Dealing with Employee Dishonesty & Sexual Harassment

Study Links Work Performance Goals to Employee Dishonesty

Although some employers believe that pushing their employees to the limit can help increase productivity, a new study has shown that this type of performance pressure can cause employees to be dishonest or cheat.

Researchers from the University of Georgia and Arizona State University recently published a study that examined the behaviors of employees who must meet performance benchmarks. According to the study, employees who believe that their jobs are at risk because of performance pressure are much more likely to lie in order to protect their jobs. In fact, 55 percent of employees surveyed as a part of the study have seen a co-worker manipulate numbers to appear more productive. This type of dishonesty can also have drastic consequences for businesses, especially those in industries that require strict recordkeeping.

The best way to keep your employees productive and honest is to strike a balance between job requirements and incentives. For example, managers can set baseline expectations for a certain position as well as incentivized milestones for exceptional work.

Creating a Sexual Harassment Policy That’s Right for Your Business

In order to keep your business productive, you need to establish a work environment that’s supportive and actively discourages sexual harassment. Any instance of sexual harassment can cause intense emotional and physical distress that affects your entire business. You also have a legal obligation to protect your employees, and ignoring the topic of sexual harassment could expose you to costly lawsuits and tarnish your reputation.

Even if you don’t believe that sexual harassment is a problem in your workplace, taking the time to draft a formal policy can help protect your employees and your business. Here are some important topics to include in a sexual harassment policy:

  • Emphasize that your business has a strict no-tolerance policy for any type of sexual harassment. Your policy should also outline that any employee found guilty of harassment will be subject to disciplinary action, including termination.
  • Establish what physical and verbal behaviors are regarded as sexual harassment, and stress that employees should feel safe at all times.
  • Create a formal procedure for making a sexual harassment claim that protects your employees’ privacy.
  • Encourage employees to come forward with sexual harassment claims so management can take steps to remedy the situation and prevent future harassment. You should also emphasize that there will be no retaliation of any kind against employees who make a claim.
  • Make a procedure for forming a sexual harassment investigation team. The investigation team should never have personal ties to anyone involved with the sexual harassment claim, and should include both male and female employees.

For more help creating a safe, violence-free workplace, contact us at 920-921-5921 today.

 

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4 tips for workplace gift giving

The holidays should be a time of bliss and celebration. However, this often isn’t the case when the stress of deciding if coworkers will make it on your holiday shopping list sets in.

So, as you make that list, check it twice, and consider these key points before you find yourself in an uncomfortable workplace gift exchange.

The company gift-giving policy

Almost every large company has one, and it isn’t just excluded to company clients and outside business partners. It also applies to gifts given between employees. While many companies allow for gifts to be given below a certain dollar amount, make sure to look for this policy or contact Human Resources before purchasing any gifts or organizing a gift-exchange.

Reasons for giving

While all gifts should be exchanged in the spirit of the holidays, some people may have ulterior motives. If you have recently begun negotiations for a raise or promotion, you will want to steer clear of buying your manager anything that seems to be trying to influence their decision. Typically, the flow of gifts should always be downward, not upward within a company.

Office culture

This is especially important if you are new to the company. Did people start talking about the annual gift exchange before Thanksgiving? Or have you already received an invite to the holiday team lunch?

Among a survey of U.S. workers, 45 percent say they give their office peers a gift during the holiday season, and 56 percent spend more than $20 doing so.

It’s important to use your best judgment to determine the office norm and if you need to, ask a co-worker to confirm your suspicions.

Be inclusive

If your company does allow for gifts to be exchanged, make sure everyone on the team is included. A great way to do this is by offering an opt-in vs opt-out gift exchange. This way everyone is invited, but not everyone has to choose to participate. This is mindful of employees who may be experiencing a financial hardship that won’t allow for unnecessary purchases this holiday season.

With all things considered, remember that gift giving at work is a company specific characteristic and the best place to look to find answers to your questions may be internal. Who knows, the coworker sitting three cubicles down playing Christmas music in October and the coworker next to him whose personality closely resembles the Grinch, may actually be in agreement on a policy like this one.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:
Taylor K. (20 November 2017). "4 tips for workplace gift giving" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://workwell.unum.com/2017/11/4-tips-for-workplace-gift-giving/


Safety Focused Newsletter - December 2017

Preventing Sprains and Strains

Sprains, strains and tears to muscles and connective tissues are some of the most common injuries workers experience. Sprains and strains can result from lifting injuries, being hit by falling objects or even a simple misstep. Overusing your muscles can also cause these injuries.

