The 80s Are Back, According to the NLRB | Cupertino Benefits Agency

On September 14, 2018, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced in the Federal Register a proposed rule to return its joint-employer standard to its 1984 standard — a standard that stood until 2017. It’s returning to the days of Footloose dancing, Sixteen Candles high school sweethearts, Karate Kid champions, and the principle that a joint-employer of another’s employees applies only if:

  • The employer possesses and exercises substantial, direct, and immediate control over the essential terms and conditions of employment; and

  • The employer has done so in a manner that is not limited and routine.

Under the NLRB’s proposed rule, indirect influence and contractual reservations of authority would no longer be sufficient to establish a joint-employer relationship.

Why Does This Matter to Your Business?

You may be asking, “What does a 1984 image of Kevin Bacon dancing in a barn with a Sony Walkman have anything to do with my business?” (By the way, I heard it wasn’t actually him dancing in that scene but that is completely unverified — so it’s off the record.)

Okay, 1980s hit movies don’t have anything to do with your business, but according to the NLRB, re-establishing the 1984 standard best meets the intent of the National Labor Relation Act’s joint-employer doctrine by not drawing third parties, who have not played an active role in deciding wages, benefits, or other essential terms and conditions of employment, into a collective-bargaining relationship for another employer’s employees.

What Happens Next?

The NLRB invites public comments on all aspects of the proposed rule; however, they must be received on or before November 13, 2018. Feel free to peruse our prior blog articles and law alerts on the joint-employer issue because apparently it is in constant flux. (I’d make a Back to the Future reference here but that movie wasn’t released until 1985.)

And here’s the proposed rule. Have at it . . . because you gotta cut loose.


by Samantha Yurman

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Moments of Clarity: Being Transparent | California Employee Benefits

Aristotle was right when he said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Companies and politicians like to say that they’re transparent, when in fact, they’re often the opposite. And, as in nature, in the absence of facts, people will often fill their minds with what is perceived.

If you’re working at a company, rather than being one of its customers, and you’ve been told by senior management that they’re transparent about what goes on, then make sure you take a close look at what they’re willing to share.

In the article titled “The Price of Secrecy” in Human Resource Executive Online, employers are quick to cite company policy, yet are reticent to share if and how those policies are being enforced. This has a huge impact on employee trust and can quickly have the opposite effect on employees following said policy.

Basically, employees want to know that if they follow the rules, others will also follow them, or there will be consequences for not doing so. Companies can hide behind the mantra of “it’s being handled,” or “it’s an employee issue,” but what the employer may forget is that gossip will sometimes fill in the unknown. Compounding matters is that employees want to know that if a colleague violates company policy, the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

Employers seldom reveal any disciplinary process or policy enforcement simply because it may violate privacy, or it might embarrass either the employee or employer. For example, an employee has been stealing company property for months. Eventually, the employee is caught, but it may reflect poorly on the employer that it took a long time to realize this was happening, or that safeguards were not in place to prevent the theft in the first place. So, while the employer wants to inform its employees about this violation and how it was handled, they also don’t want to expose vulnerabilities that could undermine the employee’s trust in the company.

Another benefit of policy transparency is that it keeps the enforcers honest. That is, if a company employee is responsible for doling out punishment, then that person is more likely to do it fairly and impartially if they know everyone is watching.

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

Redesigned W-4 Form to Launch in 2020 | CA Benefits Partners

W-4 form.jpg

When will the new Form W-4 be released? In 2020, according to a press release published by the Treasury Department on September 20, 2018. The department announced that the IRS will implement a redesigned W-4 form for tax year 2020, a timeline that will allow for continued work to refine the new approach for the form.

As a result of the enactment of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the Treasury Department and the IRS are revising the wage withholding system and Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. In June 2018, the IRS released a draft redesigned form for public comment and received many suggestions for improvements, which they are working to integrate.

For tax year 2019, the IRS will release an update to the Form W-4 that is similar to the 2018 version currently in use. The 2019 form will be released in the coming weeks according to the usual practice for annual updates.

The Treasury Department and IRS will continue working closely with the payroll and the tax community as additional changes are made to the Form W-4 for use in 2020. The intent of these additional changes is to make the withholding system more accurate and more transparent to employees. The IRS will release the 2020 form and related guidance and information early enough in 2019 to allow employers and payroll processors ample time to update their systems.


by Samantha Yurman
Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Look Backward to Plan Forward | CA Benefits Agents

We have entered Open Enrollment season and that means you and everyone in your office are probably reading through enrollment guides and trying to decipher it all. As you begin your research into which plan to choose or even how much to contribute to your Health Savings Account (HSA), consider evaluating how you used your health plan last year. Looking backward can actually help you plan forward and make the most of your health care dollars for the coming year.

Forbes magazine gives the advice, “Think of Open Enrollment as your time to revisit your benefits to make sure you are taking full advantage of them.” First, look at how often you used health care services this year. Did you go to the doctor a lot? Did you begin a new prescription drug regimen? What procedures did you have done and what are their likelihood of needing to be done again this year? As you evaluate how you used your dollars last year, you can predict how your dollars may be spent next year and choose a plan that accommodates your spending.

