Guidance Clarifies COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Mandate

As many know, on March 18, 2020, the president had signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which ultimately includes a requirement that health plans cover COVID-19 testing. Read this blog post for frequently asked questions and their answers provided from SHRM.


The Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and the Treasury recently issued a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) that provide guidance to group health plan sponsors on various issues related to implementation of the COVID-19 diagnostic testing mandate.

Background

On March 18, 2020, the president signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which includes a requirement for group health plans to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing—including the cost of office, urgent care, ER and telehealth visits in order to receive testing—without cost-sharing or prior authorization. The following week, he signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), which expands the COVID-19 diagnostic testing mandate provisions.

Departments' FAQs

The Departments of Labor, Health & Human Services, and the Treasury (the departments) issued a set of FAQs on April 11 that provide guidance to group health plan sponsors on various issues related to the implementation of COVID-19 diagnostic testing requirements. The departments anticipate releasing additional guidance in the future.

The FAQs address the following issues.

Which group health plans are subject to the mandate?

Most group health plans are subject to the mandate. This includes grandfathered plans under the Affordable Care Act, non-federal governmental plans, and church plans. The mandate does not apply to retiree-only plans or to excepted benefits, such as dental, vision, and most EAPs.

When are plans first required to comply and for how long?

Plans are required to cover items and services relating to COVID-19 diagnostic testing that were furnished on and after March 18, 2020, and to continue to do so through the end of the public health emergency. Unless extended or terminated earlier, the public health emergency related to COVID-19 will end on June 16, 2020.

What types of testing must be covered?

The guidance clarifies that in addition to tests that determine whether an individual has the virus based on the presence of COVID-19 virus genetic material in the body, a group health plan must also cover serological testing to detect COVID-19 antibodies. All tests must be either: (1) authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), (2) under review by the FDA, (3) developed and authorized by a state, or (4) determined appropriate by the Secretary of Health & Human Services.

What items and services must be covered in full during a visit?

Health plans "must cover items and services furnished to an individual, during visits that result in an order for, or administration of, a COVID-19 diagnostic test." The FAQs clarify that if the attending provider determines that other tests, such as influenza or blood tests, should be performed during a visit to help determine whether COVID-19 diagnostic testing should be conducted, "and the visit results in an order for, or administration of, COVID-19 diagnostic testing," the plan must cover those services in full.

If COVID-19 diagnostic testing is not ordered or administered as a result of the visit, full coverage for these services is not required.

Can a plan impose any cost-sharing, prior authorization, or medical management requirements for COVID-19 testing?

No.

Does the requirement to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing without cost-sharing apply to out-of-network providers?

Yes. This requirement applies to out-of-network providers, including HMOs that otherwise do not cover non-emergency out-of-network services. Out-of-network providers would be reimbursed based on the cash price listed by the provider on a public website or the amount negotiated by the plan with the provider.

Under what circumstances are services considered to be furnished during a visit?

The FFCRA requires plans to cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing services during office visits including in-person and telehealth visits, as well as urgent care centers and emergency rooms. The guidance defines the term "visit" broadly "to include both traditional and non-traditional care settings in which a COVID-19 diagnostic test … is ordered or administered."

While the guidance does not require group health plans to include a benefit with a telehealth provider, any services offered by a provider through a telehealth visit or other remote visit for COVID-19 diagnostic testing must be covered in full.

What participant communication requirements apply?

The ACA requires group health plans to provide participants with at least 60 days' advance notice of a material modification to information contained in a Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC). The FAQ states that the departments will not enforce this advance notice requirement to the enhanced coverage of items or services related to the diagnosis or treatment of COVID-19. The non-enforcement policy will also apply to the addition or expansion of telehealth and other remote care services. However, plans "must provide notice of the changes as soon as reasonably practical." The guidance notes that the departments would continue to take enforcement action against a plan that attempts to offset the cost of the COVID-19 diagnostic testing requirement by eliminating or limiting benefits or increasing cost-sharing on other services.

The non-enforcement policy applies during the public health emergency period. If the benefit changes are continued beyond the public health emergency period, then plans will be required to update plan documents and terms of coverage.

Employers should communicate the coverage changes to participants as soon as possible. Using updated SBCs for this communication is an option for employers, but not required.

What about SMMs?

Unlike the SBC requirements, unless there is a material reduction in benefits, a group health plan does not have to issue a statement of material modification (SMM) for a change until 210 days after the close of the plan year in which the change was adopted. Nevertheless, sponsors may want to consider providing notice of the changes in the form of an SMM.

Can an employer offer benefits for COVID-19 diagnostic testing under an EAP or onsite medical clinic that constitute an excepted benefit without impacting its excepted benefit status?

Yes, diagnostic testing coverage can be provided without impacting the excepted benefit status of the EAP or onsite medical clinic.

While the guidance strongly encourages plan sponsors to promote the use of telehealth services, similar relief was not provided for telehealth benefits. Some employers are considering offering a standalone telehealth benefit to employees who are not eligible for medical coverage, or who have waived coverage. However, a standalone telehealth benefit would not satisfy the ACA market reform requirements unless it qualifies as an excepted benefit.