To reduce your risk of experiencing sprains and strains on the job, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Use extreme caution if you are lifting something particularly heavy. When in doubt, ask for help.
  • Reduce repetitive movements if possible. Chronic strains are usually the result of overusing the same muscles.
  • Use proper form when completing tasks, as extensive gripping can increase the risk of hand and forearm strains.
  • Consider your posture when sitting for long periods of time and maintain an overall relaxed position.
  • Maintain a healthy fitness level outside of work to keep your body strong and flexible.
  • Stretch before you begin working, and take short breaks throughout the day to stretch and rebalance your body.

If you have any questions or concerns about sprains or strains, do not hesitate to contact your supervisor.

 

The Hazards of Headphones

In many workplaces, it’s common for employees to listen to music while they work. While this provides workers with entertainment while they perform their job duties, the overuse of headphones may lead to hearing loss over time, particularly if they listen to media at a high volume.

The following are some common symptoms to look out for if you are concerned that frequent headphone use is contributing to hearing loss:

  • Straining to understand conversations
  • Having to watch people’s faces closely to understand what they’re saying
  • Continuously increasing the volume on the TV or radio, especially to the point where others complain
  • Sounds seem muffled after listening to music
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)

If you find that you have any of these symptoms, visit your doctor and ask for a hearing test. Your doctor will be able to tell you if you are at risk for further hearing loss.

To continue to use headphones at work safely, there are a number of strategies to keep in mind.

If you use a smartphone or MP3 player, check to see if you can set a volume limit on it. Many devices have this feature built-in and include instructions on how to set it in the manual.

Another way to reduce your risk of hearing loss is to purchase headphones that go over your ears, rather than ear buds. Ear buds fit inside your ear and don’t provide any noise isolation, which causes people using them to turn the volume up louder.

As a general rule, set your music volume no higher than 60 to 70 percent of the maximum, and limit listening to one hour per day. Doing so will ensure that you can enjoy your favorite media without harming your hearing.

 

Download the December 2017 Safety Focused Newsletter PDF


Two Months After Hurricane Maria, A Growing Majority Of Americans Say Puerto Ricans are Not Yet Getting the Help They Need

Two months after Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, a growing majority of Americans say that Puerto Ricans affected by the devastating storm are not yet getting the help they need, the November Kaiser Family Foundation Tracking Poll finds.

This month, 70 percent of the public say that people in Puerto Rico are not yet getting the help they need, up from 62 percent in October 2017. These perceptions vary by party, and half of Republicans (52%) now say Puerto Ricans aren’t yet getting needed help, up significantly from October (38%).

When asked whether the federal government is doing enough to restore electricity and access to food and water in Puerto Rico or not, a majority of the public (59%) says the federal government is not doing enough, up from 52 percent in October. Most Democrats (86%) and independents (59%) say the federal government is not doing enough, but most Republicans (63%) say it is doing enough.

In contrast, Americans see the recovery efforts in Texas following Hurricane Harvey in late August progressing more positively. Most (60%) of the public says Texans are getting the help they need, twice the share (31%) who say Texans aren’t yet getting needed help.

puertoricopoll.png

The poll finds similar shares of Americans they are closely following news about recovery efforts in Puerto Rico (63%) and in Texas (58%).  Democrats are somewhat more likely to report closely following news about the Puerto Rico recovery (75%) than are independents (61%) and Republicans (54%). In contrast, there are no partisan differences for those following news about Texas.

Designed and analyzed by public opinion researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation, the poll was conducted from November 8 – 13, 2017 among a nationally representative random digit dial telephone sample of 1,201 adults. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by landline (415) and cell phone (786). The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the full sample. For results based on subgroups, the margin of sampling error may be higher.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Kaiser Family Foundation (20 November 2017). "Two Months After Hurricane Maria, A Growing Majority Of Americans Say Puerto Ricans are Not Yet Getting the Help They Need" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/other/press-release/poll-two-months-after-hurricane-maria-a-growing-majority-of-americans-say-puerto-ricans-are-not-ye-getting-the-help-they-need/

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5 ways to empower employees to make smart healthcare choices

As an employer, it's important to help your employees out when you can - especially when it comes to making smart healthcare choices. In this article from Employee Benefit Advisor, Anne Stowell lists five different ways to empower your employees.


