The do’s and don’ts of ADA accommodations: 3 new rulings

Are you compliant with ADA accommodation laws? More than 25,000 ADA charges were filed by the EEOC in the past year, despite employers best compliance efforts. Continue reading to learn more.


Employers are facing more disability discrimination lawsuits than ever – despite their best compliance efforts. 
In the past year alone, over 25,000 ADA charges were filed by the EEOC.

The right way to accommodate

One area that’s often a point of contention? The accommodation process. Workers and employers can have a very different idea of how a disability should be accommodated.

And while each disability needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis, several recent court rulings shed further light on employers’ ADA accommodation responsibilities.

1. In Brumley v. United Parcel Service, a court ruled that ADA accommodations don’t necessarily have to be given to employees immediately.

Melissa Brumley delivered packages for UPS when she hurt her back lifting a heavy box from her truck.

She took leave to heal, and her doctor said when she returned to work she could no longer lift packages or drive. Since these were two essential functions of her job, Brumley’s manager put her on leave while waiting on more information from her doctor.

After beginning the interactive process and considering a reassignment, Brumley’s doctor cleared her to go back to her old job, and UPS ended the process.

But Brumley sued the company for failing to accommodate her during those weeks she was on leave, which resulted in loss of pay.

A district court ruled in favor of UPS, and on appeal, the 6th Circuit agreed. It said just because the company didn’t accommodate the employee immediately didn’t mean it violated the ADA.

UPS began the interactive process and only stopped once Brumley was cleared to go back to her old job without an accommodation.

The key things the company did? Beginning the process and requesting additional info from Brumley’s doctor – this showed the court a good faith effort to comply with the ADA.

2. In Sharbono v. Northern States Power, a court ruled a company that failed to find an accommodation didn’t fail to fulfill its ADA duties.

After a foot injury, James Sharbono wasn’t able to wear the steel-toed boots required by his company’s safety procedures.

HR worked with Sharbono and suggested several accommodations, such as altering his boots and getting a custom pair made, but none worked out. Sharbono was forced to retire, and he sued for ADA violation.

But the 8th Circuit ruled the company acted in good faith. It worked with Sharbono and suggested several accommodations. It was only after exhausting all options that Sharbono was forced to retire. The court said the company fulfilled its ADA responsibilities, despite finding no accommodation for Sharbono.

3. In Stokes v. Nielsen, a court decided companies can be required to make accommodations that cover more than just essential job functions.

Jacqueline Stokes had impaired vision and received multiple accommodations that allowed her to do her job. Stokes then requested special meeting handouts, printed in large letters, that she could read beforehand.

Despite many promises from HR, Stokes never received her requested handouts. She sued, claiming to be denied a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

While the company argued it gave Stokes everything she needed to do her job, therefore fulfilling its ADA responsibilities, the Fifth Circuit disagreed.

“Our circuit has explicitly rejected the requirement that requested modifications must be necessary to perform essential job functions to constitute a reasonable accommodation,” it said. And Stokes’ request was deemed reasonable.

This case shows if an employee makes a reasonable request for their job, it’s easier to just grant it.

SOURCE: Mucha, R. (4 January 2019) "The do’s and don’ts of ADA accommodations: 3 new rulings" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://www.hrmorning.com/the-dos-and-donts-of-ada-accommodations-3-new-rulings/


4 mistakes to avoid at the intersection of FMLA and PTO

Are your leave policies explicitly outlined for your employees? A costly mistake employers often make is not outlining the concurrent rule to employees. Read on for more mistakes employers make when it comes to FMLA and PTO.


By now, many employers can recite the basic requirements of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in their sleep. The law provides eligible employees (those who have at least one year of service and 1,250 hours under their belt) with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave over a 12-month period for qualifying family-related or medical reasons. FMLA covers companies with 50 or more employees located within 75 miles of each other.

While the law itself is conceptually straightforward, administration can become incredibly complex — especially when you throw other types of leave entitlements into the mix such as workers' comp, disability leave, and paid time off (PTO).

HR Dive recently spoke with three employment law attorneys about the most common — and costly — leave administration errors employers make when it comes to the intersection of FMLA and paid leave.

Mistake #1: Not running leaves concurrently

"I would say that the biggest issue that we see is a lot of employers do not have policies that provide for the use of paid time off concurrently with the FMLA," said attorney Molly Batsch, an officer at the St. Louis office of Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C. "[Because] the FMLA regulations allow employers to require employees to use any paid time off concurrently with unpaid FMLA leave, we really encourage employers to put that specifically in their policies."

