You May Want To Rethink Your 'Cultural Fit' Mentality, and Here's Why

 

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Why achieving diversity in tech requires firing the industry’s ‘cultural fit’ mentality

If you have interviewed for a technology job, there’s a good chance the words “culture” and “fit” made an appearance during the phone-screen phase, or in early rounds of interviews. It is no longer enough for a candidate — especially early to mid-career — to arrive to job interviews with a stellar resume and relevant technical skills. They might also have to come with their best “I’m normal and will fit into the overall team culture of this company” outfit on. Over the past decade, the idea of hiring for “cultural fit” has become as important as, and at times superseded, hiring to fit a job description across forward-looking industries, from tech to transportation.

The nuance of this shift may be a cause for concern — especially for a global tech sector in search of a clear route to workforce diversity. Many of today’s tech human resources teams are tasked with recruiting a diverse group of people and retaining star employees. However, they still tend to supplement those pursuits with cultivating a unified office culture. While the industry has largely moved on from using ping pong tables as a recruiting tool, hiring people who pass the Beer Test — an applicant that hiring managers could work with in the office and hang with at happy hour — remains commonplace. Further, hiring based on a hiring manager’s own narrow set of requirements needed to fit their idea of a relatable person opens the door to all sorts of unconscious biases. Taking this recruiting shortcut also raises the bar for candidates from already under-represented groups, including minorities and women.

The main casualties: the pursuit of diversity and business bottom lines. It is true that research-backed conventional wisdom suggests happy workplaces are productive workplaces. What that line of thinking doesn’t account for is the fact that exclusively hiring talent for interpersonal compatibility can negatively impact the quality of work and focus of employees. In other words, employee camaraderie does not equal workplace compatibility. It definitely does not equal workforce diversity. And while a company may benefit from a general aspect of like-mindedness, there’s a great chance that the actual work is suffering due to the lack of diversity — both in people and ideas. Here in Toronto, hiring managers still focus heavily on likeability, which at times can be seen as more important than technical skills. My team and I recently began to see to potential impacts of “cultural fit” as we started to dive into the findings of our new report on the state of talent in Toronto’s emerging tech sector.

—techcrunch.com


6 Steps to a More Effective Performance Management Program

 

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Traditional methods of managing performance aren’t working anymore. Companies are moving away from traditional performance management tools, like annual reviews, to new techniques that emphasize real-time feedback. You know the drill: managers and employees sit down once a year to review performance. These performance reviews assess an employee’s performance on a scale, or give it a numerical rating. And then, in some cases, employees are given a ranking compared to other employees.

A performance system used in figure skating or competitive cooking shows may not be the best way of evaluating employees in the workplace. When it comes to the traditional performance review process, consider: Traditional performance management approaches aren’t effective because they weren’t designed for the current workforce. Today, with a tight labor supply and the nature of work very different from the industrial past, organizations must focus on developing people, rather than rating them. This requires a shift to performance development. Here’s how you as an HR professional can help your management team create a thoughtful performance development plan.

This is important for two reasons: to make the case to management that there is room for improvement in your current performance management system and, later, to provide baseline metrics to which you can compare your system after the shift to performance development. Your audit should ask the following questions: As part of your evaluation, also assess current organizational performance. A shift to performance development will see organizational performance metrics improve, and you want to be able to quantify this improvement.

Let your senior management team know that performance management may no longer be meeting your company’s needs. Two-thirds of companies are shifting from traditional performance management to an emphasis on developing talent and providing continuous feedback. Then present the results of your audit to senior management. What are the areas that need to be improved? Provide examples of how performance development will help improve these areas. For instance, if your employees rarely receive feedback outside of their annual performance review, show how alternatives to the review, such as consistent coaching or monthly or weekly , can provide your employees with regular feedback.

—tlnt.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/


6 Steps to a More Effective Performance Management Program

 

300x200

Traditional methods of managing performance aren’t working anymore. Companies are moving away from traditional performance management tools, like annual reviews, to new techniques that emphasize real-time feedback. You know the drill: managers and employees sit down once a year to review performance. These performance reviews assess an employee’s performance on a scale, or give it a numerical rating. And then, in some cases, employees are given a ranking compared to other employees.

