Ask the Experts: FMLA Leave and Attendance Incentives | Cupertino Benefits Advisors

Question: We give year-end bonuses based on attendance, and employees with a certain number of absences are disqualified. If an employee took FMLA leave, can we count those absences against them and withhold the attendance bonus?

Answer: Yes, if you apply the rubric used to qualify employees for the bonus consistently across all “equivalent leave status” reasons for absence. For example, if you count days off for vacation, paid time off, jury duty, or military leave as absences for the purpose of determining who receives the bonus, you can also count days taken under Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave.

The same answer applies to bonuses earned for other goals that may be impacted by FMLA leave, such as sales targets or total numbers of hours worked.

If a bonus or raise is not tied to a specific condition, but rather is a cost of living or annual increase provided by all employees, an employee may not be disqualified on the basis of having taken FMLA leave.

 

Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

Workplace Wellness | CA Insurance Agency

cubicle office.jpg

Picture this: You are sitting at your desk at 3pm and you realize you haven’t gotten up from your chair all day. You look around and see that you’ve been snacking instead of eating a lunch. You have read the same sentence 4 times and still can’t figure out what it means. Your back hurts, your eyes feel dry, and you feel kind of blah. You, my friend, are a victim of the sedentary lifestyle in America. How can we combat this lack of energy and inattentiveness in our workplace? By adopting healthy workplace initiatives, you will reap the benefits of a more engaged workforce and a healthier environment.

 

What’s the problem?

·      The average worker sits 7.5 hours at a desk every day

·      Add in couch time, sitting to eat meals, commute, and sleeping, and it could mean that the average adult is only active for 3 hours in a 24-hour period

·      Prolonged sitting is directly related to higher risk of heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes

·      Poor posture can lead to chronic health issues such as arthritis and bursitis

·      Staring at computer screens for long amounts of time lead to higher instances of headaches and migraines

 

What’s the solution?

·      Healthy snack options in vending machines—SnackNation and Nature Box have healthy snack delivery services for offices of all kinds and sizes.

·      Fitness challenges—Encourage different office-wide challenges to promote a more active lifestyle.

o   Incentives for most consecutive gym check-ins

o   Step contests using fitness trackers such as FitBit, Pebble, and AppleWatch

o   Bike or Walk to Work Days

·      Standing desks—Companies such as Varidesk make standing desks or sit/stand desks that lower and raise so that you vary your position during the day

o   Reduces back pain

o   Burns more calories during the day

o   Increases energy

o   Some insurance companies will cover all or portion of the cost if they deem it “medically necessary.”

·      Practice gratitude—keep a daily log of things to be thankful for that day

o   Shown to ease depression, curb appetite, and enhance sleep

o   Spirit of gratefulness leads to more sustainable happiness because it’s not based on immediate gratification, it’s more of a state of mind

·      Get moving during the day—if your office doesn’t have sit/stand desks, schedule time to move each day

o   Stretch time/desk yoga

o   Computer programs to remind you to move such as “Move” for iOS and “Big Stretch Reminder” for Windows

·      Extra happiness in the office—

o   Add a plant

o   Aromatherapy

o   Host a cooking class to encourage healthy meal plans

o   Pet-friendly office days

By showing your employees that you care about their physical and mental health you are showing that you care about them as people and not just employees. This results in higher motivated staff who are healthier. The Harvard Business Review even says that “employers who invested in health and wellness initiatives saw $6 in healthcare savings for every $1 invested.” You cannot always measure ROI on personnel investment but it looks like for workplace wellness, you can! Now get moving and get your office moving!

IRS Extends Deadline for Employers to Furnish Forms 1095-C and 1095-B | California Employee Benefits

On November 29, 2018, the IRS released Notice 2018-94 to extend the due date for employers to furnish 2018 Form 1095-C or 1095-B under the Affordable Care Act’s employer reporting requirement. Employers will have an extra month to prepare and distribute the 2018 form to individuals. The due dates for filing forms with the IRS are not extended.

