language is available in the DOL’s compliance assistance guide.

CHIP Notice If an employer’s group health plan covers residents in a state that provides a premium subsidy under a Medicaid plan or CHIP, the employer must send an annual notice about the available assistance to all employees residing in that state. the annual CHIP notice can be provided at any time during the year. Employers with annual enrollment periods often provide CHIP notice with their open enrollment materials.

The DOL has a model notice that employers may use.

Group health plans and health insurance issuers are required to provide an SBC to applicants and enrollees each year at open enrollment or renewal time. The purpose of the SBC is to allow individuals to easily compare their options when they are shopping for or enrolling in health plan coverage. Federal agencies have provided a template for the SBC, which health plans and issuers are required to use.

The issuer for fully insured plans usually prepares the SBC. If the issuer prepares the SBC, an employer is not also required to prepare an SBC for the health plan, although the employer may need to distribute the SBC prepared by the issuer.

The SBC must be included in open enrollment materials. If renewal is automatic, the SBC must be provided no later than 30 days prior to the first day of the new plan year. However, for insured plans, if the new policy has not yet been issued 30 days prior to the beginning of the plan year, the SBC must be provided as soon as practicable, but no later than seven business days after the issuance of the policy.

Grandfathered Plan Notice To maintain a plan’s grandfathered status, the plan sponsor or must include a statement of the plan’s grandfathered status in plan materials provided to participants describing the plan’s benefits (such as the summary plan description, insurance certificate and open enrollment materials). The DOL has provided a model notice for grandfathered plans. This notice only applies to plans that have grandfathered status under the ACA.
Notice of Patient Protections If a non-grandfathered plan requires participants to designate a participating primary care provider, the plan or issuer must provide a notice of patient protections whenever the SPD or similar description of benefits is provided to a participant. This notice is often included in the SPD or insurance certificate provided by the issuer (or otherwise provided with enrollment materials).

The DOL provided a model notice of patient protections for plans and issuers to use.

HIPAA Privacy Notice The HIPAA Privacy Rule requires self-insured health plans to maintain and provide their own privacy notices. Special rules, however, apply for fully insured plans. Under these rules, the health insurance issuer, and not the health plan itself, is primarily responsible for the privacy notice.

Self-insured health plans are required to send the privacy notice at certain times, including to new enrollees at the time of enrollment. Thus, the privacy notice should be provided with the plan’s open enrollment materials. Also, at least once every three years, health plans must either redistribute the privacy notice or notify participants that the privacy notice is available and explain how to obtain a copy.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has model Privacy Notices for health plans to choose from.

HIPAA Special Enrollment Notice At or prior to the time of enrollment, a group health plan must provide each eligible employee with a notice of his or her special enrollment rights under HIPAA. This notice should be included with the plan’s enrollment materials. It is often included in the health plan’s SPD or insurance booklet. Model language is available in the DOL’s compliance assistance guide.
Wellness Notice HIPAA Employers with health-contingent wellness programs must provide a notice that informs employees that there is an alternative way to qualify for the program’s reward. This notice must be included in all plan materials that describe the terms of the wellness program. If wellness program materials are being distributed at open enrollment (or renewal time), this notice should be included with those materials. Sample language is available in the DOL’s compliance assistance guide.
Wellness Notice ADA To comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), wellness plans that collect health information or involve medical exams must provide a notice to employees that explains how the information will be used, collected and kept confidential. Employees must receive this notice before providing any health information and with enough time to decide whether to participate in the program. Employers that are implementing a wellness program for the upcoming plan year should include this notice in their open enrollment materials. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has provided a sample notice for employers to use.