A performance system used in figure skating or competitive cooking shows may not be the best way of evaluating employees in the workplace. When it comes to the traditional performance review process, consider: Traditional performance management approaches aren’t effective because they weren’t designed for the current workforce. Today, with a tight labor supply and the nature of work very different from the industrial past, organizations must focus on developing people, rather than rating them. This requires a shift to performance development. Here’s how you as an HR professional can help your management team create a thoughtful performance development plan.

This is important for two reasons: to make the case to management that there is room for improvement in your current performance management system and, later, to provide baseline metrics to which you can compare your system after the shift to performance development. Your audit should ask the following questions: As part of your evaluation, also assess current organizational performance. A shift to performance development will see organizational performance metrics improve, and you want to be able to quantify this improvement.

Let your senior management team know that performance management may no longer be meeting your company’s needs. Two-thirds of companies are shifting from traditional performance management to an emphasis on developing talent and providing continuous feedback. Then present the results of your audit to senior management. What are the areas that need to be improved? Provide examples of how performance development will help improve these areas. For instance, if your employees rarely receive feedback outside of their annual performance review, show how alternatives to the review, such as consistent coaching or monthly or weekly , can provide your employees with regular feedback.

—tlnt.com


The decline of the employment drug test

Employers are struggling to hire workers in tightening U.S. job market. Marijuana is now legal in nine states and Washington, D.C., meaning more than one in five American adults can eat, drink, smoke or vape as they please. The result is the slow decline of pre-employment drug tests, which for decades had been a requirement for new recruits in industries ranging from manufacturing to finance.

As of the beginning of 2018, Excellence Health Inc., a Las Vegas-based health care company with around 6,000 employees, no longer drug tests people coming to work for the pharmaceutical side of the business. The company stopped testing for marijuana two years ago. “We don’t care what people do in their free time,” said Liam Meyer, a company spokesperson. “We want to help these people, instead of saying: ‘Hey, you can’t work for us because you used a substance,’” he added. The company also added a hotline for any workers who might be struggling with drug use.

Last month, AutoNation Inc., the largest U.S. auto dealer, announced it would no longer refuse job applicants who tested positive for weed. The Denver Post, owned by Digital First Media, ended pre-employment drug testing for all non-safety sensitive positions in September 2016.

So far, companies in states that have legalized either recreational or medicinal marijuana are leading the way on dropping drug tests. A survey last year by the Mountain States Employers Council of 609 Colorado employers found that the share of companies testing for marijuana use fell to 66 percent, down from 77 percent the year before.

Drug testing restricts the job pool, and in the current tight labor market, that’s having an impact on productivity and growth. In surveys done by the Federal Reserve last year, employers cited an inability by applicants to pass drug tests among reasons for difficulties in hiring. Failed tests reached an all-time high in 2017, according to data from Quest Diagnostics Inc. That’s likely to get worse as more people partake in state-legalized cannabis.

“The benefits of at least reconsidering the drug policy on behalf of an employer would be pretty high,” said Jeremy Kidd, a professor at Mercer Law School, who wrote a paper on the economics of workplace drug testing. “A blanket prohibition can’t possibly be the most economically efficient policy.”

Companies are having a hard enough time hiring, with unemployment hovering around 4 percent. “Employers are really strapped and saying ‘We’re going to forgive certain things,’” said James Reidy, a lawyer that works with employers on their human resources policies. Reidy knows of a half-dozen other large employers that have quietly changed their policies in recent years. Not all companies want to advertise the change, fearing it might imply they are soft on drugs. (Even former FBI director James Comey in 2014 half-joked about the need for the bureau to re-evaluate its drug-testing policy to attract the best candidates.)

Why the change? Pre-employment testing is no longer worth the expense in a society increasingly accepting of drug use. A Gallup poll in October found that 64 percent of Americans favor legalization. That’s the most since the company first started asking the question in 1969, when only 12 percent supported changing the plant’s status. Drug tests costs from $30 to $50 a pop, but the potential costs to an employer are far greater than the actual test.

In addition to helping ease the labor market, eliminating drug testing could have even broader benefits for the economy, said Kidd. Employers could hire the best, theoretically most-productive workers, he said, instead of rejecting people based on their recreational habits. Companies have said they lose out to foreign competitors because they can’t find people who can pass drugs tests, a particularly acute problem in the areas most affected by the opioid crisis.

Some jobs, such as those involving the use of heavy machinery, will always require drug tests. Excellence Health still drug-tests any employee working on a government contract, even in states where weed is legal. Companies are also reserving the right to test after an accident or if an employee comes to work notably impaired.