Second, don’t assume your insurance coverage will be the same year after year. Your company may change providers or even what services they will cover with the same provider. You may also have better coverage on services and procedures that were previously not eligible for you. If you have choices on which plan to enroll in, make sure you are comparing each plan’s costs for premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance for next year. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a plan based on how it was written in years prior.

Third, make sure you are taking full advantage of your company’s services. For instance, their preventative health benefits. Do they offer discounted gym memberships? What about weight-loss counseling services or surgery? How frequently can you visit the dentist for cleanings or the optometrist? Make sure you know what is covered and that you are using the services provided for you. Check to see if your company gives discounts on health insurance premiums for completing health surveys or wellness programs—even for wearing fitness trackers! Don’t leave money on the table by not being educated on what is offered.

Finally, look at your company’s policy choices for life insurance. Taking out a personal life insurance policy can be very costly but ones offered through your office are much more reasonable. Why? You reap the cost benefit of being a part of a group life policy. Again, look at how your family is expected to change this year—are you getting married or having a baby, or even going through a divorce? Consider changing your life insurance coverage to account for these life changes. Forbes says that “people entering or exiting your life is typically a good indicator that you may want to revisit your existing benefits.”

As you make choices for yourself and/or your family this Open Enrollment season, be sure to look at ALL the options available to you. Do your research. Take the time to understand your options—your HR department may even have a tool available to help you estimate the best health care plan for you and your dependents. And remember, looking backward on your past habits and expenses can be an important tool to help you plan forward for next year.

9 Reasons Why Stay-at-Home Parents Need Life Insurance | CA Benefits Brokers

kids in car.jpg

You’re probably already aware that a parent with a job outside the house most likely needs life insurance to protect their loved ones in case something were to happen. But it’s not just breadwinners who need coverage—stay-at-home parents do, too. Here are nine reasons why.

1. To replace the value of their labor. Stay-at-home parents are caretakers, tutors, cooks, housekeepers, chauffeurs, and so much more 365 days a year. And all that work comes with a price tag: Salary.com reports that stay-at-home parents contribute the equivalent of a $162,581 annual salary to their households. If the unthinkable were to happen, a surviving partner would be on the hook for a slew of new expenses that the stay-at-home parent previously shouldered. Term life insurance is generally a quick and affordable way to get a substantial amount of coverage like this for a specific period of time, such as 10 or 20 years—often until you pay of your mortgage or the kids are grown and gone.

2. To factor in the contributions of any future income. Many stay-at-home parents return to the workforce once their kids are older. Life insurance could help bridge the gap that their future earnings would have contributed to their household.

3. To pay off any debt. From student loans to credit card debt to an informal loan from a family member, there are lots of ways to owe money. Life insurance can help settle any debts left behind so they don’t create stress for grieving loved ones.

4. To cover funeral expenses. Would you believe that the average funeral runs between $7,000 and $10,000, according to parting.com? And that may not cover the cost of the burial, headstone and other expenses. Many families want to honor a loved one’s memory, but have trouble finding the funds to cover all the costs. Fortunately, the payout from a life insurance policy can help cover final wishes.

5. To leave a legacy. If a stay-at-home spouse has a passion for a place of worship, an alma mater, or another nonprofit organization, life insurance proceeds can be used to leave a meaningful charitable gift.

6. To boost savings. Permanent life insurance, which offers lifelong protection as long as you pay your premiums, may offer additional living benefits such as the ability to build cash value. This can be used in the future for any purpose you wish, from making a down payment on a house to paying for college tuition. Keep in mind, though, that withdrawing or borrowing funds will reduce your policy’s cash value and death benefit if not repaid.

7. To guarantee insurability. Your health can change in an instant. Getting a permanent life insurance policy when you’re young and healthy means you’ll have lifelong coverage. Then you won’t have to worry if later on you develop a health condition that would make it hard or even impossible to get life insurance.

8. To receive tax-free benefits. Life insurance is one of the few ways to leave loved ones money that is generally income-tax free.

9. To give loved ones peace of mind. Losing a parent and partner before their time is already hard enough without having to worry about unsettled debts, childcare costs, funeral bills, and other expenses.

As you can see, life insurance for stay-at-home parents is just as important as it is for parents who work outside the home. Schedule a time to talk with an insurance professional in your community to learn about your options and get coverage that fits your lifestyle and budget.

 

by Amanda Austin
Originally posted on lifehappens.org

Wearable Technology in the Workplace | California Benefit Advisors

Don’t lie--we ALL love gadgets. From the obscure (but hilariously reviewed on Amazon) Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer to the latest iteration of the Apple empire. Gadgets and technology can make our lives easier, make processes faster, and even help us get healthier. Businesses are now using the popularity of wearable technology to encourage employee wellness and increase productivity and morale.

Do You Have Mixed Emotions about Open Enrollment? | CA Benefits Agency

It’s typical to have mixed feelings about the annual benefits open enrollment period. Dread for the additional administrative workload and potential benefits cost increases… Anticipation of newer, more attractive, and easier to administer plans… It makes for a fall season that causes many HR professionals and benefits brokers to drown their misery in pumpkin spice lattes.

