Reduce Employee Financial Stress

Are your employees struggling to reach their financial goals? Here is a great article by Heather Garbers from SHRM on what employers can do to help their employees reduce their financial stress and reach their monetary goals.

More American workers are living paycheck to paycheck than ever before, just making ends meet. Nearly three-fourths have less than $1,000 saved; and 34 percent have nothing in savings. Student loan debt totals over $1.3 trillion among some 44.2 million borrowers in the U.S. Unexpected expenses are not budgeted for and people are placing themselves at great financial risk.

As HR practitioners, we need to recognize that people are struggling financially – and that it is taking a toll not only on them personally, but also in the workplace. There are innovative benefit options and strategies that can help relieve financial stress on employees:

Student loan assistance. Today’s Millennials are challenged to get their lives going despite the crushing burden of student loan debt, and trust their employers for advice on how to manage it. Doing so can make you stand out in attracting the best talent and help win loyalty.  Programs are available that not only assist Employees in refinancing and managing their debt, but also allow you to make contributions to loan balances, and assist Employees in setting up a 529 savings plan.

Employee Purchasing Programs (EPP). When people are experiencing financial stress and are confronted with unexpected expenses, they may take on high interest credit card debt or a payday loan. Employee purchasing programs are a great way for them to avoid amassing high interest rate charges when purchasing consumer goods.

Low Interest Installment Loans and Credit. A major danger for financially stretched employees is the ease with which they can get payday loans or cash advances on their credit cards without fully understanding the risk. The exorbitant interest rates only worsen the vicious cycle of debt. There are services, however, that underwrite low-interest rate installment loans well below the going rates and allow Employees to make payments through payroll deduction. Employers can sponsor the service at no cost as a voluntary benefit, and Employees can use the funds however they need to – whether it is paying a medical bill or purchasing a new air conditioner.

Financial planning and wellness services. Whether offered as one-on-one, personal coaching or online resources with interactive money management tools, everyone appreciates when employers offer resources to help them understand how to repair or build their credit and better manage their money. By offering these services, you have the opportunity to occupy a position of trust and cement long-term employee loyalty.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Garbers H. (2017 July 17). Reduce employee financial stress [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/reduce-employee-financial-stress


How to Build Financial Wellness into a More Holistic Wellness Program

Are you looking for new ways to help your employees increase their financial wellness? Check out this great article by Michelle Clark from SHRM highlighting what HR can do to help employees engage with the company's benefits program to improve their financial situation.

The majority of HR professionals give their employees a financial health rating of “fair” and nearly 20 percent report that their employees are “not at all” financially literate according to a national SHRM survey.

That’s an issue. Because when employees are stressed about money they don’t turn their worry off at work – and the price is paid in lost productivity.

You can help fix the problem. Everyone wins when traditional employee wellness programs are recast in a more holistic, well-rounded way – with financial wellness an important cornerstone.

There is no cookie cutter solution. But if you build a customized program that’s responsive to specific requirements and comfort levels of different employee groups, it can be rewarding and valuable.

First, review your employee demographics to get an idea of what their financial situations may look like. For example, it’s understood that the majority of today’s workforce is comprised of three age groups: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials. Each has different financial stressors and preferences on how they prefer to receive assistance:

  • Boomers on the verge of retirement are wondering if they can afford it or even want to retire. If they need to work, they are worried they’ll have a hard time finding a job.
  • Generation X can barely think about retirement planning when they’re trying to cover the mortgage, raise kids, save money for college and shoulder responsibilities for aging parents.
  • Millennials are burdened by student loan debt while trying to stretch their paychecks so they can live on their own instead of with their parents.

There also are vastly different ways each accesses support. Boomers may be okay with online resources and one-on-one coaching. But Millennials and Gen Xers may want more high-tech resources such as websites offering basic money courses and worksheets to help with budgets, housing or investment planning.