Not all companies are ready to change course. Restaurant Brands International Inc., which owns Burger King, hasn’t altered its corporate marijuana policy, said Chief Executive Officer Daniel Schwartz. Ford Motor Co. still treats pot as an illegal substance, according to a company spokeswoman.

Weed-averse employers have a notable ally: Attorney General Jeff Sessions. A longtime opponent of legalization, Sessions rescinded in January the Obama-era policies that enabled state-legalized cannabis industries to flourish. The uncertainty caused by the Justice Department’s actions may discourage companies from making changes.

Employers can also get discounts on workers’ compensation insurance for maintaining a “drug-free workplace” by, in part, drug-testing workers. But the types of workplaces forgoing pre-employment tests already enjoy relatively small savings. A job in an office setting, for example, won’t have very many workers’ compensation claims, compared to a factory. The money saved by meeting the qualifications for a drug-free zone isn’t worth it.

“We assume that a certain level of employees are going to be partaking on the weekends,” said Reidy, the employment lawyer. “We don’t care. We’re going to exclude a whole group of people, and we desperately need workers.”

Read the article.

Source:
Greenfield R, Kaplan J. (5 March 2018). "The decline of the employment drug test" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/05/the-decline-of-the-employment-drug-test/


Two opportunities created by association health plans

The new regulations around association health plans (AHPs) — which loosen restrictions for small businesses, franchises and associations — create two distinct opportunities in the benefits industry.

The first is for brokers, who will be crucial advisors to employers eligible for the new coverage options now available.

The second opportunity is for benefits and HR tech vendors, who will be instrumental in managing the transactional and administrative challenges that would otherwise hinder AHP success.

What challenges do association health plans represent? Let’s consider an example — the Nashville Hot Chicken restaurant franchise.

Let’s say Nashville Hot Chicken has 1,000 franchisees, each with five full-time employees. Before AHP options became available to this organization, these five-employee groups would either have had to pursue small group coverage, or employees would have had to find individual plans.

Both options likely would have been prohibitively expensive for the organization or the employees. With the new AHP regulations, however, these 1,000 franchisees may be able to pull all 5,000 workers together and create a large group benefits plan.

In doing so, they would reap the advantages of collective purchasing, just like large groups do. However, this AHP would not work like a regular group plan.

If a regular group has 5,000 employees, they would all be part of a centrally-operated payroll system and the insurance companies would receive just one check for all of the employees enrolled at the group. But under an AHP of franchisees, all the payroll systems would operate independently, and there is no clear, centralized entity to pay carriers.

This creates a massive administrative headache for Nashville Hot Chicken corporate, as well as all the individual franchise owners. In other words, who is going to manage the AHP?

Here’s where the brokers come in. Employers need brokers to walk them through all the complexities of AHPs, including sourcing carriers, third-party vendors, and compliance needs.

It would also be incredibly impractical to manage 5,000 employees through 1,000 separate businesses without a benefits and HR platform.

But brokers can provide a solution to this challenge by adopting a platform. With a benefits and HR system, the various administrative differences from franchisee to franchisee can be accounted for, while still allowing the 5,000-life group to enroll in the group offering.

By removing the administrative headache, benefits tech makes AHPs a real option for Nashville Hot Chicken. But it also gives the tech-savvy broker a clear leg up on the competition. A broker without a tech solution will be at a severe disadvantage for Nashville Hot Chicken’s business compared to a broker who has a platform.

So as small employers, franchisees and industry associations band together for group coverage, benefits tech can give brokers a competitive differentiator for this new business segment.

Read the article.

Source:
Tolbert A. (1 March 2018). "Two opportunities created by association health plans" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/01/two-opportunities-created-by-association-health-pl/


Apple launching concierge health care centers for employees

Did you know Apple is now offering healthcare centers for their employees? Check out this article from Benefit Pro for further information.


This spring, Apple employees will see the first phase of Apple’s new approach to employee health care: on-site health clinics.

According to Healthcare IT News, Apple plans to launch a group of internal health centers as it moves to boost the health and wellness of its employees. According to the report, the company has already “quietly published a webpage for the program, called AC Wellness Network, which includes a description of the company’s goals as well as information on a number of open positions.”