Use of onsite medical clinics to provide testing could be part of an employer's return-to-work program.

In Closing

The FAQs provide important guidance for employers on implementation of the diagnostic testing requirements and include actions employers need to take to communicate these provisions to employees.

 

Richard Stover, FSA, MAAA, is a principal at HR advisory firm Buck. Leslye Laderman, JD, LLM, is a principal in the firm's Knowledge Resource Center. This article originally appeared in the April 15, 2020 issue of Buck's For Your Information. © 2020 Buck Global LLC. All rights reserved. Republished with permission.

SOURCE: Stover, R.; Laderman, L. (21 April 2020) "Guidance Clarifies COVID-19 Diagnostic Testing Mandate" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/guidance-clarifies-coronavirus-diagnostic-testing-mandate.aspx


IRS promises full, immediate reimbursement for coronavirus leave

As employers are becoming subjected to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), questions regarding reimbursements are being raised. Read this blog post to learn more.


Dive Brief:

  • Employers subject to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) will be eligible for two new refundable payroll tax credits that will "immediately and fully reimburse them" for complying with its paid leave mandate, the IRS and U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced March 20.
  • The credits are designed to grant 100% reimbursement for paid leave pursuant to the FFCRA, DOL said. Health insurance costs are included in the credit. Employers face no tax liability and self-employed individuals will receive an equivalent credit. For the law's emergency Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, the credit is equal to two-thirds of the employee's regular pay, capped at $200 per day or $10,000 in the aggregate. Up to 10 weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the credit.
  • The credit available for FFCRA's paid sick time differs depending on how an employee uses the time. If the employee is unable to work because of a quarantine or self-quarantine or has COVID-19 symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, employers may receive a refundable sick leave credit for sick leave at the employee's regular rate of pay, up to $511 per day and $5,110 in the aggregate, for a total of 10 days. If the employee is caring for someone with COVID-19, or is caring for a child because the child's school or child care facility is closed or otherwise unavailable due to COVID-19, employers may claim a credit for two-thirds of the employee's regular rate of pay, up to $200 per day and $2,000 in the aggregate, for up to 10 days.

Dive Insight:

The announcement, made in conjunction with the U.S. Department of the Treasury, should be welcome news to employers affected by the FFCRA, Littler Mendelson shareholder Jeff Nowak told HR Dive in an interview.

Reacting to initial news of the law's enactment, Nowak and others expressed concerns. Though the FFCRA specified that employers would be eligible to receive tax credits, Nowak said this week that many feared the timing of the credit would be "far too late … particularly for small businesses that would be out of business by this time next year." The DOL's assurance of prompt payment may ease such fears.

As news continues to develop around the FFCRA, DOL has added additional clarifications for employers to note. First, the agency stated Tuesday that the FFCRA would be implemented April 1, 2020. In the same document, it added more information around its plan to codify exemptions for certain private entities employing fewer than 50 employees. Employers choosing to seek this exemption may need to document why their business meets the criteria for an exemption. These criteria will be set forth by DOL in future regulations.

"You should not send any materials to the Department of Labor when seeking a small business exemption for paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave," DOL said.

The agency also previously announced that it would observe a 30-day temporary period of non-enforcement of the FFCRA once the law takes effect April 1. This non-enforcement would be in effect so long as the employer in question "has acted reasonably and in good faith" to comply with the law, DOL said, but sources previously told HR Dive that employees could still bring legal action against certain non-complying employers.

Nowak noted that the tax credit provision would allow employers to recoup the maximum paid leave costs provided for by the FFCRA. In other words, if an employer provides additional paid leave beyond what is mandated by the FFCRA for a given scenario, that employer should not expect to receive a reimbursement for the cost of providing those additional amounts of leave, Nowak said.

The DOL document released Tuesday also specifies how employers should determine whether they meet the FFCRA's classification of employing fewer than 500 employees. According to Nowak, employers should look at their headcount at the time an employee requests leave. "It will be an additional burden to the employer's HR department," Nowak said. "You will be calculating coverage whenever an employee requests FMLA or paid sick leave."

DOL said it will provide a model notice of the FFCRA's requirements — which employers will then need to post in a conspicuous place on their premises — no later than March 25. Finally, the agency has said it will hold a "national online dialogue" allowing employers to comment on the DOL's compliance materials and outreach strategies related to the implementation of the FFCRA through March 29.

SOURCE: Golden, R. (25 March 2020) "IRS promises full, immediate reimbursement for coronavirus leave" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/irs-promises-full-immediate-reimbursement-for-coronavirus-leave/574881/


Gig workers win right to unemployment benefits

While many employees are fighting to keep their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, gig workers are fighting for their rights to unemployment benefits. Read this blog post to learn more.


New York Postmates food delivery drivers and potentially thousands of other gig workers can receive unemployment benefits at a time of historic job losses, following a ruling by the state’s highest court that they are company employees.

The New York Court of Appeals said Thursday that Postmates “could not operate” without its couriers, rejecting the company’s argument that it simply operates a platform connecting drivers to customers.

