Is financial wellness an important part of your company culture? By promoting financial wellness among your employees’, employers can reap the benefits as well. Check out this great article from Employee Benefits Advisor about the some of the effects that promoting financial wellness can have. By Cort Olsen
Financial wellness has come to the forefront of employers’ wellbeing priorities. Looking back on previous years of participation in retirement savings programs such as 401(k)s, employers are not satisfied with participation, an Aon study shows.
As few as 15% of employers say they are satisfied with their workers’ current savings rate, according to a new report from Aon Hewitt. In response, employers are focused on increasing savings rates and will look to their advisers to help expand financial wellbeing programs.
Aon surveyed more than 250 U.S. employers representing nearly 9 million workers to determine their priorities and likely changes when it comes to retirement benefits. According to the report, employers plan to emphasize retirement readiness, focusing on financial wellbeing and refining automation as they aim to raise 401(k) savings rates for 2017.
Emphasizing retirement readiness
Nearly all employers, 90%, are concerned with their employees’ level of understanding about how much they need to save to achieve an adequate retirement savings. Those employers who said they were not satisfied with investment levels in past years, 87%, say they plan to take action this year to help workers reach their retirement goals.
“Employers are making retirement readiness one of the important parts of their financial wellbeing strategy by offering tools and modelers to help workers understand, realistically, how much they’re likely to need in order to retire,” says Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt. “Some of these tools take it a step further and provide education on what specific actions workers can take to help close the savings gap and can help workers understand that even small changes, such as increasing 401(k) contributions by just two percentage points, can impact their long-term savings outlook.”
Focusing on financial wellbeing
While financial wellness has been a growing trend among employers recently, 60% of employers say its importance has increased over the past two years. This year, 92% of employers are likely to focus on the financial wellbeing of workers in a way that extends beyond retirement such as help with managing student loan debt, day-to-day budgeting and even physical and emotional wellbeing.
Currently, 58% of employers have a tool available that covers at least one aspect of financial wellness, but by the end of 2017, that percentage is expected to reach 84%, according to the Aon Hewitt report.
“Financial wellbeing programs have moved from being something that few leading-edge companies were offering to a more mainstream strategy,” Austin says. “Employers realize that offering programs that address the overall wellbeing of their workers can solve for myriad challenges that impact people’s work lives and productivity, including their physical and emotional health, financial stressors and long-term retirement savings.”
The lessons learned from automatic enrollment are being utilized to increase savings rates. In a separate Aon Hewitt report, more than half of all employees under plans with automatic enrollment default had at or above the company match threshold. Employers are also adding contribution escalation features and enrolling workers who may not have been previously enrolled in the 401(k) plan.
“Employers realize that automatic 401(k) features can be very effective when it comes to increasing participation in the plan,” Austin says. “Now they are taking an automation 2.0 approach to make it easier for workers to save more and invest better.”
See the original article Here.
Olsen C. (2017 January 16). How to encourage increased investment in financial wellbeing [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/how-to-encourage-increased-investment-in-financial-wellbeing?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000
Does ACA repeal have you worried? Look into this great article from Kaiser Health News about some of things that could disappear with ACA repeal by Julie Appleby and Mary Agnes Carey
The Affordable Care Act of course affected premiums and insurance purchasing. It guaranteed people with pre-existing conditions could buy health coverage and allowed children to stay on parents’ plans until age 26. But the roughly 2,000-page bill also included a host of other provisions that affect the health-related choices of nearly every American.
Some of these measures are evident every day. Some enjoy broad support, even though people often don’t always realize they spring from the statute.
In other words, the outcome of the repeal-and-replace debate could affect more than you might think, depending on exactly how the GOP congressional majority pursues its goal to do away with Obamacare.
No one knows how far the effort will reach, but here’s a sampling of sleeper provisions that could land on the cutting-room floor:
CALORIE COUNTS AT RESTAURANTS AND FAST FOOD CHAINS
Feeling hungry? The law tries to give you more information about what that burger or muffin will cost you in terms of calories, part of an effort to combat the ongoing obesity epidemic. Under the ACA, most restaurants and fast food chains with at least 20 stores must post calorie counts of their menu items. Several states, including New York, already had similar rules before the law. Although there was some pushback, the rule had industry support, possibly because posting calories was seen as less onerous than such things as taxes on sugary foods or beverages. The final rule went into effect in December after a one-year delay. One thing that is still unclear: Does simply seeing that a particular muffin has more than 400 calories cause consumers to choose carrot sticks instead? Results are mixed. One large meta-analysis done before the law went into effect didn’t show a significant reduction in calorie consumption, although the authors concluded that menu labeling is “a relatively low-cost education strategy that may lead consumers to purchase slightly fewer calories.”