Resources: https://www.ada.gov/; https://www.dol.gov/; https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/model-notices-privacy-practices/index.html; https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Prescription-Drug-Coverage/CreditableCoverage/Model-Notice-Letters.html; https://www.irs.gov/retirement-plans/retirement-plan-participant-notices-when-the-end-of-the-plan-year-has-passed; https://www.cms.gov/cciio/programs-and-initiatives/health-insurance-market-reforms/medical-loss-ratio.html; https://www.dol.gov/sites/default/files/ebsa/about-ebsa/our-activities/resource-center/publications/compliance-assistance-guide.pdf; https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/laws/affordable-care-act/for-employers-and-advisers/preexisting-condition-exclusions; https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/laws/affordable-care-act/for-employers-and-advisers/summary-of-benefits; https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/laws/chipra/working-group; https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/laws-and-regulations/laws/whcra; https://www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/employers-and-advisers/plan-administration-and-compliance/reporting-and-filing/forms; https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/patient-centered-outcomes-research-institute-fee; https://www.irs.gov/affordable-care-act/individuals-and-families/form-1095-b-what-you-need-to-do-with-this-form; https://www.irs.gov/affordable-care-act/individuals-and-families/form-1095-c-what-you-need-to-do-with-this-form; https://www.cms.gov/Medicare/Prescription-Drug-Coverage/CreditableCoverage/index.html?redirect=/CreditableCoverage/; https://www.irs.gov/affordable-care-act/questions-and-answers-on-information-reporting-by-health-coverage-providers-section-6055; https://www.irs.gov/affordable-care-act/employers/questions-and-answers-on-reporting-of-offers-of-health-insurance-coverage-by-employers-section-6056; https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/about-form-w-2;


Why it might be time to say goodbye to exit interviews

Do you still take part in the practice of asking departing workers to sit down for a final interview? Many companies, large and small, are ending the practice of exit interviews. Read on to learn more.


The exit interview is a long-time staple of HR departments. But an increasing number of companies large and small are ending the practice of asking departing workers to sit down for a final interview.

The concept seems sound. You can take the opportunity to hear unvarnished opinions about what your company or team does well and what it needs to improve on, and then take that back to management and implement changes that’ll help attract and retain great talent.

In practice, however, the process is often uncomfortable and many HR pros report that the folks who are interested in talking are often the ones who complained the most while on the payroll. The litany of gripes and rehashed personality clashes rarely adds much to the organization’s insight into building a better workplace.

If you can’t say anything nice…

Most of the rest, if they even will agree to an exit interview – and you can’t make them do that, of course – are going to be very careful to say only positive or neutral things about their experience at your organization. That helps to prevent bridge burning for them, in case they ever want to come back or they run into a colleague at a job interview later in their career. But for your team, the result is likely the same as with the complainer in the first example: A one-sided, probably inaccurate picture of what you are doing right and how you can improve in areas that need work.

Finally, much of the work your HR team does to schedule an interview as workers are packing up their personal stuff is likely to be wasted. Advice on employee-focused employment websites and other social media leans heavily towards “How to Avoid the Exit Interview.” Suggested tactics range from saying you can’t spare the time because you don’t want to leave your soon-to-be-ex colleagues hanging to asking to schedule after the leave date and then just ghosting the phone call altogether.

It’s still worthwhile to do a formal review to close out individual projects and to debrief contractors as they wrap up, but it’s probably time to say goodbye to the “tell us what you really think” sessions with employees who have decided to move on.

SOURCE: McElgunn, T. (27 December 2018) "Why it might be time to say goodbye to exit interviews" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/why-it-might-be-time-to-say-goodbye-to-exit-interviews/


5 ways employers can boost employee engagement

Are you looking for ways to boost employee engagement this year? According to Work Institute, employers could prevent 77 percent of turnover by improving the employee experience. Read this blog post to learn more.


With it being a new year, employers are in a unique position. Unemployment is at its lowest rate since 1969, leaving HR managers with a dearth of qualified candidates to fill open positions.

But filling current openings isn’t the only challenge HR teams face: An estimated 42 million employees will leave their jobs in 2019 in search of workplaces that better meet their needs and expectations. Turnover that significant leaves employers with only one option — focus on improving the employee experience to increase employee retention and satisfaction.

The good news is that employers could prevent 77% of that turnover, according to a study from Work Institute.

Beyond competitive pay and benefits, how do employers create an exceptional experience for their employees? By offering engaging programs, resource groups and events that enhance employee connections and develop a more thriving workplace culture.