Attorney Jeff Nowak, a partner at the Chicago office of Franczek Radelet P.C., concurred via email: "A decent number of employers don't realize that they can run FMLA leave concurrently with paid leave benefits such as worker's compensation benefits — or they forget to run both at the same time."

Failing to run leaves concurrently, when permitted, can be costly for employers. A series of consecutive leaves strung together can mean longer absences and increased workplace disruption.

Mistake #2: Policy confusion

A similar mistake employers make is that they don't explicitly outline the concurrent rule to employees. Your FMLA policy should make clear that any paid time off will run concurrently with unpaid FMLA time, advised Batsch: "I think that employers have a few misconceptions about that.

"The first misconception would be that the employee gets to pick," she said. "If the employee doesn't want to run the two concurrently, then they can go ahead and take 12 weeks of unpaid FMLA and then they can take their five weeks of vacation after that, and that is not the case. It is permissible for an employer to require that time to run concurrently. So that's the first mistake I see."

Make sure your policy is abundantly obvious about that so employees don't get upset about that requirement when it's being administered.

Mistake #3: Missing an important caveat about FMLA and paid leave

There is an important exception to the general rule that employers may require an employee to use paid leave during unpaid FMLA leave, one that many employers miss, according to all three attorneys HR Dive spoke with.

"If an employee is on FMLA leave and simultaneously in receipt of a paid benefit, in any amount, FMLA leave is considered paid. When it's paid FMLA, an employer may not require that the employee substitute PTO — but it can permit that," said attorney David Mohl, a principal at the Atlanta office of Jackson Lewis PC.

For example, he said, if short-term disability provides 70% income replacement, an employer cannot require that the employee use PTO (or other paid leave) to make up the difference. If, however, there is a waiting period before that paid benefit kicks in — say, seven days — an employer may require the use of paid leave during that seven days.

Batsch noted that even if the employee is receiving paid time off via a third-party disability plan rather than an employer disability plan, "that's still a situation where you can't require an employee to run their paid time off concurrently with their FMLA time." This was clarified by the Seventh Circuit in a 2007 case (Repa v. Roadway Express, Inc., 477 F.3d 938).

Mistake #4: Forgetting to consider the patchwork of local laws

"The growing number of state and local laws heap a load of additional compliance concerns onto employers," said Nowak. "Not only are there additional considerations for accrual, carryover, and reasons for leave, but these new leave laws tend to provide job-protected leave in situations where the medical condition is not covered by the FMLA. As a result, employers cannot discipline an employee for an absence when he or she is utilizing leave covered by one of these leave laws."

Of course, those laws only make the interactions with FMLA management more complex.

"Paid parental leave policies interact with FMLA and gender discrimination laws," said Mohl. "PPL policies are, of course, a type of paid leave; some operate as a disability benefit."

Paid leave will likely continue to expand in scope in the coming months as more states and cities consider mandating it. Currently, 10 states and about 30 localities guarantee some type of paid sick leave. A number of federal policies have also been proposed, but no movement has been seen at that level yet.

SOURCE: Carsen, J. (27 November 2018) "4 mistakes to avoid at the intersection of FMLA and PTO" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.hrdive.com/news/4-mistakes-to-avoid-at-the-intersection-of-fmla-and-pto/542962/


The case for self-funded health benefit plans and reference-based pricing

Do you offer a reference-based pricing health benefit plan? A recent survey shows an increase in self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing for 2019. Read this blog post to learn more.


Self-funding and reference-based pricing are hot topics with small businesses. They are so popular, in fact, that a recent survey shows an overall increase in their 2019 projection of small employer clients having a reference-based pricing health benefit plan design. Small businesses are seeing these savings, and they’re starting to explore how reference-based pricing can help them, too.

Before we get to why self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing are becoming more popular for small businesses, let’s review the basics.

Reference-based pricing is a methodology of calculating payment to providers for covered treatments and services using a “reasonable fee” based on a reference point. A common reference point is the Medicare fee schedule. Some self-funded health benefit plans calculate the reasonable fee as a percentage of the Medicare fee schedule to determine reimbursement for services rendered.

Bottom line: Self-funded health benefit plan designs that use reference-based pricing can allow for a great deal of flexibility with a variety of arrangements and overall cost-savings.