As uncertainty in healthcare policy lingers, creating a benefits package with real value for both employers and employees can seem increasingly complex and difficult to achieve. Striving to provide the right care services — ones that are easy for employees to use, and designed to increase engagement in their care while being mindful of costs — is undoubtedly a tricky balancing act.

So how can employers engage to help employers offer benefits that have real and lasting value, while empowering employees to make smart care choices? Here are five tips:

1) Learn your clients’ hot buttons. Value is one of the most important factors employers consider when shopping for benefits. Rise Broadband, for example, the largest fixed wireless service provider in the U.S., has a large number of employees working in the field to service remote customers. Accessing healthcare when employees are on the road was a real challenge. Jennifer Iannapollo, the company’s director of HR, says their telehealth benefit provides employees with real value, and was the clear answer for this Colorado-based employer.

Bloomberg/file photo

2) Recognize empowerment comes with confidence. Employees won’t use what they aren’t sure of. Iannapollo also was careful to choose a telehealth platform that focused on quality. “Some people needed reassurance about who would be treating them and how they would know their medical history. We reassured them that their medical records and history are collected when they register and that the physicians are all board certified and average 20 years of experience. That provided them with peace of mind,” she says. Security practices and certifications can also add a level of comfort, and are something advisers should keep in mind in their recommendations for any product to employers.

3) Remind employees to take charge of their own healthcare destiny. A recent Teladoc survey of more than 300 employers found that a whopping 66% stated that lack of benefit awareness negatively affects employee engagement with health benefits. That’s where advisers have an opportunity to shine by emphasizing the need to communicate and educate employees not just during benefit season, but whenever/wherever their moment of need might be. “Surround sound” reminders are proven to help. One creative idea that Rise Broadband adopted was dashboard stickers that help field technicians’ keep available benefits top of mind.

4) Combat “vendor fatigue.” Employers are inundated by the staggering number of benefits options, not to mention trying to manage countless vendors that all have a piece of the benefits package puzzle. Advisers can help clear the confusion by working closely with their clients to help them source solutions that meet a broad array of needs for everything from sinus infections to behavioral health to getting second opinions.

5) Educate employers that employee engagement is a winning strategy. Advisers agree with us that technology that provides real-time information for decision-making and access to quality healthcare for employees provides real value. Reed Smith, SVP/employee benefits practice leader, CoBiz Insurance, in Denver, believes that like other disruptive innovation (think Apple and Amazon) that has transformed consumer interactions, engaged telehealth, when deployed effectively, can result in a happier, healthier and more involved employee, which means a healthier bottom line for the employer.

 

Source:
Stowell A. (8 November 2017). "5 ways to empower employees to make smart healthcare choices" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/5-ways-to-empower-employees-to-make-smart-healthcare-choices

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How to Inspire and Energize Your Workforce Every Day

In this article from the SHRM blog, Desda Moss brings up some fascinating points on how to energize your workforce, as well as provides some great examples of books and behavior. Dive in with us below.


What does it take to inspire others? In The Inspiration Code: How the Best Leaders Energize People Every Day (Amacom, 2017), Kristi Hedges, a leadership communications expert and author who coaches CEOs and senior executives, draws from in-depth research to highlight the tools and practices used by inspirational leaders. Her guide provides a targeted approach to igniting inspiration, relying on a framework informed by hundreds of interviews, survey data and communications studies.
With a methodology Hedges calls "The Inspiration Path," the book takes complex leadership concepts and translates them into actionable steps.
Here are five surprising findings about inspirational leaders, according to Hedges:
  • Listening is the highest rated inspirational behavior. We're not inspired as much when someone talks at us as we are when someone listens to us. Time spent crafting beautiful messages matters less than what happens when leaders are quiet. To be an inspiring leader, you have to listen fully, with an open mind.
  • Small moments have the biggest impact. Most people recall their most inspired moments as times they were engaged in personal conversations where another person spoke authentically and focused on them. People can hold the words from an inspiring 10-minute conversation for their entire lives. Conversations create an inspirational trigger. For example, a conversation about purpose hits upon why we are at this moment in our lives and in our careers. These conversations transcend what we're doing in the here and now to reveal patterns that take us further, enhance our enjoyment, tap into our passion and spark in us the will to be in service to a larger cause.
  • Identifying and vocalizing another person's potential is life-changing.People who inspire us notice and grow our potential—honestly, specifically and graciously. We are often unaware of the unique talents and value we bring. Having someone take the time to tell us is a powerful reminder and can open our minds to what's possible.
  • People who inspire us are real, just like us. Contrary to common cultural myths that inspirational leaders are either charismatic iconoclasts or flawless, unflappable ideals, those who inspire us are actually relatable and down-to-earth. Truly inspirational leaders don't script their words, put on false airs or try to be perfect. They get through to us because they're authentic.  To be more inspirational, you need to let any well-honed professional persona go. We connect with people on emotional terms. We want to see what they actually care about.
  • Technology is killing inspiration.  Distraction and distance are enemies of inspiration. One study found that just the appearance of a cellphone on the table during a conversation—even if silenced—reduces empathy. If you want to be inspiring, you need to get away from distractions, electronic or otherwise, and show up fully.
Hedges contends that inspirational communicators don't possess any rare qualities, only the will to sharpen their listening skills, spark purpose in others and build connections that lead to an engaged workforce.
You can read the original article here.
Source:
Moss D. (20 October 2017). "How to Inspire and Energize Your Workforce Every Day" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/how-to-inspire-and-energize-your-workforce-every-day