We predict that successful companies will use a combination of the following five trends to increase employee satisfaction and improve retention in 2019.

1. Make employee experience technology easy to use

Adding workplace programs, groups and events won’t improve employee satisfaction if those offerings are difficult to access. In fact, a frustrating user experience may have the opposite effect on employees. At best, they’ll ignore the offerings.

In addition, a poor user experience also can negatively color an employee’s opinion of the organization as a whole, making them more likely to leave.

Consumer-grade interfaces on user-friendly platforms are critical for encouraging employees to participate in workplace groups and programs. When companies invest in employee groups and programs, they expect to see ROI in the form of increased engagement and satisfaction. The key to success is making participation easy.

2. Keep employee experience programs consistent across the organization

In today’s dispersed workforce, many organizations have multiple locations and remote employees. When implementing workplace programs, HR teams need to ensure that their offerings resonate with all employees across every location. Otherwise, they run the risk of isolating employees who work from home or at satellite campuses.

For example, wellness programs help improve employee health, satisfaction and engagement. But a lunchtime yoga series offered at company headquarters may make work-from-home employees feel left out.

3. Give employees more control over benefit spending

One way to boost engagement across the entire organization is to supplement in-house programs with reimbursement programs. These programs allow employees to choose how to spend a certain allowance (determined by the organization and HR) on activities to improve their own well-being, such as fitness classes or continuing education.

Giving employees this autonomy not only increases the likelihood that they’ll participate, but it also makes it easy for HR teams to distribute benefits fairly across the entire organization.

4. Streamline data to accurately track employee engagement

Already-overworked HR teams bear the burden of proving that workplace programs are improving employee engagement. Instead of trying to pull together engagement reports and employee feedback from multiple places, use a centralized platform to manage workplace programs and keep all data in one easy-to-access place.

Having participation metrics readily available makes it easy for HR teams to see which programs are working and which aren’t resonating with employees. They’re also able to deliver that information to the C-suite and make the case for additional funding where needed.

5. Devote more funding to employee resource groups

Employee resource groups (ERGs) are proven to have a positive effect on employee satisfaction, workplace morale and company diversity. They increase employee retention and improve the company’s bottom line.

Making ERGs a priority when allocating funds for the year will pay off, but only if they’re handled the right way. Using an automated platform to manage ERGs, promote events, track participation and encourage feedback saves HR teams both time and resources, giving them the opportunity to devote more time to improving the employee experience.

SOURCE: Shubat, A. (2 January 2019) "5 ways employers can boost employee engagement" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/ways-employers-can-boost-employee-engagement-in-2019?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000

Want to fight employee burnout? Focus on well-being

Employees with higher well-being are more likely to be productive, energized and engaged in their work. Read this blog post to learn how you can fight employee burnout by focusing on well-being.


Well-being can be described as feeling good and living with a sense of purpose. When employees have higher well-being, they’re more likely to be productive, energized and engaged in their work, as well as feel more committed to their organization. It’s what all leaders want for their employees. But can there be such a thing as too engaged? Can a super high level of engagement actually leave employees susceptible to burnout?

New research shows that burnout is real — and it can happen to anyone. But the saddest part is that the people it affects the most are people that care the most. In other words, your most dedicated people. It happens when highly engaged employees have increasingly low well-being due to overwhelming job pressures, work overload and a lack of manager or organizational support. Prolonged exposure to chronic emotional and interpersonal stressors on the job can lead to exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy — even for people who are all in at work. Ultimately, these top-performing, highly-engaged employees will leave — or worse, the burnout will spread to other employees causing a toxic fire across your company. The good news is that burnout is totally preventable. You just have to know where to start.

Employee burnout is actually more a problem with the company than with the person. Both the root causes and the best solutions start at the organizational level. This doesn’t mean we should stop building emotional skills like mindfulness, resilience and fitness. But it does mean that in order to solve for burnout at your company — or at least extinguish the flames — the organization is driving the bus.

Here are four ways employers can take action by focusing on well-being to extinguish employee burnout.