Background

Applicable large employers (ALEs), who generally are entities that employed 50 or more full-time and full-time-equivalent employees in 2017, are required to report information about the health coverage they offered or did not offer to certain employees in 2018. To meet this reporting requirement, the ALE will furnish Form 1095-C to the employee or former employee and file copies, along with transmittal Form 1094-C, with the IRS.

Employers, regardless of size, that sponsored a self-funded (self-insured) health plan providing minimum essential coverage in 2018 are required to report coverage information about enrollees. To meet this reporting requirement, the employer will furnish Form 1095-B to the primary enrollee and file copies, along with transmittal Form 1094-B, with the IRS. Self-funded employers who also are ALEs may use Forms 1095-C and 1094-C in lieu of Forms 1095-B and 1094-B.

Extended Due Dates

Specifically, Notice 2018-94 extends the following due dates:

  • The deadline for furnishing 2018 Form 1095-C, or Form 1095-B, if applicable, to employees and individuals is March 4, 2019 (extended from January 31, 2019).

  • The deadline for filing copies of the 2018 Forms 1095-C, along with transmittal Form 1094-C (or copies of Forms 1095-B with transmittal Form 1094-B), if applicable, remains unchanged:

    • If filing by paper, February 28, 2019.

    • If filing electronically, April 1, 2019.

The extended due date applies automatically so employers do not need to make individual requests for the extension.

More Information

Notice 2018-94 also extends transitional good-faith relief from certain penalties to the 2018 employer reporting requirements.

Lastly, the IRS encourages employers, insurers, and other reporting entities to furnish forms to individuals and file reports with the IRS as soon as they are ready.



by Kathleen Berger
Originally posted on ThinkHR.com

Happier Holidays, the HR Way | CA Benefits Brokers

Most people, according to a new survey featured in HR Dive, have the greatest sense of belonging in their own homes. That may not be surprising news, but what is interesting is that one third of respondents felt the greatest sense of belonging in their workplace. A significant percentage, 40 percent, attribute that feeling to actions their colleagues and managers take to check in on them, both personally and professionally. Belonging improves employee retention and productivity, certainly, but it requires acknowledgement of diversity and efforts at inclusion.

This critical sense of belonging can be deepened, or hampered, during the holiday season. Beyond secular or national holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year's, the fall and winter months are full of faith-based holidays beyond Christmas. The Society for Human Resource Management has some tips as well as a list of celebrations for the coming months intended to help companies create inclusive workspaces for people of more faiths and cultures. When employees feel valued and known, they are more engaged.

Mutual respect is not only good for morale, it’s good for productivity. Some tips include sharing more about holidays in internal communications, creating luncheons that feature traditional dishes or are mindful of dietary restrictions or fasting practices, or sponsoring a service or volunteer day.

 

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on UBABenefits.com

 

It’s Flu Season...Again | California Benefits Agency

When flu season hits, absenteeism skyrockets and productivity drops. In a recent article, Employee Benefit News points out that the first step is the "ounce of prevention,” the flu vaccine. Providing for vaccination can be a smart benefit to offer employees, and it requires navigating misinformation about the vaccine, motivating employees to act, and contending with supply issues. For employers who want to increase vaccination rates, experts suggest making the process more convenient or incentivizing getting a shot. On-site programs are more effective since they are not only more convenient but also allow employees to be motivated by seeing their coworkers getting the shot. Regardless of approach, careful planning – from scheduling to ordering to addressing employee concerns – can help an office place stay healthier.

Last year’s flu season was the worst on record, per the CDC. Shared spaces and devices make offices and workplaces perfect places for flu germs to spread. As an article in HR Dive shows, 40% of employees with the flu admit to coming to work and 10% attend a social gathering while sick. Should an employee contract the flu, employers need to have policies in place that empower and encourage workers to stay home when sick.

In “Threat of Another Nasty Flu Season Prompts Workplaces to Be Proactive,” Workforce echoes the importance of the flu shot and a no-tolerance policy toward sick employees coming to the office. Policies and a culture that encourage self care over powering through an illness can help foster calling in when needed. The article also reinforces other preventative behaviors like hand washing, staying home while feverish, and coughing into your elbow.

