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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

The guidelines for employers regarding who they can or cannot classify as a W-2 employee or a 1099 Contractor have seen some changes in past years, but the latest court ruling means some dramatic changes are going to be taking place as businesses come into compliance with the new standard.  On April 30, 2018, the California Supreme Court passed down a ruling regarding the classification of W-2 employees and 1099 contractors which alters it yet again.  So listen up, as this may impact your business!

Previously there was a lengthy multi-factor test that an employer would use to determine if they had classified all of their 1099 contractors correctly or if they needed to re-classify them as W-2 employees.  Now the California Supreme Court is stating that employers need to use the ABC test.

The test established by the Court in California reads as follows:

“The [new] ABC test presumptively considers all workers to be employees, and permits workers to be classified as independent contractors only if the hiring business demonstrates that the worker in question satisfies each of three conditions: (a) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; and (b) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and (c) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.” – Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, No. S222732 (Cal. Sup. Ct. Apr. 30, 2018)

This new standard makes California’s policy regarding independent contractors one of the most restrictive in the United States.

Employers who traditionally hire employees for short periods to help them get through their busy season but pay them as 1099 contractors will no longer be able to do so.  If you hire someone to perform the same work that your company already performs, even if it is for a shorter period of time, they will need to be hired and paid as any other W-2 employee.

This will mean increased costs for employers in many areas including, but not limited to, increased taxes through FICA, workers comp premiums, and in some cases health benefit premiums if the employees meet the eligibility criteria.  However, even with the potential increase in costs, the penalty for non-compliance with the new 1099 employee test could be much higher.

By Elizabeth Kay

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.

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.

 

By Karen Hsu
Originally Published By United Benefits Advisors

 

Since the ACA was enacted eight years ago, many employers are re-examining employee benefits in an effort to manage costs, navigate changing regulations, and expand their plan options. Self-funded plans are one way that’s happening.

In 2017, the UBA Health Plan survey revealed that self-funded plans have increased by 12.8% in the past year overall, and just less than two-thirds of all large employers’ plans are self-funded.

Here are six of the reasons why employers are opting for self-funded plans:

1. Lower operating costs frequently save employers money over time.

2. Employers paying their own claims are more likely to incentivize employee health maintenance, and these practices have clear, immediate benefits for everyone.

3. Increased control over plan dynamics often results in better individual fits, and more needs met effectively overall.

4. More flexibility means designing a plan that can ideally empower employees around their own health issues and priorities.

5. Customization allows employers to incorporate wellness programs in the workplace, which often means increased overall health.

6. Risks that might otherwise make self-funded plans less attractive can be managed through quality stop loss contracts.

If you want to know more about why self-funding can keep employers nimble, how risk can be minimized, and how to incorporate wellness programs, contact us for a copy of the full white paper, “Self-Funded Plans: A Solid Option for Small Businesses.”

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard several cases with employment implications during their 2018 session, including the following four cases we covered in detail. (Click the case names to read the full articles.)

  • Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro: Encino shifted the burden of proof in Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime exemption cases to the plaintiff, meaning that if employees cannot prove they were misclassified, they will not be entitled to overtime pay.
  • Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis: Epic held that employers may enforce class action waivers in arbitration agreements rather than being obligated to allow employees to unite in a class action suit.
  • Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. V. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: Masterpiece argued the key civil rights issues of discrimination versus freedom of religion. Although both sides declared a win, the court simply decided that the law is the law and employers cannot deny equal access to goods and services but also religion remains a highly-protected civil right.
  • Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees: Janus ruled that public sector employees are not required to pay fees to a union they choose not to join, even if they receive the benefits of the union’s negotiations.

Notable cases that SCOTUS declined to hear in 2018 touched on tip pooling, Americans with Disabilities (ADA) leave, age discrimination, sexual discrimination, and compensation during rest breaks.

The overall trend in the 2018 rulings was a tendency to favor employers. This conservative lean of the court was also reflected in its ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, where the court held the president lawfully exercised the broad discretion granted to him under federal law to suspend the entry of people from certain countries into the United States.

What’s Coming Up?

With Brett Kavanaugh’s potential confirmation as the new SCOTUS justice due to Justice Kennedy’s retirement, SCOTUS will likely continue on the conservative trend. The EEOC is speculating that cases potentially on the docket for the Supreme Court next season may be related to age discrimination, equal pay, sexual orientation, and gender identity, including possible appeals of these circuit court decisions:

  • Rizo v. Yovino: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that under the federal Equal Pay Act an employer cannot justify a wage differential between male and female employees by relying on prior salary.
  • EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that employers may not discriminate against employees because of failure to conform to sex stereotypes, transgender, or transitioning status.
  • Kleber v. CareFusion Corporation: The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that an outside job applicant can assert a disparate impact claim under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. (Disparate impact refers to employment practices that appear to be nondiscriminatory but adversely affect one group of protected class individuals more than others.)
  • Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc.: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Other cases being considered include the applicability of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to small public employers, whether the Federal Arbitration Act applies to independent contractors, and whether payment to an employee for time lost from work is compensation subject to employment taxes.

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

“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

 

Lately, there’s been a big focus on America’s opioid addiction in the news. Whether it’s news on the abuse of the drug or it’s information sharing on how the drug works, Americans are talking about this subject regularly. We want to help educate you on this hot topic. Check out this short video for more!

Kathy! You are amazing! I was speaking with Dr. Abel today re a patient and on his own he brought up how you were able to fix his wife and daughter’s insurance in less than 24 hours AND you were so NICE and PROFESSIONAL. He then said you were AMAZING. I absolutely love working with you, Ron, and the entire gang! Just wanted to pass this on - and again thank you for all you do for us!!!!

- Office Manager, Surgical Center in San Francisco

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