“Today’s decision is a huge victory for thousands of gig workers across New York,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “The courts have solidified what we all have known for a while: delivery drivers are employees and are entitled to the same unemployment benefits other employees can obtain.”

Postmates and other platform companies like Uber and Lyft have long claimed their workers are self-employed entrepreneurs rather than employees entitled to minimum wage, overtime, unemployment and other protections. They have vigorously contested lawsuits and legislation seeking to reclassify their workers.

The coronavirus pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on gig-economy workers. The stay-at-home orders now in force in much of the nation have sidelined vast numbers of them while others have kept driving despite the risk of spreading or catching the contagion.

The ruling on Thursday reverses a lower court decision finding Postmates wasn’t the employer of delivery driver Luis Vega, who was kicked off the platform. An administrative board had previously found that Vega was eligible for unemployment insurance benefits as a Postmates employee.

“While couriers decide when to log into the Postmates’ app and accept delivery jobs, the company controls the assignment of deliveries by determining which couriers have access to possible delivery jobs,” the court said.

“The Court of Appeals has confirmed what we have said all along: app-based employers have been misclassifying workers and denying them their rights for no other reason than their own bottom-line,” Mario Cilento, president of the New York State AFL-CIO, said in a statement. “The harm caused by this injustice has never been clearer than during this pandemic.”

San Francisco-based Postmates said that, while it disagreed with the decision, it was in favor of modernizing worker classifications and was willing to work with New York to achieve that.

“We fully support designing a responsible framework that allows New Yorkers to choose if, when, where, and for how long they work, while also providing them access to the benefits and services they deserve,” the company said.

SOURCE: Bloomberg News. (27 March 2020) "Gig workers win right to unemployment benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/articles/gig-workers-win-right-to-unemployment-benefits


Trump Signs Coronavirus Relief Bill with Paid-Leave Mandate

As the COVID-19 pandemic cases increase, employees are stuck choosing between staying home to avoid spreading the illness and working for a paycheck to pay their household bills. Due to the effect that the spread of coronavirus has created, the U.S. Senate has approved the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


The U.S. Senate approved the Families First Coronavirus Response Act in a 90-8 vote on March 18, and President Donald Trump signed it into law a few hours later. The bill will provide free screening, paid leave and enhanced unemployment insurance benefits for people affected by COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill late on March 13. After several days of negotiation, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., announced that negotiators had reached a deal with the White House to pass the bill. "We cannot slow the coronavirus outbreak when workers are stuck with the terrible choice between staying home to avoid spreading illness and the paycheck their family can't afford to lose," Pelosi said.

Republican senators were concerned that the bill might hurt small businesses, and Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said lawmakers are working on another bill that would include relief for small businesses. McConnell said he would not adjourn the Senate until the third COVID-19 economic stimulus package is passed, CNN reported.

Trump declared a national emergency March 13, which frees up billions of dollars to fund public health and removes restrictions on hospitals to treat more patients. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) will provide:

  • Free coronavirus testing.
  • Paid emergency leave.
  • Enhanced unemployment insurance.
  • Additional funding for nutritional programs.
  • Protections for health care workers and employees responsible for cleaning at-risk places.
  • Additional federal funds for Medicaid.

We've rounded up articles and resources from SHRM Online and other trusted media outlets on the news.

Paid Family Leave

As originally drafted, H.R. 6201 would have temporarily provided workers with two-thirds of their wages for up to 12 weeks of qualifying family and medical leave for a broad range of COVID-19-related reasons. The revised version of the bill will only provide such leave when employees can't work because their minor child's school or child care service is closed due to a public health emergency. Workers who have been on the payroll for at least 30 calendar days will be eligible for paid family leave benefits, which will be capped at $200 a day (or $10,000 total) and expire at the end of the year.

(Littler)

Paid Sick Leave

Under the bill, many employers will have to provide 80 hours of paid-sick-leave benefits for several reasons, including if the employee has been ordered by the government to quarantine or isolate or has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine because of COVID-19. Employees could also use paid sick leave when they have symptoms of COVID-19 and are seeking a medical diagnosis, if they are caring for someone who is in quarantine or isolation, or their child's school or child care service is closed because of the public health emergency. Paid-sick-leave benefits will be immediately available when the law takes effect and capped at $511 a day for a worker's own care and $200 a day when the employee is caring for someone else. This benefit will also expire at the end of 2020.

(CNN)

Large and Small Business Exceptions

Private businesses with at least 500 employees are not covered by the bill. "I don't support U.S. taxpayer money subsidizing corporations to provide benefits to workers that they should already be providing," Pelosi said on Twitter. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also said that "big companies can afford these things."

Covered employers that are required to offer emergency FMLA or paid sick leave will be eligible for refundable tax credits. Employers with fewer than 50 workers can apply for an exemption from providing paid family and medical leave and paid sick leave if it "would jeopardize the viability of the business." Gig-workers and other self-employed workers will be eligible for a tax credit to cover the benefits.

(The Washington Post)

Lawmakers Previously Approved $8.3 Billion Emergency Bill

Another emergency spending package to fight coronavirus rapidly worked its way through Congress, and President Donald Trump signed it into law March 6. The measure will provide funds to develop a vaccine, provide protective and laboratory equipment to workers who need it, and aid locations hit with the virus.

