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Monthly Archives

March 2013

STUDY DIAGNOSES HEALTH OF WELLNESS PROGRAMS

By Employment Resources | No Comments

Although more than three in four businesses offer their employees wellness programs, fewer than half believe that these programs provide an effective return on investment (ROI). That’s the bottom line on a recent nationwide survey by Business Insurance of more than 300 companies.

Check out these highlights from the study:

  • More than nine in ten respondents (93%) describe their programs as “extremely successful,” “very successful,” or “somewhat successful.”
  • More than four in five (81%) measure the success of their programs primarily by employee participation rates, while more than two in three (68%) rely on feedback from employees.
  • The great majority (85% of public companies and 70% of privately held firms and nonprofits) offer employees money or other incentives linked to participation in their programs.
  • Nearly three in four (59%) see improving employee health as the main objective of their program.
  • Fewer than one in three (28%) focus on reducing health care costs.

Experts say that employers can improve their ROI (directly or indirectly) from wellness programs by shifting focus from broadly-based activities (on-site health screenings and immunizations, weight-loss and stop-smoking programs, etc.) to individual health care — such as personal coaching, workplace safety evaluations, wellness newsletters, and classes on stress management and nutrition.

Companies can also boost their ROI by evaluating their programs at least once a year. The Business Insurancesurvey found that nearly one in three respondents (32%) failed to measure the participation rate or effectiveness of their programs on an annual basis.

If you’d like a comprehensive review of the benefits your employee wellness program provides, just get in touch with us.

QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR COMPANY’S 401(K) PLAN FEES?

By Employment Resources | No Comments

Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. Many business owners don’t understand the fees employees are paying for their 401(k) plans.

A recent nationwide survey of 500 small businesses (with 100 or fewer employees) by ShareBuilder 401k found that employers’ inability to figure out these fees leaves them unprepared for the questions their plan participants are asking — a situation that could cost workers big bucks.

The survey found that most small business owners are unaware of what constitutes a fair percentage for 401(k) fees. Says ShareBuilder 401k president Stuart Robertson, “Everyone has a right to know the fees they’re paying for their 401(k), because, over the course of a career, paying an extra percentage point can shrink [a retiree’s] nest egg by hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Although most survey respondents said they were aware of new rules requiring 401(k) providers to distribute documents that disclose all plan fees fully, nearly 40% did not recall receiving the new documents. Those who did get this information spent an average of only16 minutes reviewing it; and 83% of them had questions about what their company should do next. More than two in three (68%) were unprepared to answer employees’ questions about their plans.

We’d be happy to help you find the best, and most cost-effective, plan for your workers. Feel free to get in touch with us at any time.

THE ACA EMPLOYEE HEALTH INSURANCE MANDATE: SIZE DOES MATTER

By Employment Resources | No Comments

Businesses nationwide are preparing for the financial impact of paying for their employees’ Health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) which takes effect January 1, 2014. The mandate will apply to any company with 50 or more full-time (or “full-time equivalent”) workers, under penalty of paying $2,000 a year for every worker in excess of 30 employees. A business faces other fines if Uncle Sam determines that the Health plans it offers employees (and their dependents) are unaffordable or don’t meet federal regulations. Companies with fewer than 50 full-time employees are exempt from the penalty.

What’s more, a little-known federal regulation bases the exemption from providing mandatory health insurance on the number of employees that a business has in 2013, not the number it will have next year — which means that the sooner you decide on setting the size of your workforce, the better. To help you make this decision, consider these guidelines under the ACA:

  • A full-time employee is one who is employed an average of 30 hours per week, or 130 hours in any given month. This definition includes seasonal employees who meet the hourly requirements.
  • To calculate the number of full-time equivalents in a given month, add all the hours worked, but not more than 120 hours of service for any employee, and divide the total by 120.

As always, our Employee Benefits professionals stand ready to offer their advice. Just give us a call at any time.