PRIVACY PLEASE: WORKPLACE REQUIREMENTS FOR BREAST-FEEDING ROOMS
Breast feeding, but going back to work? The law requires employers to provide women break time to express milk for up to a year after giving birth and provide someplace — other than a bathroom — to do so in private. In addition, most health plans must offerbreastfeeding support and equipment, such as pumps, without a patient co-payment.
LIMITS ON SURPRISE MEDICAL COSTS FROM HOSPITAL EMERGENCY ROOM VISITS
If you find yourself in an emergency room, short on cash, uninsured or not sure if your insurance covers costs at that hospital, the law provides some limited assistance. If you are in a hospital that is not part of your insurer’s network, the Affordable Care Act requires all health plans to charge consumers the same co-payments or co-insurance for out-of-network emergency care as they do for hospitals within their networks. Still, the hospital could “balance bill” you for its costs — including ER care — that exceed what your insurer reimburses it.
If it’s a non-profit hospital — and about 78 percent of all hospitals are — the law requires it to post online a written financial assistance policy, spelling out whether it offers free or discounted care and the eligibility requirements for such programs. While not prescribing any particular set of eligibility requirements, the law requires hospitals to charge lower rates to patients who are eligible for their financial assistance programs. That’s compared with their gross charges, also known as chargemaster rates.
NONPROFIT HOSPITALS’ COMMUNITY HEALTH ASSESSMENTS
The health law also requires non-profit hospitals to justify the billions of dollars in tax exemptions they receive by demonstrating how they go about trying to improve the health of the community around them.
Every three years, these hospitals have to perform a community needs assessment for the area the hospital serves. They also have to develop — and update annually — strategies to meet these needs. The hospitals then must provide documentation as part of their annual reporting to the Internal Revenue Service. Failure to comply could leave them liable for a $50,000 penalty.
A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CHOOSE … HER OB/GYN
Most insurance plans must allow women to seek care from an obstetrician/gynecologist without having to get a referral from a primary care physician. While the majority of states already had such protections in place, those laws did not apply to self-insured plans, which are often offered by large employers. The health law extended the rules to all new plans. Proponents say direct access makes it easier for women to seek not only reproductive health care, but also related screenings for such things as high blood pressure or cholesterol.
AND WHAT ABOUT THOSE THERAPY COVERAGE ASSURANCES FOR FAMILIES WHO HAVE KIDS WITH AUTISM?
Advocates for children with autism and people with degenerative diseases argued that many insurance plans did not provide care their families needed. That’s because insurers would cover rehabilitation to help people regain functions they had lost, such as walking again after a stroke, but not care needed to either gain functions patients never had, such speech therapy for a child who never learned how to talk, or to maintain a patient’s current level of function. The law requires plans to offer coverage for such treatments, dubbed habilitative care, as part of the essential health benefits in plans sold to individuals and small groups.
Appleby J., Carey M. (2017 January 12). Health law sleepers: six surprising health items that could disappear with ACA repeal [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://khn.org/news/health-law-sleepers-six-surprising-health-items-that-could-disappear-with-aca-repeal/?utm_campaign=KHN%3A+Daily+Health+Policy+Report&utm_source=hs_email&utm_medium=email&utm_content=40532225&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-8vl0H_K8CNgaURbqgYS5m3isu1NUGrj0FRIdsUX8JCwcifTDRV-UvKdu6lZGvB06FTyhENvPFLaOMOsIrr2IBVBTNWQg&_hsmi=40532225
Make sure to stay up-to-date with the most recent compliance alerts from our partners at United Benefits Advisors (UBA).
Starting on January 1, 2017, certain small employers have the option to reimburse individual health coverage premiums up to a dollar limit through Qualified Small Employer Health Reimbursement Arrangements (QSE HRAs) under the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act).
The Cures Act amends the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) to exclude QSE HRAs from the ERISA definition of group health plan; however, the Cures Act does not specifically exclude QSE HRAs from the rest of ERISA.