So, what’s behind the recent trend toward reference-based pricing for smaller employers? A few key factors.

First, a self-funded health benefit plan design that uses referenced-based pricing can mean less expensive coverage for employees and employers.

When coupling a self-funded health benefit plan with stop-loss insurance, reference-based pricing provides an affordable way to extend coverage to employees through lower employee contributions. So, employees are happy because they’re saving money.

And employers are happy, too, because they’re allowing for more coverage to more employees. There’s a refund potential for employers if claims dollars are less than funded. There’s also a premium tax savings of around 2% since self-funded claim dollars are not subject to state health insurance premium taxes.

Moreover, self-funded health benefit plan designs that utilize reference-based pricing may also include transparency reports with aggregate health claims data and demographic information, which allow employers to better manage costs. Overall, anytime you can design a plan that’s beneficial for employees and employers, it’s a win.
Second, reference-based pricing can provide employees more flexibility when it comes to choosing a provider. Typically, an important feature of any health benefit plan design for employees is the ability to choose the provider they want. Some self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing give employees the chance to pick the provider that’s right for them. And, when employees are happy with their health plan, employers are usually pretty happy, too.

Finally, self-funded plan designs that use reference-based pricing can help employees become smarter healthcare consumers because of all the transparency and choice involved. When employees better understand the healthcare processes and system, costs come down for both the employee and employer. In fact, just understanding their coverage better may help employees better use their health benefit plans.

For example, using telemedicine when appropriate, establishing a relationship with a primary care doctor and using client advocacy services can all help employees better utilize their health benefit plans. In the end, employees get smarter about how they manage their care, and employers win with reduced costs.

These factors are driving more small businesses to consider reference-based pricing self-funded health benefit plan designs with stop-loss insurance. And, for good reason. These plan designs can give employers the opportunity to offer their employees affordable health benefits, provide more choice in their health plans and providers, and encourage more employee engagement. While moving to reference-based pricing may be too big of a leap for some employers, self-funding continues to provide a means for employers to offer comprehensive major medical health benefits at lower costs.

SOURCE: MacLeod, D. (6 December 2018) "The case for self-funded health benefit plans and reference-based pricing" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/the-case-for-self-funded-health-benefit-plans-and-reference-based-pricing


More pay? Nah. Employees prefer benefits

Are you considering raising salary and cutting back on benefits? A new report reveals that workers would choose a job that offers benefits over a job that offers 30 percent more salary but does not offer benefits. Read on to learn more.


Workers across the country say you can't put a price on great benefits, according to a new survey.

By a four-to-one margin (80% to 20%), workers would choose a job with benefits over an identical job that offered 30% more salary with no benefits, according to the American Institute of CPAs, which released the results of its 2018 Employee Benefit Report, a poll this spring of 2,026 U.S. adults (1,115 of whom are employed) about their views on workplace benefits.

“A robust benefits package is often a large chunk of total compensation, but it’s the employees' job to make sure they’re taking advantage of it to improve their financial positions and quality of life,” said Greg Anton, chairman of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Beyond the dollar value of having good benefits, employees gain peace of mind knowing that if they can take a vacation without losing a week’s pay or if they need to see a doctor, they won’t be responsible for the entire cost.”

Employed adults estimated that their benefits represented 40% of their total compensation package, according to the study. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, though, states that benefits average 31.7% of a compensation package. Still, workers in the report see benefits as a vital part of their professional lives.

“Despite overestimating the value of their benefits as part of their total compensation, it is concerning that Americans are not taking full advantage of them,” Anton said. “Imagine how employees would react if they were not 100% confident they could get to all the money in their paycheck. Leaving benefits underutilized should be treated the same way. Americans need to take time to truly understand their benefits and make sure they’re not leaving any money on the table.”

Other notable findings from the report include:

  • 63% of employed adults believe that being their own boss is worth more than job security with an employer, while 18% added that they will likely start or continue their own businesses next year.
  • Millennials were the most likely generation to believe that being their own boss is worth more than job security. They were also the most likely generation to start their own businesses.
  • 88% of employed adults are confident they understood all the benefits available to them when they were initially hired at their current job. However, only 28% are "very confident" they are currently maximizing all of their benefits.
  • When asked which workplace benefits would help them best reach their financial goals, 56% of adults said a 401(k) match or health insurance, with 33% citing paid time off and 31% citing a pension.
  • Baby boomers favor health insurance and having a 401(k) match more than younger generations, while 54% of baby boomers also prioritized a pension, versus only 16% of millennials.
  • Millennials put the highest priority on work-life balance benefits, such as paid time off, flexible work hours, and remote work.

