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Monthly Archives

October 2016

What Does it Cost to Replace Your Spouse?

By Life and Health | No Comments

1610-lh-4-1Your spouse is priceless to you as a life partner, friend and confidante. Have you ever calculated the actual worth of your spouse? Take time to figure out how much it would cost to replace your spouse as you purchase invaluable life insurance for the person you love the most.

Replace Salary

Most life insurance agents recommend that you purchase enough life insurance to replace eight years of annual salary. You can find the recommended figure by checking your annual W-2s from the last several years.

If your spouse does not work outside the home, you should still purchase life insurance. According to Salary.com, the average stay-at-home parent works at least 94 hours per week for a total salary of approximately $113,600. A working parent’s at-home salary is close to $67,400. Compare these figures to what the average physician earns – $153,000 for a 56-hour work week – and you see that you must find a way to pay for all the services your spouse provided whether or not he or she worked outside of the home.

Provide for Children

Losing a parent is tough for a child. Life insurance isn’t a parental replacement, but it can provide financially for your children’s living expenses. Use the money to pay for child care, before and after school care, shuttle service and meal prep as well as expenses required to care for your child with special needs.

If your kids are older, you may use the money to fund their college education. You could also establish a trust as you provide for your children into the future.

Cover Housekeeping

Because your spouse performed a share of the housework, prepare to cover the jobs he or she did. Those duties could include cooking, cleaning, laundry, landscaping and home maintenance. Life insurance funds could pay someone to do these chores indefinitely.

Repay Debt

Life insurance can be used to repay debt you and your spouse have accumulated. By repaying debts such as your mortgage, vehicles, student loans and credit cards, you gain a bit of wiggle room in your budget and can take time to grieve instead of worrying about working overtime.

Pay Final Expenses

The average funeral can cost as much as $10,000. Pay this expense with your spouse’s life insurance policy. It can cover probate costs, medical bills or other end of life expenses, too. With adequate life insurance, your family budget will not suffer as you pay for your spouse’s final expenses.

As you can see, life insurance for your spouse is a valuable investment. It provides financial resources for you and your family when you need it most. Talk to your insurance agent to ensure you purchase adequate coverage today.

Can You Be Fired For Badmouthing the Boss or Co-Workers On Facebook?

By Employment Resources | No Comments

1610-er-1Millions of people use Facebook to connect with family and friends. It’s also a popular outlet for venting about frustrations on the job. Before you post something bad about your boss, though, consider whether or not you could be fired for what you post.

Know the National Labor Relations Act

According to the National Labor Relations Act, you have the right as an employee to discuss details about your conditions of employment or wages with someone else if you are trying to improve conditions on the job. Your solo rants or gripes about your job, boss, or co-workers are not protected by law, though.

As an example, say your boss is a bully and negatively affects several people in your office. In this case, you may be able to complain online and be protected since your post is considered a collective complaint. You cannot legally post a complaint if you are the only person he or she bullies, however.

Understand that Your Employment is At Will

In many cases, you are employed at will. That means your employer can fire you for a variety of reasons as long as those reasons are not discriminatory. Because being employed is a privilege, carefully consider all your social media posts. You’re usually better off approaching your boss in person with important issues that should be addressed rather than venting over social media.

Read the Social Media Policy

Many large employers have social media policies in place that offer details about what employees can and cannot post. It may outline the consequences you face, including termination, if you use social media to complain about something at work. Check with your Human Resources department for more information about the social media policy at your job.

Consider Your Reputation

While your complaint against your boss may be legitimate, realize that it could also affect your reputation. Do you really want to be known as the person at work who always posts negative comments online? Your actions today could affect your position and your ability to get a good professional recommendation in the future.

That’s why you should do your best to keep your negative comments to yourself or share them offline with only a few close friends. You don’t want to jeopardize your reputation because you’re upset about something your boss says or does.

It’s always a good idea to use discretion when you discuss your boss or job on social media. Depending on what you post, you could be fired or face other consequences. Check out the details of your employer’s policies before you post negative opinions and comments online.