Don't Put Up with the Bull of Bullying

Bullying plagues our nation - and not just in high school. Here is an excellent article from our partner UBA Benefits on how to spot and handle bullying in the workplace.


Read the original article here.

Source:

Mukhtar G. (19 September 2017). "Don't Put Up with the Bull of Bullying" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/dont-put-up-with-the-bull-of-bullying

 

There’s no place for bullying and that’s especially true in the workplace, yet many employees bully their co-workers. So, how does this happen? It used to be that bullying was confined to the schoolyard, but now it’s spread to cyberbullying and workplace bullying. Now, if there’s a culture of bullying at an organization, often it’s repeated as people climb the corporate ladder even though they were bullied themselves when they held lower positions.

An article on the website Human Resource Executive Online titled, “How to Bully-proof the Workplace,” says that “80 percent of bullying is done by people who have a position of power over other people.” Let that number sink in. That means four out of five people in positions of power will bully their subordinates.

One possible reason for the high number is that bullying may be difficult to identify and the person doing the bullying may not even realize it. Either the bully, or the victim, could view the action as teasing, or workplace banter. However, when one person is continually picked on, then that person is being bullied. Likewise, if a manager picks on all of his or her subordinates, then that person is a bully.

It’s important for organizations to have policies in place to thwart bullying and not just for the toll it takes on employees. It also begins to affect productivity. Those being bullied often feel like their work doesn’t matter and their abilities are insufficient. Worse is that bullies tend to resent talented people as they’re perceived as a threat. So, bullies tend to manipulate opinions about that employee in order to keep them from being promoted.

Eventually, talented employees decide to work elsewhere, leaving the employer spending time and money to find a replacement. But the bully doesn’t care. It just means they get to apply their old tricks on someone who isn’t used to them.

At some point, someone will fight back. Not physically, of course, but through documentation. An employee who is being bullied should immediately document any and all occurrences of workplace bullying and then present those documents to someone in HR. Most likely, this will result in identification of the bullying, stoppage of it, counseling for both the bully and the victim, and, if not already enacted, policies to prevent it from happening again.

 

Read the original article here.

Source:

Mukhtar G. (19 September 2017). "Don't Put Up with the Bull of Bullying" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/dont-put-up-with-the-bull-of-bullying


The Killjoy of Office Culture

Sometimes, negativity in the office is hard to avoid. Read this article for some helpful tips to take care of those who may be aiding in the negative atmosphere.


One of the latest things trending right now in business is the importance of office culture. When everyone in the office is working well together, productivity rises and efficiency increases. Naturally, the opposite is true when employees do not work well together and the corporate culture suffers. So, what are these barriers and what can you do to avoid them?

According to an article titled, “8 ways to ruin an office culture,” in Employee Benefit News, the ways to kill corporate culture may seem intuitive, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t happen. Here’s what organizations should do to improve their corporate culture.

Provide positive employee feedback. While it’s easy to criticize, and pointing out employees’ mistakes can often help them learn to not repeat them, it’s just as important to recognize success and praise an employee for a job well done. An “attaboy/attagirl” can really boost someone’s spirits and let them know their work is appreciated.

Give credit where credit is due. If an assistant had the bright idea, if a subordinate did all the work, or if a consultant discovered the solution to a problem, then he or she should be publicly acknowledged for it. It doesn’t matter who supervised these people, to the victor go the spoils. If someone had the guts to speak up, then he or she should get the glory. Theft is wrong, and it’s just as wrong when you take someone’s idea, or hard work, and claim it as your own.