For the full report, visit the AICPA’s 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy site here.

SOURCE: McCabe, S. (3 December 2018) "More pay? Nah. Employees prefer benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/workers-prefer-benefits-over-more-pay?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


The benefits issue that costs employers big: Ineligible dependents on company plans

Are you paying insurance premiums for dependents who are ineligible for your company health plan? Almost 10 percent of enrolled dependents are ineligible for the programs they are enrolled in. Read on to learn more.


Are you paying insurance premiums for people who aren’t qualified to be on your company plan?

For some employers, too often the answer is “yes.”

In our experience, we find that nearly 10% of dependents enrolled in employee health and welfare plans are not eligible to be in the program. And for a company with a couple of hundred employees that spends around $2 million a year on benefits, ineligible dependents can become a significant financial issue.

When employers pay for ineligible dependents, costs increase for them and employees. Unfortunately, it’s an all-too-common issue that employers need a solid strategy to combat.

So how do ineligible dependents get enrolled in the first place? There are a couple of common ways that employers end up paying health insurance premiums for ineligible dependents. The most basic factor is a change in a person’s situation — children pass the age of 26, spouses get jobs, people get divorced, etc. — and the employee is unaware of the need to notify the plan sponsor. Most often, these situations arise because the employer doesn’t have a process in place.

But some situations are more nefarious: An employee mischaracterizes someone as a dependent. They may claim that a nephew is a son, or that they’re still married to an ex-spouse. In either of these situations, the employer loses.

Prevent ineligible dependents with best practices

Prevent paying for ineligible dependents by putting into place best practices that begin when a new employee joins the company.

During onboarding, investigate each potential plan member when the employee applies for insurance coverage. That means seeking documentation — such as marriage certificates and birth certificates — to verify that a person is, in fact, married, or that their kids are their kids and not someone else’s. Following these processes at the outset prevents the awkwardness of having to question employees about their various family relationships. Nobody wants to ask a colleague if the divorce is final yet.

To make it easy for employees to verify everyone’s eligibility, provide access to a portal where they can upload scans or images of relevant documents. This will also make it easier to track—and keep track of—onboarding documents and dependent audits when the time comes.

Once this best practice is established, it’s important to conduct periodic dependent eligibility audits, as required by ERISA. The employer can conduct an audit or hire an external auditor. This decision is usually driven by the size of the workforce.

The most logical time to conduct an audit is during benefit enrollment. Employees are already considering options for the next plan year, and they likely won’t be confused by the need to submit verifying documents. (During this exercise, it’s also a good idea to ask plan participants to verify beneficiaries on employer-provided life insurance.)

Some employers — again, depending on the size of the workforce — will conduct random sample audits of 20-25% of their employee population. Obviously, the larger the sample size, the better. Benefits administration platforms typically streamline this process.

What happens when employers identify an ineligible dependent?

Many employers offer workers an amnesty period during which an employee can come forward to say they have someone that should be taken off the plan. If the plan sponsor identifies an ineligible dependent, employees are typically offered a one-time pass. Then, they must sign an affidavit attesting that they can be terminated if it happens again.

If the employer has processed insurance claims for an ineligible dependent, they can declare fraud and seek back payment of claims payouts. Again, most in this situation prefer a more benevolent approach and will ask the employee to make monthly differential payments until the account is even. Conducting regular dependent eligibility audits as part of the benefits administration process needs to be handled with finesse for the good of organizational culture.

Some employers may shy away from conducting audits out of concern for creating awkward situations. But frankly, it’s the plan sponsor’s job to help them navigate the waters, educate them and keep them engaged in the process by becoming their best advocates. This will not only help enhance the efficiency and accuracy of employee benefit offerings, but it will result in a smoother ride for everyone involved.

Ensuring that a health and welfare benefits program follows eligibility best practices is the responsibility of the plan sponsor. But employees have a share in that responsibility, too.

SOURCE: O'Connor, P.(28 November 2018) "The benefits issue that costs employers big: Ineligible dependents on company plans" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from:


End-of-year FSA expenses: An employer cheat sheet

Reminding your employees what expenses their flexible spending accounts (FSA) cover can help alleviate the issue of unspent FSA funds at the end of the year. Read on to learn more.


