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


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/


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4 ways to help employees master their HDHPs in 2019

Now is a great time to help your employees better understand their High Deductible Health Plans (HDHP) for 2019. Continue reading this blog post for steps HR can take to help employees stay on the right track.


As 2018 draws to a close, it’s a great time to give HDHP veterans and newbies at your company some help understanding — and squeezing more value out of — their plans in 2019.

Here are four simple steps your HR t­eam can take over the next few months to put employees on the right track.

1. Post a jargon-free FAQ page on your intranet

When: Two weeks before your new plan year begins

Keep your FAQ at ten questions (and answers!), maximum. Otherwise, your employees can get overwhelmed by their health plans and by the FAQ.

When writing up the answers, pretend you’re talking directly to an employee who doesn’t know any of the insurance jargon you do. Keep it simple, straightforward, and free of insurance gobbledegook.

[Image credit: Bloomberg]

Make sure your questions reflect the concerns of different employee types: Millennials who haven’t had insurance before, older employees behind on retirement, employees about to have a new kid, etc. To get a clear sense of these concerns, invite a diverse group of 5-7 employees out for coffee and ask them.

Some sample questions for your FAQ might be:
• Is an HSA different from an FSA?
• Do I have to open an HSA?
• How much money should I put in my HSA?
• This plan looks way more expensive than my PPO. What gives?

2. Send a reminder email about setting up an HSA and/or choosing a monthly contribution amount

When: The first week of the new plan year

When your employees don’t take advantage of their HSA not only do they miss out on low-hanging tax savings, your company misses out on payroll tax savings, too.

So right at the start of the new year, send an email that explains why it’s important to set up a contribution amount right away.

A few reasons why it’s really important to do this:

  • You can’t use any HSA funds until your account is fully set up and you’ve chosen how much you’re going to contribute.
  • If you pay for any healthcare at all next year, and don’t contribute to your HSA, you’re doing it wrong. Why? You don’t pay taxes on any of the money you put into your HSA and then spend on eligible health care…which puts real money back in your pocket. (Last year, the average HSA user contributed about $70 every two weeks and saved $267 in taxes as a result!)
  • There’s no “use it or lose it” rule! Any money you put into your HSA this year is yours to use for medical expenses the rest of your life. And once you turn 65, you can use it for anything at all. A Mediterranean cruise. A life-size Build-a-Bear. You name it!

3. Give your HDHP newbies tips on navigating their first visit to the doctor and pharmacy

When: The week insurance cards are mailed out

When employees who are used to PPO-style co-pays realize they have to pay more upfront with their HDHP, they can get…cranky. And start to doubt their plan choice — or worse, you as their employer choice.

So set expectations ahead of time to avoid employee sticker shock and to prevent you from getting an earful. Specifically, remind employees which types of visits are considered preventative care (and likely free) and which aren’t. Then explain their options when it comes to paying for — and getting reimbursed for — the visit.

4. Share tips on saving money on care with all your HDHP users

When: Any time before the end of the first quarter of the year

Specifically, you might recommend that your employees:

  • Check prescription prices on a site like Goodrx.com before they buy their meds
  • Visit an urgent care center instead of the ER, if they’re sick or hurt but it’s not life-threatening
  • Use a telemedicine tool (if your company offers one) to get free online medical advice without having to leave their Kleenex-riddled beds

Sure, following this communication schedule requires extra elbow grease. But if you defuse your employees’ stress and confusion early, they’ll feel more prepared to take control of their healthcare and get the most out of their plans. And as a bonus, you and your team get to spend less time answering panicked questions the rest of the year.

SOURCE: Calvin, H. (17 December 2018) "4 ways to help employees master their HDHPs in 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/4-ways-to-help-employees-master-their-hdhps-in-2019?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


More part-time workers getting access to benefits

A new study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found that more employers are moving toward extending more benefits to part-time workers. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


Gone are the days that new talent might come to work for a company part-time in exchange for some extra cash and the promise of discounted merchandise.

Employers are moving toward extending more benefits to part-time workers, according to a new study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. The Flexible Work Arrangements: 2017 Survey Report found that 78% of organizations employ part-time workers, and 90% of those organizations define part-time work as fewer than 30 hours a week.

And part-time workers can thank the tight labor market for the increase in benefit offerings.

