3 questions to ask about paid leave programs

Paid leave is offered for numerous reasons. Employers want to attract new talent, promote employee well-being and more, but are they asking the right questions regarding the costs of these programs. Keep reading to learn about what questions employers need to be asking.


Employers provide paid time away from work policies for a variety of reasons: to attract and retain talent (responding to employee needs and changing demographics); to be compliant with local, state and federal laws (which are proliferating); and to support general employee well-being (recognizing that time away from work improves productivity and engagement).

While offering paid absence policies delivers value to both employees and the employers, employers recognize the need to balance the amount of available time with the organization’s ability to deliver its products and services.

To help employers balance paid time away drivers, here are three key questions to ask to get a handle on the costs and benefits of paid leave.

1. Do you have a complete picture of the costs associated with your employees’ time away from work?

A challenge for many employers is getting a handle on the cost of time away from work and the related benefits. If an employer cannot quantify the costs of absence, it may not be able to define management strategies or to engage leadership to adopt new initiatives, policies or practices related to paid and unpaid time away programs.

Ninety percent of employers participating in the 2017 Aon Absence Pulse Survey reported they hadn’t yet quantified the cost of absence, and 43 percent of participants identified defining the cost of absence as a top challenge and priority. Though intuitively managers and executives recognize there is an impact when employees are absent from work, particularly when an absence is unscheduled, they struggle to develop concrete and focused strategies to address absence utilization without the ability to measure the current cost and collectively the impact of new management initiatives.

Employers struggle to quantify the cost of absence in the context of productivity loss, including replacement worker costs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017, employers’ cost of productivity loss associated with absenteeism was $225.8 billion, and 9.6 percent of compensation was spent on lost time benefits and overtime.

Employers are expanding their view of absence, recognizing that use of paid and unpaid time away programs are often associated with an employee’s health. As a result, combining data across health and absence programs allows an employer to recognize drivers of absence “work-related value” and define strategies to address not just how to manage the absence benefit, but to target engagement to improve well-being and the organization’s bottom-line.

As an example, musculoskeletal conditions are frequently associated with absence, which is not surprising when 11 percent of the workforce has back pain. It is noteworthy that of those with back pain, 34 percent are obese, 26 percent are hypertensive and 14 percent have mood disorders. The Integrated Benefits Institute reported in 2017 that back pain adds 2.5 days and $688 in wages to absence associated with this condition. It is this type of information pairing that provides employers with the insight to develop strategies to address comprehensive absence.

When absence and health costs are quantified, organizations quickly recognize the impact on the business’s bottom line. As the old saying goes, “we can only manage what we can measure.”

2. What is your talent strategy to improve work-life benefits, inclusive of time off to care for family?

The race for talent is on, and every industry recognizes the huge impact the changing workforce demographics currently has, and will continue to have. The current workforce incorporates five generations, though an Ernst and Young report from 2017 estimates that by 2025 millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce. As a result, the work-life needs of millennials—and their perspectives around benefits—is driving change, including time away from work policies.

It is worth noting that, per a 2015 Ernst and Young survey, millennial households are two times more likely to have both spouses working. The Pew Research Center reported in 2013 that, among all workers, 47 percent of adults who have a parent 65 years or older are raising a minor child or supporting a grown child. Additionally, a 2016 report from the Center for Work Life Law at the University of California Hastings claimed that 50 percent of all employees expect to provide elder care in the next five years.

In response, employers are expanding paid time off programs for care of family members. The paid family leave continuum often begins with a paid parental policy providing time to bond with a new birth or adoption placement. An elder care policy may follow, and the culmination might be a family care policy covering events like those under the job-protected Family Medical Leave Act. An Aon SpecSelect Survey reported that 94 percent of employers offer some form of paid parental leave in 2017; this is a significant change from 2016 when 62 percent offered this benefit. Two weeks of 100 percent paid parental leave was the norm per Aon’s SpecSelect 2016 Survey, but we are finding that many employers are expanding these programs, offering between 4 to 12 weeks.