Similarly, listen to all ideas from all levels within the company. Every employee, regardless of their position on the corporate ladder, likes to feel that their contributions matter. From the C-suite, all the way down to the interns, a genuinely good idea is always worth investigating regardless of whether the person who submitted the idea has an Ivy League degree or not. Furthermore, sometimes it takes a different perspective – like one from an employee on a different management/subordinate level – to see the best way to resolve an issue.

Foster teamwork because many hands make light work. Or, as I like to say, competition breeds contempt. You compete to get your job, you compete externally against other companies, and you may even compete against your peers for an award. You shouldn’t have to compete with your own co-workers. The winner of that competition may not necessarily be the best person and it will often have negative consequences in terms of trust.

Get rid of unproductive employees. One way to stifle innovation and hurt morale is by having an employee who doesn’t do any work while everyone else is either picking up the slack, or covering for that person’s duties. Sometimes it’s necessary to prune the branches.

Let employees have their privacy – especially on social media. As long as an employee isn’t conducting personal business on company time, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with an employee updating their social media accounts when they’re “off the clock.” In addition, as long as employees aren’t divulging company secrets, or providing other corporate commentary that runs afoul of local, state, or federal laws, then there’s no reason to monitor what they post.

Promote a healthy work-life balance. Yes, employees have families, they get sick, or they just need time away from the workplace to de-stress. And while there will always be times when extra hours are needed to finish a project, it shouldn’t be standard operating procedure at a company to insist that employees sacrifice their time.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Mukhtar G. (14 September 2017). "The Killjoy of Office Culture" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/the-killjoy-of-office-culture


HRL - Woman - Frustrated

Are you addressing your employee’s financial health?

Do your employees find themselves bogged down with financial concerns? Maybe it's time to help them out. In this article, our partner, UBA, explores some of the ways your employees may be struggling with their financial health, and how you can help.


The importance of health and wellness in the workplace is more apparent than ever. It’s obvious why healthy individuals make better employees and the positive impact this has on your bottom line. When thinking about building a program to improve the well-being of your employees, don’t forget about the importance of their financial health.

In recent years, studies show that employees have a wide range of financial concerns that affect their work. Some financial issues are widespread, impacting a large number of employees, while others may be more unique based on an employee’s specific circumstances.

Financial stress in the workplace influences productivity, absenteeism, physical health, emotional well-being, and the overall happiness of employees. Nearly 25 percent of employees confirm personal finance issues are a distraction at work and 39 percent say they spend three hours or more each week at work dealing with personal financial issues.1

Some of the biggest financial stressors impacting employees today include:

  • Student loan debt – 2 million Americans collectively owe $1.3 trillion in student loans – that’s more than credit card and auto loan debt, and second only to mortgage debt 2
  • Retirement savings – 56 percent of Americans have less than $10,000 in retirement savings 3
  • Emergency funds – 46 percent are unable to cover a $400 emergency 4
  • Other debt – 48 percent of Americans have more credit card debt than savings 5

Unfortunately, financial stress can go unnoticed because it is usually not as openly discussed or addressed. Discussing personal finance with co-workers and even family members is still considered difficult for many. This makes it even more important to have a program in place to educate and empower your employees to make positive financial decisions.

There are a wide variety of financial wellness programs and services available. When developing a program, be sure that you include both educational resources and tools that support behavioral change.

  • Educational resources – Education is the backbone to any financial wellness program. Remember, financial issues can impact anyone in your company and not everyone learns the same way. Offer a variety of resources including workshops, seminars, books, online courses and access to financial consultations. It’s important to assure employees that they are in a safe environment where they can learn and feel comfortable asking questions and seeking more information.
  • Empowering behavioral change – Financial wellness doesn’t stop with education. Worksheets, budgeting tools, financial consultants, loan repayment plans and retirement savings plans are all tools that aid employees in making long-term behavioral changes that improve their financial health. Celebrating the small successes early on will help employees commit to making more long-term changes. Be sure to have programs in place that offer the tools and resources needed for employees to set goals, change their behavior and celebrate their success.

 

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Cannon N. (3 October 2017). "Are you addressing your employee’s financial health?" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/are-you-addressing-your-employees-financial-health


New Regulations Broadening Employer Exemptions to Contraceptive Coverage: Impact on Women


You can read the original article here.