Once a solution has been established, the next step is getting people to partake. You don’t want to target employees, since privacy is a major consideration. Offering options allows employees to engage privately on their own terms. That’s why the online solutions are ideal for individual financial issues, offered in tandem with more on-site sessions on general concerns. And there’s always the potential of offering one-on-one financial counseling or financial wellness coaches to round out your program.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Clark M. (2017 June 16). How to build financial wellness into a more holistic wellness program [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/shrm-blog-june-2017-how-to-build-financial-wellness-into-a-more-holistic-we


P&C Profile: July 2017

New Study Demonstrates the Dangers of Talking While Driving

It’s commonly known that smartphones, entertainment systems and other electronics can be a dangerous distraction to drivers. However, a new study from the University of Iowa found that simple conversations can also cause unsafe driving conditions.

The study used eye tracking equipment to analyze where subjects were looking and how long it took them to focus on a new object. Some subjects were also asked true or false questions at the same time in order to simulate a simple conversation. Data collected from the study found that subjects who answered questions took twice as long to focus on a new object than those who were asked no questions.

Although engaging in conversation seems simple, it involves a number of complex tasks that the brain must handle simultaneously. Even if the topic of conversation is straightforward, the brain has to absorb information, overlay what a person already knows and prepare to a construct a reply. And, although this process is done extremely quickly, it can also slow down reaction times and lead to a dangerous accident on the road.

The best way to keep your employees safe while driving is to encourage them to eliminate or turn off all potential distractions, including their cellphones and any hands-free accessories they may use to make a call. You can also consider including language about safe driving practices in your workplace safety policies.

Preventing Workplace Violence

As reports of shootings and other violent incidents become more common, workplace violence is a topic than no business can ignore. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, workplace homicides rose 2 percent in 2015, the latest year for which data is available. Additionally, the number of workplace shootings increased by 15 percent.

The best way to address potential acts of violence at your business is to be prepared to act before, during and after an act of violence occurs. Here are some programs you can use to ensure the safety of your employees and customers:

  • Pre-employment screenings—Background checks can help identify candidates who have violent histories.
  • Security—Security systems can ensure that only employees have access to certain areas.
  • Alternative dispute resolutions—Techniques like facilitation and mediation can help solve a conflict before it escalates.
  • Threat assessment teams—A designated team can work with management to assess the potential for violence and develop an action plan.

Congress Considers Flood Insurance Reforms

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) is one of the few ways to get insurance coverage for flood risks, and the program is set to expire later this year. However, Congress is currently examining a number of possible changes to the NFIP before it’s reauthorized.

One of the most important topics regarding the NFIP is its financial stability. The program is currently $24 billion in debt as a result of rising claims costs and severe weather events, and some lawmakers believe that the program needs substantial reforms in order to remain viable.

The following are some of the changes that are being considered to the NFIP:

  • Making private flood insurance more available to consumers
  • Limiting payments to properties that flood repeatedly
  • Reducing taxpayer subsidies for flood insurance
  • Creating financial incentives for flood mitigation

DOL Withdraws Joint Employment and Worker Classification Guidance

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently withdrew administrative interpretations regarding joint employment and the classification of workers as employees or independent contractors. These withdrawals can have significant consequences on legal protections for employees and eligibility for benefits.

  • Worker classification—Employers will need to satisfy tests established by the courts—such as the economic realities test—when classifying workers.
  • Joint employment—Joint employment can only be established when an employer has direct control over another employer’s workplace.

To learn more about what these withdrawals could mean for you, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. and ask to see our comprehensive compliance bulletins, “DOL Withdraws Joint Employer Guidance” and “DOL Withdraws Worker Classification Guidance.”

To download the full article click Here.


OSHA Cornerstones: Summer 2017

OSHA Proposes Delay to Electronic Reporting Rule

Last year, OSHA issued a final rule that requires certain employers to electronically submit data from their injury and illness records so they can be posted on the agency’s website. Although employers were initially required to submit this data by July 1, 2017, the agency recently stated that it will not be ready to receive electronic workplace injury and illness reports by the established deadline, and has proposed a new compliance date of Dec. 1, 2017.