Small employers that plan to offer QSE HRAs should be cautious before presuming that ERISA would not apply to a reimbursement arrangement. ERISA generally covers employee welfare benefit plans that are established or maintained by any employer engaged in interstate commerce or in any industry or activity affecting interstate commerce.
Under the Cures Act, QSE HRAs are excluded from one of ERISA’s two definitions of “group health plan.” QSE HRAs are excluded from the definition of group health plan that applies only to ERISA’s Title I, Part 7, that governs group health plan requirements. In summary, Part 7 includes requirements relating to portability, access, renewability, mother/newborn benefits, parity in mental health and substance use disorder benefits, reconstructive surgery, dependent student coverage, and additional market reforms.
Outside of the group health plan definition above, ERISA provides a broader definition of an employee welfare benefit plan: generally, it is any plan, fund, or program established or maintained by an employer to provide participants or their beneficiaries with medical, surgical, or hospital care or benefits, through the purchase of insurance or otherwise.
Further, in the legislative history of QSE HRA’s exclusion from ERISA’s group health plan definition, the House Committee on Ways and Means’ Report stated, as part of recommending the bill’s passage: “While these arrangements are not considered group health plans for purposes of the employer penalty, H.R. 5447 is not intended to change the extent to which these plans are employee welfare benefit plans under ERISA.”
Because QSE HRAs are new, the issue of whether the remainder of ERISA applies to QSE HRAs remains undetermined by an administrative agency or court. In consideration of the limited ERISA group health definition exclusion and the law’s legislative history, a risk-averse small employer should treat a QSE HRA as an employee welfare benefit plan covered under ERISA and comply with applicable ERISA requirements such as having a written plan document and summary plan description as well as following ERISA’s fiduciary and other rules.
A small employer who intends to offer a QSE HRA without complying with ERISA’s employee welfare benefit plan requirements should consult with its attorney before proceeding
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Check out this great article from Employee Benefits Adviser about the disconnect between employees and employers about their company’s wellness programs by Cort Olsen
More than 1,500 employer decision-makers surveyed about the future of healthcare say wellness programs within companies continue to show positive growth among employers and employees alike. However, the study by Transamerica Center for Health Studies also found a strong disconnect in communication between employers and employees regarding healthcare and benefit satisfaction and the commitment from employers to maintain a healthy workspace.
At least 28% of employers have implemented a wellness program for their employees in the past 12 months — a steady increase from 23% in 2014 and 25% in 2015. About four in five companies report their wellness programs have positively impacted workers’ health and productivity, and about seven in 10 have seen a positive impact on company healthcare costs.
More than half of the employers surveyed (55%) say they offer wellness programs to their staff, yet some employees seemed to be unaware that their company offers these programs. Of the 55% of employers who say they offer a wellness program, only 36% of employees with employer coverage say they work for an employer who offers a wellness program.
Employer versus employee perspective
This miscommunication may also contribute to the level of commitment employees think their employer has in maintaining a wellness program within the workplace. While 80% of employers say leadership is committed to improving the health of their employees, only one-third of employees say they agree with that statement.
When it comes to overall healthcare satisfaction there is a similar disconnect, with 94% of employers saying employees are satisfied with the health insurance plan their company offers, while only 79% of employees say they are satisfied with their health plan.
In addition, 90% of employers say employees are satisfied with the healthcare benefits other than health insurance, but only 79% of employees say they are satisfied.
However, while employers and employees may not share the same amount of satisfaction in their healthcare offerings, many companies are making the effort to reduce the cost of their healthcare for their staff.
At least 41% of companies have taken measures to reduce costs, while 71% of companies have taken positive measures in the last 12 months. The percentage of midsize businesses reporting to provide insurance for part-time employees has increased significantly since July 2013 from 13% to 21%.
Still, lack of communication continues over cost concerns as well. While about four in five employers feel their company is concerned about the affordability of health insurance and healthcare expenses, just over half of employees feel the same — even after employers said cost concerns would not be felt by employees.
Olsen C. (2017 January 05). Disconnect between employers, employees over wellness, health plan satisfaction[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/disconnect-between-employers-employees-over-wellness-health-plan-satisfaction?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000
Interesting article from BenefitsPro about employee’s increased input into their 401(k)s by Ben Steverman
(Bloomberg) — Saving for retirement requires making sacrifices now so your future self can afford to stop working later. Someday. Maybe.
