Managing Benefits for High-Turnover Employers Is Different. Here's How to Cope

High turnover employers who are constantly hiring and firing employees need to feel comfortable with their plans. These tips will help direct you on how to deal with rapid change.


The rising costs and increased regulation of employee benefits have become a distraction for even the most smoothly running U.S. employers.

For organizations characterized by constant workforce turnover, those distractions can prove detrimental to their bottom line.

Take for instance, the retailer that routinely adds 25 new hires a month. Or the restaurant group that holds semi-monthly training orientations to remain adequately staffed for each shift. Or the manufacturing company that hires and fires up to 40 people a week to keep up with the production schedules.

In the mad scramble for personnel in these high turnover industries, it’s common to see benefits get lost in the shuffle. Mid- and large market employers, by sheer volume alone, are even more susceptible to the pains of maintaining a compliant benefits program in the midst of persistent staff turnover.

If your book of business includes employers that fit this criteria, the following practices will serve you (and, most importantly, your client) well.

  1. Audit, Audit, Audit

Conducting frequent, meticulous audits of the insurance carrier bills and invoices is critically important for employers with high turnover.

At least once a month, a representative of the company, or the broker, needs to cross-reference the most recent carrier invoice with payroll. How many employees listed on the invoice have been terminated in the last thirty days? Are there any employees on payroll being deducted for coverage that do not appear on the invoice? For cost and compliance purposes, it is imperative that the employer knows the answer to both questions each and every month.

If bills from insurance companies are not being actively audited, it is probable that the employer is paying for coverage that they shouldn’t be. For ancillary coverages like vision or basic life insurance, an incorrect cost likely won’t break the bank. But if medical carrier bills are left unmonitored, the premium dollars for ex-employees can add up to thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars each month depending on the size of the employer. Bill and payroll audits also add a second layer of protection for newly-hired employees. Let’s say a new hire elects his or her benefits after satisfying the company’s 60 day waiting period. The coverage effective date should be April 1st, but the employer or broker never enrolled them in the carrier systems.

April 1 rolls around and the employee presumes they have medical coverage. A month later, they have an accident that forces them to seek emergency treatment. At that point, the individual is told that the insurance company has no record of them being an active insured. Had the employer reviewed payroll and the April carrier bill, they would have avoided a potentially major compliance and coverage issue – not to mention a scary situation for their employee.

  1. Ongoing Communication

Ensuring that bill/payroll audits and other necessary managerial tasks are performed is a two-way street, though.

Today’s employers are not alone in the often tumultuous administration of employee benefits. Brokers, consultants and advisors have stepped in over the years to relieve their client organizations of the day-to-day benefits responsibilities. However, even the most involved third parties can’t manage the entire benefits program from end to end. An enduring communication stream must exist between client and advisor.

For employers with recurrent staff turnover, communication becomes even more critical. As employees come and go, these organizations must lean on their brokers for administrative counsel. Enrollments, terminations, eligibility, troubleshooting issues, carrier negotiations/interactions and the countless other administrative duties of a benefits advisor have become too burdensome for employers to take on alone.

Large, high-turnover companies are especially reliant on broker partnerships to ensure that the daily benefits tasks aren’t impeding their core business objectives.

Modern benefits advisors should understand their clients’ businesses inside and out and view themselves as an extension of the team. What are their organizational objectives? What are their three and five-year plans? How does the employee benefit program factor into those plans? And let’s face it… high turnover employers typically translate into higher maintenance clients. They require a greater level of administrative support than companies characterized by long employee tenure.

With more change comes more responsibility, and with more responsibility comes the need for more frequent communication. A dutiful broker should set the expectation that they will be available every day to handle any issue for these high-turnover clients.

  1. Benefit Administration Technology

The evolving role of technology in the administration of benefits is a saving grace to high-turnover employers. Ben-Admin Systems (BAS) have simplified every clerical process for companies of all sizes.

At the low-functionality end, BAS can serve as editable cloud-based storage houses for employee demographic info and benefits data. At the high end, BAS allows for an employee-user experience where benefit elections and terminations are integrated directly with the insurance or payroll companies at the click of a button. In either case, the emergence of BAS options has streamlined administrative processes, while greatly reducing the potential for human error. Cumbersome tasks like payroll audits are now systematized and can be completed in a matter of minutes.

Successfully pairing an employer with a ben-admin system requires strategic consideration and consultation. Despite what the system architects might tell you, these platforms are not “one size fits all.”

Let’s profile a 3,000 employee retailer, as an example: The group has 125 locations nationwide, with approximately 24 people employed at each store. 75% of the workforce is between the ages of 16 and 35, with the remaining 25% scattered in between 36 and 60 years old. 40% of the staff are considered part-time employees based on weekly hours worked, leaving 1,800 benefit eligible employees. The average monthly staff-turnover across the organization is 85 employees – meaning that the rate of annual turnover is 34%.