OSHA believes that the new rule will encourage employers and researchers to find new and innovative ways to prevent injuries and illnesses at workplaces. However, critics of the rule believe that it will unfairly damage the reputations of businesses by making details of workplace injuries and illnesses available to the public.

Because the electronic reporting rule has not been revoked, employers affected by the rule should continue to record and report workplace injuries as required by law. Although the rule does not change an employer’s requirements to complete and retain regular injury and illness records, some employers will have additional obligations. Here are the requirements for the rule:

  • Establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to keep injury and illness records must electronically submit the following forms:
    • OSHA Form 300: Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
    • OSHA Form 300A: Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
    • OSHA Form 301: Injury and Illnesses Incident Report
  • Establishments with 20 to 249 employees that work in industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses must electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A.

OSHA Withdraws Union Walkaround Policy

OSHA has withdrawn a policy that allowed union officials to participate in inspections at nonunionized workplaces. The agency recently referred to the policy as unnecessary in a memorandum to its regional administrators.

The policy was originally included in OSHA’s 2013 “Walkaround Letter of Interpretation,” and was viewed by many employers as an attempt by the Obama administration to support and expand union representation to nonunion workplaces. Other critics of the letter believed that it allowed individuals who were not a representative of employees to participate in walkaround inspections.

Because the walkaround policy was set without engaging in a formal rule-making process, the procedure to withdraw it was quick and informal. Many experts also believe that the withdrawal was influenced by the Trump administration’s focus on eliminating easily reversible policies.

OSHA compliance officers may still attempt to include third-party outsiders in a walkaround if there is good cause. One example of good cause would be due to the compliance officer lacking technical or language expertise that is necessary to the inspection. Such cases are rare, however, as OSHA usually provides the needed expertise from within the agency.

Proposed OSHA Standards Stalled Under Trump Administration

A number of proposed OSHA standards were introduced just before the inauguration of President Donald Trump. However, the Trump administration’s focus on deregulation has put many of these standards on hold. Additionally, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has yet to publish its Unified Agenda, a semiannual publication that outlines the upcoming regulatory plans for federal agencies.

Several proposed changes are currently in OSHA’s pre-rule stage, including the following:

  • An emergency responder preparedness program
  • Revisions to OSHA’s process safety management program
  • A new federal standard to protect health care and social assistance workers from workplace violence

Supporters of the Trump administration’s emphasis on deregulation believe that businesses will benefit as their compliance responsibilities are reduced. However, opponents argue that public protections may now come second to profit.

OSHA Citation Against Contractor Vacated

An administrative judge for OSHA recently vacated a “willful” violation against Hensel Phelps Construction, a general contractor.

An OSHA inspection of a Hensel Phelps worksite in Texas originally found that the company had not provided a subcontractor’s employees with a system to guard against cave-ins. However, the citation was vacated after a judge found that OSHA regulations protect an employer’s own employees, and in this case did not apply to the subcontractor’s employees who were not protected from cave-in hazards.

To download the full article click Here.


CenterStage...Creating a Safety Minded Workplace

“One of the best ways to promote a safe working environment is through safety meetings. They don’t have to be formal or lengthy, just be sure to make them mandatory and keep an attendance log. Additionally, ensure everyone knows that you are interested in their ideas so they will be active participants in working towards a goal of an injury free workplace.” -Cathleen Christenson

VP, Property & Casualty

Large companies often have safety departments and staff dedicated to managing safety practices and policing the proper accident-prevention procedures. They also usually have the capacity to hold much more formal meetings. On the other hand, small businesses, where most employees wear multiple hats in the company, have a much more shared responsibility when it comes to employee safety in the workplace. This shared responsibility requires employees to keep a watchful eye out for each other and report any potential dangers they see before accidents can happen.

Best Management Practices in Creating a Safety Minded Workplace

1. Make Safety a Top Priority

An employee safety plan may not be high on a small business’ list of priorities-- until something happens. As much commitment should be placed on safety and health as any other part of a business. An injured worker is an unproductive employee and can cost a business the services of a valued employee while they are out, as well as drive up insurance cost. Businesses can proactively help prevent accidents and control worker compensation costs by developing and implementing a safety program. Hierl works to provide guidance on the design and implementation of company safety programs.