It’s not news that Americans aren’t saving enough. The typical baby boomer, whose generation is just starting to retire, has a median of $147,000 in all of his retirement accounts, according to the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies.
And if you think that’s depressing, try this on: 1 in 3 private sector workers don’t even have a retirement plan through their job.
But the new year brings with it some good news: If people do have a 401(k) plan through their employer, there’s data showing them choosing to set aside more for their later years.
On average, workers in 2015 put 6.8 percent of their salaries into 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, according to a recent survey of more than 600 plans. That’s up from 6.2 percent in 2010, the Plan Sponsor Council of America found.
An increase in retirement savings of 0.6 percentage points might not sound like much, but it represents a 10 percent rise in the amount flowing into those plans over just five years, or billions of dollars. About $7 trillion is already invested in 401(k) and other defined contribution plans, according to the Investment Company Institute.
If Americans keep inching up their contribution rate, they could end up saving trillions of dollars more. Workers in these plans are even starting to meet the savings recommendations of retirement experts, who suggest setting aside 10 percent to 15 percent of your salary, including any employer contribution, over a career.
While workers are saving more, companies have held their financial contributions steady—at least over the past few years. Employers pitched in 4.7 percent of payroll in 2015, the same as in 2013 and 2014. Even so, it’s still more than a point above their contribution rates in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
One reason workers participating in these plans are probably saving more: They’re being signed up automatically—no extra paperwork required. Almost 58 percent of plans surveyed make their sign-up process automatic, requiring employees to take action only if they don’t want to save.
Automatic enrollment can make a big difference. In such plans, 89 percent of workers are making contributions, the survey finds, while 75 percent make 401(k) contributions under plans without auto-enrollment. Auto-enrolled employees save more, 7.2 percent of their salaries vs. 6.3 percent for those who weren’t auto-enrolled.
Companies are also automatically hiking worker contribution rates over time, a feature called “auto-escalation” that’s still far less common than auto-enrollment. Less than a quarter of plans auto-escalate all participants, while 16 percent boost contributions only for workers who are deemed to be not saving enough.
A key appeal of automatic 401(k) plans is that they don’t require participating workers to be investing experts. Unless employees choose otherwise, their money is automatically put in a recommended investment.
And, at more and more 401(k) and profit-sharing plans, this takes the form of a target-date fund, a diversified mix of investments chosen based on a participant’s age or years until retirement. Two-thirds of plans offer target-date funds, the survey found, double the number in 2006.
The share of workers’ assets in target-date funds is up fivefold as a result.
A final piece of good news for workers is that they’re keeping more of every dollar they earn in a 401(k) account. Fees on 401(k) plans are falling, according to a recent analysis released by BrightScope and the Investment Company Institute.
The total cost of running a 401(k) plan is down 17 percent since 2009, to 0.39 percent of plan assets in 2014. The cost of the mutual funds inside 401(k)s has dropped even faster, by 28 percent to an annual expense ratio of 0.53 percent in 2015.
Steverman B. (2017 January 5). Employees putting billions more than usual in their 401(k)s [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/01/05/employees-putting-billions-more-than-usual-in-thei?ref=hp-news&page_all=1
Sedentary Working Is a Top Health Risk
Sedentary working is a new top health risk that is getting increased attention from health and safety professionals. Sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to break down body fat and regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. However, more research is needed in order to clear up some confusion over how employers can protect their staff from the perils of sedentary working.
Although studies have linked excessive sitting with obesity, Type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer and early death, most of the evidence is based on observational studies, which have failed to show a direct connection between sitting and ill health. Furthermore, more reliable research is needed regarding workplace interventions, such as sit-to-stand desks.
While there is not yet a clear answer as to what employers should do to address sedentary employees, there are things that employees can do on their own in order to stay healthy, including the following best practices:
The Importance of a Good Night’s Sleep
A poor night’s sleep may not only affect your productivity at work—it can also have adverse health effects.
Although the average recommended amount of sleep is between seven and nine hours per night, the average employee gets six hours and 28 minutes of sleep, according to a recent study of 1,060 participants. Two of the top reported side effects of sleep loss were a lack of attention and taking longer to complete tasks. Both suggest that sleep loss may negatively affect productivity.