“AC Wellness Network believes that having trusting, accessible relationships with our patients, enabled by technology, promotes high-quality care and a unique patient experience,” Apple has said on the webpage. It continues, “The centers offer a unique concierge-like healthcare experience for employees and their dependents. Candidates must have an appreciation for the patient experience and passion for wellness and population health—integrating best clinical practices and technology in a manner that drives patient engagement.”

Apple’s move comes in the wake of an earlier declared partnership among Amazon, JPMorgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway for their own independent health care company intended to bolster employee health at lower cost than conventional providers.

AC Wellness, says the report, will exist as “an independent medical practice,” although the company is a subsidiary of Apple. Job listings include not just physicians but also such positions as workflow designers, and the website listings suggest the first centers will be located in Santa Clara, California and in the company’s Cupertino, California campus.

Other recent health care steps taken by the company, according to an HRDive report, include its January announcement that it is making personal health records accessible on the latest iPhones, as well as its exploration of ways its Apple Watch could have medical applications, like detecting irregular heartbeats in wearers.

According to a CNBC report, some former Stanford Health Care employees have been affiliated with AC Wellness for at least five months. Says Healthcare IT News, “[t]hese sources also said that Apple will use the centers as a testing ground for its upcoming health and wellness products prior to large-scale consumer rollout, and that the company notified third-party vendors this week about its upcoming health clinics.”

Read the article.

Source:
 Satter M. (1 March 2018). "Apple launching concierge health care centers for employees" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/03/01/apple-launching-concierge-health-care-centers-for/

While Talk About Opioids Continues In D.C., Addiction Treatment Is In Peril In States

How is Washington handling the opioid crisis? Let's find out in this article from Kaiser Health News.


Opioids were on the White House agenda Thursday — President Trump convened a summit with members of his administration about the crisis. And Congress authorized funds for the opioid crisis in its recent budget deal — but those dollars aren’t flowing yet, and states say they are struggling to meet the need for treatment.

The Oklahoma agency in charge of substance abuse has been told by the state’s legislature to cut more than $2 million from this fiscal year’s budget.

“Treatment dollars are scarce,” said Randy Tate, president of the Oklahoma Behavioral Health Association, which represents addiction treatment providers.

It’s like dominoes, Tate said. When you cut funding for treatment, other safety-net programs feel the strain.

“Any cuts to our overall contract,” he said, “really diminish our ability to provide the case management necessary to advocate for homes, food, shelter, clothing, primary health care and all the other things that someone needs to really be successful at tackling their addiction.”

In just three years, Oklahoma’s agency in charge of funding opioid treatment has seen more than $27 million dollars chipped away from its budget — thanks to legislative gridlock, slashed state taxes and a drop in oil prices (with the additional loss in state tax revenue that resulted).

Jeff Dismukes, a spokesman for Oklahoma’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, says the already lean agency has few cost-cutting options left.

“We always cut first to administration,” he said, “but there’s a point where you just can’t cut anymore.”

The agency may end up putting off payments to treatment providers until July — the next fiscal year. Tate says that could be devastating.

“Very thinly financed, small rural providers are probably at risk of going out of business entirely — up to and including rural hospitals,” he said.

Getting treatment providers to open up shop in rural areas is really hard, even in good times, and more financial uncertainty could make that problem worse. In the meantime, according to an Oklahoma state commission’s opioid report, just 10 percent of Oklahomans who need addiction treatment are getting it.

That statistic is similar in Colorado. And as 2018 began, Colorado’s escalating opioid crisis got worse, when the state’s largest drug and alcohol treatment provider, Arapahoe House, shut its doors.

The facility provided recovery treatment to 5,000 people a year. Denise Vincioni, who directs another treatment center, the Denver Recovery Group, says other facilities have scrambled to pick up the patients.

Most of Arapahoe’s clients were on Medicaid. Autumn Haggard-Wolfe, a two-time Arapahoe House client who is now in recovery, worries the facility’s closing will have dire consequences, especially for people who need inpatient care, as she did.

“I feel like the only other option right now in therapy would be jail for people,” she said, “and people die in there from withdrawing.”

Arapahoe House’s CEO blamed its closure on the high cost of care and poor government reimbursement for services.

The mother of Colorado state lawmaker Brittany Pettersen struggled with addiction, and was treated at Arapahoe House. Pettersen says treatment centers rely on a crazy quilt of funding sources and are chronically underfunded — often leaving people with no treatment options.