The scenario is all too familiar for employers and human resource managers: The year ends, and employees still have unspent funds in their flexible spending accounts. Whether employees forget that the money in their FSA must be used or it will be lost, or they simply aren’t aware of which expenses can be covered by FSA funds, their frustration at losing money often falls on the employer.

Reminding employees which expenses are eligible to be covered by an FSA can help mitigate headaches for employers and HR departments in the new year and shed light on lesser-known options for making the best use of remaining funds before the end of the plan year.

As a general rule, an eligible expense is any medical expense the health plan doesn’t cover. This includes things such as out-of-pocket costs, co-pays, co-insurance, hospital visits and prescription drugs. Employees also can apply their FSA funds to dental and vision expenses, which often are not covered in health insurance plans.

Some eligible expenses employees might not be aware of include flu shots, prescription sunglasses, sunscreen that is 30 SPF or higher, grooming for service dogs, acupuncture, arch supports and nutritional consultations. Employees can also use money from FSA to cover pregnancy tests and prenatal vitamins, hearing aids, canes and wheelchairs. They can also use funds to cover personal trainer fees, as long as a letter of medical necessity accompanies the claim.

The IRS determines which expenses qualify for FSAs and maintains a list on its website. Most FSA administrators have lists on their websites as well. FSA-holders can either search for individual expenses or scroll through the list to see what opportunities they might be missing. But it’s a good idea for employers to provide those lists for employees.

In addition to reminding employees what types of expenses are eligible for coverage by FSA funds, employers should review if their plan has a grace period, runout or rollover. If so, employers should communicate the details with employees, as this can help them take full advantage of the time they have to incur expenses and submit receipts for reimbursement.

A grace period is the amount of time an FSA-holder has after the end of the plan year to spend unused funds or incur expenses. A typical grace period is up to 2.5 months after the plan year ends. A run out is the amount of time an FSA-holder has after the end of the plan year to submit claims for reimbursement. In this case, expenses must be incurred before the end of the plan year. An FSA rollover allows up to $500 to be carried over from one calendar year to the next.

Employees also might not be aware that they can use FSA funds on a medical dependent, whether that dependent is covered by the FSA holder's health plan or not. For instance, if an employee has a 24-year-old daughter not covered by the employer health plan who needs a co-pay for a doctor appointment covered, the employee can use their FSA.

Lastly, it’s also important to make it clear to employees the distinction between an FSA and a health savings account. While many of the same expenses are eligible for coverage by either an FSA or HSA, make sure to remind employees about a few key distinctions. An HSA is not “use it or lose it.” All funds roll into the new year and do not need to be used up before the end of the plan year. And for an employee to use his or her HSA to cover a dependent’s medical expenses, the dependent must be a tax dependent.

Helping employees make the best use of their FSA funds before the end of the year not only positions the employer as a hero for saving employees’ hard-earned money, but it inevitably saves the employer from a headache heading into 2019.

SOURCE: Peterson, M. (19 November 2018) "End-of-year FSA expenses: An employer cheat sheet" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/end-of-year-fsa-expenses-an-employer-cheat-sheet?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


What Benefits and Perks Do Employees Actually Want?

Employee benefits packages have grown to include much more than just medical, dental and vision coverage. Read this blog post to learn what benefits and perks your employees want.


With open enrollment just around the corner for most companies, employee benefits are top of mind. Today’s offerings have grown to include more than just medical, dental, and vision coverage. Companies are now including perks like scheduling flexibility, tuition reimbursement, and even parental assistance as part of their overall package.

Let’s cut through the hype: what benefits and perks do employees actually care about? As someone who has administered his fair share of open enrollments, I’ve wondered the same thing. But over the years, I’ve learned that you sometimes just need to ask. By running benefits “pulse” surveys, HR teams can get the data and perspective they need to tailor their company’s offerings.

It’s also important to research what’s happening in the marketplace and what your competitors are doing. When was the last time you spoke to your benefits broker? They’ll have the greatest visibility into what types of claims employees are filing and where you might have coverage gaps. Working closely with your broker is one of the easiest ways to ensure you’re meeting employees’ expectations and the job market’s standards.