The effects of a lack of sleep, such as feeling irritable and not working at your best, are well known, but they also include profound physical health consequences. Regular poor sleep is linked to an increased risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and a shortened life expectancy.
Getting enough sleep is especially important during the cold winter months, when a lack of sunlight can make people feel more fatigued and sluggish.
With that in mind, the following tips can help ensure a good night’s sleep:
Great article from Benefits Pro about using technology to communicate with your employees by Marlene Satter
Although technology has spawned multiple methods of communication with employees on benefits, that doesn’t mean they’re solving all the problems in conveying information back and forth between employer and employee.
In fact, generational and demographic differences, varying levels of comfort with a range of communication methods and the complexity of information all mean that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution in workplace benefits communication.
A study from West’s Health Advocate Solutions finds employees’ expectations cover a wide range in benefits, health and wellness program communication. As a result, human resources and benefits managers have to dig more deeply in finding ways to convey information to employees.
One finding which may surprise them is employees prefer live-person conversations, although some do prefer the option to use digital communication channels in certain benefits scenarios. And 41 percent of employees say their top complaint about employers’ benefits programs is that communication is too infrequent.
Employee benefits in 2017 will feel the effects of political change as well as cultural change. Here are some trends…
The top choice of employees for communicating about health care cost and administrative information is directly by phone (73 percent) with a live person; second choice was a website or online portal (69 percent), while an in-person conversation was the choice of 56 percent.
For information about physical wellness benefits, 71 percent opt for the website/online portal, while 62 percent want to talk to someone on the phone and 56 percent wanted an in-person conversation. Interestingly, 62 percent of men and 44 percent of women prefer in-person conversations.
For personal/emotional wellness issues, 71 percent want that chat with a person on the phone, 65 percent want an in-person conversation and just 60 percent want to interact with a website/online portal.
When it comes to managing a chronic condition, 66 percent prefer to talk to someone on the phone, 63 percent would prefer the website/online portal option and 61 percent want an in-person conversation. Sixty-seven percent of men, compared with 53 percent of women, prefer in-person conversations, while 35 percent of women, compared with 18 percent of men, prefer mobile apps.
And there are generational differences, too, with millennials wanting in-person interactions more than either Gen X or boomer colleagues. But they all want multiple options, and the ability to choose the one they prefer, rather than simply being restricted to a single method.
Satter M. (2016 December 14). Don’t expect tech to solve benefits communications problems [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2016/12/14/dont-expect-tech-to-solve-benefits-communications
Helpful tips from Employee Benefit Adviser about attracting new talent by Aldor Delp
Unemployment is hovering around 5%, November marked 73 continuous months of job gains and wage growth is picking up. All indications seem to suggest that employers have positions to fill, which may also mean that workers now have leverage, confidence and options. This is good news for job candidates. But for employers vying for fresh talent, it means the attributes of a company need to be that much more enticing. It also makes me think that a comprehensive benefits package may tip the scales for a candidate who’s considering multiple offers. To put it simply: Benefits can be the game changer.
It’s true that a traditional comprehensive benefit package has always been a successful recruitment element for companies. But given the wider array of benefits employers now can offer, today’s companies can use those elements to differentiate themselves from the competition.
From an employer’s perspective, competitive benefits don’t just help with recruitment but can also bolster retention. While strong benefit packages can potentially become expensive depending on the options they include, replacing an employee can be potentially even more costly and time consuming if a company experiences regular churn. With an investment in more appealing benefits packages, an employer may be able to mitigate the cost, time and effort of turnover and recruitment.
While healthy, stocked kitchens, nap areas and ping pong tables are perks that now reach far beyond the tech industry, many companies are building up three additional benefits areas that can truly change the game.
1) Financial wellness programs. Given the recent recession, retirement still is a growing concern for many American workers. A recent study showed that over the past 12 months, 38% of workers considered delaying retirement beyond the original age they intended and 52% said they will delay retirement because they “need to save more.” When these financial worries make their way into the workplace, employers should take notice. Consider a study from PricewaterhouseCoopers that showed that employees spend an average of three hours a week at work dealing with their finances. That’s fairly significant.