“We have a huge gap in Colorado,” Pettersen said, “and that was before Arapahoe House closed.”

She is pushing legislation in the state to increase funding for treatment. But to get tens of millions of dollars in federal matching funds, Colorado lawmakers need to approve at least $34 million a year in new state spending.

That price tag may simply be too high for some lawmakers. But either way, she added, “It’s going to take a lot to climb out of where we are.”

Colorado did get new federal funds to fight the opioid crisis through the 21st Century Cures Act, passed in December of 2016, but it was just $7.8 million a year for two years — divvied up among a long list of programs.

Read the article.

Source:
 Daley J.,Fortier J. (5 March 2018). "While Talk About Opioids Continues In D.C., Addiction Treatment Is In Peril In States" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://khn.org/news/while-talk-about-opioids-continues-in-dc-addiction-treatment-is-in-peril-in-states/

Strengthening the Relationship between Education and Employers: Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., Appointed Chair of President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs

From the SHRM CEO, here is his opinion on the newly appointed Chair of President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs.


Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management, was appointed chair of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) at a White House ceremony today.

In accepting the volunteer advisory appointment to the White House Initiative on HBCUs by President Donald Trump, Taylor gave these remarks:

Thank you, President Trump and Secretary DeVos.

I appreciate the trust you have placed in me to chair the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs. It has been my life’s work to unleash talent — in all its forms, from wherever it originates.

As CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), I work with employers across the country.  No matter their industry, size or longevity, today’s organizations all share the same challenge — closing the skills gap while building diverse, inclusive, engaged workforces.

For each of them, the “War for Talent” will never end and, thanks to this incredibly strong economy we’re experiencing, it is now a way of life. And today, people are an organization’s only competitive edge.

Employers depend on our country’s educational institutions as a reliable source of the multi-faceted talent they need. HBCUs are a critical conduit for this talent. Every year, over 300,000 students turn to these institutions for their education and to prepare them for their careers.

This President’s Advisory Board can be the nexus between higher education institutions and employers. As a CEO (in both non-profit and for-profit businesses), a former Fortune 500 chief HR executive, and someone with over 7½ years of experience in the HBCU space, I am up for this very challenge.

At SHRM, we are the experts on people and work and on building powerfully diverse organizational cultures that drive success. SHRM’s 300,000 members impact the lives of over 100 million people in the American workforce. SHRM is also an experienced academic partner, currently providing human resources curricula through 465 programs on 354 college campuses.

By working together, across all sectors, the HR profession, HBCUs and this Advisory Board can strengthen the relationship between education and employers. This Advisory Board can facilitate this critical relationship and support innovations in work-based learning opportunities for HBCU students. And as the world’s largest human resources association, SHRM can work with CEOs to connect industry to the diverse talent at these institutions.

This Board has an incredible opportunity to highlight HBCUs as wellsprings of the diverse talent American employers want and need today. HR and education, along with the support of this administration, must move together, forward.

Read the article.

Source:
 SHRM (27 February 2018). "Strengthening the Relationship between Education and Employers: Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., Appointed Chair of President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/strengthening-the-relationship-between-education-and-employers-johnny-c-tay

Compliance Recap-February 2018

What's been happening in the employee benefits world? Get your latest updates on healthcare in this February 2018 Compliance Recap.


February was a quiet month in the employee benefits world.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updated its Questions and Answers about Information Reporting by Employers on Form 1094-C and Form 1095-C, its Questions and Answers on Information Reporting by Health Coverage Providers, and its Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act.

The IRS released its adjusted penalty amounts under the employer shared responsibility provisions for the 2018 calendar year. The IRS also released its Information Letter on COBRA HRA premium calculation. The IRS, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule on short-term, limited-duration insurance.

UBA Updates

UBA released one new advisor: DOL Final Rule on Disability Claims Procedures: Eight Things to Know.

IRS Updates Its Employer Information Reporting Q&As

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updated its “Questions and Answers about Information Reporting by Employers on Form 1094-C and Form 1095-C.” The IRS made one substantive change to the Q&As. At Q&A #5, the IRS provided the 2018 due dates for furnishing forms to employees and filing forms with the IRS.

For reporting in 2018 (for offers of coverage and coverage in 2017), an applicable large employer must furnish Form 1095-C to each full-time employee on or before March 2, 2018. This due date reflects a 30-day extension from the general due date (that is, January 31 of the year immediately following the calendar year to which the information relates); the extension was provided by the IRS in Notice 2018-06 on December 22, 2017. The extension applies automatically and does not require the submission of any request or other documentation to the IRS.