Better Benefits Attract and Retain Talent

A high-quality employee benefits package is one of the best tools in your arsenal to attract the right talent, enhance employee engagement, and retain your most valuable employees. According to a May 2018 Harris Poll/Glassdoor survey, nearly half (48 percent) of U.S. workers cited attractive company benefits and perks as key factors in their likelihood to apply for a job, and other surveys have found that excellent benefits play a role in retaining employees.

Employees today expect their employers to be creative, consider employee needs, make benefits easy to use, and offer them choices to help manage their lifestyles. Besides health insurance, benefits protecting their incomes, such as disability insurance, financial planning, and retirement plans are important. In addition, consider that employees are tech savvy and expect to have online tools and calculators, along with complete communications, to assist them in making decisions regarding their benefit options.

5 Steps for Success

To prepare for this year’s open enrollment, focus your efforts on designing the best benefits and communications program. Make the most of marketing your benefits programs to your employees by:

  1. Reviewing workforce demographics and benefits usage to get a better understanding of employees’ stages in the lifecycle. Knowing your audience and targeting benefits communications to meet those lifecycle needs makes the benefits more personal and relevant. Employees with young families, older workers preparing for retirement, empty nesters, and young singles all have distinctly different benefits needs and interests.

  2. Packaging benefits by target group with messaging that speaks to each group’s needs while consistently reinforcing the overall benefits strategy and company branding in the messaging. Different communications delivery systems may also be important to different employee groups.

  3. Starting the messaging with why the benefits are structured as they are and what the company’s overall benefits strategy is designed to accomplish. Don’t sugarcoat any bad news about changes in the benefits program. Employees will see through it and resent attempts to hide changes that may be perceived as negative. This is a good time to highlight the important value of their benefits programs, promote wellness, encourage retirement savings, and encourage cost-effective usage of benefits programs.

  4. Keeping the messaging straightforward. Provide clear information, checklists, and decision support tools that are easy to follow. Have the details available but keep the key messages and “what you need to do for enrollment” information central to the enrollment materials.

  5. Bringing company managers and supervisors into the discussions prior to launch. Give them a heads up regarding the upcoming benefits changes and enlist their help in the process.

4 More Things to Consider

The next step is to tackle the “how” of the benefits communications and enrollment program, including:

  1. Communications delivery methods. Electronic communications? Mobile apps? Webinars? In-person company meetings? Text messages? Packages mailed to home addresses to involve the family? Use of social media? Intranet messaging? Gaming techniques? Frequent emails or instant messaging? Live hotline for questions and concerns? Combination of all methods?

  2. Enrollment methods. Online? Manual? Mobile? Make it as administratively simple as possible for both employees and the benefits administration staff. Use electronic tools if the budget allows.

  3. Timing. Establish a timeline working backwards from the date that the information must be completed with the carriers and other benefits providers. Then work forward to deliver the communications program.

  4. Frequency. Employees need time to consider their options and allow the information to soak in. Consider sending employee prompts and reminders so that the enrollment process is completed in a timely manner.

The annual open enrollment communications opportunity is precious — you can influence how employees see benefits or cost changes, motivate employees to change their health or savings habits, and let employees know that management is listening, considering their feedback valuable, and responding to their needs.

by Laura Kerekes
Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Wealthy vs Financial Fit. Here’s the Difference and Why It Matters | California Benefit Consultants

 

People can be wealthy without being financially fit, meaning they can have a lot of assets or money tied up in assets, but those assets aren’t “liquid.” Let me explain. Say you have a house that has escalated in value in the real estate market. You may have this large asset, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re financially comfortable from an income standpoint. You aren’t able to tap into that “wealth” to pay for your day-to-day expenses.

Considering Risk
The overall goal when I sit down with someone, or perhaps a couple, is to determine their wants and needs, and then give them a plan that helps them grow their assets, while achieving their income goals.

But one thing many people fail to look at is the risk during this growth period. Let’s say you’re married, and again your major asset is your home, perhaps even with a large mortgage. What if something were to happen to either one of you? Would you still be able to pay the mortgage and retain the house? Or would you need to sell your largest asset just to pay day-to-day living expenses?

That’s where life insurance comes in as a foundational piece to financial fitness. It addresses the issue of someone dying too soon—that’s a risk factor you don’t want to leave chance. And the truth is, it’s an affordable solution for almost everyone. A healthy 30-year-old can get a 20-year $250,000 level term life insurance policy for about $13 a month. Most of us can afford to find that kind of money in our budget.

What Do Romantic Partners Want?
Life Happens did the survey, “What Do Romantic Partners Want?” and we discovered some great news for most of us—people prefer a partner who is financially fit (64%) over someone who is wealthy (16%). And we explored a whole host of factors, from looks to money to relationships. And I think it’s only natural that when people are dating, all the factors that we explored in the survey come into play.