(SHRM Online)

Coronavirus Prompts Employers to Review Sick Leave Policies

Do employees have the right to take time off if they are concerned about contracting coronavirus? Can employers send sick workers home? Should employees be paid for missed work time? HR and other business leaders are likely considering these questions and more as COVID-19 makes its way through the United States. "We believe employers would be wise to review their paid-time-off practices immediately," said Francis Alvarez, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in White Plains, N.Y. "Employers are likely to face unique circumstances that were not anticipated when they prepared their attendance and leave policies."

(SHRM Online) 

Visit SHRM's resource page on coronavirus and COVID-19.

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L. (18 March 2020) "Trump Signs Coronavirus Relief Bill with Paid-Leave Mandate" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/Senate-to-Vote-Soon-on-Coronavirus-Paid-Leave-Mandate.aspx


Common interview answers can say a lot about potential employees

Interviews can be stressful, long and overwhelming but the process can represent the first impression of a potential employee and can illustrate how they might communicate with colleagues and clients. The interview process can allow recruiters to get an understanding of who the candidate is. Continue reading this blog post to learn more about how common interview questions can show a lot about potential candidates.


The interview process is stressful for everyone involved. Employers are eager to get candidates through the door and candidates are overwhelmed about giving the perfect interview. Hiring managers should always consider a candidate’s past experience and expertise when looking to fill a position. However, looking closer at the way candidates approach basic interview questions can also provide valuable insight.

Sometimes, answers to the most common interview questions provide recruiters with the knowledge needed to get a clear understanding of who a candidate is. Although simple on the surface, when asking questions like, “tell me about yourself” and “why do you want to work here,” you are gaining important knowledge on how well a candidate will communicate with other employees and clients. It can also reveal their ability to take feedback and apply it, and how prepared they are for the interview.

“Tell me about yourself.”

Although this request is commonly used as an icebreaker, it is crucial to the interview and screening process. This is the candidate’s chance to give you a quick, comprehensive look into who they are as a person and a professional. Since this is such a popular, and expected, question in interviews, candidates should be prepared to provide a memorable, concise answer without feeling the need to ramble.

Look for a healthy blend of information on a candidate’s personal life, professional journey and some background information. Depending on the position and person, a good answer can include whether or not a candidate moved a lot growing up, classes they took in college that are relevant to the job they are applying for, or a little about their work history and personal life. When done correctly, a candidate will leave you with something to remember them by. At the same time, an effective answer also includes a candidate’s motivations and where they see their career long term.

“What is your biggest weakness?”

This question is notorious for prompting insincere and generic responses such as, “I’m always working late,” instead of giving an actual answer. Rather than accepting watered-down responses like these, challenge candidates to elaborate by pushing them out of their comfort zone.

Take the “working late” example – this response could indicate a time management issue, and it gives you an opportunity to question why they were unable to complete tasks during their allotted time. Use this to gauge whether or not the candidate is qualified for a particular position, and allow them to expand on how they plan to keep improving.

When discussing the biggest weakness, look for answers that reveal if they recognize their professional flaws, if they are working to improve and if they can take feedback from managers. It is key to seek out candidates who are willing to improve and achieve continuous growth.

“What would your previous manager say about you?”

An effective answer to this question should always go beyond “they loved me” – it should include a combination of honesty, vulnerability and directness.

If a candidate is having a hard time answering this question, ask them to simply summarize the feedback of their previous manager, which should include both positive and realistic points. For instance, an ideal response explores the areas where the candidate needed additional coaching, where they had the biggest opportunity to learn and what would have made their manager most proud.

“Do you have any questions for me?”

This is a classic interview-closer, but it is also yet another opportunity to see how prepared the candidate is for the interview and how interested they are in the job. Candidates who come prepared with a list of questions show that they have done their homework and have a genuine interest in learning more.

At the same time, you also want someone who has been engaged during the interview and is able to adapt. If they have questions on their list that have been answered during the interview, they should still go through them and refer to the previously discussed answer. Questions referencing specific aspects of the company, such as something they found in their research, also show that a candidate isn’t taking the same questions to every interview.

Although a normal process for most interviews, simple and common questions can tell a lot about a person and how they carry themselves in unique situations. In addition to other attributes (experience, professionalism, etc.), looking at how candidates respond to these go-to questions can give hiring managers great insight into what they can offer to the company.

SOURCE: Blanco, M. (25 February 2020) "Common interview answers can say a lot about potential employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/common-interview-answers-can-say-a-lot-about-potential-employees


Older workers are staying in the job market. Here’s why

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the amount of employees over the age of 65 has risen by 697,000. With over two million jobs being created over the past 12 months with the help of the economy, the older generations are still wanting to be employed. Read this blog post to learn more as to why.


Older workers are sticking around the job market. This is why
The number of workers aged 65 and above increased by 697,000 as the economy created more than 2 million new jobs over the past 12 months, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics in this CNBC article. The spike in the number of older workers represents about 36% of the overall increase, reflecting a trend over the past 10 years. “The norms about working at older ages have changed quite a bit, and I think in a way that really is to the advantage of older workers who want to keep working,” says an expert.