1. Help employees connect to their purpose. Today, more employees are looking for real meaning and purpose in their work. Whether it’s a connection to a greater mission or following personal passions, purpose-driven employees give more and feel more fulfilled in doing so. In addition to feeling an emotional connection to their work, a sense of purpose also connects them to the company and ultimately affects their well-being and engagement. In fact, according to a study by Deloitte, 73% of employees who say they work at a “purpose-driven” company are engaged, compared to just 23% who say they don’t.

Helping employees connect to their purpose is key for burnout prevention. Focus on effective communication that linearly connects each employee’s work to the company’s mission. Set clear goals to continue to support employees in not only finding their purpose but staying connected to their purpose.

2. Foster a well-being mindset. We’re all wired differently — and that’s even more apparent when it comes to the workplace. How people think about stressful situations has an impact on their ability to handle and recover from them. For example, an employee who fears conflict versus an employee who takes it head on are going to have different reactions and recovery times.

As a leader or manager, when you know how people think about stress, you can help them cope with it and prevent burnout. Avoid organizational consequences such as absenteeism or turnover by communicating and encouraging positivity, self-care and weaving well-being into daily tasks.

3. Promote social support and connectedness. At the core, people want to rely on people. Support from an employee’s peers can mean everything. In fact, social support impacts stress, health, well-being and engagement — and ultimately, people feel better and have higher well-being when they feel connected to others. It’s more than a like on a community feed or high-five in the hallway — putting social connections at the forefront of your people strategy or employee engagement program can make a real impact.

Social connections like a company community feed, women in the workplace group or lunch buddies paired up across different departments helps employees get the support they need and guards against burnout.

4. Invest in tools to combat burnout. People who push themselves without taking breaks have a greater chance of being unproductive and burning out. Recovery time from workplace stress is key. Whether physically or mentally, everyone needs a break to recover — it’s natural to need to recharge and refresh. Even small recovery times or breaks can help people deal with the symptoms of burnout. And there are great new tools to make it easy to schedule and take a vacation and “hit refresh” with the full support of your company.

Make well-being a priority to reduce stress by investing in technology that can help you spot burnout, adjust workloads and have awareness of your employees’ stress levels. Take the Limeade burnout risk indicator for example. It allows leaders to see the risk levels for specific groups, and automatically target science-based activities to improve well-being and avoid cynicism (and worse).

When it comes to burnout in the workplace — you can tackle the symptoms to prevent top performers from burning out. Don’t make the mistake of misinterpreting burnout as disengagement. It’s time to take responsibility for burnout and take action at every level.

SOURCE: Albrecht, H. (31 December 2018) "Want to fight employee burnout? Focus on well-being" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/want-to-fight-employee-burnout-focus-on-wellbeing?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


10 Retirement Lessons for 2019

There are lessons to be learned from recent decisions and settlements about the best ways to protect yourself in 2019. Here are some important takeaways from recent litigation activity.

1. Your Process Matters.

New York University recently got a lawsuit dismissed by a district court because it provided evidence that it followed a prudent process when selecting investments. If a case goes to trial, you will also need to demonstrate that you made prudent decisions in order to prevail.

2. Put It in Writing.

It’s hard to prove that you followed a prudent process if you don’t write down what you did. People change jobs, die or simply forget the details of what was done if there are not minutes explaining the reasons for decisions. Have clear written policies showing what you will consider when selecting or replacing investments and reviewing fees, and make sure to follow those policies.

3. Know and Review Your Options.

Complaints have alleged that fiduciaries failed to consider alternatives to common investments, such as collective trusts as an alternative to mutual funds and stable value funds as alternatives to money market funds. Employees of investment giants such as Fidelity have sued because they claimed that these companies filled their plans with their own in-house investments even though better performing alternatives with lower fees were available. Even if you don’t select these options, you should investigate them and record the reasons for your decisions. Be especially careful about choosing your vendor’s proprietary funds without investigation.

4. Understand Target Date Funds.

They have different risk profiles, performance history, fees and glide paths. Don’t take the easy way out and automatically choose your vendor’s funds. In fact, you need to have a prudent process to select these.

