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Employment Resources

Handling Safety Inspections

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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.

WHY WORKERS DON’T USE VACATION TIME

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A shot of a business suit and tie with passport and snorkeling equipment

A survey by Harris Interactive, Inc., found that by the end of 2012 Americans will leave an average of 9.2 vacation days unused, up from 6.2 days in 2011.
According to a survey by Expedia, here are the top five reasons why U.S. employees don’t use all of their vacation time:

  1. I can’t afford a vacation.
  2. My work is my life.
  3. I have trouble scheduling far enough in advance.
  4. I can get paid for my unused vacation days.
  5. Taking off might be perceived negatively at work.

Unfortunately, only the Japanese take fewer annual vacation days than Americans (5 versus 12), compared to 20 in India, 25 in the UK, 28, in Germany, and 30 in Brazil. Although employers want employees to work hard, burnout and disengagement is a real concern. If it were my company, I would make sure my employees used all their vacation!

Tips to Consider if You’re Facing a Working Retirement

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Even though you’ve reached retirement age, you might need to postpone a life of leisure due to financial concerns. A working retirement allows you to work at least a few hours every week and build your nest egg before you make the big transition to full retirement. First, though, consider several tips.

Boost Retirement Savings

According to a 2013 Employee Benefits Research Institute study, one-third of pre-retirees on the lower end of the income scale only have enough money to fund one year of retirement. Additionally, many of the pre-retirees in the same category don’t contribute enough funds to their 401k or other retirement accounts. Talk to your financial advisor about your retirement portfolio. If you don’t have enough money saved, take a job that offers matching 401(k) funds or set up automatic payday transfers that boost your retirement savings.

Maximize Social Security Benefits

You can almost double your Social Security benefits by choosing a late retirement instead of leaving your job at age 62. Talk to your human resources manager and crunch numbers as you maximize your Social Security benefits.

Choose the Career You Want

Maybe you love your current job and want to keep it. That’s okay, especially if you receive generous benefits like health insurance and matching retirement fund contributions.

However, don’t be afraid to switch careers or try something new. Learn a new trade, work as a temp in a variety of fields or start your own business. A career counselor can provide resources, revamp your resume and help you find a job that’s a good fit for your skills, talents and interests.

Get Medical Clearance

Before you sign up for a working retirement, visit your doctor for medical clearance. For example, if you suffer from chronic back pain or a heart condition, your physician may give you the okay to work in data entry but not package delivery. Ultimately, you need to prioritize your health and safety.

Stay Active

Working during your retirement provides you with an outlet for your boundless energy and active lifestyle. It also keeps your mind sharp, a benefit most seniors appreciate.

Deciding to take a working retirement with full-time or part-time hours might be a wise decision for you. Consider these facts, talk to your human resource manager and financial planner and crunch the numbers as you make this important decision.

Overworked and At-Risk

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A study at Occupational & Environmental Medicine has turned up some interesting, if not quite surprising conclusions.
The study began by poring over extensive data from sources like the Center for Disease Control, in order to classify five types of exposure:
  • Extended weekly hours.
  • Extended daily hours.
  • Overtime.
  • Extended commute.
  • Overtime or extended hours.
We could fill five or ten pages talking about how they calculated the risks and came to their conclusions, and you can go ahead and read the study and the source data if that interests you, but it breaks down like this: Those who work under a high level of exposure in any of these categories tend to suffer workplace injury at double the rate of those who do not.
The study suggests an injury rate of one in ten for high-exposure employees, and one in twenty for low-exposure employees.
In other words, no matter how hard you work to make your workplace safe, by overworking your employees, you’re automatically doubling your risk.
Here are a few ideas to keep your employees safe and your risk factors low:
  • Try to avoid hiring people who will need to commute an hour or more in order to get to work every day. It may be disappointing to let the perfect candidate go simply because they live a little too far away, but not as disappointing as losing that employee to injury for a month because they’re spending so much time on the road every day that they don’t have time for a good night’s sleep.
  • Save overtime for Fridays. Nobody’s going to be as alert as you need them to be doing two twelve hour days in a row.
  • Hire enough people. Having one person do the job of two sounds like a great idea until you look at what an injury is going to cost you when they’re staying late every day to handle the extra work.
In short: a well-rested employee is an alert employee, and an alert employee is less at-risk for injury on the job. This may not be the most surprising revelation, but now we have the numbers to see exactly how exhaustion plays into workplace safety.

WORKERS FACING RETIREMENT REALITY CHECK

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More than half of Americans expect to work after age 65 (56%) or their retirement (54%) – whichever comes first. That’s the bottom line on the latest Transamerica Retirement Survey. According to this nationwide study of 3,600+ workers, less than two in five respondents (39%) believe they have enough savings for financial security in their “golden years.”

The study also found that:

Nearly half of workers surveyed (47%) are relying on guesswork to estimate how large a nest egg they’ll need.

Almost three in five (57%) have created a financial plan for their retirement – and among these respondents less than one in eight (12%) have a written plan.