With all these moving parts, the retailer requires a technological solution to help manage their ever-changing business. The retailer needs data-housing capability to administer their benefits and payroll as a single large entity, rather than 125 separate ones. It needs payroll integration with insurance carriers so that their up-to-date employment numbers accurately reflect the $325,000 in premiums they pay each month for coverage. It needs a customized employee-user interface where their 1,800 benefit eligibles can enroll in or modify their elections. It also needs a solution capable of maintaining a compliant benefits program. COBRA, FMLA, Section 125, ERISA, Form 5500… – every government regulated standard for an employer of this size should be addressed within their ben-admin system.

Like any major business decision, this technology piece needs to be implemented thoughtfully. If selected and negotiated with precision, the right ben-admin system is capable of effectively managing even the most disjointed high-turnover employers.

SOURCE:
Odishoo S (31 May 2018) "Managing Benefits for High-Turnover Employers Is Different. Here's How to Cope" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.thinkadvisor.com/2018/05/04/managing-benefits-for-high-turnover-employers-is-d/?slreturn=20180431130207


Workplace Wisdom: 4 True Tales and Tips for HR and Managers

From the Society For Human Resources Management (SHRM), by Christina Folz

Like priests and therapists, employment attorneys will hear just about everything over the course of their careers. They are privy to all manner of human tragedy, triumph—and stupidity. The best of them will turn their knowledge and experience into something deeper: wisdom.

That's what attorney Jathan Janove, who has more than 25 years of experience litigating workplace issues and consulting for companies, has done in his unconventional new management book, Hard-Won Wisdom: True Stories from the Management Trenches (Amacom, 2016). The book is refreshingly free of motivational platitudes and vague advice and instead imparts practical wisdom to managers and HR professionals through unforgettable stories of living, breathing—and highly flawed—people.

True Tale #1: Phil was a well-intentioned director of finance who did everything right in communicating his expectations and feedback to his direct report, a staff accountant named Melinda, except for one thing: He didn't listen to what she had to say.

Lesson Learned: Keep track of your "period-to-question-mark" ratio when conversing with employees. If it starts to skew heavily toward statements, make a point of inserting more questions. Also follow the "EAR" method of listening by exploring issues through open-ended questions, acknowledging that you understand and responding to what you learn.

True Tale #2: And then there's the story of Texas Wes, the oil company executive who was great at sharing constructive feedback but who never wanted to document it. ("Ah hate to write," he told Janove.)

Lesson Learned: To improve in this area, Wes borrowed a tip from attorneys who regularly use "opposing counsel confirmation letters"—bulleted summaries of important discussions that can be compiled quickly and easily based on prepared templates. They typically start with "This note summarizes our conversation from this morning" and end with "Please let me know if I haven't captured the information accurately."

True Tale #3: No one will forget Shameless Sheila, the waitress who was fired after stripping down to her underwear in full view of the restaurant's customers. Her boss had confronted her about not being in uniform in time to start her shift, so she changed clothes on the spot. Yet, unbelievably, Sheila wound up getting a settlement from the company because she was able to demonstrate that the restaurant culture constituted a hostile, sexually charged environment.

Lesson Learned: Company leaders made the common mistake of thinking that no harassment complaints meant no problems. Had they paid more attention to the culture in which Sheila had been working, they might have avoided making a settlement payout for an otherwise-appropriate termination.

True Tale #4: While many of Janove's stories are funny, others are sad reminders that workplace reality rarely matches up with the ideal environments described in culture statements or employee handbooks. For example, Janet, a vice president of HR for a large corporation, was inappropriately propositioned by William, a senior operations director at her company, on a business trip. The conversation started with William asking her whether she still had sex with her husband and went downhill quickly. Yet this revelation came to light only after William had voluntarily departed the company, when Janove was counseling Janet in preparation for an anti-harassment training that he was helping her implement.

Lesson Learned: Even knowledge of HR and the law aren't always enough to overcome an employee's reluctance to act on her own behalf for fear of being ostracized or blamed. Janet's experience emphasizes the critical importance of making sure a company's approach to harassment goes beyond annual training to working daily to institute a culture in which everyone, including those in HR, feels completely safe coming forward.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Folz, C. (2016 Novemeber 14). Workplace wisdom: 4 true tales and tips for hr and managers[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.shrm.org/blog/workplace-wisdom-4-true-tales-and-tips-for-hr-and-managers


The Evolving HR Leader

Article from the Society For Human Resource Management (SHRM), by Steve Watson

Leadership dynamics in Corporate America are undergoing major changes, and if todays’ leaders want to impact organizations tomorrow, they must adapt strategies, recognize and accept change, and boldly move forward with a new leadership style.