Offering paid leave programs on their own may meet immediate needs for both time and financial support, but may be incomplete to help the employee address the full spectrum of issues that could affect success at work. In combination with family care needs—even those associated with a happy event such as a birth—there may be other health, social or financial issues. Employers combining their paid leave programs with a broader well-being strategy deliver greater value, improve engagement and increase productivity.

3. If you’re a multi-state employer, how are you ensuring your sick and family leave policies are compliant across all relevant jurisdictions?

Paid leave is a hot legislative topic lately. Last December saw the enactment of a paid FMLA tax credit pilot program as part of the federal Tax Reform The paid sick leave law club now totals 42 states and myriad municipalities. Both Washington state and Washington, D.C. are ramping up to implement paid family leave laws in 2020, joining the four states and one city that already have some form of paid family or parental leave law.

How are multi-state employers keeping up with this high-stakes evolving environment? The 2017 Pulse Survey saw 70 percent of employers report they are aware they have an employee who is subject to a paid sick leave law. Ten percent of respondents said they did not know if they had anyone subject to such a law. If knowledge is the first step in the process of compliance, deciding on a compliance strategy and then successfully implementing it are surely steps two and three.

With respect to paid sick leave, there are three major compliance options: comply on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction level, with as many as 42 different designs and no design more generous than it has to be; comply on a national level with one, most generous design, or meet somewhere in the middle, perhaps with one design for each state where a state- or local-level law is in place, or by grouping jurisdictions with similar designs together to strike a balance between being overly generous and being bogged down by dozens of administrative schemes.

Data analytics can be a key driver in designing a successful compliance strategy—compare your employee census to locations with paid sick leave laws. The ability to track and report on available leave is a requirement in all jurisdictions, and at this point, few if any third-party vendors are administering multi-state paid sick leave.

For paid family leave, the primary policy design issue is how an employer’s FMLA, maternity leave and short-term disability benefits will interact with the various paid family leave laws. So, while there may be fewer employer choices to be made with statutory paid family leave, clear employee communications will be critical to success.

Employers may tackle time away from work program issues individually to meet an immediate need, or collectively as a comprehensive strategy. Such a strategy would include data analytics across health and lost-time programs, absence policies that meet today’s needs for the employer and employee, health and wellness programs targeting modifiable health behaviors, and absence program administration that is aligned to operational goals. The expected outcome for time away from work programs isn’t about the programs themselves: it is about an engaged, productive workforce who delivers superior products/services. How do your programs stack up?

SOURCE:
VanderWerf, S and Arnedt, R (13 July 2018) "3 questions to ask about paid leave programs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/07/05/3-questions-to-ask-about-paid-leave-programs/


Bettering Health Plan Management Through Modern Healthcare Technology

Taking advantage of modern technology is part of the reason why Hierl excels in providing the best results for our clients. In this installment of CenterStage, we asked our Executive Vice President, Scott Smeaton, to give an in-depth overview of how we use our technological resources to create customized, high-quality, low-cost health plans for our clients.

Technology and Data

There are three steps to developing plans for our clients, when using technology and data. The first step is to identify the client’s cost drivers within their health program(s). For example, we may look at a client’s claims data and find their highest dollar claims are musculoskeletal – such as hip and knee replacements – identifying whether health plan members are going to the higher cost, lower quality provider. These are becoming much more prevalent and are among most plans top cost drivers. With the technology at Hierl, we can import our client’s data – medical and prescription claims and health screening results from wellness – and aggregate it into one technology platform. Doing so, will help keep our clients’ members updated on physician requests and advice.

Competitive Advantage

The second step beyond identifying our client’s cost drivers is to implement management programs and plan designs to address their health plan issues. This kind of technology is newer to the healthcare industry. It can be a great resource and tool that larger employers can use to their advantage. Think about Netflix. They analyze their viewer’s behaviors and apply predictive modeling in a way that they know what their viewers like to watch and when they want to watch it, incorporating those preferences into the ads their customers see. That kind of technology is coming to healthcare, allowing us to look at all claims and behaviors and predict where the next large claim will come from. This helps plan administrators fully understand what’s driving their health plan costs and do something about it through plan design changes, provider relations and contracting, member incentives, and member education and engagement.