What ‘Rothifying’ 401(k)s would mean for retirees
Clients will not benefit from a switch to a retirement system where contributions would be made on an after-tax basis even if it could result in bigger tax revenue in the near term, experts write in The Wall Street Journal. "Over their lifetimes, workers would accumulate one-third less in their 401(k)s under a Roth system. This is because, with no tax advantage from contributing to a 401(k), workers would save less and those lower contributions would earn less over the years," they write. Moreover, "lifetime tax revenue generated by the average worker under a Roth regime would fall 6% to 10%, compared with the current regime."

Stop 'dollar-cost ravaging' your clients’ portfolio in retirement
Retirees who stick to a 4% withdrawal rule during a market downturn are putting their financial security at risk, as their portfolio would not recover even if the market eventually improves, writes an expert in Kiplinger. Instead, seniors should focus on how much income they can generate from their portfolio, he writes. "[I]t means choosing investments — high dividend-paying stocks, fixed income instruments, annuities, etc. — that will produce the dollar amount you need ($2,000, $3,000, $5,000 or more) month after month and year after year."

Will clients owe state taxes on their Social Security?
Retirees may face federal taxation on a portion of their Social Security benefits — but they could avoid the tax bite at the state level, as 37 states impose no taxes on them, writes a Forbes contributor. "While probably not a big enough issue to warrant moving in retirement, it is something to consider when choosing where you want to spend your retirement," writes the expert. "At the very least, you need to know about Social Security taxation when figuring out how much additional income you will need to have in order to maintain your standard of living during retirement."

8 ways clients can start saving for college now
There are a few savings vehicles that clients can use to prepare for college expenses, but they need to consider the pros and cons, according to this article in Bankrate. For example, clients who save in a 529 savings plan can get tax benefits — such as tax deferral on investment gains and tax-free withdrawal for qualified expenses — but will face penalties for unqualified withdrawals aside from taxes. Parents may also use a Roth IRA to save for their child's college expenses, but these accounts are subject to contribution limits and future distributions will be treated as an income, which can reduce their child's eligibility for scholarships or assistance.

SOURCE: Peralta, P. (18 February 2020) "Older workers are staying in the job market. Here’s why" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/why-older-workers-are-staying-in-the-job-market


Job Hoppers Seek Better Rewards, Recognition and Career Growth

Did you know: Only 33 percent of employees state that they are committed to staying at their jobs. If employees are disengaged from their work, it is easier for them to find other opportunities with promising recognition, rewards, and growth. Read this blog post to learn more about why employees might be searching for more generous benefits.


Employees have high expectations when it comes to job perks, and, if their employer doesn't offer what they want, they'll find another that will, new survey findings show.

Only one-third of employees (33 percent) say they are committed to staying at their jobs in 2020, compared to the 47 percent who had the same intention for 2019, according to the 2020 Engagement & Retention Report by employee-recognition software firm Achievers.

As the labor market stays tight, it's easy for disengaged employees to find work elsewhere. And they might try to: Just 19 percent of employees surveyed consider themselves "very engaged," while 14 percent say they are fully disengaged. Even the 32 percent with "average engagement" said they were open to new job opportunities.

The survey, conducted in October 2019, received 1,154 responses from employees across North America who were asked about their intentions for 2020.

"A substantial portion of today's workforce already has one foot out the door," said Natalie Baumgartner, Achievers' chief workforce scientist. Unless employers take steps to reverse these feelings, she said, "the risk of turnover and underperformance in 2020 is immense."

The survey found that the top three reasons employees are considering leaving their jobs are:

  • Compensation (cited by 52 percent of respondents).
  • Career growth (43 percent).
  • Recognition (19 percent).

Employees Feel Unheard, Unrecognized

Ninety percent of workers said they are more likely to stay at a company that asks for, and acts on, employee feedback. But when asked how good their manager and company are at soliciting feedback, the most common answer was just "OK," asking for it once or twice a year. As for their employers acting on feedback, "OK" was again the most common response, at 44 percent. These employees said their manager and company only talk about feedback and make few changes based on it.

Companies should make sure that employee feedback reaches managers, Baumgartner advised, and equip managers to use this feedback to address staff needs "in a personalized and timely way." These actions, she noted, can range "from small acknowledgements to larger changes that improve the employee experience and, as a result, improve engagement and retention."

As for recognition, 82 percent of surveyed employees "strongly" or "somewhat" agreed that they wished they received more recognition at work, and another 30 percent of employees said they feel "not very" or "not at all" valued by superiors.

"When organizations recognize everyday behaviors that align with their culture and goals, they help reinforce them as well as the role each employee plays," Baumgartner said.

Frequent vs. Infrequent Job Changers

After wanting more money, feeling unappreciated is the top reason infrequent job changers could be driven to leave, another recent survey found.

Joblist, a website that compiles jobs from leading job boards, last October asked nearly 1,000 workers throughout the U.S. what would make them consider accepting an offer from another employer and then compared responses from frequent and infrequent job hoppersthose who had held two or more jobs in the past five years and those who had held just one job during the same period.