Among the forces influencing leadership changes:

Technology. We already know that technology has revolutionized work and enabled new ways of doing things. It has given rise to widespread global connectivity, provided instant access to data and information, from anywhere, anytime, and has led to the creation of collaboration tools, giving new competitors lower barriers to enter the competitive marketplace.

Organizational design. Mid-management layers have been eliminated so top management today is closer to individual contributors. Leaders must evolve with four different generations in the workforce with real diversity, multiple and different motivations, and mixed demographics. This brings challenges in attracting, developing, and retaining talent.

Further, some leadership practices have become, or on their way to becoming, obsolete, including:

  • Top down management
  • Doing it my way or the company way; being directive and controlling
  • Rigid management/micromanaging
  • Decisions made only at the top
  • Defined work with individual work units
  • More time in the office and in inner circles
  • Expected loyalty
  • Annual performance reviews and raises

A little over a decade ago, we didn’t have smartphones, Facebook, Chatter, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and other social media that have significantly altered the way people connect, communicate, and build relationships.

Leadership today must change and evolve with the times, and this means being able to relate to younger generations. Millennials, with numbers at around 86 million, now represent the largest generation in the workforce. Consider the following vis-à-vis Millennials and employers:

1. They are far less loyal to an employer than generations before them have been. No psychological contract exists between them and their employer. They have a different way of viewing work, and it includes incorporate other activities into their time (travel, leisure time, and community service, for example) that might have otherwise been reserved for “usual” work hours.

2. They are team- and group-oriented. Their work style is collaborative.

3. They want to hear from senior management via feedback, open communication, and recognition.

4. They want even more flexible hours and greater work–life balance.

5. They are creative and inquisitive. Knowing “why” is important to this generation. They are unafraid to challenge ideas, methods, processes, and the status quo.

6. They want to improve and grow professionally through training and mentoring.

7. They are service-oriented, care about the environment, and rely heavily on social media.

8. They want to make a difference in the world.

At the core of all of these changes is technology. It allows people to work remotely, collect information immediately, collaborate effectively, and gain access to global markets and information. Employees also can seek out new job functions, making talent retention more challenging today than ever before. So a workforce with technology at their fingertips presents daunting challenges for today’s leaders. In this world, it’s change or die.

Successful evolved leaders constantly adapt to the changing times. They tend to:

  • Be strategic thinkers
  • Lead by example and build relationships
  • Communicate the mission, vision, and goals clearly
  • Build high-performing teams
  • Serve as a coach and mentor
  • Be servant leaders
  • Look for ways to knock down barriers
  • Set ego aside
  • Be collaborative
  • Listen with empathy
  • Get input from diverse views, gain consensus, and get alignment
  • Embrace diversity
  • Be flexible and agile (and can deal with ambiguity)
  • Have exceptional communication skills
  • Be accepting of failure (and uses it as an opportunity to learn)
  • Move the needle, drives results, and gets things done
  • Exhibit resilience

Evolved leaders are front-and-center and welcome scrutiny from both employees and the public. They understand the need to leverage technological tools and harness cross-generational work styles, and they are astutely aware of the importance and influence of social networks.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Watson, S. (2016 November 14 ). The evolving hr leader [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.shrm.org/blog/the-evolving-hr-leader


Employee Communications When Emotions Run High: Five Steps to a Successful Message

Check out this great read from The Society of Human Resources (SHRM), by SHRM Staff

All across the country, companies are grappling with the decision of whether or not to send a company-wide communication about the election results. On Wednesday morning, organizations – especially with offices in major cities – were faced with an employee population experiencing a wide array of emotions. For some, these emotions may have even begun to affect productivity and overall office morale.
So, when an issue like politics – which can be divisive and cause heightened emotions – spills into the workplace, is there value in addressing the situation with employees?  The answer is an absolute yes.

Ultimately, leaders must understand their organization’s culture to determine the most appropriate employee message, or whether a message is necessary at all. In the case of the election results, however, we cannot deny that a change has occurred and for some employees that change was not what they were expecting.

As with any major change an organization and its people go through, it’s important for leadership to create an environment where open, transparent and constructive dialogue is encouraged within the workplace. Pretending like nothing has happened or that people aren’t feeling directly affected does a disservice to your people and ultimately your organization. Here are 5 ways to communicate with your employees when emotions run high.

1.      Reinforce your Company Values

When crafting a message to employees, you will find the most success if you use this as an opportunity to reinforce the values of your company. One of our values at SHRM is, “Our People Matter” and so, for us, it’s important that our employees feel supported and heard. Acknowledging their feelings will go a long way in establishing trust in the organization.