5. Benchmark Plan Fees.

Be able to demonstrate that your fees are reasonable for plans of your size. But don’t compare apples to oranges. Select an appropriate peer group. Remember, though, that it is not a violation of ERISA to pay higher fees for better service, so long as the fees are reasonable.

6. Retain an Expert to Help You.

Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. If you don’t have internal investment expertise, hire an outside fiduciary to assist you. Insist on written reports of recommendations if the fiduciary is a co-adviser, and that the fiduciary attend committee meetings to answer questions and explain the recommendations.

7. Consult Outside Counsel When Necessary.

See No. 6. Don’t try to guess what the law requires, and listen to counsel’s recommendations about best practices. While both advisers and ERISA counsel are available to provide fiduciary education, your ERISA counsel can give you a better handle on your legal responsibilities as ERISA fiduciaries.

8. Hold Regular Committee Meetings.

The days when committees met once a year are over. Many committees now meet quarterly. These should be formal meetings where committee members sit down together with the plan adviser and, where appropriate, with ERISA counsel.

A secretary should take formal minutes. Plan fiduciaries shouldn’t be meeting over the water cooler or making decisions by exchanging emails without face-to-face discussion in a misguided effort to save time.

9. Review Your Providers.

At least once a year, review whether your vendors are performing in accordance with their proposals and their services agreements, and survey your committee members to determine whether they are happy with the provider’s performance. Follow up to request changes or start an RFP to find a new vendor if necessary.

10. Schedule Regular RFPs.

Even if you are happy with your current providers, new RFPs will give you the opportunity to renegotiate your services agreements and fees and will also let you know whether additional services are available in the marketplace.

content resource: https://401kspecialistmag.com


It might be time for a financial wellness checkup

Forty-six percent of employees spend two to three hours per week at work dealing with personal finances. Read this blog post to learn what employers can do if they want a stress-free and productive workforce.


We’ve all seen the infamous statistics — 56% of American workers struggle financially, 75% live paycheck to paycheck. A majority of Americans can’t come up with $1,000 for an emergency.

It is quite obvious that financial worries have a massive impact on happiness and stress levels, but what business owners, executives and human resource professionals understand is that this lack of financial wellness in the U.S. has a devastating effect on worker productivity, and therefore, employers’ bottom lines.

Employees who spend time during their day worried about bills and loans are less focused on getting their work done. In fact, a staggering 46% of employees spend, on average, two to three hours per week dealing with personal finance issues during work hours. So what can employers offer their workers to help them become more financially sound?

There are a number of ways to help employees improve their financial well-being – including utilizing the help of a financial wellness benefit platform – but at the very least, there are three major benefits that every business should employ if they want a stress-free and productive workforce.

Savings, investment and retirement solutions. Offering employees the ability to automatically allocate their paychecks into savings, investment and retirement accounts will help them more effectively meet their financial goals without worrying about moving money around. These types of programs should allow employees to make temporary or permanent changes at any time to reflect any immediate changes that may occur in their life.

Credit solutions and loan consolidation. Having a reliable source of credit is extremely important, but access to it can also be dangerous for big spenders. Employers should guide workers towards making informed financial decisions and teach them how to use credit wisely. Employers need to be able to refer employees to affordable and trusted sources for things like credit cards, short-term loan options and mortgages, so employees don’t have to spend time doing the research for themselves (or worse, potentially becoming victims of fraud). Companies should also offer resources that teach employees how to organize their finances to pay their debt off on time without accumulating unnecessary interest or fees.

Insurance (not just health). While many large companies offer the traditional health, dental, vision, disability and life insurance, employers should also be offering resources that give easy access to vehicle, home, renters, boat, pet and other common insurance products. Some insurance carriers even offer volume discounts, so if a large percentage of employees in an organization utilize pet insurance, everyone can save some money.

While it is important for employers to offer these benefits, it is also important to follow up with employees and make sure they are utilizing all of the benefits they have access to. Sometimes people can have too much pride or can be afraid to ask for financial help. The use of these programs should be talked about, encouraged and even rewarded.