It’s when things become serious and you’re looking to settle down that you have to start asking some of the tougher questions, questions that may make you feel uncomfortable. For example, does the other person have a lot of debt or other financial obligations?

Remember, if you marry and sign on the dotted line, you become responsible for each other’s debt. I’ve seen divorces happen where one partner was racking up a huge amount of credit card debt without the other one knowing, and then in the divorce proceedings the other partner finds out that they are responsible for half that debt.

In the end, it comes down to being financially aware, asking the appropriate questions, even if they are uncomfortable ones. You need to go into a long-term relationship with your eyes and ears wide open.

 

by Marvin H. Feldman

Originally posted on lifehappens.org

Addressing Mental Health Care at Work | California Employee Benefits Advisors

Nancy Spangler, senior consultant at the Center for Workplace Mental Health of the American Psychiatric Foundation, says that one in five adults has a mental health disorder, and one in 10 has a substance abuse problem. In addition, major depression and its associated conditions cost the U.S. over $210 billion every year. Clearly, mental health is an issue we need to investigate both in our offices and across the country.

Many organizations have found that simply by working with employees to recognize depression, build empathy, and find resources, increased EAP utilization while claim dollars did the opposite. In most cases there was no formal program involved—leadership simply began talking about the issue, and the reduced stigma led to better health (and better offices!).

What can we do besides reducing stigma, especially from the top down?At the 2018 Health Benefits and Leadership Conference, experts listed five “buckets” of challenges in addressing mental health: access to care, cost of care, stigma, quality, and integration. Breaking these down into individual components not only helps employees find the support they need and deserve, but it further reduces stigma by refusing to separate mental health from medical coverage or wellness programs. Experts also recommend inviting EAPs to visit offices in person, instead of simply suggesting employees call when they can. Another increasingly popular technique is text-based therapy. This a great fit for many employees because someone is always available and the conversation is always private, even when the client is sitting at a desk in a shared space.

In addition to reducing stigma through transparency and access, employers can also help increase the quality of care available to employees. One key move is simply asking for data. How do vendors evaluate quality, meet standards, and screen for illness? Do health plan members have confidential ways to report their experiences? Mental health care should be seen no differently from other kinds of health care. Employees who have access to quality, destigmatized mental health care build stronger, more functional, and ever-happier workplaces.

 

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

Final Rule on Short-Term Limited-Duration Insurance | California Benefits Firm

On August 1, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Labor (collectively, the Departments) released a final rule that amends the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance. HHS also released a fact sheet on the final rule.

According to the Departments, the final rule will provide consumers with more affordable options for health coverage because they may buy short-term, limited-duration insurance policies that are less than 12 months in length and may be renewed for up to 36 months.

The final rule will apply to insurance policies sold on or after October 2, 2018.

For more information, contact us!


by Karen Hsu
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

Do Single People REALLY Need Life Insurance? | California Benefits Advisors

Many people make the assumption that life insurance is for married couples and those with kids. While it is true that not all single people need life insurance, there are a number of reasons when it can make (really) good sense.

 

1. You have student loan debt. Many people assume that your debt dies with you, but that’s not always the case. While the loans through the federal government are discharged (aka forgiven) if you were to die, personal loans that have a cosigner are generally not. That means if your parents, for example, co-signed your student loan through a bank, they would be responsible for paying the rest of the loan if something happened to you. There are instances when the bank has called for the loan to be paid in full immediately following a death. You don’t want to leave your parents dealing with grief and loan payments.

2. You’re living with your significant other. When you’re living together, a lot becomes shared financial responsibility. Consider this example: You need both your incomes to meet the mortgage or rent where you’re living. Have you thought about what happens if one of you dies prematurely? Would the other partner have to sell up? Find a new place to live immediately? And this is just one example of many shared financial responsibilities couple have. Adequate life insurance is an easy answer to those questions.

If your parents co-signed your student loan through a bank, they’d be responsible for paying the rest of the loan if something happened to you.

3. You plan on having kids … someday. It may not be now, but when kids do come, so do the expenses and bills. According the USDA, it costs $245,340 to raise a child to age 18, and that’s without factoring in the cost of college. Getting life insurance in place now means you have coverage in place for when you do have a child. Plus, you protect your insurability for the future. … and that leads us to the next reason.

4. You’re young and healthy. Age and health are two major drivers of how much you’ll be paying for life insurance. Why not lock in a low price if you have both of those working for you? Did you know that a healthy 30-year-old can get a 20-year $250,000 term life insurance policy for about $13 a month? Doable, right? Don’t wait until a health issue or age puts life insurance out of your reach.

5. You know you’ll be taking care of family members in the future. This may mean aging parents or perhaps you have a special-needs sibling that you help care for and support financially. What would happen to them if something happened to you and your support disappeared? Life insurance can ensure that there is money in place to fund those needs into the future. This is where it might be wise to consider a permanent life insurance policy (one that’s there for your lifetime, as long as you pay your premiums).

6. It will pay for your funeral. No one likes to think about such things, but the truth is if you die, someone will have to pay for your funeral. You wouldn’t want to leave your parents, partner or other family members struggling with grief as well as paying for a funeral and burial, which can cost an average of $7,100.

