Top 4 HR trends to watch this year

What are the top HR trends of 2019? HR departments are now looking to implement innovative strategies to better engage employees and maximize productivity. Read on to learn more.


HR professionals can no longer rest on their laurels. They are now looking to implement innovative strategies to better engage employees, improve the company’s brand both internally and externally, maximize productivity and increase the organization’s profitability.

So how can HR professionals go about making this happen? The success of HR will largely be based on staying nimble, evolving their organization’s policies and leveraging technological advances to ultimately reshape their workplace practices.

With that in mind, here are the top HR trends that will take center stage in 2019.

The gig economy and the importance of flexibility. The gig economy, which is comprised of individuals with short-term or temporary engagements with a company, is substantially important to employers. Here, workers are seeking increased flexibility and control over their work environments. Since many questions remain unanswered regarding worker classification issues and the application of existing laws in the gig economy, look for the Department of Labor to issue an opinion letter or guidance in 2019 detailing how a company may compliantly work within the gig economy and not run afoul of existing independent contractors.

Flexibility also is important for all employees — not just for the gig economy. While telecommuting and remote positions are not new, they are being emphasized again to better engage employees and increase retention metrics.

The tech effect on future of HR. The strategic and consistent use of workforce data analytics to predict and improve a company’s performance has exploded over the last several years, with additional momentum expected in 2019. While most HR professionals rely on metrics for basic recruiting and turnover rates, more in-depth analytics and trend spotting has become the norm.

Once trends are identified in, for example, turnover rates, an HR professional should have the tools to dive into the data and analyze root causes, such as the need for manager training, review of compensation strategies or a change in the company’s culture. Using predictive analytics in the HR space is helping companies make better informed, dynamic and wiser decisions based on historical data, as well as placing HR on the level of other data-driven company departments, such as finance and marketing.

The collection of this enormous amount of data also poses challenges and potential risks to companies, including negative perceptions among employees about how their data is being used, employee privacy laws and potential security breaches. Strong and comprehensive security policies, protocols and controls are necessary to ensure employers are keeping their employees’ data safe. In 2019, a steady flow of communications to employees regarding advanced security and usage policies is key to prevent data misuse or misunderstanding regarding how information is collected and used.

Artificial intelligence also will continue to be a significant focus driving improvement in the HR arena. Determining which data to collect, analyze and protect will provide opportunities for AI to assume a larger role in HR. Also, in some large organizations, AI already is being used for more than just automating repetitive HR tasks, such as onboarding new employees. The future of AI for most companies will include creating more personalized employee experiences as well as supporting critical decisions. From analyzing performance data to eliminating biases when screening candidates, AI will continue to be a pivotal HR tool.

Strategies for successful recruitment. Running an effective talent pipeline should be the objective of all hiring endeavors. Pipelining is consistently gaining traction as a recruitment tool for new employees. The concept employs marketing concepts to ensure that companies have a diverse group of strong recruits waiting to be hired. Pipelining reduces time to hire and leads to better quality candidates.

Health, wellness and adequate employee training. Another area of importance is multi-faceted wellness programs, which focus on an employee’s total well-being, from nutrition to financial wellness. These programs often include a comprehensive employee assistance program, training and activities during worktime. The training can focus on anything from physical health to development of employees’ knowledge base and technology-focused education. A greater emphasis also is being placed on workplace communication coaching, such as collaboration and negotiation, which are critical to success in the workplace.

Continued training and heightened prevention of sexual harassment and discrimination will be another trend this year. Organizations big and small must ensure that compliant policies are in place and employees are trained on the policies. Several states including California, New York, Connecticut and Maine already mandate that private employers must provide harassment training to workers, and the number of states requiring this training is expected to increase in the coming years.

SOURCE: Seltzer, M. (29 January 2019) "Top 4 HR trends to watch this year" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/top-4-hr-trends-to-watch-this-year?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


Free snacks won’t retain workers long term. Here’s what will

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 32 percent of employers offer company-paid snacks and beverages to their employees. Read this blog post to learn what will retain workers long term.


Free snacks at work can help workers curb late afternoon hunger — but will employees be more inclined to stick around because the office has free food? Probably not, according to a report from recruiting and staffing firm The Execu Search Group.

Offering free snacks at work seems like a good way to attract and retain workers, but it is a misconception that millennials, the largest generation in the workforce, want the benefit, the report says.