While studies have shown that traditional medical, dental, and vision coverage are still employees’ top priority, here are some non-traditional offerings that your employees may be clamoring for:

  • Parental assistance and leave: Companies are now enriching their policies with tools that assist new parents, including everything from post-birth specialist care to reimbursements for newborn necessities.
  • Virtual medical care: One of the hottest trends is virtual medical care. Employees can have access to a doctor 24/7 via a laptop or smartphone, all in the comfort of their own home.
  • Tuition reimbursement and assistance: Today, Americans owe over $1.3 trillion in student loans. That’s more than twice what they owed a decade ago. Needless to say, young employees are looking for companies that offer some type of student loan assistance.
  • Mental health: Over 18 percent of adults in the United States experience some form of anxiety disorder. Given the growing national focus on mental health issues, it’s no surprise that workplaces are joining the conversation. Increasingly, businesses are offering workers better access to mental health therapists and coaches.
  • Physical wellness: Two words: gym reimbursements. Sometimes the motivation to work out can be hard to muster, but when your gym membership is paid for by your employer, why not take full advantage? Healthier, more active employees could lead to lower medical insurance costs, too!

Those are just some of the unique benefits that you should consider offering employees. At the end of the day, I’ve learned that each workplace has different needs and wants. Be sure to regularly survey employees on their preferences and keep tabs on what peer companies are offering.

SOURCE: Cosme, J. (14 November 2018) "What Benefits and Perks Do Employees Actually Want?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/what-benefits-and-perks-do-employees-actually-want


Do you have a strong foundation of best practices for your wellness program?

Are you looking for ways to improve involvement in your company's wellness program? According to a study by the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, nine out of 10 U.S. corporations offer some type of wellness initiative. Read on to learn more.


Wellness programs at the office are becoming increasingly popular, but not all of them are as successful as they could be. Here are three simple things you can do to improve involvement in your association’s wellness program.

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plan’s new study—A Closer Look: Workplace Wellness Trends—takes a deeper dive into data from one of its previously published studies, with an aim to “determine practices that lead to potential wellness success.”

To do so, IFEBP analyzed responses from 431 U.S. corporations and government entities, and what the foundation uncovered is that nine out of 10 of the respondents offer some type of wellness initiative.

But the wellness initiatives they offer vary, ranging from fitness challenges and employee assistance programs, to healthy food and drink choices in the kitchen and opportunities for employees to do charity work.

Employers’ goals for even instituting wellness initiatives differ widely too. “There are a lot of different reasons why employers have wellness programs,” said Julie Stich, associate vice president of content at IFEBP. “You want your employees to be healthier, not only to keep healthcare costs down, but you want to increase their morale, increase their productivity and efficiency while they’re in the office, [and] you want to cut back on absenteeism …”

No matter the program or the goals associated with it, here are a few ingredients IFEBP has found are essential in creating a successful wellness program:

Leadership involvement.

“What we’ve seen repeated over and over in our analysis of our data was the involvement of leadership,” Stich said. And it’s important that the leaders of the organization support it publicly and communicate about it with their employees, encouraging staff, for example, to go get their flu shot during work hours or get up from their desks and take a walk. But leadership participation in the initiative is also important. “When you’ve got a fitness challenge going on, you actually [want to] see the CEO taking their walk around the building as well,” Stich said.

Communication.

Employers might first ask their employees what they’d like to see in a wellness program, whether a flu shot or a lunch-and-learn session on stress management and then use that feedback in crafting the organization’s wellness program. But, after an organization has launched an initiative, “it’s important to always be reminding employees about your wellness program and its activities,” Stich said.

Incentives.

Offering incentives is a great way to motivate employee involvement in an organization’s wellness initiative. One way to do this is to put the names of staff who are participating in the program into a raffle and then hold a gift card drawing.

Stick it’s important to keep in mind that the results of such a program won’t be revealed quickly. “You’re not going to see a positive or any kind of ROI in the first year,” she said. “If you roll out a new program or a new component of your program, it takes on average three to five years before you can really get a good sense of whether this is working or not and what impact it’s having.”

SOURCE: Smith, K. (20 March 2018) "Do you have a strong foundation of best practices for your wellness program?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.provanthealth.com/industry-trends/2018/3/26/are-you-succeeding-at-the-three-the-foundational-elements-of-a-successful-program

Original source: Associations Now | Emily Bratcher | How to Boost the Success of Your Workplace Wellness Program


Give employees time back in an always-on working world

With time being the most precious benefit of all, a growing number of employers are offering benefits designed to save employees time. Continue reading to learn more.