If any of this sounds daunting, just know that it does’t have to be. You can start by doing a quick calculation on your own to see if you need life insurance with this Life Insurance Needs Calculator. And just know that you can also talk things through with an insurance agent—at no cost. They will help you figure out how much you may need, and also find a policy that fits into your budget.

 

Originally posted on lifehappens.org

 

Affordable Care Act Update | California Benefit Partners

Health Insurance key words wheel.jpg

Recently, the President signed a bill repealing the Affordable Care Act’s Individual Mandate (the tax penalty imposed on individuals who are not enrolled in health insurance). While some are praising this action, there are others who are concerned with its aftermath. So how does this affect you and why should you pay attention to this change?

First, as an individual, if you do not carry health insurance, you are currently paying a penalty of $695/adult not covered and $347.50/uninsured child with penalties going even as high as $2085/household. These penalties have been the deciding factor for most uninsured Americans—go broke buying insurance but they have insurance, or go broke paying a fine and still be uninsured. With the repeal signed in December 2017, these penalties are zeroed out starting January 1, 2019.  While it seems that the repeal of the tax penalty should be good news all around, it does have some ramifications. Without reform in the healthcare arena for balanced pricing, when individuals make a mass exodus in 2019, we can expect higher premiums to account for the loss of insured customers.

As a business, you are still under the Employer Mandate of the ACA. There have been no changes to the coverage guidelines and reporting requirements of this Act. However, with healthy people opt-ing out of health insurance coverage, the employer premiums can expect to be raised to cover the increased expenses of the sick. Some do predict the possibility of the repeal of some parts of the Employer Mandate —specifically PCORI fees and employment reporting. The Individual and Employer Mandates were created to compliment each other and so changes to one tend to mean changes to the other. 

So, why should you pay attention to this change? Because the balance the ACA Individual Mandate was designed to help make in the health insurance marketplace is now unbalanced. Taking one item from the scale results in instability. Both employers and employees will be affected by this tax repeal in one way or another.

 

DOL Updates the Employer CHIP Notice | Cupertino Employee Benefits

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has updated the model notice for employers to use to inform employees about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). All employers with group health plans are required to distribute a CHIP notice at least once a year to employees living in certain states. There is no need to send another notice to workers who received the prior version in the past year, but employers should use the updated notice going forward. This also is a good time for employers to review their procedures for distributing CHIP notices.

The following are the most frequently asked questions we receive from employers about CHIP notices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the CHIP notice?
The CHIP notice informs benefits-eligible employees that their state’s CHIP or Medicaid program may offer premium assistance to help them pay for group health coverage at work. Many states offer some form of premium assistance to residents based on their family income. The updated notice includes contact information for each participating state (currently 37 states) and explains that persons approved for premium assistance have a special 60-day enrollment period to join their employer’s group plan without having to wait for the employer’s next annual enrollment period.

Does the CHIP notice requirement affect all employers?
All employers that offer a group health plan providing medical benefits, whether insured or self-funded, must consider the CHIP notice requirement. Each employer then will determine if it must distribute the notice depending on whether any of its employees live in one of the states listed in the notice.

Further, all group health (medical) plans must offer a special 60-day enrollment period when an employee becomes eligible for premium assistance (for the employee or a family member) from a state’s CHIP or Medicaid program.

Is the notice required for all employees or just for those enrolled in our group health plan?
The notice must be given to all employees living in any one of the listed states and eligible for the employer’s group health plan, whether or not currently enrolled. That is the minimum requirement. Many employers, however, choose to distribute the notice to all employees, regardless of benefits eligibility or location, to avoid the need for separate distributions when an employee’s status or location changes.

How do we prepare and distribute the notice? How often?
The DOL provides a model notice that employers can copy and distribute. Although employers have the option of creating their own notice to list only the states where their employees are located, most employers simply use the DOL model notice as it is. The model notice also is available in Spanish.

The notice must be distributed when employees initially become eligible for the employer’s health plan and then at least once a year thereafter. For convenience, most employers provide the notice at the same time as they distribute new hire materials and annual enrollment materials.

When combined with other materials, the CHIP notice must appear “separately and in a manner which ensures that an employee who may be eligible for premium assistance could reasonably be expected to appreciate its significance.” For instance, the notice may be a loose item in the same envelope with other material. If the notice is stapled inside other material, however, there should be a note on the top page or cover alerting the reader to the placement of the CHIP notice and its importance.

Do we have to mail out paper copies or can we distribute the notice electronically?
The notice may be sent by first-class mail. Alternatively, it can be distributed electronically if the employer follows the DOL’s guidelines for electronic delivery of group health plan materials. That means that the employer first must determine whether the intended recipient has regular access to the electronic media system (e.g., email) as an integral part of his or her job. If so, the notice can be sent electronically provided the employer takes steps to ensure actual receipt, along with notifying the employee of the material’s significance and that a paper copy is available at no cost.

For persons who do not have regular access to the electronic media system, the notice cannot be sent electronically unless the intended recipient provides affirmative consent in advance. The guidelines for obtaining advance consent are fairly cumbersome, so employers are advised to distribute paper copies in these cases.

