Safety Focused Newsletter - March 2018

Health Tips for Shift Workers

For shift workers, unconventional schedules can take a toll on health and safety. In fact, research shows that people who sleep during the day often struggle with getting an adequate amount of rest.

What’s more, workers on a shift schedule tend to have poor eating habits and lack regular exercise, which can contribute to fatigue and stress. To combat these adverse health factors, shift workers should consider doing the following:

  • Get enough rest before your shift begins. Eating well and getting plenty of exercise can help you sleep. If you are experiencing insomnia or other sleep issues, speak with your doctor.
  • Take frequent breaks. If you begin to feel drowsy during the workday, consider going for a short walk or eating a healthy snack to re-energize.
  • Hold your employer accountable when it comes to rotating schedules. Working one shift over and over can take a toll, and it’s important to have occasional variety.

It’s important to be mindful about your scheduling, and avoid permanent or consecutive night shifts whenever possible. In addition, employees should be allowed to gradually change from night shifts to normal shifts, as this gives the body time to recover and adapt to a new schedule.

Fatigue due to poor quality or lack of sleep can affect every aspect of an individual’s life, and can severely hamper one’s ability to perform at work. Speak to a doctor if you are concerned about the quality of your sleep or want more general health tips.

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CenterStage: February is American Heart Month - Are Your Loved Ones Knowledgeable?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease, according to the American Heart Association.

Talking with your loved ones about heart disease can be awkward, but it’s important. In fact, it could save a life. At the dinner table, in the car, or even via text, have a heart-to-heart with your loved ones about improving heart health as a family. Engaging those you care about in conversations about heart disease prevention can result in heart-healthy behavior changes.

Source: Wellness Layers (27 June 2017). Retrieved from http://www.wellnesslayers.com/june-2017-american-heart-association-launched-its-new-heart-and-stroke-patient-support-network-and-patients-registry-powered-by-rmdy/

Here are three reasons to talk to the people in your life about heart health and three ways to get the conversation started.

Three Reasons You Should Talk to Your Loved Ones About Heart Health

#1. More than physical health is at risk

Millions of people in the US don’t know that they have high blood pressure. High blood pressure raises the risk for heart attacks, stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and many other health issues. Researchers are learning that having high blood pressure in your late 40s or early 50s can lead to dementia later in life. Encourage family members to be aware of blood pressure levels and monitor them consistently.

 

#2. Feel Younger Longer

Just as bad living habits can age you prematurely and shorten your lifespan, practicing good heart healthy habits can help you feel younger longer. On average, U.S. adults have hearts that are 7 years older than they should be, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Just beginning the conversation with the people in your life that you care about can begin to make changes in their heart health.

 

#3. You Are What You Eat

Even small changes can make a big difference. Prepare healthier versions of your favorite family recipes by making simple ingredient swaps, simply searching the internet is all it usually takes to find an easy ingredient alternative. Find a new
recipe to cook for your family members, or get in the kitchen together and you’ll finish with something delicious and possibly making some new favorite memories as well. When grocery shopping, choose items low in sodium, added sugar, and trans fats, and be sure to stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

Three Ways to Start the Conversation

  1. Encourage family members to make small changes, like using spices to season food instead of salt.
  2. Motivate your loved ones to incorporate physical activity into every day. Consider a family fitness challenge and compete with each other to see who can achieve the best results.
  3. Avoid bad habits together. It has been found that smokers are twice as likely to quit if they have a support system. This applies to practicing healthier practices as well. Set goals and start by making small, positive changes, chances are they may have a big difference.

The key to heart health is a healthy lifestyle. It’s important to try to let go of bad habits that increase your risk of heart disease. By setting small, achievable goals and tracking those goals, you can possibly extend your life expectancy a little bit each day.

Heart disease can be prevented by making healthy choices and consciously monitoring health conditions. Making healthy choices a topic of conversation with your family and loved ones is a great way to open the door to healthier practices in all walks of life.

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Understanding W-2 Reporting under the ACA

From our partner, UBA Benefits, let's take a look at W-2 Reporting under the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and how to better understand it:


The ACA requires employers to report the cost of coverage under an employer-sponsored group health plan. Reporting the cost of health care coverage on Form W-2 does not mean that the coverage is taxable.