Source:

Sobel L., Salganicoff A., Rosenzweig C. (6 October 2017). "New Regulations Broadening Employer Exemptions to Contraceptive Coverage: Impact on Women" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/new-regulations-broadening-employer-exemptions-to-contraceptive-coverage-impact-on-women/

The Trump Administration has issued new regulations that significantly broaden employers’ ability to be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage requirement.  The regulation opens the door for any employer or college/ university with a student health plan with objections to contraceptive coverage based on religious beliefs to qualify for an exemption. Any nonprofit or closely-held for-profit employer with moral objections to contraceptive coverage also qualifies for an exemption. Their female employees, dependents and students will no longer be entitled to coverage for the full range of FDA approved contraceptives at no cost.

On October 6, 2017, the Trump Administration issued two new regulations greatly expanding the types of employers that may be exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) contraceptive coverage requirement.  These regulations are a significant departure from the Obama-era regulations that only granted an exception to houses of worship.  One of the regulations allows nonprofits or for-profit employer with an objection to contraceptive coverage based on religious beliefs to qualify for an exemption and drop contraceptive coverage from their plans.  The other regulation also exempts all but publicly traded employers with moral objections to contraception from rule. These new policies, effective immediately, also apply to private institutions of higher education that issue student health plans. The immediate impact of these regulations on the number of women who are eligible for contraceptive coverage is unknown, but the new regulations open the door for many more employers to withhold contraceptive coverage from their plans.

New regulations from the Trump administration greatly expand exemption from #ACA contraceptive coverage rule

Contraceptive coverage under the ACA has made access to the full range of contraceptive methods affordable to millions of women. This provision is part of a set of key preventive services that has been identified by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for women that must be covered without cost-sharing. Since it was first issued in 2012, the contraceptive coverage provision has been controversial. While very popular with the public, with over 77% of women and 64% of men reporting support for no-cost contraceptive coverage, it has been the focus of litigation brought by religious employers, with two cases (Zubik v Burwell and Burwell v Hobby Lobby)  reaching the Supreme Court. This brief explains the contraceptive coverage rule under the ACA, the impact it has had on coverage, and how the new regulations issued by the Trump Administration change the contraceptive coverage requirement for employers and affect women’s coverage.

How do the new regulations change contraceptive coverage requirements for employers?

Since they were announced in 2011, the contraceptive coverage rules have evolved through litigation and new regulations. Most employers were required to include the coverage in their plans. Houses of worship could choose to be exempt from the requirement if they had religious objections. This exception meant that women workers and female dependents of exempt employers did not have guaranteed coverage for either some or all FDA approved contraceptive methods if their employer had an objection. Religiously affiliated nonprofits and closely held for-profit corporations were not eligible for an exemption, but could choose an accommodation. This option was offered to religiously affiliated nonprofit employers and then extended to closely held for-profitsafter the Supreme Court ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. The accommodation allowed these employers to opt out of providing and paying for contraceptive coverage in their plans by either notifying their insurer, third party administrator, or the federal government of their objection. The insurers were then responsible for covering the costs of contraception, which assured that their workers and dependents had contraceptive coverage while relieving the employers of the requirement to pay for it.

As of 2015, 10% of nonprofits with 5,000 or more employees had elected for an accommodation without challenging the requirement. This approach, however, has not been acceptable to all nonprofits with religious objections.1 In May 2016, the Supreme Court remanded Zubik v. Burwell, sending seven cases brought by religious nonprofits objecting to the contraceptive coverage accommodation back to the respective district Courts of Appeal. The Supreme Court instructed the parties to work together to “arrive at an approach going forward that accommodates petitioners’ religious exercise while at the same time ensuring that women covered by petitioners’ health plans receive full and equal health coverage, including contraceptive coverage.”2

On October 6, 2017, the Trump Administration issued new regulations greatly expanding eligibility for the exemption to all nonprofit and closely-held for-profit employers with objections to contraceptive coverage based on religious beliefs or moral convictions, including private institutions of higher education that issue student health plans (Figure 1).  In addition, publicly traded for-profit companies with objections based on religious beliefs also qualify for an exemption. There is no guaranteed right of contraceptive coverage for their female employees and dependents or students. Table 1 presents the changes to the contraceptive coverage rule from the Obama Administration in the new Interim Final regulations issued by the Trump Administration.