Summary

Employers offering group health plans are encouraged to review their procedures for distributing CHIP notices. At a minimum, the notice must be given annually to all employees eligible for the employer’s health plan who live in any of the states listed in the notice. Many employers choose to distribute the notice to all workers in an abundance of caution. The DOL provides model notices in English and Spanish that do not need any customization, so employers can simply copy and distribute one or both versions as needed.

 

by Kathleen Berger
Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Trust Equation | California Benefits Partners

We are currently living in a low-trust society as a whole — we keep hearing that news is fake, science is fake, and so on. That makes it hard for us to trust anyone and is why we need to work on building trust in the workplace more than ever. Human resources professionals and business leaders have an imperative to instill a culture of trust — not just because it is key to employee engagement, satisfaction, and performance, but also because it’s just the most human thing to do.

When you look at the foundations of trust, they are simple: People want to trust that they are going to be treated with respect, that their leaders are credible, and what they do matters. They want to know that they are secure.

There are three building blocks of trust: protection, presence, and progress. I call them my “Three Ps.”

Protection

Feeling protected is a foundational need. To earn the trust of someone else, you need to provide this protection. Your employees want to feel that the organization and their bosses are looking out for them, and that they genuinely care. Underlying the protection we all need and desire are “BLT” (just like the comforting feeling of the classic BLT sandwich): balance, love, and truth. When people feel protected, they are going to demonstrate kindness, loyalty, courage, and generosity.

When you don’t instill a sense of protection, it will stifle innovation and slow down the organization.

Presence

Presence is simple. It’s literally being present in all your interactions — meetings, one-on-one discussions, and interviews. We talk a lot about mindfulness these days, but it extends beyond the personal to the relational. Today, it feels like no one is ever present — we are all tuned in to our devices all the time. So turn off your computer, phone, tablet, watch, etc. when someone comes into your office, stay focused in conversations, and don’t bring your devices to meetings. Put your attention into what you value. Enjoy the present moment and truly experience it.

Lack of presence sends a message of lack of trust.

Progress

As humans, we constantly make progress, minute by minute. We want to know that we are moving in the right direction. How are we helping our employees make progress? Are we focused on helping them move ahead? Supporting your employees’ efforts and making progress is vital to helping them feel that you care about them fundamentally.

I have a personal philosophy of growth and recommend setting weekly growth plans. I pick one personal topic, like last week was protein, and I investigate to understand it. I also pick one work topic, like running better meetings and investigate that for the week. It’s not complicated — just pick a topic and spend the week growing at it.

Ask the Right Questions

Communicating needs is important, but it takes trust to do that. One way to develop the three Ps of trust is by asking the right questions, then really listening to the answers and acting on them. It shows you care and that you want to help people not feel like they are stranded or drowning. It tells your staff it’s safe to say that they are overwhelmed or hung up somewhere, or they don’t have the answers.

Questions for one-on-ones can include:

Protection

  • How is life?
  • Do you have any decisions you are hung up on?
  • Am I giving you the resources or information you need to do your job?
  • Do you have too much on your plate?

Presence

  • What are you worried about right now?
  • What rumors are you hearing?
  • Would you like more or less direction from me?

Progress

  • If you could pick one accomplishment to be proud of between right now and next year, what would it be?
  • What are the biggest time-wasters you encounter?
  • What type and amount of feedback works best for you?

 

by Dan Riordan
Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Solving Problems - While Increasing Employee Satisfaction | Cupertino Benefits Consultants

“Design thinking” is a fairly common term. Even if the phrase is new to you, it’s reasonably easy to intuit how it works: design thinking is a process for creative problem solving, utilizing creative tools like empathy and experimentation, often with a strong visual component. The term dates from 1968 and was first used in The Sciences of The Artificial, a text written by Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon.

For Simon, design thinking involved seven components, but today it’s usually distilled to five: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test. In this way, creative tools are employed to serve individuals in a group, with a solution-driven focus. It’s important to note that these components are not necessarily sequential. Rather, they are specific modes, each with specific tools that contribute equally to solving an issue.

Most significantly, as Steve Boese of HR Executive noted in a recent column, design thinking is a rising trend in HR leadership. “Those using this strategy,” he says, “challenge existing assumptions and approaches to solving a problem, and ask questions to identify alternative solutions that might not be readily apparent.”Design thinking helps teams make decisions that include employees in meaningful ways, personalize target metrics, work outside the box, and produce concrete solutions. Even teams with established, productive structures use design thinking in the review process, or to test out expanded options.

Boese says that the key shift design thinking offers any team is the opportunity to troubleshoot solutions before they’re put into real-time practice. The main goal of design thinking is not process completion, low error rates, or output reports, as with other forms of HR technology, but employee satisfaction and engagement. More often than not, this leads to increased morale and even more opportunities for success.

 

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

 

Ask the Experts: Marijuana and the ADA | Cupertino Benefits Firm

Question:
Is medical marijuana use protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? If so, what accommodations would be considered reasonable?