When it comes to employee benefits, what do people really want?

As HR and benefits professionals, we shouldn’t make broad assumptions or generalizations about what benefits our employees need or want. Each employee in any given organization is an individual with different circumstances to be met at every stage in their lives — from those entering the workforce to those preparing to retire, and everyone in between. This is why employers must differentiate their benefits packages to meet the needs of a diverse and multigenerational workforce. And as consumers demand more choice in how they spend their benefits dollars, employers are getting more creative and curating a more expansive set of options for everyone.

No matter how efficient an employee is, work inevitably extends beyond the traditional workday from time to time. Similarly, as the lines between home and work blur with flexible work arrangements and email available 24/7 on smartphones, employees still need to take care of personal tasks, like scheduling family dentist appointments, setting up child care, disputing medical bills or calling the veterinarian … all during the workday.

Regardless of generation, industry, position or title, people are yearning to find the right balance between work and life demand. Time is the most precious benefit of them all. As a result, there are a growing number of employers offering benefits designed to save employees time.

Previously offered predominantly by large, tech companies in Silicon Valley, we’re seeing time-saving benefits spread to employers and industries of all kinds and encompass a variety of conveniences, from on-site dry cleaning pickup, to employer-funded shuttles to get employees to and from work, gym memberships, grocery delivery and services like dog walking and personal errands. This benefits category can also include more significant, personalized benefits like concierge health services, assistance in evaluating elderly care options, telehealth for humans and pets, and emergency childcare services.

Once seen as just perks, these services run deeper. Employers care about their people, and these time-saving benefits — anything people leave work early for, or deal with during the work day — has created a new benefits category that increases employees’ productivity and capacity for work by eliminating distractions and freeing up mental space. While these types of benefits may seem like “nice to have” instead of essentials, they can add up and make a substantial difference in employees’ lives.

Life is complicated. Things go wrong that impact productivity, contribute to presenteeism and the well-being of our workforce; these employee benefits offered through employers are returning valuable time back into someone’s day, helping them focus on work and better balance work and life expectations.

Employees need HR’s help. By not offering a wide variety of benefits personalized to the workforce, employers are missing out on an opportunity to provide great value to employees and make a tremendously positive change in their lives. But many HR professionals falsely assume employees will ask for voluntary benefits directly and proactively make suggestions about what would help them. You may say, “My employees aren’t coming to me asking for things like elder care services, so they don’t need them.” My response is, of course, they’re not asking: they may not want you to know about challenges they’re facing in their personal lives.

Employee’s personal situations are just that - deeply personal. They may be suffering in silence. Americans are now facing the highest housing, education and medical costs in our history, meaning nearly everyone is stressed out about family, work and finances; it’s causing problems in the workplace. If their minds are somewhere else and not focused on work, their productivity could be suffering.

Open Enrollment is rapidly approaching. Don’t wait for your employees to ask you for benefits. Take advantage of OE to ask your employees what they’re looking for, as this is the time they’ll already be assessing what types of benefits they need in the coming year anyway. Use this time to survey the workforce to see what people do or don’t like about their benefits. Be sure to specifically ask “What can we offer you?”

It’s a question, and a gesture, that may matter more to employees than you know.

SOURCE: Oldham, J. (14 September 2018) "Give employees time back in an always-on working world" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/give-employees-time-back-in-an-always-on-working-world?feed=00000152-18a4-d58e-ad5a-99fc032b0000


Predictive Analytics Will Be The Silent Game-Changer In Employee Benefits

Have you heard of predictive analytics? Predictive analytics analyzes current and historical data to make predictions about unknown events. Read on to learn how this technology could be used to help fine-tune employee benefits offerings.


Last year’s World Series between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers came down to a seven-game battle based not only on talent, athleticism and coaching but also on data. Just as Sports Illustrated suggested back in 2014 via predictive data, the Astros were the victors.

The publication of Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game spurred not only Major League Baseball teams to deploy predictive analytics, but also businesses to take a harder look at what their data means. It's no longer part of the hype cycle: Statista forecasts (paywall) that the predictive analytics market worldwide will reach $6.2 billion in 2018 and $10.95 billion in 2022.