The trend of offering free snacks to workers started with big Silicon Valley tech companies — like Facebook and Google — and spread to employers of all sizes across the U.S. According to research from the Society for Human Resource Management, 32% of employers offer company-paid snacks and beverages to employees, up significantly from last year, when 22% offered them.

Free snacks can be a great addition to the office, but only if an employer offers others substantive benefits, says Edward Fleischman, CEO of The Execu Search Group. On its own, he adds, food offers little value.

“[Free food] is great. But some companies are using it as an incentive to keep people there — and that’s not going to keep people there,” he says.

Instead of offering small perks like snacks, the report says that if a company wants to retain millennial workers, it should offer benefits that allow greater work flexibility, more vacation time, training and development, and opportunities to make a difference. In particular, employers should consider instituting benefits like a flexible work schedule and unlimited paid time off, Fleischman says.

“That’s a keyword now — flexibility,” he says. “The flexibility to work from home when they need to, or want to.”

Millennials, in particular, he says, want the ability to work whenever and wherever they want. While there might be initial concern that allowing employees to work from home means they won’t be as productive, this isn’t the case. Millennials are very connected to their devices and will typically respond even after work hours are over, Fleischman says.

“They’ll respond on their iPhone at 11 o’clock at night. They may be at a restaurant, but they’ll respond to you,” he says.

Making changes like adding an unlimited PTO policy or a flexible work schedule could be difficult for legacy companies to institute, Fleischman says. It often requires trust that employees won’t abuse the policy. Additionally, older generations and executives may be used to stricter PTO policies, so it could require an adjustment, he adds.

But more companies are taking the plunge to offer these kinds of benefits. The number of employers offering unlimited PTO jumped from 1% in 2014 to 5% in 2018, according to SHRM. Employers including General Electric, Dropbox and Grant Thornton all offer the benefit, according to Glassdoor.

Fleischman says that in a competitive labor market, benefits are a key factor to recruiting and retaining a solid workforce. If a company is not offering solid benefits, it could mean the difference between accepting a job and looking elsewhere.

“As a company, you have to really set yourself up nicely to recruit that person and retain that person,” he says.

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (28 January 2019) "Free snacks won’t retain workers long term. Here’s what will" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/free-snacks-wont-retain-workers-long-term-heres-what-will?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


It’s a job applicant’s market: What it means for employee benefits

Studies show that up to 60 percent of people recognize employee benefits as a major deciding factor when considered a job offer. Read this blog post to find out what today's hiring landscape means for employee benefits.


When it comes to employee benefits, stock options and paid holidays may no longer be enough to attract top talent — especially in today’s competitive hiring landscape.

With job openings on the rise, it has become more difficult for companies to compete for the most talented, highly sought-after candidates. The strong labor market also means more Americans are willing to quit their current job in favor of something better — in fact, this past year, employees voluntarily left jobs at the highest rate since 2001.

Comprehensive employee benefits packages have never been more important for employers looking to hire the best and brightest. Studies have shown as many as 60% of people cite benefits as a major deciding factor when considering whether to accept a job offer. The question is: What kinds of benefits are employees looking for most?

Of course, there are some benefits that have become commonplace among employers, including health and dental insurance, retirement plans and paid time off. However, these incentives may just be table stakes in the hiring game these days — for example, nearly half of privately owned firms in the United States offer health insurance, and 79% of Americans work for an employer sponsoring a 401(k)-style retirement plan.

Although many employees have come to expect benefits like health insurance and retirement plans, employers don’t need to go above and beyond as many larger companies, like Google, do — offering free meals and on-site haircuts. Flashy perks may seem appealing on the surface, but in reality, employees are seeking benefits that support them through — and help alleviate the stress that can come with — life’s major moments.

This kind of support can come in a number of forms. For example, many companies have seen their employees push for more comprehensive parental leave benefits, giving new parents time they need to refresh and bond with their child. While many countries around the world offer more than a year of paid parental leave, the U.S. doesn’t guarantee paid time off for new parents, and the national average for parents taking time off after having a child is only 10 weeks.

Employees may want to feel empowered to further their education or professional development, helping to bolster their confidence in their career. Starbucks is a proponent of this. To help employees take their education to the next level, the company offers full tuition reimbursement for online degrees through Arizona State University.