Among those who do have a plan, fewer than one in eight (15%) have considered the financial impact of having to retire sooner than expected, or failing to maintain adequate savings.

Fewer than half (44%) will depend on savings plans and/or their401-k account.

According to a survey by Wider Opportunities for Women of the nearly 20 million Americans 65 or older who live alone or with a spouse, about 47% (some nine million people) can’t afford to meet their daily needs for food and health care. Although there was a significant gap between seniors’ income and living expenses throughout the nation, the difference was wider in heavily urban states such as California.

How well are you prepared to ensure your financial security after you’ve retired? Our financial services professionals would be happy to tailor a plan that will fit your needs – and pocketbook.

ONLINE BENEFITS ADMINISTRATION — WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE?

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Looking for real-time information on your company’s benefit plan(s)? You — and your employees — can probably find it online. Workers can use a home computer, tablet, or smartphone to check the details of their benefit plans (costs, options, enrollment period, etc.), review documents, and update their personal account whenever they’d like.

Employers can access plan information that is: 

Accurate. Online access makes it easy to enter data once and check for errors.

Cost-effective. One survey found that changing from manual to online enrollment in benefit plans slashed the cost from $109 to $22 per employee.

Timely. Provides instant access right from your keyboard.

Efficient. Streamlining plan information entry and access frees up employee time for more productive activities.

Private and secure. Access to information on individual plans is restricted (password protected), while company and plan administrators can monitor any unauthorized attempt to tap into plan data.

Open ended. Participants can use hyperlinks to garner information on claims procedures, directories of providers, “healthy living” guidelines, and other helpful Web-based resources.

We can work with you, and your workers, to get the most out of accessing benefit plan information (“high tech”), while providing personalized service (“high touch”).

How to Handle Pay Raise Complaints

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At the beginning of the new year, many companies offer raises to employees. What happens, though, when employees express unhappiness about the raises they receive? If they complain to each other, productivity and morale decline. Use several tips as you handle these complaints promptly and properly and encourage a positive, productive and healthy work environment.

Welcome Pay Raise Discussions

Employees should feel comfortable discussing any subject with you, including pay. Strive to cultivate an open door policy, and listen carefully to your employees so they feel comfortable being honest with you about all their concerns.

Compare Standard Industry Pay Rates

Search the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, PayScale.com, Salary.com and job listings to find the current pay rates for employees in your industry. For the most accurate data, research companies of comparable size with employees of similar talents and skills to your employees.

Provide Performance Details

If your company’s pay raises depend on employee performance, prepare a review of the employee’s record and performance during the last year as you outline the reasoning for their specific pay raise. Offer suggestions for improvement, too, so your employees know exactly how to qualify for a bigger raise next year.

Review the Raise Policy

Your company may offer larger raises to employees after they work there for a certain number of years, or your raise policy may give everyone the same raise regardless of merit. Review this policy with employees as you explain their pay raise.

Offer Alternative Benefits

In lieu of large pay raises, the company may boost the employee benefits package or offer alternative benefits like extra time off or a flexible work schedule. Discuss these perks with employees as you help them understand this year’s pay raise.

Explain the Company’s View

Your company could have multiple reasons for giving lower-than-expected raises. While you don’t have to explain all the reasons to your employees, share some details, such as the employee budget, increase in insurance benefits or slow production, that help them understand your point of view.

Note Pay Raise Complaints

When employees take time to complain about their pay raise, record their concerns, including why they believe they deserve a bigger raise, your reasoning for the raise they received and any suggestions you made for their future improvement. The employees will appreciate being heard and the fact that you take their compensation complaints seriously.

If employees complain about their pay raise, you can take these steps to address the complaint promptly and properly. Handle the situation the right way, and you build rapport and create a stronger company.

Top Topics To Avoid Discussing At Work

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After spending 40 hours a week together at work, you and your coworkers may become close friends. Unfortunately, certain conversation topics can cause awkward situations and increase stress, decrease productivity, motivation and performance, and threaten your job. Protect your health and career when you avoid talking about these topics.

Politics

Whether you avidly follow or purposely avoid politics, political conversations should be off-limits at work. The subject ignites tempers and undermines team spirit.

You may announce that you vote. However, avoid candidating for a specific party, and change the subject if your coworkers introduce the topic.

Pay Rate and Benefits

Under federal law, you may openly discuss your pay rate, insurance coverage and other benefits with coworkers. These discussions may benefit others if they lead to equal pay for equal work, but they could also cause hard feelings and hinder cooperation.

Discuss your paycheck and benefits only if the conversation will benefit your team, and never brag about or belittle someone else’s paycheck. Always err on the side of respect.

Personal Relationship Problems

Maybe your spouse stopped sleeping with you or your child is bullied at school. Share these personal relationship problems at work, and you undermine your authority as a supervisor or manager. The information could also fuel the rumor mill or anchor a sexual harassment complaint.

Restrict personal conversations to neutral topics. Then discuss and resolve your personal relationship problems outside of work.