By offering financial wellness programs, employers can combat this anxiety and increase efficiency, while providing a sought-after benefit that many companies aren’t yet offering. Ninety-two percent of employer-respondents in another ADP study confirmed interest in providing their workforce with information about retirement planning basics, and 84% said the same of retirement income planning. Even if employers would like to provide these programs, few offer them, citing several existing challenges that stand in the way, such as a need to focus on other aspects of their business (27%) or not enough resources (15%). Providing financial wellness programs can be an added reward that may help a potential employee lean in your favor.
2) Strong internal training. Providing employees with training and development opportunities can promote retention and commitment. Regardless of the number of opportunities for career development, you can still help employees refine skills and increase knowledge that will serve them in the future. American workers want to learn to hone their skills. In fact, 84% of Americans are excited to use technology to learn in real-time, according to ADP’s Evolution of Work study. This is a benefit that not only can provide employee enrichment, it can also strengthen the talent pipeline to management positions.
However, internal training programs are not what they used to be. According to ADP’s recent report, Strategic Drift: How HR Plans for Change, corporate training budgets fell by 20% between 2000 and 2008. Seventy-six percent of executives see the market for skilled employees tightening and 75% expect high turnover among millennials. Reduced corporate training budgets have perpetuated a cycle of high employee turnover. So, if your organization has strong training programs, it’s likely to stand out from competitors. It may be worth considering internal and external training opportunities, mentoring, job shadowing, cross-training and professional development classes.
3) Workplace flexibility. Be open to the idea that it may be more feasible for some workers to telecommute and work from home for a portion of the week. Workplace flexibility is attractive for many employees and it can help reduce the number of unscheduled absences. Flexible work arrangements — such as the option to work from home, alternative start and stop times, compressed work weeks, or Summer Fridays — can help encourage workers to use their time more efficiently, and underscore a corporate culture that stresses balance, mindfulness and trust.
As job candidates and existing employees take a more holistic view of their benefits, relevant, supportive and flexible programs can be the game changer for them. The right mix of direct compensation and indirect benefits may be the difference between onboarding that “dream” candidate, retaining a top performer, or elongating the search for that precious needle in the talent haystack.
Delp A. (2016 December 12). 3 reasons benefits are a game-changer for attracting talent[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/3-reasons-benefits-are-a-game-changer-for-attracting-talent
Check out this interesting article from Workforce about the most recent SHRM benefits study by Andie Burjek
Health care is still the king of employee benefits packages.
Nearly one-third (30 percent) of HR professionals indicated that within an employee benefits package, health care was their primary strategic focus, according to a survey released Nov. 30 by the Society for Human Resource Management.
SHRM surveyed 738 HR professionals for its 2016 Strategic Benefits Survey and conducted annually since 2012, in five categories: wellness initiatives, flexible work arrangements, health care, leveraging benefits to retain and recruit employees, and assessment and communication of benefits.
The survey also found that among all categories of employees, health care most impacts retention, said Evren Esen, SHRM’s director of workforce analytics. The survey specifically differentiated between high-performing, highly skilled and millennial employees, all of who were most swayed to stay by health care.
“There are a lot of different ways that organizations can tailor their benefits to meet the strategic needs of recruiting and retaining employees,” said Esen. “And that’s where we see a lot of creativity and innovation. Good employers know the benefits that their employees and potential employees will value and then they shape their benefits accordingly.”
Almost 1 in 5 survey respondents said that over the past year they’ve altered their benefits program to help with retention of employees at all levels of the organization, and the most popular area to change, indicated by 61 percent of respondents, was health care. Just below was flexible working (37 percent) and retirement (35 percent).
SHRM also found that there was a decrease in HR professionals worried about health care costs. Sixty-six percent of respondents were “very concerned” about controlling health care costs in 2016, compared to 79 percent in 2014.
Health care is a big-ticket item, so there will always be concern, said Esen. That being said, the decrease may be attributed to several possibilities.
First, Esen explained, health care costs have been rising, but not at the same double-digit rates they have been in previous years. SHRM has seen this level of concern decline annually since 2012.
Wellness may also have played a role.
“Wellness has been much more integrated in organizations and their health care strategies,” said Esen. “Organizations have found wellness does impact health care costs in the long run.” She doubled down on the point that an employer probably won’t see a decrease in health care costs immediately thanks to a wellness program, however there is long-term potential. Almost half (48 percent) of survey respondents said their company wellness initiatives decreased health care costs.