2. Ensure All Employees are Involved in the Safety Effort

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), one of the most effective ways to develop a safety-minded culture is to involve employees in ongoing “Toolbox Talks.” These are brief,

informal meetings to allow employees to stay up-to-date on potential workplace hazards and safe workplace practices. These meetings can be as simple as discussing the company safety policy or can hone in on one specific topic, such as machinery use, tool handling, safety minded attitudes or anything that could provide knowledge about preventing accidents in the workplace.

3. Identify and Control Safety Hazards

Identify safety hazards in your workplace so you can best learn how to control and correct them. Learning the OSHA regulations that apply to your industry can be helpful here. Good employee safety strategies encompass many different topics depending on what industry the business is in. OSHA provides a comprehensive list of topics to address with employees. Consulting employees on what problems they have noticed can often be the most beneficial when it comes to narrowing down the most important topics to cover. A major safety topic that arises often is simple housekeeping procedures such as spills, loose cords, etc. Encouraging a “see something, say something” policy will allow employees to report the potential dangers they encounter in their daily work and act to prevent injuries or accidents before they can happen. The primary responsibility of the employees is to perform his or her duties in a safe manner to prevent injury to themselves and others.

4. Comply with Regulations

Safety practices differ across different kinds of companies. For instance, you wouldn't have your employees train to operate a forklift when they will never have to operate a forklift on the job. On the other hand, everyone can benefit from "Housekeeping" and "Substance Abuse" training sessions, with the goal of being an injury-free workplace at the forefront of everyone's mind.

Some positions may need to be OSHA certified as well. There are two types of OSHA certifications (OSHA 10-Hour and OSHA 30-Hour), with four industry specific categories (OSHA10 Hour General Industry, OSHA10 Hour Construction, OSHA30 Hour General Industry, and OSHA30 Hour Construction).

5. Continually Improve Your System

Review the strengths and weaknesses of your safety programs as there is always room for improvement. Healthy workers will support a work environment that fosters trust, creativity and general well-being. To access helpful talking points for supervisors, ask a Hierl representative about the complete line of Safety Matters flyers, including hand protection, safe lifting techniques, accident prevention, slips and falls, hazard communication, first aid basics and more.

To download the full article click Here.


Workers Willing to Leave a Job if Not Praised Enough

Praising your employees on a frequent basis is a great way to increase employee engagement and productivity. Take a look at this article by Brookie Madison from Employee Benefit News on how employees are more likely to leave a job if they do not feel like they're getting enough praise.

Employers may be spending more than $46 billion a year on employee recognition, reviews and work anniversaries, but recent research shows it could be worth the investment to commit even more to the effort.

Although more than 22% of senior decision-makers don’t think that regular recognition and thanking employees at work has a big influence on staff retention, 70% of employees say that motivation and morale would improve “massively” with managers saying thank you more, according to a Reward Gateway study.

By not receiving regular feedback on their performance, employees feel they are not progressing at work, says Glenn Elliott, CEO of Reward Gateway. In fact, nearly one in two employees reported they would leave a company if they did not feel appreciated at work, the study found.

This is particularly true of millennials, Elliott says, who make up the largest segment of the workforce, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. To this generation, “Saying thank you for good work or good behavior shows you values those things and want to see more of that behavior,” he says.

Overall, employees want praise and recognition more frequently than at annual awards ceremonies. Although 90% of senior decision-makers believe they prioritize showing appreciation and thanks in a timely way, more than 60% of workers would like to see their colleagues’ good work praised more frequently by managers and leaders.

“On average, businesses spend 2% on recognition,” says Elliott. “Businesses can increase effects of recognition by moving money from tenure-based to valued- and behavior-based recognition.”

More than eight out of 10 workers (84%) say praise should be given on a continual, year-round basis.