Read more:

HR’s recurring headache: Persuading employees to get a flu shot

40% of workers admit coming to work with the flu

Threat of Another Nasty Flu Season Prompts Workplaces to Be Proactive

 

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on UBAbenefits.com

4 Things Life Insurance Is Not | CA Employee Benefits Agency

Are you confused about life insurance? I don’t blame you. When I first started writing about finances more than a decade ago, my understanding of life insurance was limited.

I knew about life insurance because it was offered through my employer, and I thought a $50,000 policy was a lot of money. I also recognized insurance company names from late-night TV commercials and the occasional bit of junk mail.

I understood “insurance” to be that stuff that you had to have for your car, your home, and your health. The “life” part was a big, blurry blob of “other.” If that’s how you’re feeling, here are a few tips that might help bring things into focus—by understanding the “nots.”

1. Life insurance through work is generally NOT enough. Since learning this myself some years back, I’ve noticed that many people never explore life insurance past what is offered through their work. Policies through work are a great benefit to have, but are usually limited to one- or two-times your salary or a fixed amount like $50,000. Plus the coverage typically ends when your employment there does.

How far will an amount like that go when you consider what’s left behind for your loved ones: the loss of your income and mostly likely debts and bills. What about things like rent or mortgage, child-care and education costs?

An easy way to get a working idea of how much life insurance you need is with a Life Insurance Needs Calculator from a neutral source like www.lifehappens.org/howmuch.

2. Life insurance is NOT a luxury item. Many people have not even considered buying life insurance because they’re convinced it’s a luxury. In a recent study by Life Happens and LIMRA, consumers thought the cost of a 20-year, $250,000 level term life insurance policy for a healthy 30-year-old was three times higher than it generally is. Younger people, in particular, overestimate the cost of a term policy by a factor of five.

If you took a guess at what that policy above would cost, what would you say? It comes out to about $13 or so a month for that policy. Definitely not a luxury—most of us spend more than that on a meal out.

3. Life insurance is NOT just about covering funeral expenses. While covering funeral expenses is very important, and a major reason people purchase it, life insurance does so much more. If something happens to you, life insurance benefits can help replace lost income, or pay off a mortgage, or help ensure a college fund or safeguard a retirement nest egg.

The proceeds of a life insurance policy are generally tax free and can be used for anything your loved ones may need now and well into the future. Amazing, right?

4. Life insurance is NOT just for really healthy people. Granted, life insurance is less expensive the younger and healthier you are, but don’t discount it just because you’re not in triathlete shape!

Many people don’t considering buying life insurance because they think they won’t qualify. But when certain health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, are under control with a doctor’s guidance or medication, it’s often possible to qualify. You may even be able to get coverage after a heart attack. Just know that it is probably best to work with an experienced insurance agent if you are concerned about a health issue and qualifying for coverage.

Now, if you’re a bit overwhelmed with this information and perhaps don’t know where to start, just know that a life insurance agent will sit down with you at no cost to go over your needs and help you get life insurance coverage to fit your budget. If you don’t have an agent or advisor, go here for suggestions on how to find one. You can also tap the Agent Locator there to find someone in your area.

Remember, the right agent or advisor can help you make sense of the confusion and get you on track for the financial future you want—with the protection your loved ones need.

by Helen Mosher
Originally posted on LifeHappens.org

PCORI Fee Increase for Health Plans | California Benefits Consultants

On November 5, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released Notice 2018-85 to announce that the health plan Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) fee for plan years ending between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019 will be $2.45 per plan participant. This is an increase from the prior year’s fee of $2.39 due to an inflation adjustment.

Background

The Affordable Care Act created the PCORI to study clinical effectiveness and health outcomes. To finance the nonprofit institute’s work, a small annual fee — commonly called the PCORI fee — is charged on group health plans.

The fee is an annual amount multiplied by the number of plan participants. The dollar amount of the fee is based on the ending date of the plan year. For instance:

  • For plan year ending between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018: $2.39.

  • For plan year ending between October 1, 2018 and September 30, 2019: $2.45.

Insurers are responsible for calculating and paying the fee for insured plans. For self-funded health plans, however, the employer sponsor is responsible for calculating and paying the fee. Payment is due by filing Form 720 by July 31 following the end of the calendar year in which the health plan year ends. For example, if the group health plan year ends December 31, 2018, Form 720 must be filed along with payment no later than July 31, 2019.