Employee Betterment

After identifying areas that can be improved upon and creating a plan to address these cost drivers as discussed above, our third and final step is to create a communication program that will engage and educate employees. Our goal is to help employees understand that, within a healthcare system, there are some providers who perform better than others and cost less. When we give employees the tools and resources they need to be better healthcare consumers, everyone wins. Employer sponsored health plans have lower overall costs. This means their employees and their families lower their out-of-pocket costs, save healthcare dollars for the future, and have better outcomes. Not to mention that a happier, healthier employee is also a more productive employee at work and in the community. Hierl accomplishes this with our “Why Matters” program, which is a custom designed, year-round member education and communication program using a variety of mediums to reach our clients’ members. Through Why Matters, Hierl builds a custom (intranet) and mobile app for our clients to access basic information about their benefits 24/7. Think of it as a homepage to one of your favorite websites that you bookmark in your browser. This is where your members go to research, make decisions, educate themselves on your benefit offerings and how to be a better healthcare consumer. Based on the cost drivers identified through the process above we build out a 12-month calendar of communication materials specifically addressing the areas we’ve identified as a concern and can be delivered via paper, email, mobile app, etc.

Hierl strives to bring our clients the best possible solutions that result in high-quality, low-cost benefits. If you think your company needs to take this step toward improvement, please contact Scott Smeaton at 920.921.5921 or send him an email at ssmeaton@hierl.com.


Stress-free approach to reach business goals

It is not uncommon to struggle with setting and reaching your business goals. This article discusses a goal-setting strategy based upon three levels: small, medium, and large-sized goals.


Settling goals is an act in contradiction: Make standards too high and you’ll get frustrated on the climb, yet make standards too low and you’ll be disappointed with your long-term results. As more than one productivity guru has put it, the problem with low expectations is that you’ll actually reach them.

One solid approach to take, though, is to actually do both: Create high expectations while still making reachable milestones. To do that, plan out three levels of increasing goals.

The lowest goals are the ones you can reach based on your current momentum. These intentions don’t require a major strategy shift. The main point is to give yourself credit for your level of progress and to give you milestones to celebrate – and you should be celebrating every victory, no matter how small.

The medium-sized goals are the milestones that require some higher effort on your part. Working harder may get you there, but you may need to reconsider your current approach to your work to meet them. These goals give you a higher ambition that, with a bit of effort, can be reached.

The large goals are the big vision you see for yourself. Don’t hold back here: The goals should make you equally nervous and excited. It also should be big enough to require a major change in your strategy. In other words, working harder isn’t going to cut it – you’ll have to work smarter to get there.

The beauty here is that each set of goals builds on the previous one: Reaching the lowest goal sets you up to think bigger for the medium-sized goal and gives you the momentum necessary to even fathom the large goal. And you are a winner no matter how far you reach.

Read the article.

Source:
Brown D. (22 February 2018). "Stress-free approach to reach business goals"[Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2018/01/stress-free-approach-to-reach-business-goals/


Understanding the Intersection of Medicaid and Work

Sometimes, healthcare is confusing. We know this, which is why today we are focusing on Medicaid and work. Check out the snippet below, and check out the link for the full article.


Medicaid is the nation’s public health insurance program for people with low incomes. Overall, the Medicaid program covers one in five Americans, including many with complex and costly needs for care. Historically, nonelderly adults without disabilities accounted for a small share of Medicaid enrollees; however, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanded coverage to nonelderly adults with income up to 138% FPL, or $16,642 per year for an individual in 2017. As of December 2017, 32 states have implemented the ACA Medicaid expansion.1 By design, the expansion extended coverage to the working poor (both parents and childless adults), most of whom do not otherwise have access to affordable coverage. While many have gained coverage under the expansion, the majority of Medicaid enrollees are still the “traditional” populations of children, people with disabilities, and the elderly.