Employers that provide "applicable employer-sponsored coverage" under a group health plan are subject to the reporting requirement. This includes businesses, tax-exempt organizations, and federal, state and local government entities (except with respect to plans maintained primarily for members of the military and their families). Federally recognized Indian tribal governments are not subject to this requirement.

Employers that are subject to this requirement should report the value of the health care coverage in Box 12 of Form W-2, with Code DD to identify the amount. There is no reporting on Form W-3 of the total of these amounts for all the employer's employees.

In general, the amount reported should include both the portion paid by the employer and the portion paid by the employee. See the chart below from the IRS' webpage and its questions and answers for more information.

The chart below illustrates the types of coverage that employers must report on Form W-2. Certain items are listed as "optional" based on transition relief provided by Notice 2012-9 (restating and clarifying Notice 2011-28). Future guidance may revise reporting requirements but will not be applicable until the tax year beginning at least six months after the date of issuance of such guidance.

  Form W-2, Box 12, Code DD
Coverage Type Report Do Not
Report
Optional
Major medical X    
Dental or vision plan not integrated into another medical or health plan     X
Dental or vision plan which gives the choice of declining or electing and paying an additional premium     X
Health flexible spending arrangement (FSA) funded solely by salary-reduction amounts   X  
Health FSA value for the plan year in excess of employee's cafeteria plan salary reductions for all qualified benefits X    
Health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) contributions     X
Health savings account (HSA) contributions (employer or employee)   X  
Archer Medical Savings Account (Archer MSA) contributions (employer or employee)   X  
Hospital indemnity or specified illness (insured or self-funded), paid on after-tax basis   X  
Hospital indemnity or specified illness (insured or self-funded), paid through salary reduction (pre-tax) or by employer X    
Employee assistance plan (EAP) providing applicable employer-sponsored healthcare coverage Required if employer charges a COBRA premium   Optional if employer does not charge a COBRA premium
On-site medical clinics providing applicable employer-sponsored healthcare coverage Required if employer charges a COBRA premium   Optional if employer does not charge a COBRA premium
Wellness programs providing applicable employer-sponsored healthcare coverage Required if employer charges a COBRA premium   Optional if employer does not charge a COBRA premium
Multi-employer plans     X
Domestic partner coverage included in gross income X    
Governmental plans providing coverage primarily for members of the military and their families   X  
Federally recognized Indian tribal government plans and plans of tribally charted corporations wholly owned by a federally recognized Indian tribal government   X  
Self-funded plans not subject to federal COBRA     X
Accident or disability income   X  
Long-term care   X  
Liability insurance   X  
Supplemental liability insurance   X  
Workers' compensation   X  
Automobile medical payment insurance   X  
Credit-only insurance   X  
Excess reimbursement to highly compensated individual, included in gross income   X  
Payment/reimbursement of health insurance premiums for 2% shareholder-employee, included in gross income   X  
Other situations Report Do Not
Report
Optional
Employers required to file fewer than 250 Forms W-2 for the preceding calendar year (determined without application of any entity aggregation rules for related employers)     X
Forms W-2 furnished to employees who terminate before the end of a calendar year and request, in writing, a Form W-2 before the end of the year     X
Forms W-2 provided by third-party sick-pay provider to employees of other employers     X

 

Source:

Capilla D. (21 December 2017). "Understanding W-2 Reporting under the ACA" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://blog.ubabenefits.com/understanding-w-2-reporting-under-the-aca


Safety First - January 2018

According to NORC at the University of Chicago, 75 percent of the Americans affected by substance abuse are active in the workforce, and they’re more likely to seek treatment if it is initiated by their employer. Jan. 22-28 is National Drug and Alcohol Facts Week. Take this opportunity to educate your employees about the dangers of substance abuse with these and many more employee communication safety resources available from Hierl Insurance Inc.:

Playing It Safe

Struggling with Drugs or Alcohol? If you recognize that you have a problem with using drugs or alcohol, you have already completed the most important step on your road to recovery. Attempting to do your job well while dealing with your problem is very difficult—but you’re not alone. Of those over age 18 abusing drugs or alcohol, it is estimated that more than 70 percent hold down full- or part-time jobs.

Payroll Stuffer

How Does Substance Abuse Affect the Workplace? Drug or alcohol abuse in the workplace impairs your senses and judgment, putting both your job and your coworkers at risk. It has a negative affect on relationships, health care costs, productivity, and workplace safety.