Answer:
You are not required to accommodate medical marijuana use under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even though medical marijuana is legal in many states, under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), marijuana is still illegal. The ADA expressly excludes people who use illegal drugs from its definition of “qualified individual with a disability.”

However, as a best practice, you should still engage in the ADA interactive process if a request for a reasonable accommodation for medical marijuana use is made. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities unless doing so would cause an undue hardship on the employer. Any request for a reasonable accommodation triggers an interactive process with the employee to determine:

  1. Whether the employee or applicant is a qualified individual with a disability, meaning they can perform the essential functions of the job with a reasonable accommodation; and
  2. What the employee’s needs are, and which appropriate accommodations could be made.

If the employee’s physician has determined that medical marijuana is the most effective treatment, a possible reasonable accommodation would be a waiver of your anti-drug policy. However, if the employee is in a safety-sensitive position, it may pose an undue hardship to make that accommodation and you should consider any other possible accommodations before denying the request.

There are no reasonable accommodations that would work in every circumstance. You will need to review the essential functions and safety requirements of the job with the employee to determine what types of reasonable accommodations may be acceptable while not imposing an undue hardship.

The Courts May Not Concur

While medical marijuana use is not protected by the ADA, this is being challenged at the state level. For example, in July 2017, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held in Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing that an employee who was fired after testing positive for marijuana could proceed with a “handicap discrimination” claim under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act.

In allowing the employee’s discrimination claim to go forward, the Court expressly rejected the employer’s argument that, because marijuana is illegal under federal law, requiring an employer to accommodate medical marijuana use is per se unreasonable.

Instead, the Court held that, at a minimum, the employer was obligated to engage in an interactive dialogue concerning the employee’s ongoing medicinal marijuana use before terminating her employment. The Court did not rule out the possibility that accommodating medicinal marijuana use could pose an undue hardship, leaving that issue open for the employer to address at a later date.


Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Staffing for Scalability | California Benefits Firm

paper-plane-1607340_1920.jpg

Vince Murdica, chief revenue officer at ThinkHR, discusses what it takes to become scalable and sustainably staff companies through bursts of rapid growth.

I’ve seen it in my own career: When companies go through rapid growth — quickly moving from 50 to 100+ employees — things start to get shaky. This period of acceleration can be compared to when a jet breaks through the sound barrier. The flight is smooth until that moment, then the plane rattles violently and feels like it’s going to break apart. But when it gets through to the other side, it’s smooth skies again and you’re now flying even faster and higher.

There is a loss of control as a company gets bigger, and not all leaders can handle it. Some career entrepreneurs prefer to start companies, grow them to around 50 people, then sell them because they are uncomfortable with the growing pains that inevitably happen beyond this point. They will do it again and again.

Other leaders are better at growth and mastering scalability. They have what it takes to grow their companies over the 100-person mark. I believe these leaders consistently do three key things when growing their staff:

#1 Hire People You Trust

When you scale up, the ability of senior management to be involved in every detail — to be in all the meetings, involved with every decision, leading all the major initiatives — breaks down. There is a human limit to how many one-on-one relationships you can manage, so your ability to manage as you gain more direct reports goes down. When growing from 50 to 100 employees, new layers of management must get formed.

At this point, delegation becomes critical, or productivity will come to a screeching halt. That’s why it’s crucial to hire managers and other people you can trust. This takes time and effort, but I believe the key to establishing this environment of trust is “hiring slow and firing fast.”

#2 Delegate Responsibility and Authority

Once you’ve hired great, trustworthy people, don’t ever delegate responsibility without also delegating authority. Your staff needs to keep everything moving while you are doing other things for the organization. They can’t wait around for you to make decisions. Hand them the power to innovate, solve problems, and reach the goals you’ve set out for them.

A mantra I borrowed from a mentor is, “I don’t mind giving speeding tickets, but if I need to give too many parking tickets, we have a problem.”

I would rather an employee charge ahead and make an informed, strategic decision that turns out to be a mistake instead of hold back and move too cautiously. Everyone on my team feels empowered. We get it done and we don’t wait. (Wait is a four-letter word.) The burden on leadership is to be sure that goals and strategy are clear, so people can move quickly, with confidence and creativity.

#3 Learn from Mistakes

To me, business is like a sport. It’s a competition. There is a winner and a loser and it’s a real-world game. Approaching it that way enforces a specific mindset around it. To use football as an example: On Monday you review the film from Sunday’s game and see how you can improve. You practice all week to make tweaks, try new plays, and fix what’s broken. Then your next game is a fresh opportunity to be a new team with a new opponent.

In business, like in any sport, we are going to make mistakes. That’s how we learn, but what’s important is that we don’t make those same mistakes again. We get into the mindset of always improving. Failing isn’t necessarily bad — it means your people aren’t afraid to innovate and achieve.

Smooth Skies Ahead

Do these three things — trust, delegate, and learn — which are so core to building a scalable team, and soon your company will be breaking through the sound barrier and once again flying smooth skies.