Justifying the investment in these benefits is simple. Employers want to increase productivity, and employees want to be more financially sound. The workplace is evolving and so is the workforce, so while you look to add benefits like 401(k), work from home, summer Fridays, gym memberships and free lunch, don’t forget about the financial wellness of the people you employ. Maybe next year, you will see that your workers are focused less on their college loans and are able to put more effort into growing your business.

SOURCE: Kilby, D. (2 January 2019) "It might be time for a financial wellness checkup" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/it-might-be-time-for-a-financial-wellness-checkup?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


E-Verify Is Down. What Do Employers Do Now?

Are you questioning what you should do now that E-Verify, the federal government's electronic employment verification system, has expired? Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


What are employers supposed to do now that E-Verify—the federal government's electronic employment verification system—has expired?

Funding and congressional authorization for the program ran out Dec. 22, 2018, as the government went into a partial shutdown after Congress and the White House could not agree on how to fund some agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which administers the system, for fiscal year 2019.

E-Verify compares information from an employee's Form I-9 to DHS and Social Security Administration (SSA) records to confirm employment eligibility. Employers enrolled in the program are required to use the system to run checks on new workers within three days of hiring them.

During the government shutdown, employers will not be able to enroll in E-Verify, initiate queries, access cases or resolve tentative non-confirmations (TNCs) with affected workers.

All employers remain subject to Form I-9 obligations, however. "Remember that the government shutdown has nothing to do with an employer's responsibilities to complete the Form I-9 [in a timely manner]," said Dawn Lurie, senior counsel in the Washington, D.C., office of Seyfarth Shaw. "Specifically, employees are required to complete Section 1 of the I-9 on or before the first day of employment, and employers must complete Section 2 of the I-9 no later than the third business day after an employee begins work for pay."

No Cause for Alarm

Lurie advised employers not to panic while E-Verify is down. "Employers will not be penalized as a result of the E-Verify operations shutdown," she said. "Employers will not be penalized for any delays in creating E-Verify cases. However, employers are reminded that they must continue to complete I-9s in compliance with the law, and when E-Verify becomes available, create cases in the system."

To minimize the burden on both employers and employees, DHS announced that:

  • The three-day rule for creating E-Verify cases is suspended for cases affected by the unavailability of the service. "Normally, the employer enters information from the I-9 into E-Verify within three days of hire, but that won't be possible while the system is unavailable," said Montserrat Miller, a partner in the Atlanta office of Arnall Golden Gregory. "DHS will provide a window of time to submit those held cases once service resumes."
  • The time period during which employees may resolve TNCs will be extended. The number of days E-Verify is unavailable will not count toward the days the employee has to begin the process of resolving a TNC. "Employers can't take any adverse action against a worker with a pending TNC regardless, shutdown or not," Miller said. Currently, an employee who chooses to contest a TNC must visit an SSA field office or call DHS within eight federal government working days to begin resolving it. This period will have to be extended because of the shutdown, she added.
  • Additional guidance regarding the three-day rule and time period to resolve TNC deadlines will be provided once operations resume.

Amy Peck, an immigration attorney with Jackson Lewis in Omaha, Neb., advised employers to keep track of all new hires with completed I-9s for whom there are no E-Verify queries due to the shutdown. She also recommended attaching a memo in a master E-Verify file tracking the days that the program was unavailable. "I've seen the discrepancy come up years later during an audit," she said.

"Once the system is back up, work with counsel on how much time employees have to resolve their TNCs," Peck said. "Someone receiving a TNC the day before the shutdown is a different case than somebody who had 10 days to resolve their TNC when the shutdown occurred. Those circumstances should be considered on a case-by-case basis."

Federal contractors with a federal acquisition regulation E-Verify clause should contact their government contracting officers to extend deadlines. "Federal contractors have a particular concern because nobody is supposed to be working who has not been verified through the system," Peck said. "People can be hired, but whether they are allowed to work on the contract before being run through E-Verify is a critical consideration that should be discussed with counsel."