The Reward Gateway study polled 500 workers and 500 decision-makers in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Madison B. (2017 June 11). Workers willing to leave a job if not praised enough [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/workers-willing-to-leave-a-job-if-not-praised-enough


Why Employee Engagement Matters – and 4 Ways to Build it Up

Do you need help building up engagement among your employees? Take a peek at this interesting article by Joe Wedgwood at HR Morning about the benefits of employee engagement and how to get your employees more engaged.

“Organizations with high employee engagement levels outperform their low engagement counterparts in total shareholder returns and higher annual net income.” — Kenexa.

Your people are undoubtedly your greatest asset. You may have the best product in the world, but if you can’t keep them engaged and motivated — then it counts for very little.

By making efforts to keep your people engaged, you will maximize your human capital investment and witness your efforts being repaid exponentially.

The benefits of an engaged workforce

Increase in profitability: 

Increasing employee engagement investments by 10% can increase profits by $2,400 per employee, per year.” — Workplace Research Foundation.

 There is a wealth of research to suggest that companies that focus on employee engagement will have an emotionally invested and committed workforce. This tends to result in higher profitability rates and shareholder returns. The more engaged your employees are the more efficient and productive they become. This will help lower operating costs and increase profit margins.

An engaged workforce will be more committed and driven to help your business succeed. By focusing on engagement and investing in your people’s future, you will create a workforce that will generate more income for your business.

Improved retention and recruitment rates:

“Replacing employees who leave can cost up to 150% of the departing employee’s salary. Highly engaged organizations have the potential to reduce staff turnover by 87%; the disengaged are four times more likely to leave the organization than the average employee.” — Corporate Leadership Council

Retaining good employees is vital for organizational success. Engaged employees are much less likely to leave, as they will be committed to their work and invested in the success of the company. They will have an increased chance of attracting more qualified people.

Ultimately the more engaged your people are, the higher their productivity and workplace satisfaction will be. This will significantly reduce costs around absences, recruitment, training and time lost for interviews and onboarding.

Boost in workplace happiness:

“Happy employees are 12%t more productive than the norm, and 22% more productive than their unhappy peers. Creating a pleasant workplace full of happy people contributes directly to the bottom line.” – Inc.

Engaged employees are happy employees, and happy employees are productive employees. A clear focus on workplace happiness, will help you to unlock everyone’s true potential. On top of this, an engaged and happy workforce can also become loyal advocates for your company. This is evidenced by the Corporate Leadership Council, “67% of engaged employees were happy to advocate their organizations compared to only 3% of the disengaged.”

Higher levels of productivity:

“Employees with the highest levels of commitment perform 20% better than employees with lower levels of commitment.” — The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

Often your most engaged people will be the most dedicated and productive, which will give your bottom line a positive boost. Employees who are engaged with their role and align with the culture are more productive as they are looking beyond personal benefits. Put simply, they will work with the overall success of the organization in mind and performance will increase.

More innovation:

“Employee engagement plays a central role in translating additional job resources into innovative work behaviour.” — J.J. Hakanen.

Employee engagement and innovation are closely linked. Disengaged employees will not have the desire to work innovatively and think of new ways to improve your business; whereas an engaged workforce will perform at a higher level, due to increased levels of satisfaction and interest in their role. This often breeds creativity and innovation.

If your people are highly engaged they will be emotionally invested in your business. This can result in them making efforts to share ideas and innovations with you that can lead to the creation of new services and products — thus improving employee profitability.

Strategies to increase employee engagement

Communicate regularly:

Every member of your team will have valuable insights, feedback and suggestions. Many will have concerns and frustrations too. Failure to effectively listen and respond to everyone will lower their engagement and negatively affect the company culture.

Create open lines of communication and ensure everyone knows how to contact you. This will create a platform for your people to share ideas, innovations and concerns with you. It will also bridge gaps between senior management and the rest of the team.

An effective way to communicate and respond to everyone in real-time is by introducing pulse surveys — which will allow you to gather instant intelligence on your people to help you understand the sentiment of your organization. You can use this feedback to create relevant action plans to boost engagement and make smarter business decisions.