I believe we are also at a transformational point in improving corporate employee benefits and our employees’ lives by embracing predictive analytics. HR is swimming in rich data. Instead of guesstimating needs across multiple generations of employees, employers can turn to their own data to fine-tune what they are offering as benefits solutions. Companies spend 25-40% of an employee’s salary on benefits. It simply makes strategic and financial sense to get it right.

Bring Employee Benefits Out Of The Dark Ages

Hiring and retaining great talent is at the very soul of almost every company’s strategy. Not surprisingly, more companies have turned to predictive analytics to give them a leg up in recruitment. However, HR benefits have lagged behind. As John Greenwood reported to Corporate Adviser, “More than half of reward and employee benefits professionals see predictive analytics as a game-changer, but 90 percent are still using spreadsheets to manage data, research from the Reward & Employee Benefits Association shows.”

One reason for benefits lagging behind recruitment in adopting predictive analytics is that the way companies choose new benefits varies greatly from business to business. Given that the majority of HR departments keep data in disparate spreadsheets, even if some HR departments conduct employee surveys or historical cost analyses, they often do not integrate the data about their workforce. If a new benefit offering is chosen based on a needs analysis, only some know the “why” behind a request from the workforce. Knowing how many employees are logging into a benefits platform is helpful; market standard benefit utilization reports provide this level of information. Yet they do not give insight into the underlying reason for an employee to utilize a benefit. The user of deeper analytics is required to look deeper into employees' behavior.

We have found firsthand that many HR departments do not have a full understanding of how their employees are utilizing their benefits across the entire offering suite. A one-size-fits-all or a one-off strategy no longer is effective. Companies must understand not only their employees’ needs but also the underlying data related to these needs to provide a valuable benefits offering.

Put Your Existing Data To Use

For the past five years, I have watched our clients glean valuable insights into what the real underlying issues are for their employees and what must be done to address these pressing needs. I also have been watching companies realize that what they thought were the core problems at hand sometimes were not.

For example, one of our national high-tech clients, with over 50,000 benefit-eligible employees, believed that a high number of their employees had children struggling with autism. This belief was initially based on input from some of their employees. After approximately 16 months, the client reviewed the masked utilization data from their benefit platform. The data illustrated that the overwhelming majority of employee families (tenfold) in fact faced challenges associated with youth anxiety, a concern that had never been expressed to HR previously. Once they reviewed what employees were doing within our platform, their results mirrored the National Institute of Mental Health’s report that approximately 31.9% of U.S. children ages 13-18 struggle with anxiety disorders.

Their own data helped them understand much more specifically where their employees’ stress lay, and their HR department was able to focus communications around it.

Getting Started

Mining and viewing use data across all benefits is ideal. This enables an employer to determine if the benefit suite is serving employees effectively. We have found that as quickly as year over year, users' behaviors shift. If a company solely chooses a benefit based on what they saw as most heavily utilized the previous year, they are not being strategic.

For that reason, HR should utilize past and current data to better predict future patterns of need for a truly strategic approach to benefit choice. With this insight, they can make better choices and serve their workforce more effectively.

Given the limitations across many employee benefit vendors today, to start initially:

1. Embrace KPIs. Agree upon them internally, and measure benefit vendors on them.

2. Work with your current vendors to determine what data they provide to support your internal analysis. Ensure you have access to all the data you need, and if not, consider a vendor change.

3. Hold possible new vendors to similar data standards, and create a transparent relationship from the start.

4. Collect current and historical data. Existing vendors can provide this history, so make sure to collect at least 2-3 years of information.

These analytics need to go deeper than basic demographics to show patterns of activity. In order to understand the benefit needs of your workforce, you'll want to analyze trends across multiple data sets: medical, pharmacy, worker's compensation, biometric screenings, utilization patterns, FMLA requests and demographic trends. From there, you can start to pinpoint what your employees need -- and the “whys” behind the needs -- in order to make a measurable impact.

While predictive analytics is still in the nascent phase in the benefits and vendor worlds, the easiest and most proactive thing any employer can do is to focus on other insights vendors can provide related to the workforce and benefit use beyond simple utilization. In doing so, you will be able to support your employees both in their work lives and their personal lives by providing them with the benefits they need to be at their best.

SOURCE: Goldberg, A. (2 October 2018) "Predictive Analytics Will Be The Silent Game-Changer In Employee Benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2018/10/02/predictive-analytics-will-be-the-silent-game-changer-in-employee-benefits/#26648166e182