Addressing Mental Abuse in the Workplace

By Employment Resources | No Comments

1610-er-2When you think of abuse, you may think only of physical actions. Mental abuse is also a reality, however. If it happens in your workplace, you will need to take several steps to address it as you create a healthy work environment.

Types of Mental Abuse

Workplace mental abuse shows up in many forms. The abuse can be overt and outward or manifest itself in less obvious ways, and it can be directed to co-workers, subordinates or clients. It may also permeate the entire workplace culture or only show up in certain situations. Examples include:

  • Swearing
  • Screaming
  • Angry rants
  • Ignoring
  • Interrupting
  • Isolating
  • Failing to provide relevant information
  • Sabotaging work
  • Stealing credit for work
  • Directing rude or belligerent comments toward someone
  • Dismissing legitimate complaints from victims
  • Rewarding bullies with better assignments, promotions or pay raises

Causes of Mental Abuse

In your workplace, you may see several causes of mental abuse. Significant changes to business operations could prompt co-workers to become mentally abusive, especially if roles are not discussed and agreed upon. Inadequate communication also causes problems and can prompt someone to cope in an unhealthy manner. Difficult working conditions with high work volumes or short staff may also trigger mental abuse episodes as overworked employees cope in the wrong way.

Effects of Mental Abuse

When mental abuse is present in your workplace, the company, employees and clients suffer. The victims will experience increased stress, lack of motivation and productivity, physical illness and absenteeism.  Managers spend valuable time documenting the abuse, comforting the victim and disciplining the abuser instead of doing their work. Abuse can even affect the company’s bottom line as valuable resources are diverted away from projects and toward crisis management, productivity decreases and turnover increases.

Preventing Mental Abuse

Mental abuse is never okay, but it does happen. Your company should be consistent and aggressive in handling the abuse to protect you and others.

First, make sure there’s a zero tolerance policy. It should outline unacceptable behavior and include the requirements for documenting, disciplining and handling abusive situations.

You’ll also want to make sure employees are adequately trained to handle abusive situations. They should be able to recognize abuse and know the guidelines for reporting it.

Everyone should feel comfortable discussing and reporting mental abuse, also. Managers ideally should have an open door policy that allows employees and clients to report improper behavior.

You can’t always prevent mental abuse in your workplace, but you can address it properly and stop it from continuing. If your company does not have a mental abuse prevention and handling process in place, ask your Human Resources department to create one and promote a healthy work environment for everyone.

Understanding Payroll Deductions

By Employment Resources | No Comments

1610-er-4Your salary is one of the first things you want to know when you start a new job. Unfortunately, you might be in for a big surprise when you open your first paycheck thanks to mandatory and voluntary payroll deductions. Understand exactly what these deductions as you eliminate paycheck surprises and balance your personal budget.

Mandatory Payroll Deductions 

Employers are required by law to withhold several deductions from your paycheck. If they do not comply, they face fines, lawsuits and the potential end of their business.

The mandatory payroll deductions on your pay stubs include:

  • Federal income taxes, every employee in the United States pays the same federal income tax
  • State taxes that vary based on the state in which you are employed
  • Local taxes if required by your town or municipality
  • Court-ordered withholdings for child support, bankruptcy repayment or other required wage garnishments

Your employer may also deduct Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes. These taxes include a mandatory 6.2 percent social security tax and 1.45 percent Medicare tax. If you make more than $200,000, expect to pay more than these percentages. Also, remember that your employer contributes matching percentages, and these taxes apply to all employees who work in the U.S.

Voluntary Payroll Deductions

Other payroll deductions are not mandated by federal law. However, most of them are convenient for your employer or for you.

You can ask your Human Resources department for details of these voluntary deductions and then decide if you want to participate or not. They include:

  • Your required contribution to your employer-provided insurance benefits, including healthcare, dental or vision coverage, if you choose to participate in your employer’s insurance coverage plans
  • 401(k) contributions beyond your employer’s matching contribution
  • Premiums for additional coverage on an employer-sponsored life insurance policy
  • Charitable donations to the United Way or other eligible organization

How are Payroll Deductions Determined?