“In order to attract and retain key talent, employers are seeing the need to broaden the scope of work from the traditional ‘40-hour per week model,” says Julie Stich, CEBS, associate vice president of content at IFEBP. “They’re also seeing that benefit offerings and other workplace perks are essential for growing any talented organization, regardless of the number of hours employees work per week.”

The most favorable medical benefits among employees working fewer than 30 hours a week were healthcare coverage (54%), prescription drug coverage (53%), dental and vision care (52%), flexible spending accounts (47%) and health savings accounts (33%), according to the report.

In addition, paid leave benefits offered to part-timers saw an uptick to include holidays, bereavement leave, sick pay, short-term disability, maternity leave, parental/family leave and personal leave.

Clothing retailer H&M recently announced its plan to offer six weeks of paid leave to the company’s 18,000 employees — including part-timers.

In addition, Eataly, said in September its new paid parental leave policy — eight weeks of time off for both mothers and fathers following the birth or adoption of a child — is available to all employees who have been working at the company for at least a year, regardless of hours worked per week. Dollar General also introduced a new paid parental leave benefit in March, offering two weeks of paid time off for all eligible full-time and part-time employees, and eight weeks of paid time off for birth mothers.

“U.S. organizations are not required to provide paid leave to part-time workers, but many do for several reasons: to retain high-performing workers, attract high-quality applicants, build worker loyalty and provide work-life balance,” Stich adds.

Paid time off and healthcare were also key benefits identified in the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual survey, with a 10% increase in companies offering healthcare benefits and more than half saying they offer some sort of paid time off to part-time workers.

More employers will likely offer benefits to part-time workers as the workforce shifts toward more flexible work options, Stich says. “Certainly, each organization is structured differently, and company cultures vary, but if offering part-time work arrangements and benefits is appropriate, they can be a vehicle for attracting top-tier talent while providing additional flexibility for current employees.”

SOURCE: Otto, N. (12 December 2018) "More part-time workers getting access to benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/more-part-time-workers-getting-access-to-benefits?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


Strategies to help employers minimize ADA missteps

Having a good ADA policy and making sure employees acknowledge that they've reviewed it are essential tools in helping prevent unforeseen disability discrimination claims. Continue reading to learn more.


Handling ADA accommodation requests is tricky. But having a good ADA policy, making sure employees acknowledge receipt of the policy, and properly instructing managers how to deal with requests are essential tools to help prevent unforeseen disability discrimination claims.

Take this scenario.

In a conversation about his tardy attendance, an employee tells his manager he is having difficulty arriving to work because his sleep apnea interferes with his rest and prevents him from waking up on time. He adds that he is being evaluated for drugs that could potentially help him. Is this a request for an accommodation under the ADA?

In general, the answer is probably yes, and the employer could face a potential disability discrimination claim if the request is ignored.

Title I of the ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. Failure to provide an accommodation is a form of disability discrimination. The employee’s request for an accommodation triggers an “interactive process” to determine what accommodation might be reasonable.

To trigger the interactive process, the employee does not even have to specifically mention the ADA or state that he is requesting a “reasonable accommodation.” Thus, if such a statement made to a manager could be considered a request for an ADA accommodation, how can an employer possibly monitor these types of employee requests and comply with the ADA?

Realistically, there are two ways an employer can minimize ADA missteps in this scenario.

First, the employer should review and make sure that its ADA policy includes a definitive procedure for how an employee should request an ADA accommodation. An increasing number of courts are holding that even though an accommodation request may be informal, it does not necessarily excuse an employee’s failure to use the correct procedure, provided the procedure is clear and disseminated in advance. So once an employer has established a fixed set of procedures to request accommodations, an employee’s failure to follow this procedure could preclude a claim for failure to accommodate.

In one recent case, for example, an employer required employees to make all accommodation requests though it’s leave of absence administrator, a position it created specifically to deal with employee leave requests. The court held that the employee’s failure to use that specific procedure precluded her failure-to-accommodate claim. Thus, having a clear procedure that tells employees how, and to whom, they should direct their accommodation requests is essential to mitigating risk for failure to accommodate claims.