These benefits are great, but don’t cover all aspects of life where employees need support. For example, if an employee finds themselves in a situation where they need to care for an elderly parent, family leave may not be enough — especially as they find themselves navigating complicated Medicare/Medicaid documents and nursing home or hospice payments. Particularly in situations that pack on a lot of additional stress, companies can provide comprehensive financial wellness plans as a way to give their workforce peace of mind.

Financial wellness plans are an emerging area of employee benefits and provide assistance with everything from estate planning, to advice from certified personal accountants, to identity theft protection. There’s a clear demand for these services, too. PWC’s 2018 financial wellness survey found that over 50% of employees are stressed about their finances and want help.

Financial wellness plans don’t just offer practical benefits, but emotional benefits as well. Most people don’t realize how many instances in life, big or small, require some form of financial guidance, and without any professional support, these matters can be intensely stressful. Whether an employee is creating a prenuptial agreement, taking out a mortgage when buying their first house, or trying to navigate student loans when sending their child to college, knowing their company provides support and counsel for these situations alleviates the associated pressure. Employees want to know their employers can help them tackle anything life throws at them.

Ultimately, employees have come to expect benefits and perks providing coverage for all stages of life — whether they’re planning to have a child, want to take time to get their degree or are beginning to think about estate planning on top of traditional retirement planning. To attract and retain the best talent in 2019, employers should think first and foremost about how they can support their workforce in achieving financial wellness.

SOURCE: Freedman, D. (22 January 2019) "It’s a job applicant’s market: What it means for employee benefits" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/its-a-job-applicants-market-what-it-means-for-employee-benefits


Goodbye group benefits. Hello personalized pay

With diverse expectations about pay and benefit packages, off-the-shelf benefit options are presenting employers with a challenge. Continue reading to learn more about benefit and pay expectations.


In the past, it was typical for a company to provide all employees with access to the same group benefits — regardless of their age, demographics or education level. From health insurance to retirement plans and paid time off, these uniform benefit packages were designed to meet the needs of the entire workforce in one fell swoop.

But over the past few years, these off-the-shelf benefit options have presented a bit of a challenge. With five generations now in the workplace — Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and the silent generation — there are diverse expectations about pay and benefit packages.

For example, baby boomers and the silent generation tend to value health insurance and a robust retirement plan. Meanwhile, Gen X workers seek a healthy work-life balance, advancement opportunities and a competitive 401(k) — or a retirement savings plan that lets you set aside and invest money from your paycheck, to which your employer can then contribute. Millennials and Gen Z prioritize flexibility — they want more paid time off, the ability to work when and where they wish and tuition reimbursement.

There is no one-size-fits-all compensation package that can fairly satisfy each generation of workers. Employees today want to feel heard, understood and cared for by their employer. Furthermore, most want a job that fits with their personal interests and lifestyle.

As a result, companies are moving away from traditional group benefits and taking a more personalized approach to compensation.

Many organizations are using social listening tools, focus groups and surveys to gather information about the types of benefits employees want. Others are taking it a step further and having one-on-one conversations to determine what motivates each individual worker and provides them with a sense of purpose at work. How else will we know what, specifically, each employee wants unless we ask them?

By collecting this information, organizations can tailor packages that effectively meet the varying wants and needs of the diverse workforce. They’re offering mixes of pay, bonuses, flex time, paid time off, retirement plans, student loan repayment assistance and professional growth opportunities. Some companies have designed an a la carte menu of benefits, with which employees can pick and choose the perks they care most about.

According to a recent survey conducted by WorldatWork and KornFerry, organizations also are offering more non-traditional benefits that can further acknowledge employees’ concerns and responsibilities outside of work. Eldercare resource and referral services, women advancement initiatives and disaster relief funds all became significantly more prevalent in employee benefits programs within the last year. Telemedicine, identity theft insurance and paid parental leave offerings increased as well.

And many organizations are taking innovation one step further. One firm recently introduced a new benefits reward program in which employees earn points based on both personal and company-wide achievements and then cash them in for perks across various categories: health and wellness, travel, housing, transportation, time off, annual grocery passes — you name it. The purpose is to give employees the power to choose the types of perks that mean the post to them.

Personalized pay can boost attraction and retention

The unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the war for talent is extremely tough. The average tenure for workers is 4.6 years. For millennials, it’s half that.

This sort of high employee turnover can take a massive toll on a company’s bottom line: Experts estimate that it can cost up to twice an employee’s salary to recruit and train a replacement. Not to mention, employee churn can damage company morale and tarnish your company’s reputation.