Certain types of health plans are exempt from the fee, such as:

  • Stand-alone dental and/or vision plans;

  • Employee assistance, disease management, and wellness programs that do not provide significant medical care benefits;

  • Stop-loss insurance policies; and

  • Health savings accounts (HSAs).

HRAs and QSEHRAs

A traditional health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is exempt from the PCORI fee, provided that it is integrated with another self-funded health plan sponsored by the same employer. In that case, the employer pays the PCORI fee with respect to its self-funded plan, but does not pay again just for the HRA component. If, however, the HRA is integrated with a group insurance health plan, the insurer will pay the PCORI fee with respect to the insured coverage and the employer pays the fee for the HRA component.

A qualified small employer health reimbursement arrangement (QSEHRA) works a little differently. A QSEHRA is a special type of tax-preferred arrangement that can only be offered by small employers (generally those with fewer than 50 employees) that do not offer any other health plan to their workers. Since the QSEHRA is not integrated with another plan, the PCORI fee applies to the QSEHRA. Small employers that sponsor a QSEHRA are responsible for reporting and paying the PCORI fee.

PCORI Nears its End

The PCORI program will sunset in 2019. The last payment will apply to plan years that end by September 30, 2019 and that payment will be due in July 2020. There will not be any PCORI fee for plan years that end on October 1, 2019 or later.

Resources

The IRS provides the following guidance to help plan sponsors calculate, report, and pay the PCORI fee:

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Be the Boss You Want to See in the World | CA Benefits Advisors

An article in the Harvard Business Review suggests that the traits that make someone become a leader aren’t always the ones that make someone an effective leader. Instead, efficacy can be traced to ethicality. Here are a few tips to be an ethical leader.

Humility tops charisma
A little charisma goes a long way. Too much and a leader risks being seen as self-absorbed. Instead, focus on the good of the group, not just sounding good.

Hold steady
Proving reliable and dependable matters. Showing that—yes—the boss follows the rules, too, earns the trust and respect of the people who work for you.

Don’t be the fun boss
It’s tempting to want to be well liked. But showing responsibility and professionalism is better for the health of the team—and your reputation.

Don’t forget to do
Analysis and careful consideration is always appreciated. But at the top you also have to make the call, and make sure it’s not just about the bottom line.

Keep it up!
Once you get comfortable in your leadership role, you may get too comfortable. Seek feedback and stay vigilant.

A company that highlights what happens when leaders aren’t the ones to champion ethics is presented in Human Resource Executive. Theranos had a very public rise and fall, and the author of the article cites the critical role compliance and ethics metrics might have played in pushing for better accountability. The article also makes the case for the powerful role of HR professionals in helping guide more impactful ethics conversations.

One high profile case study of a company recognizing that leadership needed to do more is Uber. Here, leadership realized that fast growth was leading to a crumbling culture. A piece in Yahoo! Sports shows how explosive growth can mean less time to mature as a company. Instead of focusing of partnerships with customers and drivers, Uber became myopically customer-and growth-focused. This led to frustrations for drivers and ultimately a class-action lawsuit. New initiatives, from tipping to phone support to a driver being able to select riders that will get them closer to home, have been rolled out in recent months. These changes have been welcome, but, as the leadership reflected, could have been more proactively implemented to everyone’s benefit. The mindset of bringing people along will also potentially help Uber maintain better ties with municipalities, which ultimately, is good for growth.

Harvard Business Review - Don’t Try to Be the “Fun Boss” — and Other Lessons in Ethical Leadership

Yahoo! SportsHow Uber is recovering from a ‘moral breaking point’

Human Resource Executive An Ethics Lesson

by Bill Olson

Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

Choosing the Right Flexible Benefit for Employees | Cupertino Benefits Agency

Trying to decide which of the many employer-sponsored benefits out there to offer employees can leave an employer feeling lost in a confusing bowl of alphabet soup—HSA? FSA? DCAP? HRA? What does it mean if a benefit is “limited” or “post-deductible”? Which one is use-it-or-lose-it? Which one has a rollover? What are the limits on each benefit?—and so on.