In the end, growth can be fun, and winning is really fun. Your team will be fulfilled and feel like they are making an impact. So to mix metaphors: Go let your team get some speeding tickets!

 

by Vince Murdica
Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Getting Married? Two Questions You Need to Ask Your Partner (but Probably Haven’t) | California Employee Benefits

Getting married is a big leap. And you may be in the midst of a whole lot of planning—from when and where to have the wedding to whom to invite. But planning the wedding and honeymoon is just the start of your life together. As you start planning your future, don’t forget to put a solid financial base in place.

While you may have already talked about joint or separate bank accounts and what gets paid by whom and when, there is probably a piece you haven’t talked about: insurance. While it isn’t top of mind for most people, talking through your insurance coverages is actually an important step. As you combine households and finances, you want to make sure that you have protection in place. Here are two questions to think about and to talk through with your partner.

Do you have any life insurance? People may get a certain amount of life insurance coverage through work, often one or two times their salary. And while that sounds like a lot, you have to consider how long that money would need to last. For example, are you buying a home together? If so, would just one of you be able to continue with the mortgage if the other died unexpectedly, or would you be forced to sell it just so you could meet day-to-day living expenses?

Plus, you also have to consider that life insurance coverage through work typically ends when your job does. So if you change jobs, you may find yourself without coverage, and you new job may or may not offer life insurance as a benefit.

The easy solution is to get your own individual life insurance policy. And for most people, it can be quite affordable. Remember, the younger and healthier you are, the less expensive coverage is. For example, a healthy 30-year-old can get a 20-year, $250,000 term life insurance policy for about $13 a month. Most people can find that in their budgets.

Do you have disability insurance? If you are working and rely on your paycheck (and how many of us can say we don’t!), this is a key piece of coverage. Disability insurance pays you a portion of your salary if you were to become sick or disabled and unable to go to work and earn your paycheck.

An individual disability insurance policy has this key benefit: It will be with you as you move from job to job.

Many people think Workers’ Comp would take care of them if something happened, but you only get this coverage if the accident is work-related. Most disability claims—more than 90%—are due to illnesses, like cancer, for example. That means if you couldn’t work, you’d have no income. What is your plan to pay your monthly costs if something like this happened? That’s where disability insurance comes in. It would replace a portion of your salary so you could continue to pay your mortgage or rent and your monthly bills until you are able to return to work.

Your employer may offer this coverage through work, so be sure to talk to your HR rep or benefits administrator to see if you have disability insurance (short-term, long-term or both) and what it covers and for how long. You can also get an individual disability insurance policy, which has this key benefit: It will be with you as you move from job to job. In a tight economy, employers are always looking for ways to trim costs and unfortunately, insurance coverage is often first on the chopping block. When you have your own policy, you never have to worry about if your next job will have coverage.

Once you have talked with your partner, if you find either of you has gaps in coverage you’d like to fill, then it makes sense to sit down with an insurance agent. Remember, they will talk through your options at no cost to you—and no pressure to buy.

 

By Maggie Leyes
Originally posted on lifehappens.org

Wearable Technology | California Employee Benefits

Don’t lie--we ALL love gadgets. From the obscure (but hilariously reviewed on Amazon) Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer to the latest iteration of the Apple empire. Gadgets and technology can make our lives easier, make processes faster, and even help us get healthier. Businesses are now using the popularity of wearable technology to encourage employee wellness and increase productivity and morale.

According to a survey cited on Huffington Post, “82% of wearable technology users in American said it enhanced their lives in one way or another.” How so? Well, in the instance of health and wellness, tech wearers are much more aware of how much, or how little, they are moving throughout the day. We know that our sedentary lifestyles aren’t healthy and can lead to bigger health risks long term. Obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and Type 2 Diabetes are all side effects of this non-active lifestyle. But, these are all side effects that can be reversed with physically getting moving. Being aware of the cause of these problems helps us get motivated to work towards a solution.

Fitbit, Apple Watch, Pebble, and Jawbone UP all have activity tracking devices.  Many companies are offering incentives for employees who work on staying fit and healthy by using this wearable technology. For example, BP Oil gave employees a free Fitbit in exchange for them tracking their annual steps. Those BP employees who logged 1 million steps in a year were given lower insurance premiums. These benefits for the employee are monetary but there are other pros to consider as well. The data collected with wearable technology is very accurate and can help the user when she goes to her physician for an ailment. The doctor can look at this data and it can help connect the dots with symptoms and then assist the provider with a diagnosis.

So, what are the advantages to the company who creates wellness programs utilizing wearable technology?

·      Job seekers have said that employee wellness programs like this are very attractive to them when looking for a job.

·      Millennials are already wearing these devices and say that employers who invest in their well-being increases employee morale.

·      Employee healthcare costs are reduced.

·      Improved productivity including fewer disruptions from sick days.

The overall health and fitness of the company can be the driving force behind introducing wearable technology in a business but the benefits are so much more than that. Morale and productivity are intangible benefits but very important ones to consider. All in all, wearable technology is a great incentive for adopting healthy lifestyles and that benefits everyone—employee AND employer. 

 

Wearable Tech.png