Customized pay and benefits plans can make an employer be more attractive in a tight, crowded job market. If you want to not only attract top talent but retain them as well, it’s worth taking the time to understand what matters to your candidates and offering them personalized pay and reward packages.

Organizations need to introduce more flexibility into their pay packages and adapt to the needs of the changing workforce. After all, when you invest in your employees, you invest in the overall success and performance of your business.

SOURCE: Wesselkamper, B. (11 February 2019) "Goodbye group benefits. Hello personalized pay" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/tailored-employee-benefit-plans-gaining-popularity


With the Advent of Remote Work, Is the ‘Sick Day’ Becoming Passé?

Do your remote workers take sick days when needed? With many employees working from home full time, the idea of a sick day could become out of date. Continue reading this post from SHRM to learn more.


Your advertising manager works from home full time. She has a nasty cold. But hey—she only needs to walk a few steps from her bedroom to her desk, can nap when she needs to and won't infect her colleagues. So she doesn't really need to take a sick day, right?

Well, she probably should, but as remote work continues to rise, workplace experts find that those who do their jobs from home are inclined to stay on the clock while soldiering through colds, the flu and other maladies—in part because they don't want to appear to be taking advantage of their work-from-home benefit.

"Remote workers find it hard to integrate work with the rest of their life because it is so easy to overwork and even plow through your work while you are sick," said Jeanne Meister, founding partner of Future Workplace, a New York City-based HR executive network and research firm. "If you are only traveling from your bedroom to your home office, remote workers may rationalize, 'What harm can be done if I work while I am sick? At least I'm not contagious.' "

In addition, the advent of remote working has introduced another trend: managers suggesting that onsite employees work from home when they're sick.

"It's no secret that many [workplaces] have cultures that encourage the 'always-on' mentality," said Erica Denner, head of people and culture at YouEarnedIt/HighGround, an Austin, Texas-based company that focuses on employee recognition, rewards and performance management. "In my experience, I've found that because of this, employees at these organizations can find it difficult to ask for time off when they're sick and are often encouraged to work from home instead."

Circumstances Matter

Thanks to technology that facilitates remote work, there are instances when working during what otherwise would have been a sick day may actually be a win for the employee and employer.

"There are all kinds of reasons to take sick days," said Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute and a senior research advisor for the Society for Human Resource Management. "If employees have a condition that affects their ability to be mobile, like a broken bone or torn tendon, they might have to take a sick day if they work in a traditional workplace because travel to work would be difficult, but they could easily work at home. I can think of other such illnesses, such as having something contagious and not wanting to infect others but feeling good enough to work or being postoperative and being able to work in short spurts. Working at home could be ideal for that."

Consider U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who recovered from cancer surgery at home but nonetheless heard arguments in a case before the court. A court spokesperson said Ginsburg would participate "on the basis of briefs, filings and transcripts," CNBC reported.

But if working while ill prevents an employee from fully resting and recuperating, this will likely hinder performance—and even future productivity and morale.

"If an employee is really sick, he or she might power through and get a few things done but might not do them well," Galinsky said.

Working through your cold, sore throat or flu not only can lead to a decline in physical well-being but "also can present mental health challenges," Meister said.

Contractors, or so-called gig workers, in particular, may be wary of taking sick time. Lacking job security, they may fear that doing so would make them appear dispensable to their employers.

What Employers Can Do

To discourage employees from avoiding sick days because they're working remotely:

Communicate to employees that you expect them to take time off when they're sick. Or, encourage them to be open about how much work, if any, they feel they can accomplish. "If you can't produce high-quality work, even from the comfort of your own home, when you're under the weather, relay that message to your manager," Denner said. "If they value your contributions and are a good supervisor, they will understand and step in to help until you're feeling better."

At YouEarnedIt/HighGround, workers are asked to make it clear when they are out sick and unavailable. This includes setting up not only the typical out-of-office notification by e-mail but also notifications across productivity platforms the company uses, such as Slack. "It's remarkable how effective turning on the 'out sick' emoji in Slack is in terms of alerting colleagues you need time to recover," Denner said. "When employees are out on a longer-term medical leave, we actually remove their technology access so they can't check e-mails or Slack. This way, the employee doesn't feel guilty or obligated to respond to messages."

Talk about the importance of taking sick days for one's physical and mental well-being. Bring up the topic during all-hands meetings with onsite as well as remote workers. In benefits materials and handouts, address the importance of taking sick days.