WORKPLACE VIOLENCE: BEFORE AND AFTER

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

Violence is the second-leading cause of death on the job– killing three employees every day — and one out of six violent crimes occur in the workplace, costing American industry hundreds of millions of dollars a year in lost productivity, legal fees, and related expenses.

Every business needs a comprehensive risk management program to deal with this threat. Effective record-keeping plays a key role in violence prevention by providing data on incidents of workplace abuse (verbal or physical) whether or not they result in injury, together with records on workers with a history of past violence.

Use this information to:

  1. Identify potential problems for correction.
  2. Review the effectiveness of the program and reevaluate policies and procedures on a regular basis.
  3. Develop and implement on-the-job training methods of reducing violence.

If a violent incident does strike your workplace, make sure that you provide support for the workers involved and those who witnessed the violence. Have trained response teams and provide post-incident response assistance that includes prompt medical treatment and psychological evaluation, trauma-crisis counseling, support groups, stress debriefing, and employee assistance programs.

As always, our agency’s risk management specialists stand ready to offer their professional advice.

KEEPING YOUR MAINTENANCE WORKERS SAFE

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

A lack of maintenance or poor quality maintenance causes thousands of on-the-job accidents every year. What’s more, maintenance workers face significant risks associated with their jobs.

According to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics job fatality report, deaths due to poor maintenance rose 14%, year to year, in 2011, the highest level since 2006. Accidents from maintenance have a variety of causes: everything from falls caused by working heights, confined spaces or harsh environments associated with accessing equipment, and shocks and burns if power is not properly isolated, to injuries from moving machine parts, musculoskeletal problems caused by working in awkward spaces and exposure to asbestos and dangerous chemicals.

There are three types of maintenance:

  1. Routine or preventive maintenance keeps equipment working – such as a scheduled overhaul or replacement.
  2. Corrective maintenance gets broken equipment up and running again.
  3. Predictive maintenance uses tests for maintenance that is or will soon be needed.

To make your maintenance activities safer and more productive, follow these guidelines:

  • Emphasize planning and scheduling on every maintenance task.
  • Invest in affordable technology such as a thermographic camera (around $1,000) to detect variations of temperature that can reveal when a machine motor is not running properly.
  • Make sure that supervisors convey the right message consistently. Employees need to be told that accidents happen as a result of short cuts, such as failing to lock out a piece of equipment before performing maintenance.
  • Teach workers to intervene. If an employee walks by a piece of equipment that’s making an unusual noise and doesn’t tell their supervisor, it’s the same as ignoring a co-worker who is working unsafely.
  • Get employees engaged and accountable. This can lead to culture change which makes safety the responsibility of everyone not just of the safety and maintenance department.

For more information on maintaining your safety maintenance program, just get in touch with us.

RISK MANAGEMENT: A DEPARTMENT OF ONE

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

If you’re “it” when it comes to risk management for your business, there’s a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. How do you determine the best place to start, given limited time and money, to keep your workers safe and keep your company in compliance? Where should you focus? How do you make sure that you stay on top of everything?

There are several important steps you can take to have a world-class safety program, even without many people on your team:

  1. Determine the managerial perspective on risk management. This is the single most important thing to do because it will set the tone for your ability to drive the risk management initiatives of your company. Do everything you can to make this attitude proactive, rather than reactive.
  2. Analyze the current state of safety in the business. An initial SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) will prove invaluable for planning risk management.
  3. Review the mission statement and overall goals of the organization to help align the safety process.The results will determine the direction to go; whether it’s compliance, the creation of a safety management system, or some combination of the two. To take the program to another level, take a careful look at how you need to integrate safety into the process.
  4. Understand the OSHA standards that apply to your business â€“ and make sure that everyone in the organization is familiar with the basics of these regulations.
  5. Evaluate your safety plan from a business perspective. Develop a budget that measures your financial return on investment.

We’re always ready to help just give us a call.

SAFETY INSPECTIONS: AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

Safety consciousness tends to slip over time – and it’s your responsibility to make sure that this doesn’t happen. A well-prepared and well-executed safety audit/inspection program can play a key role in your risk management by uncovering conditions and work practices that could lead to job accidents and industrial illnesses.