Some states and the Trump administration have stated that the ACA Medicaid expansion targets “able-bodied” adults and seek to make Medicaid eligibility contingent on work. Under current law, states cannot impose a work requirement as a condition of Medicaid eligibility, but some states are seeking waiver authority to do so.  These types of waiver requests were denied by the Obama administration, but the Trump administration has indicated a willingness to approve such waivers. This issue brief provides data on the work status of the nearly 25 million non-elderly adults without SSI enrolled in Medicaid (referred to as “Medicaid adults” throughout this brief) to understand the potential implications of work requirement proposals in Medicaid.  Key takeaways include the following:

  • Among Medicaid adults (including parents and childless adults — the group targeted by the Medicaid expansion), nearly 8 in 10 live in working families, and a majority are working themselves. Nearly half of working Medicaid enrollees are employed by small firms, and many work in industries with low employer-sponsored insurance offer rates.
  • Among the adult Medicaid enrollees who were not working, most report major impediments to their ability to work including illness or disability or care-giving responsibilities.
  • While proponents of work requirements say such provisions aim to promote work for those who are not working, these policies could have negative implications on many who are working or exempt from the requirements. For example, coverage for working or exempt enrollees may be at risk if enrollees face administrative obstacles in verifying their work status or documenting an exemption.

Get the full report and findings.

SOURCE:
Kaiser Family Foundation (5 January 2018). "Understanding the Intersection of Medicaid and Work" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/medicaid/issue-brief/understanding-the-intersection-of-medicaid-and-work/

Building A Diverse Workforce In A Small Business

As we grow as a nation, it's important that our workforce grows as well, especially as a small business. Here is a helpful article for employers looking to diversify their workforce and make it more inclusive for everyone.

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There can be little argument against the value a diverse workplace. It’s a critical element of driving innovation, increasing creativity and securing market share, but diversity also makes growth and recruitment more manageable and helps to limit the word all employers want to avoid -- turnover. Diversity is significant enough that two-thirds of people polled in a Glassdoor survey said the level of diversity was important when evaluating job offers. This can prove to be a difficult task for a small business in the tech industry.

So what is workforce diversity? It’s more than simply not discriminating based on race, gender, national origin or disability. Diversity offers an alternative view or difference in opinions. Hiring employees with differing backgrounds in religion, from varying age ranges, sexual orientation, political affiliation, personality and education can become invaluable to an organization.

That being said, it can be nearly impossible to implement or force onto a set of employees. According to Harvard Business Review, researchers examined the success of mandated diversity training programs. While it’s simple enough to teach employees the right answers to questionnaires on bias or and appropriate responses for a given situation, the actual training rarely ever sticks, not more than a few days anyway. There have even been findings that suggest these mandated diversity training courses actually have adverse effects.

In the same article from HBR, managers said that when diversity training was mandatory, it is often met with confrontation and even anger. Some, in fact, reported an increase in animosity toward a minority group. On the other hand, when workers see the training as voluntary, the result is improved attitudes and an increase of 9-13% in the hiring of minorities five years from the training.

So if diversity is crucial to the success of a company or organization, but it's also something that can tough to implement, how does an employer ensure that they are fostering a work environment that is diverse? There are a few things employers can consider when they want to step up their game in building a more well-rounded and diverse workforce.

Evaluate The Hiring Process

Assess the level of diversity in the company. Does it reflect the general workforce of the industry or of the community? Figure out which departments are behind or lacking and what the source might be. Is a team diverse in most areas but still behind in management positions? Are managers hiring based on personal biases?

Top leadership needs to be an advocate for diversity in all hiring decisions, from the entry level to leadership positions. If there is a hiring test, see that managers are adhering to it. The HBR articles noted that even when hiring tests were in place, they were used selectively and that the results were ignored.

Having a hiring panel, or a system of checks and balances, would ensure that no one person would abuse the hiring process to lean too much on their own biases. Employers should also seek out new methods or places to network.

Mentoring Programs

Implementing a mentorship or sponsorship program will create a casual relationship between employees that will help alleviate some biases a manager might have and vice versa. Providing an opportunity for stewardship and responsibility allows the mentor to bestow knowledge on their mentee as they watch them grow.

Mentees will see the value in this experience and come to respect their mentor, laying away any preconceived biases or prejudices. They will become more invested in their work and the organization. Much like training programs, mentoring programs should be optional, not mandatory.