The average minimum salary increase that respondents seeking other jobs would accept to stay at their current employer was $15,491, which represents a 25 percent increase, on average, over the past five years. Perks such as unlimited paid vacation, student loan assistance and paid parental leave were cited by frequent job changers as factors that would make a potential employer more attractive.

"These perks may appeal more to younger workers who are less likely to have a 'lifer' mentality" toward their employer, according to Joblist.

While both frequent and infrequent job switchers said they would leave jobs for better pay, "people who switch jobs infrequently are more likely to leave because of feeling underappreciated or undervalued," according to Joblist. "For the most part, people who don't change jobs often have made an emotional commitment to their employers, so when they feel slighted because that investment isn't being reciprocated, they're more likely to leave." Conversely, people who leave frequently are more likely to see the employer-employee relationship as transactional, "so they're less affected by those feelings."

Is Turnover So Bad?

Turnover can be disruptive and costly, but it can also be an opportunity for employers to find and develop employees who are enthusiastic about the organization and the direction in which it's heading, according to a November 2019 report from compensation data and software firm PayScale.

"Some turnover is actually good for an organization—especially in the case of overpaid, under-performing employees," said report author Conrado Tapado, content marketing manager at PayScale. "Usually employees stay when they feel satisfied and fairly compensated for their work. But sometimes, employees stay for less positive reasons," he noted, including:

  • They are overpaid. "Being overpaid leaves little incentive for workers to look for another job. They may realize how difficult it will be to find another organization that will match their salary. Thus, they are perfectly happy to stay where they are."
  • They value their benefits. "Benefits are meant to help drive retention, which is generally a good thing. However, sometimes employees remain just for the benefits but would rather be working elsewhere. Eventually, those 'golden handcuffs' will begin to chafe, and your employees may start to feel resentful."

Health care, retirement savings and paid-time-off benefits should be competitive and focused on helping employees remain productive and feel financially secure, without becoming so rich that employees don't feel they can leave, the findings suggest. Pay should be calibrated to reward performance through variable compensation tied to achieving personal, team and organizational goals, with base pay increases made according to merit and not treated as an entitlement.

The Right Benefits Balance

"Creating a benefits package that incentivizes good employees to stay without deterring uninspired employees from leaving can be tricky," said Amy Stewart, PayScale's senior content marketing manager.

That can happen when employers offer benefits with a high monetary value that employees only receive if they stay put and hold tight, such as pensions or stock options that vest over time. People can also stay in an unpleasant situation for benefits that would be hard to find elsewhere, such as a paid sabbatical, a four-day workweek or paid child care, Stewart said.

A possible solution is to "experiment with rewarding some benefits in exchange for high performance, such as Fridays off or opportunities to work from home only if certain metrics are hit," she said.

Compensation is similar, Stewart explained, as employees with above-market pay are often reluctant to leave. "When you have a highly paid employee who isn't performing to a high standard, sometimes the answer isn't a change in compensation or a new job, but a new challenge. If their interest in their current work is waning, they might need new work, but it doesn't necessarily have to be at another organization," Stewart said. "Employees who have stopped learning in their current position may become revitalized in a position that offers them new opportunities to grow."

SOURCE: Miller, S. (06 February 2020) "Job Hoppers Seek Better Rewards, Recognition and Career Growth" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/job-hoppers-seek-better-rewards-recognition-career-growth.aspx


Need a Morale Booster? Therapy Dogs Can Help

Work is stressful by itself, but with added layers of stress from having to process outside emotions and hardships, it becomes difficult to give the best service that is should be offered. Allowing a therapy dog in the workplace can help employees reduce stress, and become calmer throughout the day. Read this blog post to learn more about how therapy dogs in the workplace can be beneficial to the work environment.


The Evergreen Health services facility in Buffalo, N.Y., is buzzing with anticipation several days before Stella arrives. Some staff even seek out Matthew Sydor, the director of housing and retention services at the health care agency, days ahead of time to confirm her arrival. Others have requested a calendar invite from him so they can plan their day around her visit.

The middle-aged golden retriever is a certified therapy dog, and her visits are a hit with employees.

Therapy dogs are common in what Sydor describes as the "helping" fields. Bringing therapy dogs into any workplace, he says, is an opportunity to break up the day for employees and give them something to look forward to at no cost.

"At our agency we work with many people who have gone through traumatic experiences. All work is stressful, but layers of stress are added when you are helping others to process their own emotions and hardships," he explained. "The compounding stress makes it difficult to best serve our patients at a high level. Having a therapy dog in the building helps staff to participate in a self-care activity."

Stella's owner, Krista Vince Garland, Ph.D., is an associate professor of exceptional learning at Buffalo State College. The pair specializes in animal-assisted interventions in educational settings but are receiving an increasing number of requests to visit local workplaces.

"Everyone who visits Stella has the same comments: 'I feel so much better. She's brightened my day,' " Vince Garland said. "Aetna also did a study in 2017 that shows tremendous promise on the benefits of therapy dogs in the workplace. Employee sick days were down, morale was up and interactions among co-workers increased."