Figure 1: Employers Objecting to Contraceptive Coverage: Exemptions and Accommodations Under the Trump Administration Regulations

The accommodation will be available to employers that previously qualified for the accommodation.  They now will also have the choice of an exemption. The federal departments issuing the regulations posit that these new rules will have limited impact on the number of women losing contraceptive coverage.   However, it is not clear how many employers previously utilizing the accommodation will now opt for an exemption, resulting in the loss of contraceptive coverage for their employees and dependents.  In addition, there are also an unknown number of organizations that were not previously eligible for either the accommodation or exemption that may now opt for an exemption. These new regulations create two new categories of employers who can now qualify for an exemption or can voluntarily chooses an accommodation:  1) publicly traded for-profit companies with a religious objection and 2) nonprofit and closely held for-profit employers who have a moral objection to contraceptives, a considerably larger pool of employers than when the exemption was available only to those who were employees of a house of worship or who were eligible for an accommodation in the past.

Table 1: Summary of Changes in the Contraceptive Coverage Regulations for Objecting Entities
  Obama Administration
August 2012 to October 5, 2017
Trump Administration
Effective October 6, 2017
What types of contraceptives must plans cover without cost-sharing? At least one of each of the 18 FDA approved contraceptive methods for women, as prescribed, along with counseling and related services must be covered without cost-sharing. No change
Are any employers “exempt” from the contraceptive mandate?
  • Religious institutions defined as “houses of worship”
  • Grandfathered plans
  • No notice to employees is required. Women workers and female dependents must pay for their own contraceptives.
  • Religious institutions defined as “houses of worship”
  • Grandfathered plans
  • Nonprofit or  for-profit employers (including publicly traded companies), insurers, or private colleges or universities that issue student insurance plans with a religious objection to contraceptive coverage
  • Nonprofit or closely held for-profit employers, insurers, or private colleges or universities that issue student insurance plans with a moralobjection to contraceptive coverage
  • Notice is only required if the plan previously included contraceptive coverage. Women workers and female dependents must pay for their own contraceptives.
Who pays for contraceptive coverage for employees of organizations receiving an exemption?
  • The cost of contraceptives is borne by women workers and female dependents.
  • There is no guarantee of contraceptive coverage for employees of an exempt organization.
  • The employer may choose to cover some methods, but has no obligation to cover all 18 FDA methods without cost sharing
No change

What type of employers may seek an “accommodation” to avoid paying for contraceptives in their plans?  
  • Closely held for-profit corporations and religiously affiliated nonprofits with religious objections to contraception can opt out of providing and paying for contraceptive coverage
  • Notice must be provided to either their insurer, third party administrator, or the federal government of their objection.
  • Women workers and female dependents receive no cost contraceptive coverage.
  • Any entity (except for houses of worship) eligible for an exemption can choose the accommodation instead of the exemption.
  • Notice must be provided to either their insurer, third party administrator, or the federal government of their objection.
  • Women workers and female dependents receive no cost contraceptive coverage.
Who pays for contraceptive coverage for employees of organizations receiving an accommodation?
  • Insurance companies of firms obtaining an accommodation must pay for contraceptive coverage.
  • Third-party administrators (TPA) of self-funded health plans must cover the costs of contraceptives for employees. The costs of the benefit are offset by reductions in the fees the TPA pays to participate in the federal exchange.
No change
When can entities change from an accommodation to an exemption? N/A
  • When an employer or private college or university currently using the accommodation opts for an exemption, the revocation of contraceptive coverage will be effective on the first day of the first plan year that begins 30 days after the date of the revocation or 60 days notice may be given in a summary of benefits statement.
  • The issuer or third party administrator is responsible for providing the notice to the beneficiaries.

How has the contraceptive coverage rule affected women?

Contraceptive use among women is widespread, with over 99% of sexually-active women using at least one method at some point during their lifetime.3 Contraceptives make up an estimated 30-44% of out-of-pocket health care spending for women.4 Since the implementation of the ACA, out-of-pocket spending on prescription drugs has decreased dramatically (Figure 2). The majority of this decline (63%) can be attributed to the drop in out-of-pocket expenses on the oral contraceptive pill for women.5 One study estimates that roughly $1.4 billion dollars per year in out-of-pocket savings on the pill resulted from the ACA’s contraceptive mandate.6  By 2013, most women had no out-of-pocket costs for their contraception, as median expenses for most contraceptive methods, including the IUD and the pill, dropped to zero.7

Figure 2: The Contraceptive Coverage Policy Has Had a Large Impact on Out-Of-Pocket Spending in a Short Amount of Time

This provision has also influenced the decisions women make in their choice of method. After implementation of the ACA contraceptive coverage requirement, women were more likely to choose any method of prescription contraceptive, with a shift towards more effective long-term methods.8  High upfront costs of long-acting methods, such as the IUD and implant, had been a barrier to women who might otherwise prefer these more effective methods.  When faced with no cost-sharing, women choose these methods more often9, with significant implications for the rate of unintended pregnancy and associated costs of childbirth.10

Finally, decreases in cost-sharing were associated with better adherence and more consistent use of the pill. This was especially true among users of generic pills.  One study showed that even copayments as low as $6 were associated with higher levels of discontinuation and non-adherence,11 increasing the risk of unintended pregnancy.