Take the time to respond and share action plans with everyone. This will ensure your people know that their feedback is being heard and can really make a difference.

Recognize achievements:

“The engagement level of employees who receive recognition is almost three times higher than the engagement level of those who do not.” — IBM Smarter Workforce Institute.

If your people feel undervalued or unappreciated then their performance and profitability will decrease. According to a survey conducted by technology company Badgeville, only 31% of employees are most motivated by monetary awards. The remaining 69% of employees are motivated by job satisfaction, recognition and learning opportunities.

Make efforts to celebrate good work and recognize everyone’s input. Take the time to personally congratulate people and honor their achievements and hard work. You will likely be rewarded with an engaged and energized workforce, that will make efforts to impress you and have their efforts recognized.

Provide opportunities for growth:

Career development is key for employee engagement. If your people feel like their careers are stagnating, or their hard work and emotional investment aren’t being reciprocated — then you can be certain that engagement will drop.

By meeting with your people regularly, discussing agreed targets and time frames, and clearly highlighting how they fit into the organizations wider plans, you can build a “road map” for their future. This will show that their efforts and hard work aren’t going unnoticed.

Improve company culture:

“Customers will never love a company until the employees love it first.” — Simon Sinek.

Building a culture that reflects your brand and creates a fun and productive working environment is one of the most effective ways to keep your employees engaged. It’ll also boost retention and help recruitment efforts. If your culture motivates everyone to work hard, help each other, become brand ambassadors, and even keep the place clean — then you have won the battle.

An engaged and committed workforce is a huge contributor to any organization’s bottom line. The right culture will be a catalyst to help you achieve this.

Here’s how you can improve the company culture within your organization:

  • Empower your people: Empowered employees will take ownership of their responsibilities, solve problems and do whatever it takes to help your company succeed. This will drive your company culture forward. Demonstrate you have faith in your people and trust them to fulfill their duties to their best of their abilities. This will ensure they feel valued, which can lead to empowerment.
  • Manage and communicate expectations: Your people may struggle to understand your cultural vision. By setting clear and regular expectations and communicating your vision via posters, emails, discussions and leading by example, you will prevent confusion and limit deviation from your desired vision.
  • Be consistent: To sustain a consistent culture, you must show uniformity with your actions and communications. Make efforts to have consistent expectations and standards for all your workers, and communicate everything in the same way.

By focusing on employee engagement and investing in your people, they will repay your efforts with an increase in performance, productivity and — ultimately — profit

See the original article Here.

Source:

Wedgwood J. (2017 June 8). Why employee engagement matter - and 4 ways to build it up [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/employee-engagement-ways-to-build-it-up/


Losing Sleep Over Benefits Technology? Get Over It!

Are you having a hard time figuring out all the different technologies associated with your benefits program? Read this great article by Linda Keller from SHRM on how to navigate through the different technologies associated with your employee benefits program.

It’s easy to get caught up wanting to deliver a sophisticated platform to engage your workforce. Many benefits technology solutions promise to make employees smarter consumers of health care through slick recommendation engines, bots, and avatars delivered on smart phones.

I advise you to keep these three things in mind when you evaluate benefits technology:

1. Technology won’t solve your millennial dilemma.
Right now Millenials make up the largest portion of the workforce.  HR professionals are scrambling to figure out how to best communicate and educate them about benefits. The fact is Millennials rely heavily on their parents -- not technology -- to make insurance decisions.  When the Affordable Care Act changed the benefits landscape by allowing kids to stay on their parents’ plan until age 26, it meant that these new workers didn’t have to take an active role in managing their benefits. They just deferred to their parents. HR needs to figure out how to appropriately involve parents in the benefits decision-making process, while ensuring they meet Millennial’s growing demand for non-traditional benefits. Some solutions may include call center support where questions can be answered prior to enrollment.
2. Technology is necessary to reduce compliance risk.
Labor laws are complex and fluid.  The future of ACA and its unpopular reporting requirements are unclear. I believe what is clear is that federal, state and local compliance requirements will continue to be a burden and risk for HR. Compliance falls on HR shoulders and the importance of well-kept records is crucial to avoiding fines and penalties. I advise beginning by automating processes that are currently manual and present the highest risk to your organization. If you continue to rely on manual processes for compliance, the odds of success are not in your favor.
3. Technology is not a strategy.
Employers will waste a lot of money on benefits technology if they don’t know what they want to do with it. Develop a clear strategy and roadmap first -- then consider how technology can enable your strategy. Determine your cost management and employee engagement goals and then figure out how benefits technology can help drive down administrative cost, create enrollment efficiencies and enhance communication and reporting.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Keller L. (2017 May 23). Losing sleep over benefits technology? get over it! [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/losing-sleep-over-benefits-technology-get-over-it