2.      Double Down on Benefits

Employers can also use this as an opportunity to highlight some of the company’s benefits offerings. Direct employees to their company Employee Assistance Program for resources that might be available to them. Many EAP programs offer stress management and personal wellness tools that employees can take advantage of during this time.

3.      Offer Support

There are a range of activities – some of which can be tied to a wellness campaign – that an organization can do to assist employees:

  • Bring in a massage therapist and offer de-stressing hand and foot massages to help employees unwind
  • Bring in a yoga instructor or offer meditation resources
  • Offer donuts or other snacks and create safe space zones around the workplace where employees can congregate and have discussions.

4.      Open Lines of Communication

If a company does send a message to employees, it is important to reinforce the importance of person-to-person communication. At a time when tensions are high, internal social media platforms may not be the best place for employee dialogue.

5.      Manage with Empathy

Most important, it is crucial that people managers recognize the signs of stress in their employees and approach them with compassion and empathy in the coming days and weeks. We do not always know what people are going through or dealing with outside of the office. Supervisors should work with their HR department to know what resources are available for employees, but they should also just be there as a supportive listener.

Finally, whether post-election communication comes from HR, executive leadership, a communications department – or if ultimately the decision is made not to send any message at all – this is a good time to take a closer look at your employee culture, reinforce your values, highlight your benefits and wellness offerings and show employees that they are supported, valued and heard. In the end, the most important lesson, and perhaps what your employees will value the most, is simply showing that you care.

See the original article Here.

Source:

SHRM Staff (2016 November 12). Employee communications when emotions run high: five steps to a successful message[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.shrm.org/blog/employee-communications-when-emotions-run-high-five-steps-to-a-successful-m


5 tips for insurers to successfully implement new technology

Great article from Benefits Pro. By Laura Drabik

Over the past 10 years, I’ve worked with insurers dedicated to transforming how they do business through the implementation of technology.

I’ve collaborated with large insurers, regional insurers and startups. Although the size of the insurer has varied, principles they have employed to ensure transformation success have not.

And these principles apply to all segments of the insurance industry, including carriers, agents, brokers and claims professionals.

Here are five key observations from the implementations that I’ve worked on and the maneuvers these insurers employed to drive success:

1. Articulate your mandate — again and again and again

I once worked with a large insurer on one of the most complex initiatives. As a former change-management consultant, I found it impressive that before the vendor-evaluation process started, the chief information officer and his team communicated their vision to all levels of the organization in one succinct statement.

As the team transitioned to implementation, this vision was a beacon reminding all project members of what they should be driving toward. Whether gathering requirements, planning releases or gathering user feedback, all activities kept the executive mandate in mind, from evaluation through implementation.

Working toward one goal ensured consistency of direction across teams, improving the probability of success in achieving the business goal they were all striving for.

Later, in a conversation with that same CIO, he revealed that the key to their success was repeating the mandate to ensure it became innate knowledge within the organization.

To keep the message top-of-mind in an organization, use company town halls, CEO updates, webcasts, annual reports and newsletters as opportunities to refresh employees and stakeholders on the executive mandate, and why the company is on this transformation journey.

2. Create one team

Early in my career, I worked as a change-management consultant across various industries.

Regardless of the industry I was working in, I found organizations tended to divide project teams into separate technical and business units. Rather than create units, successful transformation projects combine the business and technical people into one team.

Keep in mind, everyone is working toward achieving one business mandate. To reinforce the “one team” approach, successful transformation projects situate the team in one location. Technical people take the same training as the business people, they celebrate their group identity by creating a team name, and they rally around a set of core team values.

When assembling one team, successful transformation projects staff with the best and brightest their organization has to offer. Rather than have these resources flip-flop between their regular jobs and the transformation initiative, they ensure the resources are 100 percent dedicated to the most critical points of the transformation journey. They understand that the transformation initiative is their organization’s future and require the right people to focus solely on the project at the most important time.

3. Build the new factory

At a recent user conference, one CIO presented a transformation project detailing how the insurer refused to rebuild the old factory or current system and instead focused on the new system as the factory of the future.

If transformation is your goal, don’t carry over old business processes and rules that were limiting in the past.

Successful transformation projects use the new system as the new best practice for doing business in the future. When team members begin slipping back into old processes, successful transformation projects challenge these team members with questions like “Is that how you want to do business in the future?” or “How does this support our executive mandate or business vision?”

Successful transformation projects separate the business-process education from the system training, with the understanding that a new system will come with a new set of best-practice business processes that could cause confusion among hardcore users.

A regional Canadian insurer I worked with made the brilliant decision to first educate its user community on the new business process before launching training on the new system. This allowed an easier transition to the new system because the new business processes were inherently supported by the new system.