Do states with no-cost contraceptive coverage laws allow exemptions to objecting entities?

The federal standards under Affordable Care Act created a minimum set of preventive benefits that applied to most health plans regulated by the federal government (self-funded plans, federal employee plans) and states (individual, small and large group plans), including contraceptive coverage for women with no cost-sharing.  States have also historically regulated insurance, and many have had mandated minimum benefits for decades. State laws, however, have more limited reach in that they only apply to state regulated fully insured plans, do not have jurisdiction over self-funded plans, where 61% of covered workers are insured.12 In self-funded plans, the employer assumes the risk of providing covered services and usually contracts with a third party administrator (TPA) to manage the claims payment process. These plans are overseen by the Federal Department of Labor under the Employer Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and are only subject to federally established regulations.13  The ACA sets a minimum standard of coverage for preventive services for all plans. However, state laws regulating insurance, including contraceptive coverage, can require fully insured plans to provide coverage beyond the federal standards.

Eight states have strengthened and expanded the federal contraceptive coverage requirement (CA, IL, MD, ME, NV, NY, OR, VT).  Another 20 states have contraceptive equity laws that require plans to cover contraceptives if they also provide coverage for prescription drugs but they do not necessarily require coverage of all FDA-approved contraceptives or ban cost-sharing (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Many States Have Contraceptive Coverage Requirements

Many of the 28 states that have passed contraceptive coverage laws (both equity and no-cost coverage) have a provision for exemptions, but the laws vary from state to state and only apply to fully insured plans.  This means that there may be a conflict between the state and federal requirements when it comes to religious exemptions.  In some states with a contraceptive coverage requirement, some employers who are eligible for an exemption under federal law will not qualify for an exemption under state law (Table 2). Employers in those states will have to have to meet the standards established by their state even though they may qualify for an exemption based on the new federal regulations.  This conflict may set the stage for future litigation.

Table 2: State Requirements for No-Cost Contraceptive Coverage
StateDate Effective Applies to Coverage required without cost sharing Exemptions allowed
  Private plans Medicaid With RX all FDA approved OTC Vasectomy Religious Moral
CaliforniaJanuary 2015 X MCOs X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers None
IllinoisJanuary 2017 X X X
except male condoms
Any employer, or insurer with a religious objection Any employer, or insurer with a moral objection
MarylandJanuary 2018 X X X X X Religious organizations if the coverage conflicts with the organization’s bona fide religious beliefs and practices None
MaineJanuary 2019 X X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers None
NevadaJanuary 2018 X X X Insurers affiliated with a religious organization None
New YorkAugust 2017 X X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers* None
OregonAugust 2017 X X X Narrowly defined nonprofit religious employers None
VermontOctober 2016 X X – and all other public health assistance programs X X None None
NOTES: *Requires the insurer to offer a rider to policyholders so that women will have contraceptive coverage.
SOURCE: Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of state laws and regulations.

Conclusion

The Trump Administration’s new regulations substantially expand the exemption to nonprofit and for-profit employers, as well as to private colleges or universities with religious or moral objections to contraceptive coverage. It is unknown how many of these employers and colleges will maintain coverage through the accommodation as before and how many will now opt for the exemption leaving their students, employees and dependents without no-cost coverage for the full range of contraceptive methods. As a result of the new regulation, choices about coverage and cost-sharing will be made by employers and private colleges and universities that issue student plans. For many women, their employers will determine whether they have no-cost coverage to the full range of FDA approved methods.  Their choice of contraceptive methods may again be limited by cost, placing some of the most effective yet costly methods out of financial reach.

You can read the original article here.

Source:

Sobel L., Salganicoff A., Rosenzweig C. (6 October 2017). "New Regulations Broadening Employer Exemptions to Contraceptive Coverage: Impact on Women" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.kff.org/womens-health-policy/issue-brief/new-regulations-broadening-employer-exemptions-to-contraceptive-coverage-impact-on-women/