The amount of salary you receive for doing your job is known as your gross pay. Mandatory and voluntary payroll deductions are taken out of your gross or total pay, and the remaining money is what you receive on your paycheck. The remaining balance is known as your net pay and is the figure you’ll see on your paycheck.

Payroll deductions affect every paycheck you receive. Check every pay stub you receive to verify that the deductions are correct. If you need additional clarification or information about mandatory or voluntary payroll deductions, talk to your Human Resources manager and eliminate paycheck surprises.

What Insurance Should New Hires Purchase?

By Employment Resources | No Comments

1610-er-3After landing a new job, you’ll meet with the Human Resources department. They will discuss your new employee handbook, outline your benefits and answer any questions. One thing you should be prepared to do is choose your insurance options. Here’s what’s available.

Health Insurance

You may be healthy and think you can live without health insurance. However, it’s an important resource, especially if you are in an accident or have a medical emergency that costs you thousands of dollars.

Consider joining the employer-sponsored health insurance plan if that’s available to you. You’ll pay a portion of the premium cost each week and enjoy valuable coverage. To maximize your financial resources, find the best coverage for your needs and balance your budget, research private health insurance options, too.

Life Insurance

Many employers offer a basic life insurance policy to employees. Its coverage typically equals one year of your salary and remains in effect as long as you stay with your current employer. If you have dependents, a mortgage or significant debt, you may want to buy a private life insurance policy, too, for added peace of mind.

Dental Insurance

Dental issues can affect your productivity, motivation and overall health. Consider purchasing dental insurance that pays for regular checkups and dental work.

Carefully check the dental insurance policy offered by your employer. You may save money by using the dental discount card offered by the dentist of your choice.

Disability Insurance

If you become ill or injured off the job, disability insurance provides financial resources that help you manage your household bills. Every employer offers different disability insurance coverage options, but in general, you can choose from short-term, temporary and long-term coverage.

Long-Term Care Insurance

To pay for assisted living or nursing home care, consider investing in long-term care insurance. It’s typically a wise investment for employees who are in their late thirties since rates increase after that age. Purchase it sooner, though, if you have a medical condition such as Alzheimer’s in your family history that may affect your rates as you age.

Cancer Insurance

Cancer insurance pays you a lump sum if you’re diagnosed with cancer. It covers out-of-pocket medical and household expenses and gives you the freedom to focus on your treatment instead of on work.

This insurance is important if cancer is in your family history. Otherwise, consider saving money from each paycheck to cover emergency health problems.

Insurance options can be confusing when you start a job. Become familiar with your options as you decide if you need certain insurance policies. For more information, talk to your insurance agent or Human Resources department.

The Curious Case of Workers Compensation Treatments: Why Some States Soar in Surgery

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

1610-wc-4With every state having their own workers’ compensation rules, it has meant that incentives have varied widely throughout the nation. The majority of doctors, lawyers, insurance carriers, employers and employees are all either inadvertently or consciously trying to avoid their losses at every level.

When a report came out about surgery and Medicare in the nation, it was found that New York was performing vastly below the average while Alabama and Louisiana were operating at far higher rates. Is it that because people in Alabama are more likely to become severely injured? It is a better bet to say that there are other forces at work here. We’ll look at the numbers from the 33 states that were included in this study, and talk about the implications of it for you.

Averages and Rates 

As you might expect, states without fee schedules had much higher utilization rates than those who did (up to 150% over the average amount.) This means that if there was a limit on how much could be spent, somehow that limit was magically reached in the majority of cases. Surgery and other costly procedures were performed sparingly.

If there was no limit, there seemed to be more care that was necessary to complete the treatment. The same trend was shown whenever there were states that had some type of limits imposed, whether it was percent-of-charge or cost-to-charge.

What Does This Mean for You?

There are several ways you can look at this study. One is that you could assume those who did receive more care got the additional consideration because there were no limits in their state. A doctor had every measure to complete a full plan for their patients without having to worry about costs thus achieving a better state of wellness for the patient. This is certainly one reason why no limits might be imposed in a state. However, the less optimistic viewpoint would be that people are flat-out exploiting the system.