4.  Stick to 'out-of-the-box'

After purchasing vendor software, you become part of the community that helped to drive the best practices of that software.

Many insurers say that the majority of industry processes are the same across the industry and across insurers. Instead of trying to reconfigure a core process that really is the same across the industry, leverage the commonality and out-of-the-box content to accelerate your transformation project and drive it into the future.

Successful transformation projects spend their project dollars and time by nuancing content that differentiates them from their community and, more importantly, their competition.

5. Generate excitement for the initiative

Change can be scary, but in today’s work environment it’s the norm.

Successful transformation projects convert fear into excitement by advertising the project. Whether through CEO updates, town halls or other events, sell the importance of the transformation project and the team supporting it.

One insurer I worked with creatively orchestrated “showcase” demonstrations of the system on a quarterly basis to employees. The brief demonstrations targeted crucial pain points and showcased the way the new software would resolve the issue. They also knew it was important to gather feedback, not just from the showcase events but also from focus groups and the field. When an organization has an influential field presence, successful transformation projects advertise the project to the field by conducting regular roadshows and ensuring that the community’s feedback is incorporated into the solution.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Drabik, L. (2016 November 14). 5 Tips for insurers to successfully implement new technology[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/11/14/5-tips-for-insurers-to-successfully-implement-new?ref=hp-blogs&page_all=1


Top 11 Employer FMLA Mistakes

Original post shrm.org

Employers should never take a holiday from dealing with the Family and Medical Leave Act’s (FMLA’s) requirements. Legal experts say the law is full of traps that can snag employers that let their guard down, and they recommend that employers shore up FMLA compliance efforts by avoiding the following common missteps.

No FMLA Policy

Employers shouldn’t skip having a written FMLA policy, Annette Idalski, an attorney with Chamberlain Hrdlicka in Atlanta, told SHRM Online. “If employers adopt a written policy and circulate it to employees, they are able to select the terms that are most advantageous to the company,” she said. For example, employers can choose to use a rolling 12-month period (rolling forward from the time any leave commences) rather than leaving the selection of the 12-month period to employees, who almost inevitably would choose the 12-month calendar period. The calendar period, unlike the rolling period, allows for employees to stack leave during the last 12 weeks of one year and the first 12 weeks of the new year. Check to see if state or local laws give employees the right to choose a 12-month period that would give them the right to stack leave.

Counting Light-Duty Work as FMLA Leave

Idalski said employers also often make the mistake of offering light-duty work to employees and counting it as FMLA leave. Light-duty work can be offered but must not be required in lieu of FMLA leave. For example, an employer can offer tasks that don’t require lifting to an employee who hurt his or her back and cannot perform heavy lifting. But if the worker wants the time off, the individual is entitled to take FMLA leave.

Silent Managers

Managers sometimes fail to tell HR right away when an employee is out on leave for an extended period, Idalski noted. If a manager waits a week to inform HR, that could delay the start of the 12-week FMLA period. The employer can’t make the FMLA leave retroactive, and letting the employee take more than 12 weeks of leave affects staffing and productivity, Idalski said. “Management must initiate the FMLA process with HR right away,” she emphasized.

Untrained Supervisors

Untrained front-line supervisors might retaliate against employees who take FMLA leave, dissuade workers from taking leave or request prohibited medical information, all of which violate the FMLA, said Sarah Flotte, an attorney with Michael Best & Friedrich in Chicago. Just because front-line supervisors shouldn’t administer FMLA leave doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be trained on the FMLA, she noted.

Missed Notices

Employers sometimes fail to provide required notices to employees, Flotte said. “The FMLA requires employers to provide four notices to employees seeking FMLA leave; thus, employers may run afoul of  the law by failing to provide these notices,” Flotte remarked. Employers must give a general notice of FMLA rights. They must provide an eligibility notice within five days of the leave request. They must supply a rights and responsibilities notice at the same time as the eligibility notice. And employers must give a designation notice within five business days of determining that leave qualifies as FMLA leave.

Overly Broad Coverage

Sometimes employers provide FMLA leave in situations that are not truly FMLA-covered, such as providing leave to care for a domestic partner or a grandparent or sibling, noted Joan Casciari, an attorney with Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago. If they count that time off as FMLA leave, this could prove to be a violation of the law if the employee later has an event that is truly covered by the FMLA, she said. But the leave may count as time off under state or local FMLA laws, depending on their coverage.

Incomplete Certifications

Casciari added that employers sometimes accept certifications of a serious health condition that are incomplete and inconsistent. In particular, she said that businesses sometimes make the mistake of accepting certifications that do not state the frequency and duration of the intermittent leave that is needed.