Retirement Calculator Seen as Critical Tool

Did you know that the most impactful tool for employee financial wellness is a retirement calculator? Find out more in this article by Bruce Shutan from Employee Benefit News on why you should have a retirement calculator included in your employee benefits program.

In analyzing the financial behaviors of 67,089 U.S. employee financial wellness assessments, Financial Finesse concluded that the most impactful action was for employers to offer a retirement calculator. The 2016 Year in Review Report also suggested that they promote it to the hilt with the help of their brokers and advisers.

“Running that projection is driving other behavior,” such as changes in cash flow or higher retirement plan contributions over time, explains Cynthia Meyer, a financial planner with Financial Finesse and author of the report.

She says advisers can help spotlight the use of a retirement calculator in an educational workshop or enrollment meeting where they can detail examples or case studies involving the potential effect of this handy tool.

The report uncovered a few bright spots. More employees ran a retirement projection, which jumped to 49% in 2016 from 35% in 2015. In addition, about 60% of these employees discovered they were on track to retire comfortably while about 40% discovered they were underfunded and needed to make changes.

Another positive development was that repeat usage of workplace financial wellness programs appears to be gaining momentum. The number of employees who have done annual workplace assessments of their finances multiple times has climbed steadily since 2013 when it was just 6% to 15% in 2014, 16% in 2015 and 29% in 2016.

However, problems persist. Virtually all demographic groups were still found to have insufficient savings for a comfortable retirement. For example, while 92% of the employees studied participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, just 77% contribute enough to earn the full employer match.

Still, Meyer notes that packaging financial wellness content with a good retirement plan is becoming a standard practice as the movement toward a more holistic view of employee finances gains traction.

Aon Hewitt’s 2017 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing survey found that 59% of employers are very likely and another 33% are moderately likely to focus on the financial wellbeing of workers in ways that extend beyond retirement decisions. Moreover, 86% of employers are very or moderately likely to communicate to their workforces the link between health and wealth.

Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt, says this is an indication of “just how much I think employers still care about their employees.” It certainly bodes well for brokers and advisers who can expect to be busy in the coming years helping their clients create a strategy and build out a plan that appeals to each workforce, he believes.

Aon Hewitt’s survey, whose 238 respondents represent nearly 9 million employees, noted several other key trends. They include employers enhancing both the accumulation and decumulation phases for their defined contribution plan participants, and defined benefit plan sponsors revisiting ways they’re removing risk from their plan.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Shutan Bruce (2017 May 29). Retirement calculator seen as critical tool [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/retirement-calculator-seen-as-critical-tool?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


GOP’s Health Bill Could Undercut Some Coverage In Job-Based Insurance

Thanks to the legislation passed by the House, healthcare is on the verge of changing as we know it. Check out this interesting article by Michelle Andrews from Kaiser Health News on how these changes will affect Americans who get their healthcare through an employer.

This week, I answer questions about how the Republican proposal to overhaul the health law could affect job-based insurance and what the penalties for not having continuous coverage mean. Perhaps anticipating a spell of uninsurance, another reader wondered if people can rely on the emergency department for routine care.

Q: Will employer-based health care be affected by the new Republican plan?

The American Health Care Act that recently passed the House would fundamentally change the individual insurance market, and it could significantly alter coverage for people who get coverage through their employers too.