Having dogs in the workplace isn't a new concept, but it's a concept that hasn't been widely embraced. Only about 11 percent of companies in the United States allow pets in the office, according to the Society for Human Resource Management Employee Benefits 2019 survey.

Paul LeBlanc is the founder and CEO of Zogics, a Massachusetts-based fitness, cleaning and body care company. S'Bu, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, was LeBlanc's first employee.

"When you look at [Inc. magazine's] list of best places to work, 47 percent of those companies allow dogs in the office," he said. "Studies have shown that petting a dog for five to 10 minutes causes a reduction of blood pressure and the dogs have calming effects on people."

But not all employers are ready to go "all-in" like Zogics. For these workplaces, therapy dogs are a viable alternative. Sydor and Vince Garland share insight into what has made their partnership successful and offer tips any business can use.

Communicate. No one likes a surprise, even if it's a friendly four-legged canine. Talk with staff first to address any questions or concerns. Arrange a quick meet-and-greet to give the dog a chance to get used to the environment before interacting with employees.

"This also gives the administrator a chance to touch the dog and make sure it is clean and well-groomed. Therapy dogs are required to have a bath within 24 hours of any visit," Vince Garland said.

Distributing a fact sheet helps with the introduction of a therapy team. Once a visit is established, send a reminder a day prior.

"I suggest telling your staff why you're bringing therapy dogs in and advertise it as much as possible to employees," Sydor said.

Verify credentials. Ask about the team's training. Certifications are not required of service dogs and emotional support dogs. However, therapy dogs must complete training. Stella is an American Kennel Club (AKC) Good Citizen and has earned certifications through Therapy Dogs International and the SPCA Erie County Paws for Love.

"There's a lot of fake information out there. If someone is shy about sharing that information, that's a clue that more discussion is needed," Vince Garland said.

Sydor added, "We found Krista and Stella through Erie County SPCA's Paws for Love, and it has been a great partnership. They hold liability insurance for any damage that may occur. All dogs are well-trained, and the handlers are consistent with how they conduct their work."

Acknowledge cultural differences. "Care must be taken to respect cultural sensitivities," Vince Garland said. "Some cultures regard dogs as unclean, others view dogs as nuisances, while others believe spirits may appear as animals."

Designate a point of contact. This person handles scheduling visits, interacting with the team, and confirming vaccinations and liability insurance. The ideal individual works well with people and is animal-friendly, according to Vince Garland.

Create a space for the team. Not everyone will embrace dogs. Designating space separate from the main workflow respects the space of those employees who choose not to interact with the dog.

"Evergreen has given us a room for visits," Vince Garland said. "By being out of the flow, we're able to meet with staff who are interested without making others feel uncomfortable."

SOURCE: Navarra, K. (13 January 2020) "Need a Morale Booster? Therapy Dogs Can Help" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/need-a-morale-booster-therapy-dogs-can-help.aspx


Starbucks Unveils Mental Health Initiatives for Employees

Did you know: One in Five United States adults experiences mental illness. According to the World Health Organization, work is good for mental health but a negative environment can lead to physical and mental health issues. Starbucks has announced that they have launched an app for its employees to improve their mental health along with their anxiety and stress. Read this blog post to learn more about how Starbucks is creating mental health benefits for their employees.


Starbucks has launched an app to help its employees improve their mental health and deal with anxiety and stress.

The global coffee company also announced it will be retooling its employee assistance program based on feedback from employees and mental health experts. It plans to offer training to its U.S. and Canada store managers on how to support workers who experience a mental health issue, substance-abuse problem or other crisis.

Every year, one in five U.S. adults experience mental illness and one in 25 experience serious mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health. And more people are killing themselves in the workplace, according to the Washington Post. The number of such suicides increased 11 percent between 2017 and 2018. Employers, the Post reported, "are struggling with how to respond."

Business Insider reported that some Starbucks employees it interviewed about the initiatives said much of their stress comes from the company cutting back on hours and relying on employees to work longer shifts with fewer people and no pay increase.

The World Health Organization points out that while work is good for mental health, a negative environment can lead to physical and mental health problems. Harassment and bullying at work, for example, can have "a substantial adverse impact on mental health," it said. There are things employers can do, though, to promote mental health in the workplace; such actions may also promote productivity.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles on this topic from its archives and other sources.

Starbucks Announcements Its Commitment to Supporting Employees' Mental Health 

The company released a statement Jan. 6 about additions to its employee benefits and resources that support mental wellness.

"Our work ahead will continue to be rooted in listening, learning and taking bold actions," it said. In the past, that has included tackling topics such as loneliness, vulnerability "and the power of small acts and conversation to strengthen human connection."
(Starbucks)

Mental Illness and the Workplace  

Companies are ramping up their efforts to navigate the mental health epidemic. Suicide rates nationally are climbing, workers' stress and depression levels are rising, and addiction—especially to opioids—continues to bedevil employers. Such conditions are driving up health care costs at double the rate of illnesses overall, according to Aetna Behavioral Health.