Inclusion

Similar to soldiers who serve together on the frontlines, employees who are part of a self-managed team and working as equals who work to complete projects will learn to dismiss biases on their own. Fostering an environment where employees can connect and collaborate increases engagement and allows for more contact than they may make when left to themselves.

In order to succeed in a global market, a tech organization must move past using "diversity" as a meaningless buzzword and step into action by developing and implementing an equal opportunity employment policy, following the Federal EEOC guidelines. Building and maintaining a diverse workforce is essential to growth and innovation in any industry, especially tech. But when handled poorly, or forced upon employees, it will cause more than a few headaches or even lawsuits. It requires change, a new take on leadership and creating a company culture based the business or service rather than a culture based on individual preferences or ideas.

Read the original article.

Source:
Cruikshank G. (4 December 2017). "Building A Diverse Workforce In A Small Business" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2017/12/04/building-a-diverse-workforce-in-a-small-business/#2b42986a4250


5 Tips to Improve the Employee Experience from an Employee Happiness Director

From SHRM, here are some helpful tips to improve happiness within your workplace.


 

Gone are the days of delighting customers at the expense of employees. Organizations today understand the value of employee happiness and are increasingly looking for ways to attract and retain top talent. This includes delighting employees at every touch point along the way from orientation and beyond.

And while this may mean something different for every organization, the following few tips may help to improve the employee experience, and if your employees are happy, your investors, customers and clients will follow.

Find employees who follow your north star. Hire employees who align with your core values. Our organization is mission-driven and focused on transforming lives. As a result, we look for good eggs who are driven by doing something for the greater good and leaving the world a better place. Big egos need not apply.

Prioritize happiness. Happiness means something different to every employee. Encourage your employees to find what makes them happy and prioritize that. Employee happiness is our CEO’s number one priority, so we held a workshop to design our culture of happiness together with input every single employee. We now measure employee happiness monthly and look for ways to delight our employees at every turn.

Ask and you shall receive. We constantly ask our employees about what’s working, what’s not working and how we can come together to build a culture of happiness through weekly, anonymous surveys. This provides leadership with valuable insights and empowers employees at all levels to help create an environment where we will thrive. Commit to delivering on employee suggestions that impact happiness when you can. You may not always be able to implement a suggestion but always ensure that the employee’s input is valued and was heard by leadership.

Be culturally relevant. While some may appreciate yoga breaks during all company meetings, others may want time off to volunteer with family and friends. Get to know your employees and understand what is truly meaningful to them. And always check back - life moves fast and personal priorities shift. Make sure your benefits and perks evolve to keep up with your dynamic population.

Give that gold star. It’s not all about perks. Offer work that’s challenging, acknowledge a job well done and reward employees in creative ways that are motivating to them. A company that successfully fosters a positive employee experience reaps the benefits in the form of enhanced engagement, happiness, productivity and retention.

 

Read the original article.

Source:
Andrade C. (4 December 2017). "5 Tips to Improve the Employee Experience from an Employee Happiness Director" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/5-tips-to-improve-the-employee-experience-from-an-employee-happiness-direct


Employers using fast-feedback apps to measure worker satisfaction, engagement

In this article from Employee Benefit Advisors, we take a look at measuring worker satisfaction and engagement through the use of feedback applications. Let us know what your verdict is!


The days of employers conducting employee engagement surveys once every year might be coming to an end.

Thanks to “fast feedback” applications, employers can conduct quick online surveys of their employees to measure how engaged they are at their jobs. The data from these polls is then collated and presented, often in real time on dashboards, to employers to show their workforce’s level of engagement and satisfaction. Some of these web-based programs also can present CEOs with steps they can take to improve their environment and culture.

These tools are available from Culture Amp, Glint, TINYpulse, PeakOn and others.

One of the main benefits of fast feedback, according to Glint CEO Jim Barnett, is that it cuts down on “regrettable attrition,” which occurs when talented employees leave for better jobs.