Stated more positively, this means checking to see that things are in good shape. In addition to help preventing accidents, the inspection program will keep management informed about the “safety status” of your organization, provide a consistent method of recording observations, and reduce the possibility of important items being overlooked.

Safety inspection tours are like preventive maintenance. Every piece of equipment wears down and deteriorates sooner or later, and needs to be checked. Similarly, employee work procedures fall into routines – some of them unsafe – over time, which means that you need to evaluate them at regular intervals.

Safety inspections have a number of objectives:

  • Spotlighting unsafe conditions and equipment.
  • Focusing on unsafe work practices or behavior trends before they lead to injuries.
  • Uncovering the need for new safeguards.
  • Getting all employees to buy in to the safety program.
  • Re-evaluating the safety standards of the organization.
  • Comparing safety results against safety plans.
  • Gauging the relative success of safety training efforts.
  • Anticipating problems in advance of any OSHA inspection.

Our agency’s risk management professionals would be happy to work with you on developing and implementing a comprehensive safety inspection program for your business. Feel free to get in touch with us at any time.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO? (A GREAT INTERVIEW QUESTION)

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Let’s say that you’re working for a company at a retail counter with a great deal of public interaction every day. Suppose that your storefront is in the middle of an affluent neighborhood, right next to a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and Sun Trust Bank. Now let’s say that because you have a poor landlord the flowers and front entrance haven’t been maintained for some time and are overgrown with weeds and unattractive. Efforts to get the landlord to clean things up have failed.

What would you do?

This can be a great interview question, providing valuable insight into the character of job candidates. Some people might suggest that you sue the landlord. Others would rather first hire a landscaper to fix things up, and then sue the landlord. Some would simply look the other way. Still others would prefer to stop by on a Saturday with a few plastic bags, a small shovel, a small rake, and a few crates of flowers – and just deal with the problem.

This is a true story. The retail operation in question was a North Palm Beach post office. I don’t know if it still in that condition but it amazes me that the employees of the branch would allow themselves to walk by this mess every single day and do nothing about it – for their own sake, never mind anyone else’s! When I asked them about it they were quick to complain but reluctant to simply fix the problem.

Any time that I’ve rented an apartment, home, or office, I’ve made an effort to spruce it up- because that’s who I am. I couldn’t stand to look at those weeds every day; it would drive me nuts. But of course, most people would rather point a finger and, if necessary, file a lawsuit than just step in and get something done.

What type of employees and managers are you looking for? Do you want people who will wait for somebody else to pick up their responsibilities and go first – or those who will just spend a few hours and get that nagging thing finally done? Try this as an interview question and you’ll find out which kind of employee will come to work for you!

IN-N-OUT BURGER SUED FOR DISCRIMINATION

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

I have a confession to make: I love In-N-Out Burger. As with any type of fast food, you can’t eat it frequently, but it’s amazingly good when you do. Both of my sons worked for In-N-Out; and the company has some of the best employees and managers in the fast food industry. They pride themselves in being a well-meaning Christian company. They pay more than anyone else in the industry and treat their employees with respect. Unfortunately, two plaintiffs, both of whom are black and older than 40, were rejected for employment and, after seeing an attorney, filed a class action lawsuit.

Companies such as In-N-Out can face discrimination and disparate impact type claims because their statistics for hiring don’t match the general applicant pool. If this proves out to be the case is there in fact a bias? I don’t see it and doubt if the company practices any systemic discrimination. The only bias I can see is that In-N-Out demands a high level of performance from its employees. Very simply, if you’re too old to move quickly, you’re going to get run over by a quicker and probably younger employee. I would like to think that regardless of your age, race, or sex, if you can play team the In-N-Out Burger way and produce as efficiently as the other workers, you certainly deserve a job.

My favorite comment among all the comments posted about this case (with more than 90% pro In-N-Out) was:

“Actually, In-n-Out does discriminate…

…against lazy, shiftless, self-entitled whiners, which is why you see a lot of ambitious, courteous, and diligent Latinos, Asians, whites, and Samoans working there, and which is why its service is so fantastic.”