Starting workplace conversations about behavioral health is challenging because such conditions often are seen as a personal failing rather than a medical condition.
(SHRM Online)   

Research: People Want Their Employers to Talk About Mental Health 

Mental health is becoming the next frontier of diversity and inclusion, and employees want their companies to address it. Despite the fact that more than 200 million workdays are lost due to mental health conditions each year—$16.8 billion in employee productivity—mental health remains a taboo subject.
(Harvard Business Review)   

Viewpoint: Addressing Mental Health in the Workplace 

Companies are reassessing their behavioral health needs and are looking to their health care partners for creative, integrated and holistic solutions. Many are turning to employee assistance programs for help.
(Benefits Pro)  

4 Things to Know About Mental Health at Work 

Kelly Greenwood graduated summa cum laude from Duke University with degrees in psychology and Spanish. She holds a master's degree in business from Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management, contributes to Forbes magazine and is editor-at-large for Mental Health at Work, a blog on Thrive Global.

She also is someone who has managed generalized anxiety disorder since she was a young girl. It twice led to debilitating depression. She shared four things she wishes she had known earlier in her life about mental health.
(SHRM Online)   

Employers Urged to Find New Ways to Address Workers' Mental Health 

An estimated 8 in 10 workers with a mental health condition don't get treatment because of the shame and stigma associated with it, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. As a result, the pressure is growing on employers to adopt better strategies for dealing with mental health.
(Kaiser Health News)  

Mental Health 

Depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorders and other mental health impairments can rise to the level of disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act that requires employers to make accommodations for workers with such conditions.

This resource center can help employers understand their obligations and address their workers' mental health.
(SHRM Resource Spotlight)

SOURCE: Gurchiek, k. (14 January 2020) "Starbucks Unveils Mental Health Initiatives for Employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/starbucks-unveils-mental-health-initiatives-for-employees.aspx


The Saxon Advisor - January 2020

Compliance Check

what you need to know


Form W-2s are due January 31, 2020. January 31 is the deadline for employers to distribute Form W-2s to employees. Large employers – employers who have more than 250 W-2s – must include the aggregate cost of health coverage.

Form 1099-Rs are due January 31, 2020. Employers must distribute Form 1099-Rs to recipients of 2019 distributions.

Form 945 Distributions. Form 945s must be distributed to plan participants by January 31, 2020, for 2019 non payroll withholding of deposits if they were not made on time and in full to pay all taxes that are due.

Section 6055/6056 Reporting. Employers must file Forms 1094-B and 1095-B, and Forms 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS by February 28, 2020 if they are filed on paper.

Form 1099-R Paper Filing. Employers must file Form 1099-R with the IRS by February 28, 2020 if they are filed on paper.

CMS Medicare Part D Disclosure. Employers that provide prescription drug coverage must disclose to the CMS whether the plan’s prescription drug coverage is creditable or non-creditable.

Summary of Material Modifications Distribution. Employers who offer a group health plan that is subject to ERISA must distribute a SMM for plan changes that were adopted at the beginning of the year that are material reductions in plan benefits or services

In this Issue

  • Upcoming Compliance Deadlines
  • Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b): What’s the Difference?
  • Fresh Brew Featuring Scott Langhorne
  • This month’s Saxon U: What Employers Should Know About the SECURE Act
  • #CommunityStrong: American Heart Association Heart Mini Fundraising

What Employers Should Know About the SECURE Act

Join us for this interactive and educational Saxon U seminar with Todd Yawit, Director of Employer-Sponsored Retirement Plans at Saxon Financial Services, as we discuss what the SECURE Act is and how it impacts your employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, 401(k), 403(b): What's the Difference?

Bringing the knowledge of our in-house advisors right to you...


If you haven’t begun saving for retirement yet, don’t be discouraged. Whether you begin through an employer sponsored plan like a 401(k) or 403(b) or you begin a Traditional or Roth IRA that will allow you to grow earnings from investments through tax deferral, it is never too late or too early to begin planning.

“A major trend we see is that if people don’t have an advisor to meet with, they tend to invest too conservatively, because they are afraid of making a mistake,” said Kevin Hagerty, a Financial Advisor at Saxon Financial.

Advice from Kevin

Fresh Brew Featuring Scott Langhorne

“Pay close attention to detail.”


This month’s Fresh Brew features Scott Langhorne, an Account Manager at Saxon.

Scott’s favorite brew is Bud Light. His favorite local spot to grab his favorite brew is wherever his friends and family are.

Scott’s favorite snack to enjoy with his brew is wings.

Learn More About Scott

This Month's #CommunityStrong:
American Heart Association Heart Mini Fundraising

This January, February & March, the Saxon team and their families will be teaming up to raise money for the American Heart Association Heart Mini! They will be hosting a Happy Hour at Fretboard Brewing Company Wednesday, January 29, from 4 p.m. - 7 p.m. to raise money.

Are you prepared for retirement?

Saxon creates strategies that are built around you and your vision for the future. The key is to take the first step of reaching out to a professional and then let us guide you along the path to a confident future.

Monthly compliance alerts, educational articles and events
- courtesy of Saxon Financial Advisors.