Glint customers include eBay, Glassdoor, Intuit, LinkedIn and Sky Broadcasting. These clients send out e-mail invitations to workers and ask them to take a voluntary survey, which can feature either stock employee engagement questions or queries that can be fine-tuned for a specific workplace.

Glint recommends 10 to 20 questions per Pulse — what it calls employee engagement survey sessions — and results are sent back to the employer’s HR directors and senior executives. According to Barnett, the Pulses are confidential but not anonymous. Barnett explains that while anonymous surveys do not record the respondent’s name and job title, a confidential survey means that only Glint knows who took the Pulse. The employer is only presented data from specific job groups or job descriptors within an enterprise, such as a production team or IT support.

This month, Glint announced two new capabilities to its real-time employee feedback program, called Always-On and On-Demand Surveys. Always-On allows workers to express their concerns at any time and On-Demand Surveys gives managers and executives the opportunity to perform quick, ad hoc surveys of staffers.

“Some of our companies use the Always-On Survey if they want people on their team to give feedback at any time on a particular topic,” he says.

Firms also use fast feedback for onboarding new hires, Barnett says. Companies have set up Glint’s program to gauge new workers at their 30 and 60 day-mark of their employment to “see how that onboarding experience impacted their engagement,” he says.

Culture Amp also provides fast feedback tools via a library of survey templates that cover a range of employee feedback topics including diversity and inclusion, manager effectiveness, wellness and exit interviews. Culture Amp’s clients include Aligned Leisure, Box, Etsy, McDonalds, Adobe and Yelp.

“We encourage customers to customize surveys to make the language more relevant, and to ensure every question reflects something the company is willing to act on,” says Culture Amp CEO Didier Elzinga.

Culture Amp presents its survey results to employers via a dashboard that displays the top drivers of employee engagement in real time. “Users can then drill down to understand more about each question, including how participants responded across a range of different demographic factors,” Elzinga says.

Sometimes CEOs are presented with news they were not prepared to hear, according to Elzinga. Some customers take to the employee survey process with the mindset of ‘myth busting,’ he says. “They want to know if some truth they hold dear is actually just a story they’ve been telling themselves. Every now and then, an employee survey will provide surprising results to an HR or executive team,” he says. “Whether people go into a survey looking to bust myths or gather baseline data, the important part is being open to accepting the results.”

Glassdoor takes the pulse of its workforce

Glint customer Glassdoor, the online job recruitment site that also allows visitors to anonymously rate their current employer’s work environment, compensation and culture, not only urges its employees to rate the firm using its own tools, the company also uses Glint’s software to view employee engagement at a more granular level.

Glassdoor conducted its first Glint Pulse in October 2016 and has rolled out three since then. The next is scheduled for January 2018, according to Marca Clarke, director of learning and organizational development at Glassdoor.

“We looked at employee engagement and the things that drive discretionary effort [among employees who work harder],” Clarke says. “This is strongly correlated with retention as well.”

Clarke said that one Glint Pulse found that the employees’ view of Glassdoor culture varied from location to location. Of its 700-person workforce, people working in the newer satellite offices were happier than the employees in its Mill Valley, Calif., headquarters. She speculates that this response could be due to newer, more eager employees hired in brand new, recently opened offices.

“People think culture is monolithic that should be felt across the company but we could see that there was some variation from office to office. With Glint, we were able to slice the data not just by region and job function but [we could] go to the manager level to look at how people with different performance ratings think about the culture,” she says.

Recent research from Aon Hewitt found that a 5% increase in employee engagement is linked to a 3% lift in revenue a year later. According to Barnett, Glint clients that regularly conduct surveys and take steps to engage their employees often see a boost in the price of their company shares.

“Companies in the top quartile of Glint scores last year [saw] their stock outperform the other companies by 40%,” he says. “They now have the data and can see that employee engagement and the overall employee experience really do you have a dramatic impact on the result of their company.”

 

Read the original article.