If you are struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, confidential help is available. Take the first step on the road to recovery by contacting your HR representative today.

Playing It Safe

Dealing With Depression. Everyone feels sad or down at one time or another. For most, this feeling passes within a few days or weeks. But when a loss of interest in normal activities and feelings of sadness persist for a longer period, it may indicate more serious conditions, including depression.

Lifestyle Lessons

Treating Lower Back Pain. Lower back pain is one of the most agonizing and common health conditions in the world, as well as a leading cause of disability. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 1 in 4 adults will experience lower back pain for at least one day during a three-month timespan.


CenterStage: Effective Employee Benefit Communications

Welcome to our very first CenterStage of 2018! We hope you all had a warm, happy New Year. In this month’s CenterStage, we spoke with Tonya Bahr and Scott Seaton on some helpful tips on “Effective Employee Benefit Communications”.

It is not a one size fits all approach, each group needs to take a look at their population and decide what is best for them.”  -Tonya Bahr, Hierl Employee Benefit Advisor.

  • Emails are efficient for targeting professional staff, especially companies that have companywide email addresses.
  • Letters or texts are the best way to communicate with field or labor employees.
  • A popular way to communicate is by meeting, whether it be a webinar or seminar. Often, companies will mandate that their employees attend informational sessions discussing benefits offered. This allows our clients to efficiently communicate a consistent message out to employees to help understand their benefits.

Paper VS Digital communications

Okay, not really because it’s not a competition!

An online approach works really well for employees but it is also very important for the spouses to be engaged as well. We typically follow up the meetings with a deliverable the employee can bring home to their spouse. This not only allows the spouse to learn more about the benefits available to them, but it also reinforces what was covered in the meeting for the employee.”

-Tonya Bahr

Potential Impact of Good Communication

Good things come to those who wait…. except when understanding your benefits. The sooner employees become educated on why they have unique benefits, the sooner they will put them to use!

Those who don’t understand benefits, don’t utilize them correctly. They are not good consumers of health care.” – Scott Smeaton, Hierl Executive Vice President.

It is important to understand your employee benefits not only for your own health reasons, but also so that you are able to recognize why your employer offers the unique benefits they do.

What differentiates Hierl and how they help effectively communicate benefits?

At Hierl, we look at each client as unique. What works best for one may not be ideal for another. It’s about really being able to understand the culture and provide different communication options such as presentations, visuals, emails, and website.

Hierl shines when it comes to giving employers/employees access to all forms of communication, specifically in the communication campaigns run throughout the year. By assessing the necessary points to communicate and then building quarterly and monthly campaigns around these objectives, Hierl brings unique, strategic solutions to explaining employee benefits. The evidence of communication strategies at work is apparent in the results gathered from clients.

One of the ways companies can measure the success of their program is to measure employee satisfaction. By measuring employee satisfaction after communication campaigns, findings show that the more regularly benefits are communicated, the higher employee satisfaction goes up!” – Scott Smeaton

3 Key Points on Communicating Benefits

  1. Keep it simple- (no explanation needed!)
  2. Try different avenues- one person may prefer email while another prefers paper
  3. Communicate often- benefits communication should take place all year long

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in August 2017 and was updated in January 2018 for accuracy.


5 ways digital tools can help build a better benefits package

"...digital tools can be excellent motivators and are a popular option for keeping employees to their wellness objectives..." In this article from Employee Benefit Advisor, we get a fantastic look at some statistics and digital tools to create better employee engagement.


The American workforce has an employee engagement problem: Half of U.S. workers are disengaged, according to a recent Gallup poll. That not only has a detrimental effect on individual wellness, but on company culture and the bottom line. According to The Engagement Institute, disengaged employees cost organizations between $450 and $550 billion every year. In addition to being less productive, they’re also more likely to quit.

One of the most effective ways to improve employee engagement is to offer better benefits. In fact, research conducted by Willis Towers Watson found 75% of employees said they were more likely to stay with their employer because of their benefit program. This demonstrates the value of designing an employee benefits package that really works for your staff. And to even better engage workers with benefits, employers should utilize HR apps and employee wellness software.