Health Concerns

You may decide to tell your coworkers about your struggle with chronic pain or depression, especially on challenging days. Consider how your health concern affects your reputation and even your ability to promote, though.

If you must share health information, don’t talk daily about your challenges or discuss every detail. Rely on your family and friends for support and focus on your job when you’re at work.

Career Aspirations

Career aspirations can motivate you to better yourself. Your coworkers may question your loyalty or resent you, however, if you share your goals with them.

Tell your boss privately that you want to move up the ladder. Then do your best work every day as you demonstrate that you’re a team player and committed to the company’s success.

Religion

Faith is a personal and sensitive subject. Even an innocent comment about church or a holiday can make your coworkers feel uncomfortable.

While you can mention your faith, avoid in-depth religious conversations. Take care to never belittle or disagree with someone else’s beliefs, and don’t try to convert anyone.

The conversations you have at work influence your job performance, reputation, success and health. Aim to promote respect, cooperation and peace as you talk to your coworkers.

Limit Liability When Serving Alcohol At Your Company Holiday Party

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Company holiday parties give your employees the chance to relax, network and have fun. You could be liable for your employees’ drinking, though. Learn more about your liability and ways to protect yourself as you prepare for your holiday party.

Check Your Company Insurance Policy

The majority of states have liquor liability laws that apply to anyone who serves alcohol. If one of your employees drinks too much and gropes another employee or causes a car accident after the party, you could be sued. Check your company’s general liability policy and employment practices liability insurance policy with third-party coverage to ensure you have adequate liability coverage.

Ask Employees to Review the Employee Manual

The company’s employee manual should include details about employee behavior at company events. It includes their responsibility to behave properly and any penalties for over-imbibing. As employees RSVP to the party, ask them to review the policy.

Serve Food

Unique appetizers, hearty entrees or a dessert bar can distract employees from drinking. Plus, eating before drinking reduces the effects of alcohol.

Focus on Fun and Games

Instead of prioritizing drinking, plan fun and games. Hire an entertainer,  host a karaoke or dance-off challenge, or perform team-building activities. When the main focus of the party is fun, your employees won’t have time to drink all night.

Be an Example

If you plan to drink at the party, limit yourself to one beer, cocktail or glass of wine. Ask other managers and the party’s planner committee to be examples of moderation, too.

Provide a Cash Bar

Employees are more likely to drink too much if they don’t have to pay. You can cover the food, entertainment and non-alcoholic beverages, but let them buy their own alcoholic drinks.

Offer Non-Alcoholic Options

Include several interesting non-alcoholic beverage options on your menu. They’re fun to drink and encourage sobriety.

Hire Trained Bartenders

Trained bartenders can recognize when a person has reached their limit. They also will card interns or any employees who looks underage, which reduces a big alcohol-related liability.

Use a Drink Ticket System

Limit access to alcohol when you give employees a set number of drink tickets. When they reach their limit, they can’t order any more drinks.

Close the Bar

An limitless open bar invites overindulgence. Open the bar a short time then close it for the night as you protect employees from drinking too much.

Pay Cab Fare

Ensure employees arrive home safely when you pay cab fare. You can even call cabs for employees.

Before your holiday party, discuss your liability insurance coverage with your insurance agent. Be sure you’re covered as you prepare to have fun.

CATASTROPHIC COVERAGE SAVES DOLLARS AND MAKES SENSE

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For some people, the preventive care options provided by traditional health insurance plans are not a benefit they want or can afford. Instead, a health insurance policy that covers them only in the case of a catastrophic event, such as a car accident or emergency surgery, is much more appealing and affordable. For these people, catastrophic coverage (also called major medical) offers the perfect balance between reasonable coverage and cost.

What is Catastrophic Coverage?

Catastrophic coverage is generally sought out by individuals who do not anticipate needing full health coverage benefits but who do want the security of coverage in the event of an unexpected, emergency need.

Catastrophic health insurance often has a high deductible and low monthly premium, making it ideal for adults in their 20s who are without group coverage and adults between the ages of 50 and 65 who are primarily concerned with financial losses associated with heart attacks, accidents, and other serious illnesses. They are generally healthy, take few or no prescription medications, and would rather pay out-of-pocket for the occasional office visit to save on their monthly insurance premiums.

Deductibles

Catastrophic plans typically cover only major hospital and medical expenses above a certain deductible. The insured is responsible for paying the entire deductible, together with follow up doctor visits and any prescription drugs. Deductibles typically start at $2,500 and can be much higher-the higher the deductible, the less expensive the monthly premiums. If your treatment costs do not exceed your deductible, the insurer will pay nothing.

Limits

Most catastrophic health plans have lifetime maximum benefits payments. Once the expenses of your treatments have reached the amount of your cap, the insurance company will not pay for additional medical expenses and the policy will be voided.

Considerations

Before you buy a catastrophic health plan, consider:

How much of a deductible can you afford?

How extensive do you want your coverage to be?

Do you need prescription medicines?

Can you afford to pay for your own doctor’s office visits?

Do you have any pre-existing conditions?

Do you get sick often?