While there are many details to cover for each of these benefit options, perhaps the first and most important question to answer is: which of these benefits is going to best suit the needs of both my business and my employees? In this article, we will cover the basic pros and cons of Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSA), Health Savings Accounts (HSA), and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA) to help you better answer that question.

Flexible Spending Arrangements (FSA)

An FSA is an employer-sponsored and employer-owned benefit that allows employee participants to be reimbursed for certain expenses with amounts deducted from their salaries pre-tax. An FSA can include both the Health FSA that reimburses uncovered medical expenses and the Dependent Care FSA that reimburses for dependent expenses like day care and child care.

Pros:

  • Benefits can be funded entirely from employee salary reductions (ER contributions are an option)

  • Participants have access to full annual elections on day 1 of the benefit (Health FSA only)

  • Participants save on taxes by reducing their taxable income; employers save also by paying less in payroll taxes like FICA and FUTA

  • An FSA allows participants to “give themselves a raise” by reducing the taxes on healthcare expenses they would have had anyway

Cons:

  • Employers risk losing money should an employee quit or leave the program prior to fully funding their FSA election

  • Employees risk losing money should their healthcare expenses total less than their election (the infamous use-it-or-lose-it—though there are ways to mitigate this problem, such as the $500 rollover option)

  • FSA elections are irrevocable after open enrollment; only a qualifying change of status event permits a change of election mid-year

  • Only so much can be elected for an FSA. For 2018, Health FSAs are capped at $2,650, and Dependent Care Accounts are generally capped at $5,000

  • FSA plans are almost always offered under a cafeteria plan; as such, they are subject to several non-discrimination rules and tests

Health Savings Accounts (HSA)

An HSA is an employee-owned account that allows participants to set aside funds to pay for the same expenses that are eligible under a Health FSA. Also like an FSA, these accounts can be offered under a cafeteria plan so that participants may fund their accounts through pre-tax salary reductions.

Pros:

  • HSAs are “triple-tax advantaged”—the contributions are tax free, the funds are not taxed if paid for eligible expenses, and any gains on the funds (interest, dividends) are also tax-free

  • HSAs are portable, employee-owned, interest-bearing bank accounts; the account remains with the employees even if they leave the company

  • Certain HSAs allow participants to invest a portion of the balance into mutual funds; any earnings on these investments are non-taxable

  • Upon reaching retirement, participants can use any remaining HSA funds to pay for any expense without a tax penalty (though normal taxes are required for non-qualified expenses); also, retirees can use the funds tax-free to pay premiums on any supplemental Medicare coverage. This feature allows HSAs to operate as a secondary retirement fund

  • There is no use-it-or-lose-it with HSAs; all funds employees contribute stay in their accounts and remain theirs in perpetuity. Also, participants may alter their deduction amounts at any time

  • Like FSAs, employers can either allow the HSA to be entirely employee-funded, or they may choose to also make contributions to their employees’ HSA accounts

  • Even though they are often offered under a cafeteria plan, HSAs do not carry the same non-discrimination requirements as an FSA. Moreover, there is less administrative burden for the employer as the employees carry the liability for their own accounts

Cons:

  • To open and contribute to an HSA, an employee must be covered by a qualifying high deductible health plan; moreover, they cannot be covered by any other health coverage (a spouse’s health insurance, an FSA (unless limited), or otherwise)

  • Participants are limited to reimburse only what they have contributed—there is no “front-loading” like with an FSA

  • Participant contributions to an HSA also have an annual limit. For 2018, that limit is $3,450 for an employee with single coverage and $6,900 for an employee with family coverage (participants over 55 can add an additional $1,000; also, remember there is no total account limit)

  • Participation in an HSA precludes participation in any other benefit that provides health coverage. This means employees with an HSA cannot participate in either an FSA or an HRA. Employers can work around this by offering a special limited FSA or HRA that only reimburses dental and vision benefits, meets certain deductible requirements, or both