They vary in functionality, device compatibility, and of course price, but they all share five considerable advantages:

They’re highly adaptable. Unlike programs that rely on in-person use or resources that are primarily stored in binders, digital content can be updated on the fly. This flexibility makes it very easy to keep the information current and relevant, and it even opens the door to personalized benefits. For instance, if each employee has their own login, they can bookmark the resources they find most useful and receive suggestions based on those picks. Seventy-two percent of employees in a MetLife survey say being able to customize their benefits would increase their loyalty to their current employer, which makes this perk doubly advantageous.

They’re fully integrative. One major complaint employees have is that their health information is so disjointed. Dental, physical, psychological and nutritional data is siloed, creating a cumbersome situation for employees when it comes to accessing and updating their records. Digital tools neatly solve this problem by collecting all these resources in one place. All employees have to do is sign into one account to view all their health-related resources, benefits, emergency phone numbers, enrolment information, health savings account balance and so on.

They’re constantly accessible. Have you noticed your staff using fewer and fewer benefits over time? It’s easy to assume they’ve lost interest, but chances are they’ve simply forgotten what’s available to them. Digital tools are a fantastic way of combating that attrition for a couple of reasons. First, they’re super easy to access because they can be used essentially anytime, anywhere. The second reason your staff is more likely to continue using their benefits with a digital platform is because it can serve them with notifications and reminders. They no longer have the excuse of being unaware when fresh content is added, or missing medical appointments.

They encourage employee goals. To add to the previous point, digital tools can be excellent motivators and are a popular option for keeping employees to their wellness objectives. Two of the most common goals are weight loss and smoking cessation, but your employees can use calendar, reminders, notes, fitness trackers and other features to push them toward any goal they like.

They’re easily scalable. Finally, digital tools are the most efficient way of reaching a large employee base, especially if they’re spread over a large geographical distance. It’s impossible to expect a thousand employees located in different states to attend a stress management seminar, for example, but it’s not unreasonable to ask them to watch a five minute video or listen to a podcast. Digital resources are changing the game when it comes to reaching all employees equally so that no one gets left behind.

Some things to keep in mind

Now that you’ve been convinced to digitize your employee wellness program, there are a couple of assurances you should make. The first is confidentiality. Your employees need to feel safe accessing your health resources, so guaranteeing the security and privacy of their information is a must. You should also make accommodations for various accessibility concerns. In other words, having all your resources in video format isn’t helpful for employees who are visually impaired. Also be aware of the different situations in which your staff might need access (at home, on the go, with or without an internet connection, etc) to ensure maximum ease of use.

Why is this all so important? As cool and cutting-edge as many of these digital tools are, at the end of the day your goal is to promote employee well-being and engagement. Anything that encourages your staff to come into work with a smile on their faces is worthwhile. Gallup studies have shown highly engaged organizations are 21% more profitable, 17% more productive, and achieve a 41% reduction in absenteeism. No matter how effective your current benefits package is, you can — and should — take it to the next level with a digital program.

 

Read the original article.

Source:
Mittag A. (17 November 2017). "5 ways digital tools can help build a better benefits package" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/5-ways-digital-tools-can-help-build-a-better-benefits-package?feed=00000152-1387-d1cc-a5fa-7fffaf8f0000

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FREE ACA RESOURCES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES

From The ACA Times, we've pulled this article that lists out some helpful resources for small businesses.


The federal government provides free online resources to help small businesses better understand the requirements of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and how they might be able to offer health insurance to their employees. Here are some we thought might be helpful.

How the Affordable Care Act affects small businesses: This web page hosted by HealthCare.gov explains how the ACA can impact a small business with 1 to 50 full-time equivalent employees.

SHOP Guide: This web page on Healthcare.gov provides information for small businesses on how they can offer a Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP) insurance to their employees. The web page has links to help businesses learn more about SHOP and whether they qualify to offer such coverage to employees.

The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit: Healthcare.gov, the Taxpayer Advocate Service and the IRS both provide web pages that provide information that helps small businesses determine if they are eligible to take advantage of tax credits if they offer SHOP to their employees.

The Future of SHOP: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is providing information on how CMS will be exploring a more efficient implementation of the Federally-facilitated SHOP Marketplaces in order to promote insurance company and agent/broker participation and make it easier for small employers to offer SHOP plans to their employees, while maintaining access to the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit.