Source:
Albinus P. (5 December 2017). "Employers using fast-feedback apps to measure worker satisfaction, engagement" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/employers-using-fast-feedback-apps-to-measure-worker-satisfaction-engagement?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


DOL Announces New Standard for Unpaid Interns

On Jan. 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced that it would adopt a new standard for determining whether interns and students are “employees” who must be paid under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The DOL clarified that, going forward, it would abandon its six-part test and instead adopt the “primary beneficiary” test used by federal courts.

The six-part test provides that an intern at a for-profit company is an employee unless all six factors of the test are met. The primary beneficiary test has a more flexible approach, focusing on whether the intern or the business benefits more from the relationship.

The Old Six-part Test

The six-part benefit test is very specific and allows for interns to be unpaid only if all of the following factors are met:

  1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training that would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and, on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and
  6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

The Primary Beneficiary Test

The primary beneficiary test looks at the “economic reality” nature of the employment relationship and includes seven factors to consider. However, unlike the six-part test, these factors provide only a reference frame to determine who is benefiting more from the intern-employer relationship.

The seven factors are:

  1. The extent to which the intern and the employer clearly understand that there is no expectation of compensation. Any promise of compensation, express or implied, suggests that the intern is an employee—and vice versa.
  2. The extent to which the internship provides training that would be similar to that which would be given in an educational environment, including the clinical and other hands-on training provided by educational institutions.
  3. The extent to which the internship is tied to the intern’s formal education program by integrated coursework or the receipt of academic credit.
  4. The extent to which the internship accommodates the intern’s academic commitments by corresponding to the academic calendar.
  5. The extent to which the internship’s duration is limited to the period in which the internship provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the intern’s work complements, rather than displaces, the work of paid employees while providing significant educational benefits to the intern.
  7. The extent to which the intern and the employer understand that the internship is conducted without entitlement to a paid job at the conclusion of the internship.

Not every factor must be met, and not all factors must be given the same weight during the analysis. Instead, the courts will consider these seven factors and evaluate whether, in the totality of the circumstances, the employer is benefiting more from the relationship than the intern is. When an employer is the primary beneficiary of the relationship, the intern is an employee for purposes of the FLSA. When the intern is the primary beneficiary, he or she is not considered an employee under the FLSA.

More Information

Please contact Hierl Insurance Inc. for more information about compliance with FLSA issues.

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DOL Reintroduces 17 Opinion Letters

On Jan. 5, 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reintroduced 17 opinion letters. The letters were introduced by the Wage and Hour Division during the George W. Bush administration in response to specific employer compliance questions, such as whether “on-call” hours for ambulance personnel are considered as compensable time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The letters were withdrawn in 2009, shortly after their introduction.

Addressing compliance questions through opinion letters is a more relaxed approach than the administrative interpretations issued by the Obama administration.

Opinion Letters

Opinion letters provide the DOL’s official opinion on how labor and employment laws apply in specific situations.

The DOL issues opinion letters after receiving an employer’s request for clarification on how the law should be interpreted in specific scenarios. For example, multiple opinion letters present the DOL’s opinion on whether FLSA exemptions apply to specific employment positions.

As a result, opinion letters are fact-specific and employers can rely on them for guidance to the extent that the facts in their circumstances align with the scenarios described in the letter.

Publishing opinion letters is a labor-intensive process and employers that request one may need to wait several months to receive a response from the DOL. In addition, while the DOL reviews all opinion letter requests, it has traditionally only answered a few, at its discretion. The DOL has published instructions on how to request opinion letters on its website.

Impact on Employers

Opinion letters can be extremely helpful for employers that are trying to understand their legal responsibilities, particularly in areas where the law seems to be outdated or where compliance with one legal obligation interferes with compliance with another.

Indeed, employers that receive an answer to their request can rely on the answer they receive in their efforts to comply with their legal obligations. Employers are also encouraged to review past opinion letters and other DOL guidance to obtain a clearer understanding of their obligations.

However, an employer that seeks the DOL’s opinion regarding a specific situation should understand the risk that the DOL may not agree with its practices, so employers should consider this alternative carefully.

In addition, while employers can rely on an opinion letter, employers should also remember that opinion letters are merely guidance—they are not the law, and they are not binding. This means that DOL inspectors, auditors and judges may disagree with opinion letters and find noncompliance even when the employer is following the advice given by an opinion letter.