Certainly we know that fraud is real in workers compensation, and potentially difficult to reveal. Whether a doctor recommends one unnecessary treatment for one patient or 50, they’re committing an act that will raise everyone’s costs further down the line. If you’re interested in becoming an advocate in your state, you may want to lobby your local lawmakers with information about recovery and relapse in patients in the states that have imposed limits. It is the best way to prove that those who have limits are both not a drain on the system while still achieving acceptable care. This is a difficult issue to talk about, but one that needs to be addressed.

News from the Annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

1610-wc-3The Annual Workers’ Compensation Educational Conference (WCI) is just one example of how complex this topic is to everyone involved, from doctors to employers. Many of the sessions are made solely for those in specific industries (e.g., only for judges or attorneys.)

With a variety of laws from state to state and interpretations of those laws from state to state, this conference has to address a lot of questions and confusions. We’ll give you an idea of what it was like to attend, though it should be noted that it’s impossible to cover it all here.

All Eyes on Florida

The Florida Supreme Court has already ruled on several aspects of the workers’ compensation rules, as in they will not be limiting attorney fees and temporary employment benefits, in an effort to avoid needless litigation from employers. Some experts say this has worked with fewer court cases being heard, but insurance companies are claiming that they’re now subject to paying the costs and haven’t been able to set prices for their premiums based on these laws. They now want to raise their rates up to 20%.

Florida is where the event was held, so it was a topic that was especially on people’s minds. Between this and the contrasting event of falling costs of rates in Oklahoma, it was these two states that won the spotlight. Everyone at the conference wanted to fight against fraud and waste, but the best ways to regulate that is still debated by many.

Bureaucracy, Advocacy and Safety

These are typical topics when it comes to anything related to workers’ compensation, but the conference attempted to address them with a modern bent. For example, studies into the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) have not necessarily shown the rates to have changed due to the laws, though it behooves employers to keep an eye on any overlap between provider networks and approved workers compensation professionals for additional cost savings and streamlined care. They also talked about the employees who are not covered by workers compensation (e.g., domestic or agricultural workers.)

There was more information about how employers can better develop their own safety plans, and how changes in healthcare will affect the program. The conference addressed how many larger businesses do not have effective risk management, and how accountability should be at the forefront of each business.

There was an emphasis on how data can help people make better decisions, and on how best to use that data when it comes to driving change in workers compensation. In other words, there was a lot happening at this conference, and if you want to learn more about a particular talk you can click here.

What You Need to Know About the Workers Comp Appeals Process

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

1610-wc-2Every day you likely see people make decisions you wish they would reconsider. People make mistakes because they’re tired, bored, angry or just plain uninterested in what’s happening around them. Appeals were made for those who feel the courts were full of professionals making choices based on their own self-interests and not based on the facts.

We’ll tell you what you need to know about workers who choose to go through the appeals process.

Before You Reach the Courts 

If a doctor denies a request for treatment that an employee feels is necessary, the first step is to get a second opinion. Often this can be done through a Qualified Medical Examiner, meaning this person has undergone special training to work with injured patients on the job. However, if an employer refuses to acknowledge their part in the matter or the insurer denies their responsibility in the claim, then it may be necessary to take the matter to the courts.

How It Works 

For some cases in workers compensation, the employer is clearly at fault, they cover the employee’s injuries and insurance picks up the tab. However, other times the facts aren’t so clear and the employer goes to court. Workers compensation will typically have their own judges who work to decide fair outcomes for all employees they see.

They look at the testimonies of the employee and potentially the employer, they’ll gather the medical information and review all other evidence to determine what compensation should be given. Once the judge gives their decision, either the employee or the employer may appeal. In New York state, it’s normally 30 days after the filing, but each state will have their own specifications.

The appeals board typically will then have the power to modify the terms of the decision, or flat-out agree or disagree with the judge. If those on the Appeals panel don’t agree with each other, it will get kicked up to a higher level for a full Board review, in which case there will be another set of people who look at the facts.