Ensure that managers and executives take sick days themselves. When a boss shows up at a meeting sniffling and coughing, she sends the clear message that work is too important to be interrupted by illness. And that only leaves her subordinates feeling guilty if they take sick days.

"We've found that [modeling sick-day behavior] actually goes a long way in not just encouraging our employees to do the same, but also in further solidifying a culture of trust and respect," Denner said.

Encourage remote workers to take time for themselves even when they're healthy—such as taking a midday break—and reinforce how this is important for their well-being and productivity.

SOURCE: Wilkie, D. (6 February 2019) "With the Advent of Remote Work, Is the ‘Sick Day’ Becoming Passé?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/employee-relations/pages/remote-workers-and-sick-days-.aspx


Move over mainstream: Alternative health options a road to better value

Employers are seeking alternative ways to get a better value when it comes to their healthcare spending. Read this blog post to learn more about alternative health options.


While employers may be the largest purchasers of healthcare outside of the federal government, rarely does one organization have enough influence when negotiating with the powerful health plans and provider systems. As a result, employers — and ultimately the consumers for whom they purchase healthcare services — pay the price.

Instead of taking these lumps of coal sitting down, there are a growing number of employers on the cutting edge of healthcare purchasing seeking alternative ways in 2019 to get better value for their healthcare spending. They are looking for the diamonds in the rough.

In more than half of the healthcare markets in the U.S., providers have merged reducing competition and leaving employers and consumers with little choice for their care. Employers must stop insisting that health insurance products provide access to the broadest network of healthcare providers — if providers know they’ll be kept “in network” no matter how they behave, employers and payers further reduce their negotiating position. Employers also should band together to be sizable enough to call the shots, but this rarely happens.

While this lack of market power and influence is a major frustration for employers, it’s far from the only one. Educated employers also know that the healthcare system produces uneven quality and high prices have nothing to do with excellent care. The amount an employer pays for a service merely represents the relative negotiating strength of the health insurance carriers and providers.

As prices continue to drive healthcare cost growth, Americans are finding their healthcare unaffordable and are willing to trade choice for affordability. Many Americans no longer view having the ability to pick any doctor they choose as essential if it means increased premiums and cost-sharing that comes at the expense of other basic needs. These shifting attitudes represent an opportunity for employers seeking diamonds to pursue the following new healthcare benefits options. Here are some.

Narrow networks: Health insurance plans built around a narrower network that cuts out care providers who are outlandishly expensive or have a particularly poor record on quality. Alternatively, center a smaller network around a direct contract with an accountable care organization selected for its potential to deliver higher quality and value. More commercial health insurance carriers and lesser known third-party administrators are offering and supporting these options. Premiums and cost-sharing are typically lower for the consumer than with broader network plans.

Centers of excellence (CoE): Steer patients to designated high-quality providers with expertise in a given medical area who are willing to enter into an alternative payment arrangement or offer a more reasonable price in return for more patients. Make CoEs attractive through more generous coverage or make them mandatory if employees want an elective or non-emergent procedure (e.g., bariatric or spine surgery). Either way, employers reduce the risk that employees will receive subpar or low value care.

Alternative sites of care: Increase access to and use of alternative sites of care including onsite or near-site clinics and telehealth services. These enhance the convenience of primary or behavioral healthcare for employees and can help the employer better control referrals to overpriced hospitals or specialists.

So, move over mainstream. When it comes to the tactics employers use to purchase healthcare, alternative is likely to become less fringe. Narrow networks, CoEs or alternative sites of care may not solve all of the frustrations. But employers’ pursuit of these new models sends a strong signal that lumps of coal aren’t going to cut it. Employers are on the hunt for a shinier, more attractive set of solutions.

SOURCE: "Move over mainstream: Alternative health options a road to better value" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/move-over-mainstream-alternative-health-options-a-road-to-better-value?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


Why chiropractic services could be the next big thing in wellness

Chiropractic services could be the next popular wellness perk for employer-sponsored benefit plans. The American College of Physicians' care guidelines recommends the conservative, non-pharmacologic treatment chiropractors provide. Read on to learn more.


The next popular wellness perk could be offering chiropractic services at on-site medical centers.

On-site or near-site clinics typically offer services to employees including first aid, occupational health, condition management, wellness and ancillary services — and increasingly chiropractic care.