ACCOMMODATING PREGNANCY IN THE WORKPLACE

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Although many women work through their pregnancies without difficulty, some of them with physically demanding jobs or complicated pregnancies might seek accommodation at some point. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not define pregnancy as a disability or disorder, but as a natural process related to reproduction.

If pregnancy is not a disability, are pregnant women entitled to accommodation? What about women with pregnancy-related impairments? Are they covered by the ADA Does the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) entitle pregnant women to the accommodations they need to continue working during pregnancy? Are there state laws that entitle pregnant women to accommodation? These are the types of questions are being examined by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and other women’s legal organizations. According to NWLC, both the ADA and the PDA often require reasonable accommodation for pregnancy.

Let’s start with the ADA. The regulations interpreting the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) state that pregnancy-related impairments can meet the definition of disability if they substantially limit a major life activity. Pregnant employees with impairments that meet the definition of disability will be entitled to an accommodation under the ADA. Because the ADAAA has broadened the definition of disability to include many temporary and less severe impairments, more workers with pregnancy-related impairments will now qualify for direct coverage.

In addition, the interaction between the PDA and the ADA will often result in a heightened duty to accommodate even pregnant employees who do not meet the ADA’s definition of disability. NWLC argues that the PDA requires employers to treat pregnant women at least as well as other employees with similar limitations in their ability to work. Because the ADA requires employers to accommodate a wider variety of medical conditions, pregnant women will often have similar limitations to people who are entitled to accommodations under the act – which means that they’ll be entitled to accommodations as well. For example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has made it clear that the ADA requires reasonable accommodation of a temporary back injury that leaves an employee unable to lift 20 pounds for a few months. Because pregnant workers must be treated as well as employees with similar work limitations, a worker who has been instructed not to lift weights of more than 20 pounds because of her pregnancy must also be accommodated, according to NWLC.

To ensure that employers’ legal obligations to provide accommodations are unmistakable, the NWLC and a broad coalition of groups from the health, disability, and women’s rights communities are urging Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) – draft legislation which states that pregnant women are entitled to reasonable accommodations that can be provided without undue hardship to an employer. These are the same types of accommodations that are available to people with disabilities under the ADA. In addition, some state laws already give pregnant workers’ rights to workplace accommodations, as described in a recent report by Equal Rights Advocates.

Accommodating pregnant employees is also in the financial interest of employers. The NWLC provides several sound business reasons why employers should accommodate their pregnant employees in the same way that they do for workers with disabilities. Data show that the costs of these accommodations are likely to be minimal, and that providing them will have bottom- line benefits to the employer: including reduced workforce turnover, increased employee satisfaction and productivity, and lower Workers Compensation and other insurance costs.

Despite the legal and financial arguments, some employers are still not accommodating pregnant employees. This is why the EEOC recently identified “accommodating pregnancy-related limitations under the ADAAA and the PDA” as a priority area for its enforcement efforts through 2016.

If you are an employee who was not accommodated during your pregnancy or you believe you were discriminated against on the basis of pregnancy, the NWLC would like you to share your story. Employers interested in sharing their experiences accommodating pregnant employees or in consulting about best practices are also invited to contact NWLC, at pregnancyandwork@nwlc.org.

Keep in mind that when it comes to providing accommodation ideas, Job Accommodation Network (JAN) consultants will brainstorm accommodation ideas for anyone with any type of limitation, including limitations related to pregnancy, whether or not the ADA covers the condition. So, if you’re an employer trying to accommodate pregnant employees, or a pregnant employee looking for accommodation ideas to offer your employer, feel free to contact JAN for assistance!

-Linda Carter Batiste, J.D.,

Principal Consultant with comments from the National Women’s Law Center

P.S. Speaking of job accommodations, HRThatWorks members can join us for a joint webinar with JAN on Providing Accommodations for Employees with Mental Health Impairments, to be held March 20th at 1PM EST by going to https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/324256449.