No Exact Count of Use of FMLA Leave

Another common mistake is failing to keep an exact count of an employee’s use of FMLA leave, particularly in regards to intermittent leave, said Dana Connell, an attorney with Littler in Chicago. This failure is “highly dangerous,” he stated. An employer might give the employee more FMLA leave than he or she is entitled to. “The even greater risk is that the employer counts some time as an absence that should have been counted as FMLA, and that counted absence then plays a role—building block or otherwise—in an employee’s termination.”

No Adjustment to Sales Expectations

Some employers take too much comfort in an FMLA regulation that says that if a bonus is based on the achievement of a specific goal, and the employee has not met the goal due to FMLA leave, the payment of the bonus can be denied. “Notwithstanding that regulation regarding bonuses, courts have held that employers need to adjust sales expectations in assessing performance to avoid penalizing an employee for being absent during FMLA leave,” Connell emphasized.

Being Lax About FMLA Abuse

The FMLA is ripe for employee abuse, according to Connell, who said, “Some employers, especially in the manufacturing sector, find themselves with large numbers of employees with certified intermittent leave.” Those employers need a plan to keep all employees “honest with respect to their use of FMLA.” Connell said that surveillance may be a necessary part of an employer’s plan for dealing with potential FMLA abuse.

Overlooking the ADA

Employers sometimes fail to realize that a serious health condition that requires 12 weeks of FMLA leave will likely also constitute a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), noted Frank Morris Jr., an attorney with Epstein Becker Green in Washington, D.C. Even after 12 weeks of FMLA leave, more leave may be required by the ADA or state or local law as a reasonable accommodation.

“Document any adverse effects on productivity, ability to timely meet client demands and extra workload on co-workers resulting from an employee on extended FMLA leave,” Morris recommended. While the FMLA doesn’t have an undue hardship provision, “The information will be necessary for a proper analysis of whether any request by an employee for further leave as an ADA accommodation is reasonable or is an undue hardship” under the ADA.

- See more at: https://www.shrm.org/legalissues/federalresources/pages/top-11-employer-fmla-mistakes.aspx#sthash.kOREknrz.dpuf


5 things to know about the DOL fiduciary rule

Original post benefitspro.com

Tomorrow marks the last day the White House’s Office of Management and Budget will accept meetings with industry stakeholders hoping to influence the finalization of the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule.

1. When will the DOL fiduciary rule be finalized?

That means a final rule could emerge as early as next week, but more likely by the end of the month, according to Brad Campbell, an ERISA attorney with Drinker Biddle.

Campbell and Fred Reish, who chairs Drinker Biddle’s ERISA team, addressed a conference call on the DOL rule’s potential impact.

Nearly 1,000 stakeholders participated, testament to the wide-ranging impact the rule is expected to have on advisors and service providers to workplace retirement plans and individual retirement accounts.

2. Will the DOL rule be stopped?

Several legislative efforts that would delay or defund the rule’s implementation, as well as strategies to address the rule through the appropriations process or the Congressional Review Act, are “real and substantive,” said Campbell, but stand little chance of blocking implementation of the rule.

“The likelihood that Congress can stop DOL is low,” said Campbell.

He expects more Democrats to find the rule to be problematic once it is finalized, but not enough to create the two-thirds majority needed to override a veto from President Obama, which would be all but guaranteed of any legislation Congress passes.

3. When would compliance be expected?

Campbell also said he expects the Obama Administration to waste little time making industry comply with the new rule. An end-of-year compliance date should be expected, he said.

“Obama is going to want to have a deadline in place before he leaves. That will make it much harder for the next administration to undue” the rule, said Bradford.

4. Will others try to block the rule?

While Congressional efforts to block the rule will likely prove impotent, Campbell said private lawsuits seeking to block the rule’s implementation are “a very real possibility.”

“DOL has done some things I think they lack the authority to do,” explained Campbell, who referenced a recent majority report from the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

That report alleged the Obama Administration was “predetermined to regulate the industry” and sought economic evidence to “justify its preferred action” in directing the DOL to write a rule that would expand the definition of fiduciary to include nearly all advisors to 401(k) plans and IRAs.

The report also claims DOL willfully ignored recommendations from the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department and the OMB as it crafted its proposed rule.

Campbell called those arguments and others enumerated in the Committee’s report “legitimate.”

If lawsuits from stakeholders do emerge, courts may delay implementation of the rule as claims are litigated, but Campbell seemed to dissuade stakeholders from holding out too much hope for that possibility.

“No one can predict where the courts will go,” he said.

5. What will the fiduciary rule’s impact be?

Fully preparing for the rule’s impact is of course impossible before it is finalized.

Nonetheless, Campbell and Reish itemized the ways a final rule is likely to impact industry. They are hoping regulators address several vague areas of the proposal in the final weeks of the rulemaking process.

Still unknown is whether the rule will provide a grandfather provision for tens of millions of IRA accounts already in existence.

