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Volunteering Time Off, or VTO, has become a buzz topic for many companies as of late. It involves encouraging employees to take time off from their job to plug in to their community and the nonprofits that support it. Let’s delve in deeper to understand what VTO looks like.

  • Typical VTO policies allot for 8 hours of paid time off to volunteer each year.
  • Just like Paid Time Off (PTO), VTO usually requires advance notice to the employer and approval for time away from the business.
  • Studies have shown that VTO boosts employee engagement and retention.
  • Millennials state they are attracted to companies who offer VTO.
  • VTO builds loyalty and pride for a company with its employees.
  • A recent Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) study states 20% of its respondents now offer volunteering benefits as part of their employee benefits package.

As you look for ways to engage with your employees through VTO, take a look at these resources:

  • VolunteerMatch.org—This website makes the business-to-nonprofit connection possible. Nonprofits post projects and jobs they need assistance with and then the company builds its team to help.
  • Volunteering Is CSR—An arm of Volunteer Match, this blog is for business leaders to educate themselves on best practices and case studies.
  • CatchAFire.org—This site connects professionals with nonprofits using their specific skill sets.
  • PointsofLight.org—Founded by President George H.W. Bush, this group offers toolkits to businesses and nonprofits to maximize volunteering efforts as well as offers products to maximize those efforts.

As an employer in California, what are my options in how I manage my employee’s vacation days?

First off, in California there is no legal requirement to provide paid or unpaid vacation time. But most companies do in order to recruit and retain employees. (Please note: While employers don’t have to offer vacation or PTO plans, they must comply with a number of paid leave related laws in California and various instrumentalities. This article solely addresses vacation policies.)

If you do chose to offer such a policy as the employer, earned vacation time is then considered wages and it is earned by employees as they work. In other words, vacation pay is considered a form of wages, which is given as it is earned. Please note, this also applies to Paid Time Off (PTO) earned days.

So in short, if your employee is not using vacation days, you could A) pay them off each year or B) set a cap in order to incentivize the employee to spend them. However, as the employer you CANNOT put in a “use it or lose it” policy.

A “use it or lose it” policy is when a company installs a forfeiture of vacation pay when it is not taken by a certain date, which is an illegal policy in California.

As opposed to a “use it or lose it” policy, a vacation policy that puts a “cap” or “ceiling” on the amount of vacation pay an employee can accrue is allowed. An illegal “use it or lose it” policy leads to a loss of accrued vacation pay for the employee. Meanwhile a “cap” puts a limit on how many vacation days can build up. That is to say, as soon as a set number of accrued vacation days is earned but not used, no additional vacation days accrue until the amount lowers back down below the set cap.

For example, if you set the cap at four weeks, or 160 hours, that an employee can accrue, then they will not be able to start accruing more vacation time until they have used some of their vacation hours and their hours fall below the maximum.

Even though “cap” policies are allowed, the employee must be able to take a vacation within a reasonable time frame. If a “cap” policy actually serves as a means to deny employees vacation pay or benefits, the policy would not be permissible in California. For example, a work policy of vacation days having to be taken in the year that it is earned or in a very constrained time period following when the vacation days were accrued is deemed unfair.

The employer can decide vacation pay responsibilities, such as managing when the employee can take a vacation and how long of a vacation they may take at a time. The employer can also pay the employee off at the end of the year for vacation that the employee earned and accrued that year, but ultimately did not take.

Summary:

In California, you cannot institute a “use or lose it” policy in which the employee has to use the vacation within a narrow timeframe or the same year or face loss of vacation days. You also must pay terminated employees their unused vacation days.

Employers can institute policies of cap/ceiling where there is a limit to the amount of vacation days they can accrue and must fall below that cap to get more; pay off unused vacation days for ones not used that year; and decide when and the amount of vacation days at a certain time.

Disclaimer: Any compliance related information in this blog is intended to be informational and does not constitute legal advice regarding any specific situation. Should you require further compliance assistance or legal advice, please consult a licensed attorney.

 

For more information, please visit the California Department of Industrial Relations.

Source: https://www.dir.ca.gov/dlse/faq_vacation.htm

By W. Bland
AEIS Advisors

While more and more perks — catered lunches, on-site gyms, immunizations programs — are about employee health, wellness, and happiness, they ultimately are also designed to keep workers at work. A recent article in Quartz at Work points out that more than anything, employees want more time off and out of the office. Unlimited time off, to be exact.

Once the perk of tech firms and startups, more companies are beginning to explore unlimited paid time off. And, though still rare at only one to two percent of companies, it’s a popular request in part because workforce demographics continue to shift. Nearly half of employees are Millennials, whose priorities are changing the benefits conversation. For this group, finding more balance and having more control of their time are key. In part, this may be because time off has fundamentally changed. Well and Good looks at the fact that, with near-constant connectedness, vacation days often still involve checking email and getting other notifications.

Add to that cultural and workplace expectations of accessibility and availability, and workers are at risk for burnout. One in four workers report feeling burned out all the time and almost half feel burned out sometimes. This burnout can cost employers in lost productivity, and employees in terms of health and happiness. Today, someone doesn’t need to psychically spend 90 hours a week at the office to be working 90 hours. With our always-on lives, restorative time off is rarer but still as important to prevent burnout.

That doesn’t mean every business is jumping on the unlimited time off bandwagon. Want other ideas? A writer for The Guardian suggests a middle ground, with more days off the longer an employee has worked at a company. And, while rollover sounds generous, it may make employees less likely to use it. Want to give it a try but concerned about misuse? Business Management Daily suggests it’s also more than reasonable to consider limits on unlimited and critical to set sound guidelines around pay as well as whether days off can be all in a row.

For many employees, unlimited time off offers the extra flexibility for life’s challenges and can aid satisfaction and retention. Before HR Departments worry the system will be abused, research shows that people take significantly less time off when it’s unlimited. In fact, what may be more impactful is a minimum number of days off may be required so as to ensure employees take advantage of a benefit meant to restore and replenish their energy, creativity, and engagement. To work, it needs to be modeled by managers and other higher-ups, as a CEO details in a Chicago Daily Herald article.

By Bill Olson

Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

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

Thank you for putting the Plan Document together for us!  It is a big accomplishment knowing that we are in compliance!   Once again we are grateful and thankful for your continuing support and enjoy the relationship that we share.

- Office Manager, Food Distribution Company

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