Second, even if an employer has a policy limiting the methods for accommodation requests, it also should inform managers and supervisors that when an employee who is trying to justify performance issues makes comments about his or her medical condition, such comments are potentially an accommodation request. The employer should direct supervisors and managers to immediately refer any such circumstance to human resources, in order to handle the interactive process.

This article originally appeared on the Foley & Lardner website. The information in this legal alert is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as specific legal advice.

SOURCE: Kopp, J. (13 December 2018) "Strategies to help employers minimize ADA missteps" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/strategies-to-help-employers-minimize-ada-missteps


The case for self-funded health benefit plans and reference-based pricing

Small businesses are starting to explore self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing. Continue reading for more about self-funding and reference-based pricing.


Self-funding and reference-based pricing are hot topics with small businesses. They are so popular, in fact, that a recent survey shows an overall increase in their 2019 projection of small employer clients having a reference-based pricing health benefit plan design. Small businesses are seeing these savings, and they’re starting to explore how reference-based pricing can help them, too.

Before we get to why self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing are becoming more popular for small businesses, let’s review the basics.

Reference-based pricing is a methodology of calculating payment to providers for covered treatments and services using a “reasonable fee” based on a reference point. A common reference point is the Medicare fee schedule. Some self-funded health benefit plans calculate the reasonable fee as a percentage of the Medicare fee schedule to determine reimbursement for services rendered.

Bottom line: Self-funded health benefit plan designs that use reference-based pricing can allow for a great deal of flexibility with a variety of arrangements and overall cost-savings.

So, what’s behind the recent trend toward reference-based pricing for smaller employers? A few key factors.

First, a self-funded health benefit plan design that uses referenced-based pricing can mean less expensive coverage for employees and employers.

When coupling a self-funded health benefit plan with stop-loss insurance, reference-based pricing provides an affordable way to extend coverage to employees through lower employee contributions. So, employees are happy because they’re saving money.

And employers are happy, too, because they’re allowing for more coverage to more employees. There’s a refund potential for employers if claims dollars are less than funded. There’s also a premium tax savings of around 2% since self-funded claim dollars are not subject to state health insurance premium taxes.

Moreover, self-funded health benefit plan designs that utilize reference-based pricing may also include transparency reports with aggregate health claims data and demographic information, which allow employers to better manage costs. Overall, anytime you can design a plan that’s beneficial for employees and employers, it’s a win.
Second, reference-based pricing can provide employees more flexibility when it comes to choosing a provider. Typically, an important feature of any health benefit plan design for employees is the ability to choose the provider they want. Some self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing give employees the chance to pick the provider that’s right for them. And, when employees are happy with their health plan, employers are usually pretty happy, too.

Finally, self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing can help employees become smarter healthcare consumers because of all the transparency and choice involved. When employees better understand the healthcare processes and system, costs come down for both the employee and employer. In fact, just understanding their coverage better may help employees better use their health benefit plans.

For example, using telemedicine when appropriate, establishing a relationship with a primary care doctor and using client advocacy services can all help employees better utilize their health benefit plans. In the end, employees get smarter about how they manage their care, and employers win with reduced costs.

These factors are driving more small businesses to consider reference-based pricing self-funded health benefit plan designs with stop-loss insurance. And, for good reason. These plan designs can give employers the opportunity to offer their employees affordable health benefits, provide more choice in their health plans and providers, and encourage more employee engagement. While moving to reference-based pricing may be too big of a leap for some employers, self-funding continues to provide a means for employers to offer comprehensive major medical health benefits at lower costs.

SOURCE: MacLeod, D. (6 December 2018) "The case for self-funded health benefit plans and reference-based pricing" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/the-case-for-self-funded-health-benefit-plans-and-reference-based-pricing


How employees really feel about asking for time off during the holidays

A new study reveals that 51 percent of employees feel uneasy about asking to use their vacation days during the holidays. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


Are employers checking their PTO list? They may want to check it twice, according to new data, workers may be leaving vacation days on the table during the holidays because they feel uncomfortable asking for time off.

More than half of employees (51%) feel uneasy about asking to use their paid time off during the holidays, according to a new survey of more than 2,000 employees from management and technology consulting firm, West Monroe Partners. This discomfort was even more prevalent in smaller companies with smaller staffs, where employees work more closely with their managers and colleagues.