Prepare for the Resumption of Service

Miller said employers should monitor the shutdown. "When it is over, log in to the system and see what instructions there are for creating and submitting queries," she advised. "There is an obligation to create those queries if you are enrolled in the program, even if enrolled voluntarily."

The backlog created as a result of the shutdown might have a significant impact on employers that process many E-Verify cases and specifically on the HR staff and other team members in charge of the process.

"Not all employers will be able to push all their cases through at once when the shutdown ends," Miller said. "If everyone did that, the system would crash. DHS will provide instructions on how to submit queries. Employers will be asked why the query is being submitted after the required three days. In the past, 'Government Shutdown' was one of the options in the drop-down menu."

Peck reminded employers that the loss of E-Verify does not mean there is a prohibition against hiring. "Companies should continue to hire as they need," she said.

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (3 January 2019) "E-Verify Is Down. What Do Employers Do Now?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/EVerify-Outage-What-Do-Employers-HR-Do.aspx


The do’s and don’ts of ADA accommodations: 3 new rulings

More than 25,000 ADA charges were filed by the EEOC in the past year, despite employers best compliance efforts. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


Employers are facing more disability discrimination lawsuits than ever – despite their best compliance efforts. 
In the past year alone, over 25,000 ADA charges were filed by the EEOC.

The right way to accommodate

One area that’s often a point of contention? The accommodation process. Workers and employers can have a very different idea of how a disability should be accommodated.

And while each disability needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis, several recent court rulings shed further light on employers’ ADA accommodation responsibilities.

1. In Brumley v. United Parcel Service, a court ruled that ADA accommodations don’t necessarily have to be given to employees immediately.

Melissa Brumley delivered packages for UPS when she hurt her back lifting a heavy box from her truck.

She took leave to heal, and her doctor said when she returned to work she could no longer lift packages or drive. Since these were two essential functions of her job, Brumley’s manager put her on leave while waiting on more information from her doctor.

After beginning the interactive process and considering a reassignment, Brumley’s doctor cleared her to go back to her old job, and UPS ended the process.

But Brumley sued the company for failing to accommodate her during those weeks she was on leave, which resulted in loss of pay.

A district court ruled in favor of UPS, and on appeal, the 6th Circuit agreed. It said just because the company didn’t accommodate the employee immediately didn’t mean it violated the ADA.

UPS began the interactive process and only stopped once Brumley was cleared to go back to her old job without an accommodation.

The key things the company did? Beginning the process and requesting additional info from Brumley’s doctor – this showed the court a good faith effort to comply with the ADA.

2. In Sharbono v. Northern States Power, a court ruled a company that failed to find an accommodation didn’t fail to fulfill its ADA duties.

After a foot injury, James Sharbono wasn’t able to wear the steel-toed boots required by his company’s safety procedures.

HR worked with Sharbono and suggested several accommodations, such as altering his boots and getting a custom pair made, but none worked out. Sharbono was forced to retire, and he sued for ADA violation.

But the 8th Circuit ruled the company acted in good faith. It worked with Sharbono and suggested several accommodations. It was only after exhausting all options that Sharbono was forced to retire. The court said the company fulfilled its ADA responsibilities, despite finding no accommodation for Sharbono.

3. In Stokes v. Nielsen, a court decided companies can be required to make accommodations that cover more than just essential job functions.

Jacqueline Stokes had impaired vision and received multiple accommodations that allowed her to do her job. Stokes then requested special meeting handouts, printed in large letters, that she could read beforehand.

Despite many promises from HR, Stokes never received her requested handouts. She sued, claiming to be denied a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

While the company argued it gave Stokes everything she needed to do her job, therefore fulfilling its ADA responsibilities, the Fifth Circuit disagreed.

“Our circuit has explicitly rejected the requirement that requested modifications must be necessary to perform essential job functions to constitute a reasonable accommodation,” it said. And Stokes’ request was deemed reasonable.

This case shows if an employee makes a reasonable request for their job, it’s easier to just grant it.

SOURCE: Mucha, R. (4 January 2019) "The do’s and don’ts of ADA accommodations: 3 new rulings" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/the-dos-and-donts-of-ada-accommodations-3-new-rulings/