Also at question is the proposal’s education carve-out, which could greatly impact how service providers’ call centers interact with plan participants, and whether including specific funds in asset allocation models would rise to the level of fiduciary advice.

Campbell said he expects the DOL to finalize an education carve-out that is a bit more forgiving than what was initially proposed. He expects a final rule will allow specific investments to be mentioned, so long as a range of comparable options are offered as well.

There also is the question of whether or not 401(k) and IRA platform providers will be allowed to offer access to 3(21) and 3(38) fiduciaries, and whether or not doing so would be a fiduciary action.

But the biggest questions impacting a final rule’s ultimate impact relates to the proposal’s Best Interest Contract Exemption, said both Campbell and Reish.

How those exemptions are ultimately finalized will shape the IRA market and how providers and advisors recommend rollovers from 401(k) plans.

The attorneys said they expect a final rule to consider rollover recommendations a fiduciary act.

One concern for advisors will be when they need an exemption to advise on a rollover.

If general education on rollovers is offered, without advice, one natural consequence is that investors will ask advisors what they should do, said the attorneys.

“Is no advice better than so-called conflicted advice?” asked Reish rhetorically. “Prudent advice can still be prohibited” under the rule’s proposal, he said.

That fundamental question is likely to make whatever rule that emerges “extraordinarily disruptive” to the IRA market, the attorneys said.


3 Ways to Boost Employee Health with On-Site Wellness Program Support

Original post benefitspro.com

When employers launch a robust employee health program, too often corporate wellness becomes another job for someone who already has a full range of responsibilities.

That’s why it’s crucial to have someone “on the ground” who owns health and wellness and can in turn play an active role in building a successful health management program.

We see the benefits of providing an on-site wellness presence. Our client sites that have a dedicated on-site program manager enjoy a 33 percent higher participation rate compared to similar programs that don’t include an on-site manager.

The benefits of having an on-site wellness program manager include the following:

  • Screening participation: 58 percent increase
  • Health advising participation: 43 percent increase
  • Coaching enrollment participation: 21 percent increase

In addition to on-site program managers, here are three ways our clients inspire employee wellness with on-site solutions—and how this option might make sense for your organization.

1. Drive engagement with health advocates

To meet the needs of more than 12,000 employees in 18 locations at a leading automotive parts manufacturer, my employer HealthFitness provides six on-site health promotion coordinators and eight full-time benefits advocates to help employees and their families navigate the health care system.

On-site advocates serve as corporate wellness navigators and answer questions employees may have related to their benefits—from how the medical plan works to how to earn incentives.

Advocates work as a touch point for employees—whether they meet before, after or during shift breaks.

Results:

Support from on-site benefit advocates has paid off in providing real results for both employees and the company.

  • 48,000 benefit advocacy contacts driving referrals to benefit providers
  • 6.2 percent year-over-year reduction in health risks
  • 93 percent completion rate of health assessments and screening for employees and spouses

2. Activate boots on the ground

To build rapport with the manufacturing population at a leading producer of agricultural products, our on-site staff regularly meets employees where they are—donning steel-toe boots and protective gear to join them in the field, safety meetings, or break rooms.

Our on-site presence lets them know we are here for them and are committed to their health.

For example, to make it easier for employees to participate in wellness activities such as screenings, on-site staff are scheduled to work early hours (from 4 a.m. to 12 p.m.), giving workers the opportunity to participate in blood pressure screenings without leaving the worksite.

The mindset of ‘we bring the program to you’ is essential to program participation success.

Results:

  • 11.3 percent decrease in average number of high health risks from 22.47 to 2.19 among 2,400 participants.
  • 97 percent of participants were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their on-site biometric screening event.
  • 63 percent of employees participated in one or more lifestyle management programs in 2013.

3. Build a network of on-site wellness champions

Our on-site program manager leverages a wellness champion network of more than 30 employees to meet the needs of 12,000 employees at an agricultural and construction equipment leader.

Wellness champions build employee awareness and increase engagement in corporate wellness programs.

Employees at 20 sites throughout the country turn to the wellness champions as a resource, to share ideas and ask questions. Wellness champions also represent employees during ongoing conference calls and help ensure health and wellness continues to be part of their daily routines.

Results:

  • 85.3 percent of the employee population has participated in at least one health management activity.
  • 43.1 percent participation in a walking program that challenges employees to walk 10,000 steps a day.
  • 21.1 percent participation in health coaching so employees can develop an individual, confidential plan to help them reach their health goals.

7 tips to get employees listening to your benefit chat

Employees care about their health care benefits. It's an important part of why they get up and go to work each day.

However, when it comes to open enrollment, many zone out and often forget the pile of paperwork offered each year to figure out what's happening with their benefits.