Michael Hughes, managing director at West Monroe Partners, says part of the reason employees are so nervous about asking for time off is the expectation that they have to be available 24/7. An employee may also be concerned they will appear to be slacking if aren’t in the office with many companies being short staffed to begin with, he says.

“With the war for talent, people are being asked to do more and more because either they’re shorthanded or can’t find people,” Hughes says.

Nearly two-thirds of employees working in the banking sector felt uncomfortable asking to use their PTO, according to the survey. Although Monroe Partners did not specifically review why this might be the case for banking, Hughes says he thinks that, like other service industries, bank employees often have to work during the holidays to attend to customers.

Banks were hit hard during the 2007 economic recession, he adds, and some have been cautious about beefing their workforce — forcing current employees to carry heavy workloads. But, he adds, this is fairly common across many industries.

“I think it’s something that impacts industries across the board,” he says. “[But] just based on the study banking is one that sticks out.”

West Monroe Partners recommends companies close the office on days other than just federal holidays and accommodate for remote working or flexible scheduling.

Training managers to fairly process PTO requests may also be necessary, the report notes. Managers can do a better job of having open conversations with employees around PTO and job satisfaction.

Despite worker’s anxieties, employers should communicate the importance of taking time off during the holidays, Hughes says. It’s good for workers to get time to rest, he adds. If employees are unhappy in the office, it will likely trickle down to the customer experience.

“A lot of it is just personal health,” he says. “If you give people the opportunity to recharge, they’re going to be more productive when they’re happy.”

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (7 December 2018) "How employees really feel about asking for time off during the holidays" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/how-employees-really-feel-about-asking-for-time-off-during-the-holidays?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


Creating a culture of recognition

Does your corporation have a culture of recognition? Companies can experience an increase in engagement, productivity and retention when employees are recognized for their work. Read this blog post to learn more.


When employees are recognized for their work, employers can see gains in engagement, productivity and retention.

But such efforts must be more than a one-time event; to really enjoy the benefits, employers need a culture of recognition, experts say. This has to start at the top and include clearly defined company values.

Live the culture you want

"A purposeful, positive, productive work culture doesn't happen by default — it only happens by design," S. Chris Edmonds, founder of The Purposeful Culture Group, told HR Dive via email.

And while HR can influence culture, a recognition culture must start at the top, experts say. And it must be part of an employer's performance management strategy.

Management can signal what's important, what it needs employees to care about, Scott Conklin, VP, HR at Paycor, said. "You have to live your words," he told HR Dive, adding that "if not seen at all levels, people aren't going to do it."

Senior leaders must create credibility for these "new rules" by modeling valued behaviors and coaching on them every day, Edmonds said. Coaching means senior leaders must praise aligned behaviors everywhere they see them and redirect misaligned behaviors in the same way. Only when senior leaders model these behaviors will others understand that these new rules aren't optional, Edmonds said.

In addition, Edmonds said, the organization must measure how well leaders are modeling the valued behaviors. This measurement often comes in the form of a regular values survey, generally twice a year, where everyone in the organization rates their boss, next-level leaders and senior leaders on the degree to which those leaders demonstrate the company's valued behaviors. Only by rating leaders on valued behavior alignment can values be as important as results, Edmonds said.

And only when everyone — from senior leaders to individual team members — demonstrates valued behaviors in every interaction will the work culture shift to purposeful, positive and productive, Edmonds said.

Create an industrial constitution

Many employers don't communicate their values well, Conklin said.

The path to great team citizenship can be clearly defined by creating an organizational constitution that includes a servant purpose statement explaining how the organization specifically improves quality of life for its customers — and defines values and measurable valued behaviors, strategies and goals, Edmonds said.

If company values don't explicitly define exactly how you want people to behave, they'll struggle to model your values, Edmonds continued. If an organization values integrity but doesn't define it in measurable terms, people won't know exactly how they're supposed to behave, he explained.

Find what works

Traditional models of employee recognition are good, but they're becoming outdated in some cultures, Conklin noted. Your recognition program has to fit your culture, he said.

SOURCE: Burden, L. (26 November 2018) "Creating a culture of recognition" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/creating-a-culture-of-recognition/542845/


How to retain good employees? Make them feel valued.