The bill would allow states to opt out of some of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act, including no longer requiring plans sold on the individual market to cover 10 “essential health benefits,” such as hospitalization, drugs and maternity care.

Small businesses (generally companies with 50 or fewer employees) in those states would also be affected by the change.

Plans offered by large employers have never been required to cover the essential health benefits, so the bill wouldn’t change their obligations. Many of them, however, provide comprehensive coverage that includes many of these benefits.

But here’s where it gets tricky. The ACA placed caps on how much consumers can be required to pay out-of-pocket in deductibles, copays and coinsurance every year, and they apply to most plans, including large employer plans. In 2017, the spending limit is $7,150 for an individual plan and $14,300 for family coverage. Yet there’s a catch: The spending limits apply only to services covered by the essential health benefits. Insurers could charge people any amount for services deemed nonessential by the states.

Similarly, the law prohibits insurers from imposing lifetime or annual dollar limits on services — but only if those services are related to the essential health benefits.

In addition, if any single state weakened its essential health benefits requirements, it could affect large employer plans in every state, analysts say. That’s because these employers, who often operate in multiple states, are allowed to pick which state’s definition of essential health benefits they want to use in determining what counts toward consumer spending caps and annual and lifetime coverage limits.

“If you eliminate [the federal essential health benefits] requirement you could see a lot of state variation, and there could be an incentive for companies that are looking to save money to pick a state” with skimpier requirements, said Sarah Lueck, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Q: I keep hearing that nobody in the United States is ever refused medical care — that whether they can afford it or not a hospital can’t refuse them treatment. If this is the case, why couldn’t an uninsured person simply go to the front desk at the hospital and ask for treatment, which by law can’t be denied, such as, “I’m here for my annual physical, or for a screening colonoscopy”?

If you are having chest pains or you just sliced your hand open while carving a chicken, you can go to nearly any hospital with an emergency department, and — under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) — the staff is obligated to conduct a medical exam to see if you need emergency care. If so, they must try to stabilize your condition, whether or not you have insurance.

The key word here is “emergency.” If you’re due for a colonoscopy to screen for cancer, unless you have symptoms such as severe pain or rectal bleeding, emergency department personnel wouldn’t likely order the exam, said Dr. Jesse Pines, a professor of emergency medicine and health policy at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not the standard of care to do screening tests in the emergency department,” Pines said, noting in that situation the appropriate next step would be to refer you to a local gastroenterologist who could perform the exam.

Even though the law requires hospitals to evaluate anyone who comes in the door, being uninsured doesn’t let people off the hook financially. You’ll still likely get bills from the hospital and physicians for any care you receive, Pines said.

Q: The Republican proposal says people who don’t maintain “continuous coverage” would have to pay extra for their insurance. What does that mean? 

Under the bill passed by the House, people who have a break in their health insurance coverage of more than 63 days in a year would be hit with a 30 percent premium surcharge for a year after buying a new plan on the individual market.

In contrast, under the ACA’s “individual mandate,” people are required to have health insurance or pay a fine equal to the greater of 2.5 percent of their income or $695 per adult. They’re allowed a break of no more than two continuous months every year before the penalty kicks in for the months they were without coverage.

The continuous coverage requirement is the Republicans’ preferred strategy to encourage people to get health insurance. But some analysts have questioned how effective it would be. They point out that, whereas the ACA penalizes people for not having insurance on an ongoing basis, the AHCA penalty kicks in only when people try to buy coverage after a break. It could actually discourage healthy people from getting back into the market unless they’re sick.

In addition, the AHCA penalty, which is based on a plan’s premium, would likely have a greater impact on older people, whose premiums are relatively higher, and those with lower incomes, said Sara Collins, a vice president at the Commonwealth Fund, who authored an analysis of the impact of the penalties.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Andrews M. (2017 May 23). GOP's health bill could undercut some coverage in job-based insurance[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://khn.org/news/gops-health-bill-could-undercut-some-coverage-in-job-based-insurance/