  • HSAs are treated as bank accounts for legal purposes, so they are subject to many of the same laws that govern bank accounts, like the Patriot Act. Participants are often required to verify their identity to open an HSA, an administrative burden that does not apply to either an FSA or an HRA

Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRA)

An HRA is an employer-owned and employer-sponsored account that, unlike FSAs and HSAs, is completely funded with employer monies. Employers can think of these accounts as their own supplemental health plans that they create for their employees

Pros:

  • HRAs are extremely flexible in terms of design and function; employers can essentially create the benefit to reimburse the specific expenses at the specific time and under the specific conditions that the employers want

  • HRAs can be an excellent way to “soften the blow” of an increase in major medical insurance costs—employers can use an HRA to mitigate an increase in premiums, deductibles, or other out-of-pocket expenses

  • HRAs can be simpler to administer than an FSA or even an HSA, provided that the plan design is simple and efficient: there are no payroll deductions to track, usually less reimbursements to process, and no individual participant elections to manage

  • Small employers may qualify for a special type of HRA, a Qualified Small Employer HRA (or QSEHRA), that even allows participants to be reimbursed for their insurance premiums (special regulations apply)

  • Funds can remain with the employer if someone terminates employment and have not submitted for reimbursement

Cons:

  • HRAs are entirely employer funded. No employee funds or salary reductions may be used to help pay for the benefit. Some employers may not have the funding to operate such a benefit

  • HRAs are subject to the Affordable Care Act. As such, they must be “integrated” with major medical coverage if they provide any sort of health expense reimbursement and are also subject to several regulations

  • HRAs are also subject to many of the same non-discrimination requirements as the Health FSA

  • HRAs often go under-utilized; employers may pay an amount of administrative costs that is disproportionate to how much employees actually use the benefit

  • Employers can often get “stuck in the weeds” with an overly complicated HRA plan design. Such designs create frustration on the part of the participants, the benefits administrator, and the employer

For help in determining which flexible benefit is right for your business, contact us!

by Blake London
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

Making a Remote Team Work | California Insurance Agents

In a tight labor market, a candidate’s potential commute can make a job more or less attractive. HumanResources reports that a quarter of employees surveyed had left a job because of the commute. When looking at just Millennials, the number jumps to one third. Employees can be choosy, selecting a job that offers more of what they want, and that means less of a commute. Companies can work around this by offering transportation amenities, flexible scheduling or more remote working opportunities.

 Forbes has a recent interview with Tamara Littleton, founder of The Social Element, who’s successfully built a remote team at the social media management agency. She argues culture starts at the top. By treating people well, which includes offering remote opportunities, it sets a tone for the whole company. Creating opportunities for in-person meetings and gatherings balance any isolation that may happen. Then, more regular face-to-face communication, essential to build trust and teamwork, comes via video calls when email might otherwise be the default. Newsletters and webinars keep the team connected and ensure important messages aren’t missed. She can point to the success of her ideas with the hire of many senior team members, willing to sacrifice some pay for more flexibility. 

When implementing remote-friendly strategies, there are plenty of success stories to draw inspiration. Entrepreneur has some tips from Zapier, a company that has been on the forefront of offering alternative working arrangements. In fact, they offer a “de-location” package to encourage employees to move from the cost-prohibitive Bay Area. Tools like Slack facilitate real-time communication, with tools to find ideal meeting times across time zones and channels themed for non-work related conversations. Bots regularly and randomly pair up employees to get a chance to know one another during a brief call. A semi-regular retreat brings people together in person and impromptu video dance parties make slow days more fun.

The takeaway? Being proactive and creative to build remote work policies can get you the employees you want, wherever they may be.

HumanResources
Travelling to and fro office may drive your employees to quit
https://www.humanresourcesonline.net/travelling-to-and-fro-office-may-drive-your-employees-to-quit/

Forbes
How To Build A Culture Of Trust In A Large Remote Team
https://www.forbes.com/sites/brettonputter/2018/10/04/how-to-build-a-culture-of-trust-in-a-large-remote-team/#5d4e5d23188c

Entrepreneur
This Company Hosts Virtual Dance Parties to Help Its 170 Remote Employees Feel Connected
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/320411


by Bill Olson

Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

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

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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