Employees, healthcare administrators and physicians are recognizing the health and employee satisfaction benefits of integrating chiropractic care into multidisciplinary settings, research suggests. Care guidelines from the American College of Physicians recommend the conservative, non-pharmacologic treatment chiropractors provide. Employers are finding that adding chiropractic care to their worksite health center teams reduces direct costs of care, decreases opioid prescriptions for neuro-musculoskeletal episodes and improves health outcomes.

Healthcare costs for employers are expected to reach $15,000 per employee in 2019, according to the National Business Group on Health. The direct and indirect costs associated with low back pain are estimated between $85 billion and $238 billion, and expenditures for back pain are rising more quickly than overall health expenditures. To help stem that growth, as many as 65% of large companies are expected to offer on-site or near-site care by 2020, NBGH reports.

Employer focus on improving workers’ health and wellness has gained momentum in recent years, as evidenced by last year’s announcement from Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase that they would form an independent healthcare company for their U.S. employees. Another example is employers with self-funded health plans contracting with narrow, high-quality provider networks and even negotiating directly with local hospitals on their prices.

Clinics offer similar cost control and oversight benefits. More importantly, they offer faster and easier access to care that keeps employees healthy, motivated and engaged — and out of the emergency room or hospital. As such, 54% of large employers currently offer on-site or near-site clinics, while another survey showed that 94% of employers reported their clinics improved employee health and 95% said they contributed to increased employee productivity.

Each clinic’s services, cost-sharing, use privileges and staffing can be customized to meet the needs of a specific organization and employer benefit plans. These decisions should be reflective of the objectives of the sponsoring employer and the healthcare needs of the population.

While most healthcare clinics are located on-site or close to the workplace, a growing number are near-site or shared clinic locations, serving populations from multiple locations of the same employer or various employers. Additionally, more care is being delivered virtually. The objective is to provide easy access and immediate attention for employees, at little or no cost, for a host of services and products that an employee would normally have to leave the work site to obtain.

According to a recent survey by the National Association of Worksite Health Centers, the majority of employers reported their workers had expressed interest in chiropractic services at their clinics. The nationwide cost for treatment and management of low back pain and arthritis has reached $200 billion annually. Another study attributes two-thirds of these costs to lost wages and reduced productivity.

The fact that chiropractors deliver drug-free therapies should be particularly meaningful to employers in light of the country’s opioid abuse epidemic. The good news is a recent study published in “The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” concludes that for adults receiving treatment for low back pain, the likelihood of filling a prescription for an opioid was 55% lower for those receiving chiropractic care than for adults not receiving chiropractic care.

In particular, chiropractors follow evidence-based and value-based guidelines to promote safety and effectiveness. Findings like these and many others show that by adding chiropractic care, employers will strengthen the opportunity for cost savings, improved outcomes, greater worker productivity and stronger employee retention.

SOURCE: Lord, D. (25 January 2019) "Why chiropractic services could be the next big thing in wellness" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/why-chiropractic-services-could-be-the-next-big-thing-in-wellness?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


What to expect when your employee is expecting

Did you know: Four out of five employees return to work after being on maternity leave. Read this blog post for what to expect when your employee is expecting.


Only four out of five employees return to work after maternity leave. The way their boss treats them has a major influence on that decision.

Women make up nearly half of the American workforce, and 85% of them will become mothers by age 45, according to a study by Pew Research. The same study estimates it costs organizations around $47 billion to replace employees who quit their jobs after maternity leave. Yet, employees going on maternity leave are often pushed aside.

“Women often face having their hours cut, harassment and losing out on promotions for becoming pregnant,” says Robyn Stein DeLuca, a postpartum consultant and professor at Stony Brook University. “It’s important for managers to know pregnant women are just as capable as they were before.”

Pregnancy discrimination can result in costly lawsuits and hurt a company’s reputation. For instance, pharmaceutical company Novartis in 2010 was ordered to pay $175 million to plaintiffs after a boss told female employees they should consider having an abortion if they wanted to advance within the company, DeLuca explains. And last year, thousands of Google employees staged walkouts to protest the company’s treatment of women.

“The walkouts knocked Google off their pedestal as a great place for everyone to work,” DeLuca says. “Thanks to the #MeToo movement, businesses are being held accountable for the way they treat pregnant employees.”

DeLuca spent the last 15 years of her career studying how new mothers cope after returning to work. She applies that knowledge to her consulting business, where she advises employers and working mothers on balancing personal and professional responsibilities.