Generally, Forms 1094-C and 1095-C must be filed by February 28 of the year following the calendar year to which the return relates if filing on paper (or March 31 if filing electronically). The requirement to file Forms 1094-C and 1095-C is met if the forms are properly addressed and mailed on or before the due

 

date. If the due date falls on a weekend or legal holiday, then the due date is the following business day. A business day is any day that is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday. Although the IRS extended the due date for furnishing Form 1095-C for 2017, the due date for filing Forms 1094-C and 1095-C with the IRS was not extended.

IRS Updates Its Q&As on Information Reporting by Health Coverage Providers

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updated its Questions and Answers on Information Reporting by Health Coverage Providers (Section 6055) by adding questions 30 through 35. Among other items, the Q&As discussed IRS Notice 2018-06 that extends the due date for furnishing the 2017 Form 1095-B to individuals to March 2, 2018.

Also, the IRS discussed short-term relief available from penalties for incomplete or incorrect returns filed with the IRS or furnished to individuals. For reporting in 2016, 2017, and 2018, the IRS will not impose penalties on employers that can show that they have made good faith efforts to comply with the information reporting requirements.

IRS Announces the Play-or-Pay Adjusted Penalty Amounts

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) updated its Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act to reflect adjusted penalty amounts for failures to offer coverage in the 2018 calendar year. For Penalty A (or the “no offer” penalty), the adjusted penalty amount per full-time employee is $2,320. For Penalty B (or the “inadequate coverage” penalty), the adjusted penalty amount per full-time employee is $3,480.

IRS Releases Information Letter on COBRA HRA Premium Calculation

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its Information Letter 2017-0027, which discusses how an employer determines a COBRA premium for a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA).

Under COBRA, an employer can charge a premium that is equal to the plan’s cost of the coverage for similarly situated beneficiaries to whom a qualifying event has not occurred, plus two percent for administrative expenses. COBRA permits the plan administrator to choose between one of two methods for determining COBRA premiums for the HRA. The applicable premium can be calculated either on an actuarial basis, or on a past cost basis.

IRS, DOL, and HHS Issue Proposed Rule on Short-Term Limited-Duration Insurance

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a proposed rule to amend the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance for purposes of its exclusion from the definition of individual health insurance coverage.

Short-term, limited-duration insurance is designed to fill temporary gaps in coverage that may occur when an individual is transitioning from one plan or coverage to another. Because short-term, limited-duration insurance is not individual health insurance coverage, it is exempt from individual market requirements.

Under current regulations, short-term, limited duration insurance cannot provide coverage for three months or longer (including any renewal periods) and a specific written notice must be included in the contract and any application materials provided as part of enrollment.

The proposed rule would expand the potential maximum coverage period by nine months. The proposed rule would also revise the required notice that must appear in the contract and any application materials for short-term, limited-duration insurance.

Public comments are due by April 23, 2018.

Question of the Month

  1. When the plan changes, when should I give notice to participants?
  2. Depending on the change that is made, an employer must provide notice within one of three time frames:
  • 60 days prior to the change
  • No later than 60 days after the change (or, within 60 days of the change)
  • Within 210 days after the end of the plan year

For modifications to the summary plan description (SPD) that constitute a material reduction in covered services or benefits, notice is required within 60 days of adoption of the material reduction in group health plan services or benefits. For example, a decrease in employer contribution would be a material reduction in covered services or benefits so notice should be provided within 60 days of the change in employer contribution. As a best practice, an employer should give advance notice of the change. For practical purposes, employees should be told prior to the first increased withholding.

If a plan makes a material modification in any of the plan terms that would affect the content of the most recently provided summary of benefits and coverage (SBC), then notice must be provided no later than 60 days prior to the date on which the modification will become effective.

However, if the change is part of open enrollment, assuming you communicate the change during open enrollment, the open enrollment communication is considered acceptable notice, regardless of whether the SBC or the SPD, or both, are changing. Open enrollment is essentially a safe harbor for the 60-day prior/60-day post notice requirements.

Finally, changes that do not require more immediate notifications, because they do not affect the SBC and are not a material reduction in benefits, must be communicated through a summary of material modifications or an updated summary plan description within 210 days after the end of the plan year.

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