Training industry reports that U.S. companies spend $161 billion on training development every year. Read this blog post to learn how you can make employees feel valued.


Trucking as an industry is not known as being woman-friendly, but Volvo Truck wants to change this and recently completed a landmark Women in Leadership experience for selected women employees.

For Volvo, retaining female employees is a strategic objective and demonstrating the potential for women to advance and move into leadership roles is key to keeping women in the company. The six-month Women in Leadership program demonstrated that the company valued the participants, just by inviting them to the program.

“Being nominated was like winning something,” said Volvo employee Tyletha Hubbard. “It felt good to know that I was considered a key talent in the organization.”

All people like to be recognized as valuable to their organizations. This principle holds for men, women, ethnic minorities and people of different generations who appreciate employer-provided training and development. What better way to show an employee that they are needed and that they have a place to grow and move up?

Training and development is big business. Training Industry reports that US companies spend $161 billion on it annually. But it’s also a cost-effective benefit to provide your employees. Classroom programs can reach dozens at a time for a flat fee. And then you can add back the valued gained from having a more effective workforce.

Training can address the hard skills of the job or the soft skills of interpersonal relations and emotional intelligence.

In the benefits industry, you’re constantly explaining complicated products that are often fraught with emotion and stress, e.g. health insurance. Presenting benefits plans to clients in a competitive bid is a high-wire act for most salespeople. So, training that focuses on presentation skills, public speaking and body language can give your firm a competitive edge, while building a more confident workforce.

When starting up a training initiative, presentation skills are a great “101” course to include. Most people don’t get it in school and most people need a lot of help with it. Not only does learning about presentation skills and interpersonal communication help people sell better, but it also helps them “read” other people better and interact more effectively with coworkers.

Presentation skills training is a cornerstone for further development. People who have better interpersonal communications tend to do better in higher level training and, generally, better outcomes in all of their work experiences.

Team building, decision making and leadership development are learning experiences that can also “show the love” from the organization to the employee, while also improving the performance of the firm. The term “learning organization” has become a positive goal for many companies, as a means of becoming more effective through better employee engagement and opening new opportunities within the company.

At Volvo, there is a practice of allowing employees to move laterally from department to department in order to learn new skills and keep work interesting. Its Women in Leadership program encouraged staff to think and talk about what job they might want to try doing next. The policy invites workers to be open about their goals and understand that there’s always a place for them. Contrast this with feeling like you’re in a dead-end job.

And this is where HR and training can team up.

A recent study by Right Management revealed that, when asked,  68 percent of employees say they really want to talk about their careers with company management. There’s even an HR term for it: career conversations. But these conversations are not happening very much.

According to the Right Management white paper, “Only 16 percent of employees indicate that they have ongoing career conversations with their managers and about their career.”

It turns out most people get their career conversations from managers, colleagues and family. When a promising young manager starts wondering about where her career is going, she might seek out advice from her workmates of parents, but not human resources.

Why not integrate career conversations with training? It’s a golden opportunity for your human resources team. Most training engagements include personality assessments and feedback that help participants better understand themselves and others. Also, training often concludes with some sort of “what’s next” discussion or action plan about how to use what’s been learned.

A career conversation that follows such focused introspection will be better informed and will benefit from the afterglow of learning.

It’s well documented that financial compensation isn’t always the main factor that keeps people from leaving a company. Andrew Chamberlain, an economist with Glassdoor recently wrote about this in Harvard Business Review.

“One of the most striking results we’ve found is that, across all income levels, the top predictor of workplace satisfaction is not pay: It is the culture and values of the organization, followed closely by the quality of senior leadership and the career opportunities at the company,” writes Chamberlain. “Among the six workplace factors we examined, compensation and benefits were consistently rated among the least important factors of workplace happiness.”

Not feeling valued by management can become an incentive to exit even if it means taking less money in the next job.

Training, development, continual learning experiences and career conversations are proven cost-effective ways to show employees that they are unique individuals who are needed by the organization.

SOURCE: Warrick, D. (29 November 2018) "How to retain good employees? Make them feel valued." (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/11/29/how-to-retain-good-employees-make-them-feel-valued/


4 mistakes to avoid at the intersection of FMLA and PTO

Administration of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can become extremely complex, especially when other leave entitlements are added. Read this blog post to learn about the four mistakes employers should avoid when it comes to FMLA and PTO.