Benefits and Beyond 

You are not required to pay benefits while a case is being contested, meaning that some employers have used it to tie up funds by dragging cases out through appeal after appeal. The justice system is somewhat malleable in that cases have the ability to be pushed up the ladder until they reach the very top — especially in unique cases that haven’t been tried before. If you’re at a loss of what to do, remember that there are always options. However, the legal costs and hassle may not make it worth it.

Common Rules for Doctors in Workers Compensation Cases

By Workplace Safety | No Comments

1610-wc-1Doctors to a certain extent run their practice they way they want to, as they can choose the types of cases they take and use different methods for different patients. However, they also have to play ball, so to speak, with a number of different regulators.

From being approved to working with a certain insurer to keeping their medical license, they have a lot to consider. We’ll look at how workers compensation plays out for them.

State to State 

There is a lot of misinformation out there about how doctors treat workers compensation patients, and much of it has to do with the fact that each state has their own rules. For example, in California a worker can have their regular doctor treat their injury if they had their own health insurance at the time they were hired and if they had already told their employer about their doctor before being injured.

In other states, the employer may choose the doctor as a way to ensure there is no fraud or the worker may be able to choose any doctor that’s in their network.

Insurance and Billing

A doctor has to follow a very complex set of rules should you go to him or her with a work-related injury, and the billing gets confusing quickly. Though a patient can typically go to any doctor as the very first consultation (or the ER should it be deemed necessary), a doctor may refer them to someone else for additional treatment.

Also, in certain states it may be possible to receive care from a PA or an RN for treatment while in other states one may be required to see an MD or DO, and the care may be limited. Say a worker has chronic back pain (to take one of the most common scenarios of injury), and they want to see a specialist like a chiropractor or massage therapist for relief. The insurance may cover only a few sessions at most.

Finding a Doctor 

As an employer, it’s easy to want to use all the power that you have available to you. In many cases if you live in a state that allows you to make the decision, it makes sense to find a doctor that will be fair to your employees, but who will never recommend treatments they don’t need. Ultimately this should lower your insurance and make you less of a risk.

However, it’s also worth noting that when a doctor doesn’t have a history with a patient, they’re liable to make mistakes. Those mistakes could very well leave you liable to additional compensation if something goes wrong and the worker never fully recovers.

How to Add Temp Staff Quickly During Busy Seasons

By Risk Management Bulletin | No Comments

1610-rr-4Does your business have a busy season? It might if your industry is retail, landscaping or catering, and that means you may need temporary workers. Here are several tips on how to add those workers quickly to your staff during your busy seasons.

Prepare and Plan

Unless this is your first year in business, you know when your busy seasons fall during the year. Take time during the slow times to prepare for the busy hiring season.

  • Decide how many employees you need.
  • Outline job duties and write detailed job descriptions.
  • Write your help-wanted ad and identify in-print and online job boards.
  • Clear time in your calendar to conduct interviews.
  • Set up a training program.

Hire a Temp Agency

Screening employees requires a big chunk of your time and valuable resources. Consider hiring a temp agency.

The temp agency is experienced in finding, screening and hiring employees. In fact, they probably already have a list of potential employees for your business. With their help, you can focus on doing your job instead of on finding and hiring temp workers.

Start a Referral Program

You already have a team of great employees. Why not reward them for referring the people they know, like and trust. Chances are high that your team will only refer quality candidates since their reputations are on the line.

When starting your referral program, determine the reward. It can be cash, a day off when business slows down or other high value prize. Then determine how many referral prizes each employee can earn. Finally, follow through and award the referral prizes as you promised.

Recruit on Local Colleges

Local college campuses are filled with students who need extra cash. They also typically have flexible schedules, so recruit your next temp workers there.

Contact the administration office or student employment office and share your job openings. You can also participate in job fairs or get permission to post job ads on school bulletin boards.

Offer Retention Bonuses

You invest quite a bit of time and resources in finding and trailing temporary workers. A retention bonus encourages them to remain on your staff after the busy season.

The bonus can be as large or small as you can afford. Also, consider giving a bonus to any temp employees who are available as needed throughout the year to fill random large orders or cover staffing gaps as needed.

These tips can help you quickly fill seasonal employment voids. Use them to ensure that your business can fill orders and meet customer demands as you keep your business moving forward.