During her research, DeLuca discovered women were more likely to return to work if they had supportive managers who made reasonable accommodations for their condition. The reverse was also true; employees who didn’t receive support and accommodation were most likely to quit their jobs.

“When you give talented women the opportunity, they’ll succeed,” DeLuca says.

During a webinar for the New York City chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management, DeLuca discussed strategies for managing pregnant employees in the office and during maternity leave. Making reasonable accommodations for them is just as important as good communication, she says. The first thing employers can do is refrain from negatively commenting on the pregnancy.

“When she decides to go public with the news, stay neutral or give a positive response to the announcement. Don’t say it’s the worst possible time for her to go on leave, even if it is,” DeLuca says. “She shouldn’t be made to feel bad about this exciting time.”

The next step should be collaboration, DeLuca says. Once the employee has made her announcement, managers should meet with her to discuss when she’s planning to go on maternity leave, and how best to divvy up her responsibilities after the baby is born. It’s also a good idea for HR to have the phone number of the employee’s OBGYN in case she goes into labor at the office, DeLuca says.

“Women worry about leaving the team in the lurch, but making plans that spell out the details of her leave can reduce anxiety, bring order and set clear expectations,” DeLuca says.

DeLuca suggests asking the employee to make a list of her duties and projects so she and her manager can discuss how best to cover the work. This can help quell any job security anxieties by reaffirming she’s a valuable part of the team.

“It gives her the opportunity to shine and show what she’s accomplished,” DeLuca says.

Coworkers might resent being asked to do extra work for someone on maternity leave. The best way to prevent these feelings is to frame the work as an opportunity for professional growth, DeLuca says. Do this by praising employees for taking on extra work, and for the new skills they’re learning, she says.

Providing these employees with flexible hours so they can address personal needs — like furthering their education or caring for a loved one — is another way to reward them for stepping in for a coworker on maternity leave.

“It helps them feel like they’re not being taken for granted,” DeLuca says.

Most pregnant women plan on working right up until the baby is born, DeLuca says. And despite stereotypes about “mommy brain” — the idea that pregnancy decreases cognitive function — DeLuca asserts that pregnant women are mentally healthy and fully capable of performing their job duties.

“TV portrays pregnant women as flighty and crazy. But pregnancy is actually a good time for mental health,” DeLuca says. “Pregnant women are less likely to suffer from depression, to be admitted to a psychiatric hospital or attempt suicide.”

However, managers should understand that pregnant employees have physical limitations. Depending on their role at the organization, pregnant women may require more breaks and lighter duty.

“She shouldn’t be on her feet all day or lifting heavy objects,” DeLuca says. “The baby is literally sitting on her bladder, so she’s going to make frequent trips to the bathroom.”

Women can be self-conscious about their changing bodies during pregnancy, which can be exacerbated by inappropriate comments and gestures from managers and peers, DeLuca said. HR can help educate the workforce about this issue during harassment training.

“Don’t touch the belly. Don’t say she’s beautiful, looks like a big round ball, or like your wife did at that stage. It’s not conducive to a comfortable working environment,” DeLuca says. “Instead, you can ask how she’s feeling.”

While making plans for an employee’s maternity leave, managers should talk to the employee about how they’d like to get back to work. Some companies allow women to ease their way back into work by letting them work short days toward the end of their maternity leave.

DeLuca recommends deciding beforehand how often, or if, a manager should contact an employee during maternity leave. If the employee would rather not be contacted, set a date for a return-to-work meeting, she says.

“It gives you the chance to fill her in on projects and new clients so she can hit the ground running when she returns to work,” DeLuca says.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (28 January 2019) "What to expect when your employee is expecting" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/what-to-expect-when-your-employee-is-expecting?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


4 ways to help employees master their HDHPs in 2019

How can employers help their employees better understand their High Deductible Health Plans? Whether your employees are HDHP veterans or newbies, there are things companies can do to help improve employee understanding. Read on to learn more.


With 2018 in the books, now is a great time to give HDHP veterans and newbies at your company some help understanding — and squeezing more value out of — their plans in 2019.

Here are four simple steps your HR team can take over the next few months to put employees on the right track.

1. Post a jargon-free FAQ page on your intranet

When: Two weeks before your new plan year begins

Keep your FAQ at ten questions (and answers!), maximum. Otherwise, your employees can get overwhelmed by their health plans and by the FAQ.