Alison Davis, founder and CEO of Davis and Company, offers 7 tips to cut the clutter and get employees to listen.

1. Tell the 'Why?' behind changes.

Tell the "why" behind changes. Why does your company offer benefits? How does the package stack up against the competition? Answer these questions for your employees, and then share the reasoning behind your decisions. Chances are, you thought carefully about changes, looked through the data, and made strategic decisions based on cost-benefit analysis. Walk employees through that process.

2. Use the inverted pyramid to organize information.

This classic structure puts the most relevant information first and saves the details for lower down in the message. And it works for any kind of communication, from e-mail to enrollment packages to benefits meetings.

3. Focus on what employees need to do.

In these information-overloaded times, employees want you to cut to the chase and tell them what action is required. So be clear, with content such as "Five decisions you need to make" and "A three-step process for choosing your benefits."

4. Be visual.

Instead of long narrative copy, break content into easily scannable segments. For example, create a table that captures key changes to next year's benefits. Or add a sidebar with a checklist of decision items. And whenever possible, use icons, photos, or sketches to illustrate your points.

5. Avoid the urge to sugarcoat.

Communicating benefits is often a "bad news, bad news" proposition. Sometimes costs increase; other times benefits are eliminated. To maintain credibility, it's important to communicate honestly. Tell employees why a change was made, how costs were managed, and how they can choose and spend wisely.

6. Don't be shy about celebrating good things.

Use communication to remind employees about benefits that are designed to make their lives better, such as flexible spending account debit cards, preventive care, discount gym memberships, and free financial advice.

7. Be service-oriented.

Include tips, advice, and Q&As that will help employees be smarter consumers and live healthier. Here are some examples of service-oriented topics you can integrate into your communications:

  • How to determine if you're saving enough for retirement
  • Low-impact ways to get more exercise
  • How I saved $300 on my prescriptions
  • Five often overlooked discounts offered by the company medical plan

 

RELATED: Why Companies Are Wasting The Money They Spend on Pay and Benefits


The urgent need for companies to attract talent and retain potential retirees

Source: Zurich

The race for talent drives competitors into a frenzy. Established players are forced to offer new perks, hire earlier, and watch constantly for poachers as newer destinations elbow their way toward accomplished graduates.

This fight isn't just happening in the tech scene, at hip ad agencies, or in fashion and entertainment. The battle is also taking place between banks and private-equity firms and it could easily translate to healthcare, consulting, or manufacturing. The talent crunch animates countless industries.

 

Companies can't just slide higher compensation numbers across the table to attract them. When one of the largest automotive corporations needed more electronics specialists to work on its electric vehicle, it used current employees' unique accounts of their job's personal and professional rewards to attract workers via social media and recruitment networks.

And of course, there is Silicon Valley. Young people are still flocking to tech, often at the expense of Wall Street. Its entrepreneurialism, relevance, pace, and community encapsulate targeted job traits, and rankings bear this out.

The tech talent phenomenon also gets at a key dynamic of the overall workforce- age. There is natural tension between accomplished veterans and flashy potential. One might assume it's the threat of the latter displacing the former, but the old guard isn't giving way anytime soon.

Older workers are healthier and more capable than ever in their later years-they're not all simply delaying retirement for financial, post-recession reasons. Their experience has taught them work habits and productivity tricks, and developed facilities with flexible and remote work advancements, which younger workers are still getting acquainted with. And the company's culture will be better off imbued with the elders' loyalty.

Baby boomers' abilities to adapt in an ever-changing workplace are keeping them significantly more engaged and productive than elder workforces of previous generations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting a rise in labor force participation for people over the age of 55 over the next decade, most dramatically for workers 75 years and older, with a predicted increase of 38%.

It will be important for companies to develop intellectual capital transition strategies that focus on leveraging the knowledge of older workers in the training and mentoring of their younger staff.

The two sides must thrive together in successful organizations. And some trends suggest that generational wars aren't inevitable. Young employees value strong mentors, according to a UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School report. Following the path of one notable company featured in the study, organizations can establish groups that work to create relationships between employees at all levels of experience and expertise.

 

Alongside the rest of the world, age tensions in the US are moderate. Only a quarter of Americans think that their aging country is a major problem, according to a Pew Research Center survey. Other countries are less confident that they will be taken care of well in their later years. While the graying shift in the US is steeper than the global average, some powerful nations must address the change more urgently.

The value of long-time workers may be most stark in specialized industries like defense, where the usual limits on recruiting are exacerbated by factors like budget cuts and employee screening. All companies must work with core employees on retirement planning to avoid sudden, gaping vacancies and lost chances to transfer knowledge. The result should be a workplace that is attractive to all age groups, opening larger pools of talent to recruit from than the competition.