“That may have alleviated some concern that employers have,” she added. “Because at least there’s something they can do. They have some control. They can encourage their employees to be healthier.”
Under wellness, one notable finding was that although interest in wellness is rising, certain programs are being offered less. In the past five years, Esen noted, programs that have steadily decreased include: health care premium discounts for both participating in a weight-loss program and not using tobacco; on-site stress reduction programs; and health and lifestyle coaching.
“Companies are examining ways to keep wellness relevant to employees,” she said. “Employers, if they really do want to continue with wellness and have impact on health care costs, need to continually be assessing and also be creative in terms of the type of wellness programs they [offer], because just like anything, it will become stale over time.”
Burjek A. (2016 December 1). SHRM study: health care remains key benefit for all employee groups[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.workforce.com/2016/12/01/shrm-study-health-care-remains-key-benefit-employee-groups/
by Caterina Pontoriero
It’s the holiday season and for many homeowners, it’s easy to neglect some of the most basic rules of home safety.
The hustle and bustle of activity this time of year can lead to property damage and injuries that normally can be easily prevented.
Denver-based insurance comparison shopping site InsuranceQuotes and Washington-based research firm Princeton Survey Research Associates International polled 1,000 American adults, asking them to recount the frequency of certain holiday hazards, including injuries to houseguests, weather-related driving accidents and fires caused by everything from cooking mistakes to misadventures with decorations.
According to the study, 16 million Americans have experienced a house fire because of a fryer or cooking accident, and 2 million have had fires caused by Christmas trees and other decorations.
Scott Humphrey, second vice president of risk control for New York City-based Travelers Cos., says homeowners file more claims for fire damage during this time of year than any other.
“Our claim data also shows that fire is one of the costliest claims,” Humphrey says. “If fire results in a total loss, it’s important that homeowners are insured for the total cost to rebuild, not just the market value of the home. Homeowners should be sure to review this point with their insurance agent or carrier.”
Here are some tips for homeowners to help prevent fanning the flames of fire risk:
While experts agree that it’s objectively safer to deep fry your turkey outside, they also say holiday chefs should make sure it’s set up on level ground at least 30 feet away from the home, trees or any other flammable objects.
“Believe it or not, dry leaves on the ground can serve as natural lighter fluid if there’s a mishap, so make sure to rake beforehand,” says Peter Duncanson, director of system development with the disaster restoration company ServiceMaster Restore.
Humphrey says one of the main causes of fires this time of year result from electrical hazards like holiday lights, appliances or other devices that overload an extension cord or structural wiring in the home.
“It is especially important to inspect your strands of lights for frayed cords and cracked lamps before stringing them up,” Humphrey says. “Also, turn off your lights when you go out for the evening or when you go to bed so you don’t wake up or come home to a fire.”
Candles are traditionally used in many holidays this season, but despite adding a warm and inviting touch to holiday tablescapes, candles can be as damaging as they are delightful, and Bud Summers, vice president of operations for Tamarac, Florida-based property restoration company PuroClean, suggests homeowners proceed with extreme caution when considering the placement of their holiday candles.
“Avoid setting them near curtains, towels, or anywhere they may be knocked over or forgotten about,” Summers says. “Make sure to leave approximately one foot of space between your burning candle and anything else. Be sure that the candle has a stable base and always extinguish the flame before leaving the house or room, or going to bed. When guests leave, designate someone to walk through each room to make sure candles are blown out.”
When maintained properly, the only harm caused by a Christmas tree is the mess of fallen needles it inevitably leaves behind. But if it’s neglected, homeowners could find themselves with a significant fire hazard perched in the middle of their living room.
Related: 4 tips to avoid a Christmas tree fire
“Real Christmas trees are more likely to start a fire than artificial ones, especially over time as the tree tends to dry out. And it only takes 30 seconds for a dry tree to engulf a room when a fire is ignited,” Summers says. “If you choose to go the natural route, making sure to keep the tree moist and full of water will significantly decrease your chances of unintentional fire.”
Pontoriero C.(2016 December 8). 4 holiday season fire prevention tips[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.propertycasualty360.com/2016/12/08/4-holiday-season-fire-prevention-tips?eNL=58496aa3160ba015228ec3eb&utm_source=PC360_NewsFlash&utm_medium=EMC-Email_editorial&utm_campaign=12082016&page_all=1