When writing up the answers, pretend you’re talking directly to an employee who doesn’t know any of the insurance jargon you do. Keep it simple and straightforward.

Make sure your questions reflect the concerns of different employee types: Millennials who haven’t had insurance before, older employees behind on retirement, employees about to have a new kid, etc. To get a clear sense of these concerns, invite a diverse group of 5-7 employees out for coffee and ask them.

Some sample questions for your FAQ might be:
• Is an HSA different from an FSA?
• Do I have to open an HSA?
• How much money should I put in my HSA?
• This plan looks way more expensive than my PPO. What gives?

2. Send a reminder email about setting up an HSA and/or choosing a monthly contribution amount

When: The first week of the new plan year

When your employees don’t take advantage of their HSA not only do they miss out on low-hanging tax savings, your company misses out on payroll tax savings, too.

So right at the start of the new year, send an email that explains why it’s important to set up a contribution amount right away.

A few reasons why it’s really important to do this:

  • You can’t use any HSA funds until your account is fully set up and you’ve chosen how much you’re going to contribute.
  • If you pay for any healthcare at all next year, and don’t contribute to your HSA, you’re doing it wrong. Why? You don’t pay taxes on any of the money you put into your HSA and then spend on eligible health care…which puts real money back in your pocket. (Last year, the average HSA user contributed about $70 every two weeks and saved $267 in taxes as a result!)
  • There’s no “use it or lose it” rule! Any money you put into your HSA this year is yours to use for medical expenses the rest of your life. And once you turn 65, you can use it for anything at all. A Mediterranean cruise. A life-size Build-a-Bear. You name it.

3. Give your HDHP newbies tips on navigating their first visit to the doctor and pharmacy

When: The week insurance cards are mailed out

When employees who are used to PPO-style co-pays realize they have to pay more upfront with their HDHP, they can get…cranky. And start to doubt their plan choice — or worse, you as their employer choice.

So set expectations ahead of time to avoid employee sticker shock and to prevent you from getting an earful. Specifically, remind employees which types of visits are considered preventative care (and likely free) and which aren’t. Then explain their options when it comes to paying for — and getting reimbursed for — the visit.

4. Share tips on saving money on care with all your HDHP users

When: Any time before the end of the first quarter of the year

Specifically, you might recommend that your employees:

  • Check prescription prices on a site like Goodrx.com before they buy their meds
  • Visit an urgent care center instead of the ER, if they’re sick or hurt but it’s not life-threatening
  • Use a telemedicine tool (if your company offers one) to get free online medical advice without having to leave their Kleenex-riddled beds

Sure, following this communication schedule requires extra elbow grease. But if you defuse your employees’ stress and confusion early, they’ll feel more prepared to take control of their healthcare and get the most out of their plans. And as a bonus, you and your team get to spend less time answering panicked questions the rest of the year.

SOURCE: Calvin, H. (2 January 2019) "4 ways to help employees master their HDHPs in 2019" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/4-ways-to-help-employees-master-their-hdhps-in-2019


Proposed 2020 Benefit Payment and Parameters Rule

A proposed rule for 2020 benefit payment and parameters was recently released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). The proposed rule is intended to reduce fiscal and regulatory burdens associated with the ACA. Read on to learn more.


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule for benefit payment and parameters for 2020. CMS also released its draft 2020 actuarial value calculator and draft 2020 actuarial value calculator methodology.

According to CMS, the proposed rule is intended to reduce fiscal and regulatory burdens associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) across different program areas and to provide stakeholders with greater flexibility.

Although the proposed rule would primarily affect the individual market and the Exchanges, the proposed rule addresses the following topics that may impact employer-sponsored group health plans:

  • Changes related to prescription drug policy
  • Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP)
  • Prohibition against discrimination
  • Maximum annual limitation on cost sharing for plan year 2020
  • Cost-sharing requirements for generic drugs
  • Cost-sharing requirements and drug manufacturers’ coupons

CMS usually finalizes its benefit payment and parameters rule in the first quarter of the year following the proposed rule’s release. February 19, 2019 is the due date for public comments on the proposed rule.

The 2020 open enrollment period will run from November 1, 2019, to December 15, 2019.

SOURCE: Hsu, K. (29 January 2019) "Proposed 2020 Benefit Payment and Parameters Rule" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from http://blog.ubabenefits.com/proposed-2020-benefit-payment-and-parameters-rule