By now, many employers can recite the basic requirements of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in their sleep. The law provides eligible employees (those who have at least one year of service and 1,250 hours under their belt) with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave over a 12-month period for qualifying family-related or medical reasons. FMLA covers companies with 50 or more employees located within 75 miles of each other.

While the law itself is conceptually straightforward, administration can become incredibly complex — especially when you throw other types of leave entitlements into the mix such as workers' comp, disability leave, and paid time off (PTO).

HR Dive recently spoke with three employment law attorneys about the most common — and costly — leave administration errors employers make when it comes to the intersection of FMLA and paid leave.

Mistake #1: Not running leaves concurrently

"I would say that the biggest issue that we see is a lot of employers do not have policies that provide for the use of paid time off concurrently with the FMLA," said attorney Molly Batsch, an officer at the St. Louis office of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. "[Because] the FMLA regulations allow employers to require employees to use any paid time off concurrently with unpaid FMLA leave, we really encourage employers to put that specifically in their policies."

Attorney Jeff Nowak, a partner at the Chicago office of Franczek Radelet P.C., concurred via email: "A decent number of employers don't realize that they can run FMLA leave concurrently with paid leave benefits such as worker's compensation benefits — or they forget to run both at the same time."

Failing to run leaves concurrently, when permitted, can be costly for employers. A series of consecutive leaves strung together can mean longer absences and increased workplace disruption.

Mistake #2: Policy confusion

A similar mistake employers make is that they don't explicitly outline the concurrent rule to employees. Your FMLA policy should make clear that any paid time off will run concurrently with unpaid FMLA time, advised Batsch: "I think that employers have a few misconceptions about that.

"The first misconception would be that the employee gets to pick," she said. "If the employee doesn't want to run the two concurrently, then they can go ahead and take 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA and then they can take their five weeks of vacation after that, and that is not the case. It is permissible for an employer to require that time to run concurrently. So that's the first mistake I see."

Make sure your policy is abundantly obvious about that so employees don't get upset about that requirement when it's being administered.

Mistake #3: Missing an important caveat about FMLA and paid leave

There is an important exception to the general rule that employers may require an employee to use paid leave during unpaid FMLA leave, one that many employers miss, according to all three attorneys HR Dive spoke with.

"If an employee is on FMLA leave and simultaneously in receipt of a paid benefit, in any amount, FMLA leave is considered paid. When it's paid FMLA, an employer may not require that the employee substitute PTO — but it can permit that," said attorney David Mohl, a principal at the Atlanta office of Jackson Lewis PC.

For example, he said, if short-term disability provides 70% income replacement, an employer cannot require that the employee use PTO (or other paid leave) to make up the difference. If, however, there is a waiting period before that paid benefit kicks in — say, seven days — an employer may require the use of paid leave during that seven days.

Batsch noted that even if the employee is receiving paid time off via a third-party disability plan rather than an employer disability plan, "that's still a situation where you can't require an employee to run their paid time off concurrently with their FMLA time." This was clarified by the Seventh Circuit in a 2007 case (Repa v. Roadway Express, Inc., 477 F.3d 938).

Mistake #4: Forgetting to consider the patchwork of local laws

"The growing number of state and local laws heap a load of additional compliance concerns onto employers," said Nowak. "Not only are there additional considerations for accrual, carryover, and reasons for leave, but these new leave laws tend to provide job-protected leave in situations where the medical condition is not covered by the FMLA. As a result, employers cannot discipline an employee for an absence when he or she is utilizing leave covered by one of these leave laws."

Of course, those laws only make the interactions with FMLA management more complex.

"Paid parental leave policies interact with FMLA and gender discrimination laws," said Mohl. "PPL policies are, of course, a type of paid leave; some operate as a disability benefit."

Paid leave will likely continue to expand in scope in the coming months as more states and cities consider mandating it. Currently, 10 states and about 30 localities guarantee some type of paid sick leave. A number of federal policies have also been proposed, but no movement has been seen at that level yet.

SOURCE: Carsen, J. (27 November 2018) "4 mistakes to avoid at the intersection of FMLA and PTO" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/4-mistakes-to-avoid-at-the-intersection-of-fmla-and-pto/542962/