Good Faith Defense

However, employers that rely on opinion letters may be able to establish a good faith defense under the law. The good faith defense principle allows noncompliant employers to minimize the risk of penalties if they can prove they were making an honest effort to comply with the law.

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Why a Strong Employee/Employer Relationship Is Important

Tied to the success of a company is the loyalty of its customers. While this customer-first mentality is necessary for the continuation of a company, employers sometimes forget to honor another intrinsic element of success and growth — the employee and employer relationship.

Employers are not drill sergeants who belt out orders for employees to follow. Why waste all that employee talent by burning them out? Work to build a strong and positive relationship with your employees, and they will grow as professionals and give back tenfold.

  1. Rethink Hierarchy: Help Employees Navigate the Organization

Employees have a place in the hierarchy of the company, but that doesn’t mean anyone should feel less than another or be demoralized. Every leader must understand the functions of their organization and its politics. Your organization’s culture sets the precedent for the professional personalities it hires. It should be clear to each employee why they were hired and why they are the best fit for a particular role.

Unfortunately, many employees simply exist in the vacuum of a cubicle and may not grow out of it. They feel boxed in and clueless about how to navigate the hierarchy and how to climb the ladder of success. An employee may need hand-holding or to be left alone, but that’s not the employee’s fault.

An employer has to find a way to meet them in the middle. Each employee has a hierarchy of needs that should be addressed, such as good benefits to meet basic needs, a positive work environment, a sense of place to develop a feeling of belonging and a way to become professionally self-actualized.

  1. Invest in Employee Networks and Loyalty

Just because you’ve moved up the ladder as a leader doesn’t mean you stop building relationships with those around you, including those under your supervision. You are a model of success for your employees, and you never know where your paths will lead or cross in the future.

Do your employees feel they can trust you? Do you empower and equip them with tools necessary to boost their influence and opportunities for success? Employee interoffice relationships and networks sculpt their reputation over the course of their careers.

Invest in employee networks to build loyalty and employee morale. Leaders should encourage networking inside and outside of the office. By strengthening influential networks, your employees will feel confident about their professional objectives and goals. They must learn that even professional relationships are not mutual all the time, and this negative exchange should be avoided. Loyalty is earned and learned when employees align with others who reciprocate support in networking, and that’s first gained from the employer.

Leaders should look at their own professional paths as an example for personal consideration. Name three others that have been in your network for years, and ask yourself if these are reciprocal relationships. Retrace the steps of your career, and remember leaders who held you back and why. Don’t be that leader. When employees climb the ladder, they will be in your network. Maintain reciprocal relationships with your employees, and teach them to do the same with others in their network.

  1. Broaden the Scope of Employee Experience

Don’t let employees become bored with their jobs. Of course, there are mundane tasks to every role that feel like chores, but employees should be allowed to challenge their knowledge. Let employees develop their skills by teaching them how to do the job of a leader. Broadening the scope of an employee’s experience prepares them for what comes next in their career, and they won’t fall short of expectations or feel their ambitions are neglected by an employer they trusted.

Many employers feel an employee should only understand what’s in their job description and nothing beyond fulfilling those duties. Wasn’t that why the employee was hired in the first place? An excellent leader sees the employee for their ambition and ability to grow, and then teaches them about the ecosystem of the workplace to advance.

Encourage employees to step up to the plate, beyond being a bench warmer, and take a swing at a big project or pitch an idea at a meeting. When an employee has the confidence to speak out and act independently, they gain the confidence to take risks, make involved decisions and lead.

Strong employee/employer relationships are vital to the success of the organization. The people and their relationships behind the scenes are the gears that move the mechanism of your company.

When your employees do their jobs well, achieve a new goal or do something successfully, reward them with networking opportunities and better benefits. Make the employee and employer relationship a strong and reciprocal one to be remembered for an entire career.

 

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Source:
Craig W. (20 September 2017). "Why a Strong Employee/Employer Relationship Is Important" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamcraig/2017/09/20/why-a-strong-employeeemployer-relationship-is-important/#480edb564d91