 

Read the original article here.

Source:
Sheen R. (21 November 2017). "FREE ACA RESOURCES FOR SMALL BUSINESSES" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://acatimes.com/free-aca-resources-for-small-businesses/


Safety Focused Newsletter - December 2017

Preventing Sprains and Strains

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

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

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

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

 

The Hazards of Headphones

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Download the December 2017 Safety Focused Newsletter PDF


Data transparency, debt consolidation and ID protection lead open enrollment wish list

In the thick of open enrollment season, savvy employers and benefit advisers have eased the onslaught of information with complex benefit jargon by spreading out employee sign-up before the mad fall rush. Employee Benefit Adviser spoke with Jeffrey Faber, HUB International Midwest’s chief operating officer, to discuss how employers are urging employees to save with data transparency tools, use interactive services to learn about new benefits and to sign up for identity protection.

EBA: How is open enrollment going for you and your clients?

Faber: We’re in the middle of open enrollment season and we are trying to lock down the last-minute decisions our clients have. Predominantly our business is a renewal business.

Our large groups have made their decisions already but our smaller groups are just finding out what their renewals are from the major medical carriers. We have our hands full trying to make sense of it all. But open enrollment is the focus. This is absolutely our busiest time of year. From mid-August to Halloween, and even mid-November, it seems to be getting longer and longer every year with all the nuances our clients require.

EBA: How does this enrollment season differ from previous years? Is there confusion over the ACA’s status? Is there a greater emphasis on voluntary benefits?

Faber: On the repeal of Obamacare, a lot of those decisions have been made too late for our employers to really have to pivot and they are unaffected largely by the executive orders and the talk from Congress. Of course, there's the specter that Congress will act and make a decision in the next couple of weeks, but that impact would probably be a 2019 event instead of a 2018 event.

On the voluntary benefits side, our clients are asking for financial and holistic tools to meet the employees where they live in regard to student loans, tuition assistance and debt consolidation services. ID theft has been a big conversation point in the last three or four months and has been heightened by the Equifax breach, but it started three years ago with the Target breach. A lot of employers want to understand their role in their employee’s lives,

And for voluntary benefits, most of our customers are moving to the consumer-driven model with higher deductibles, so accident insurance, critical injury insurance, and hospitalization – those are all nice bolt-on benefits for the medical benefits they have. It almost allows the employee to self-insure their own health. And HSAs and HRAs are still popular. We see a large uptick year over year over year.

EBA: Any other trends for this year’s open enrollment?

Faber: A few years ago, we joked that overall enrollment was the HR Super Bowl. It happened once a year, it was a three hour event with a bunch of commercials and no one really talked about it a week or two later.

Our clients have asked, what can we do the other 11 months a year? We have seen an increase in requests for interactive PDFs, on-demand video, and interactive guides directing folks to microsites or apps on their phone. We introduce these in April, May or June and if the employee needs this, they don't have to go back into their memory bank and access it, they can get it online. It is that year round learning that engages the customer.

EBA: Is this because employees are bombarded with information during open enrollment?

Faber: Yes and no. There is a lot of information that is required and that is distributed this time of year and there are a lot of decision points that they have to make for themselves and the benefit of their families. We put in place decision helping tools like Jellyvision’s ALEX and some other proprietary tools, that can help employees better make decisions.

But I think it is more toward trying to be a circuit breaker in an employee's head when they are accessing healthcare. That makes them stop and check, “Is this in network, do I have to get pre-authorization? How do I check for a lower cost across the street from a benefit provider?”

These things come out of the workshops this time of year, but if you are not hitting employees where they live at the time of use, you are missing those opportunities for significant cost savings. And not on just on the employer side but the employee side especially with high-deductible plans.

EBA: Is data transparency a big push for this open enrollment season?

Faber: Yes, especially when you consider that standalone imaging facilities are three to eight times less expensive than an in-house hospital facility. Employees need to understand that they will pay 100% of that cost until they meet that deductible in that consumer-driven plan, so there is every effort being made to make sure the employee is checking those transparency tools.

At open enrolment time, we make every effort to employees in the room to ID the nearest urgent care and ER facility, to write those down on a note card and put it in the visor of their car. So, they know at the moment of crisis to know where those places are and make decisions ahead of time.

EBA: Accountants say that from January to April 15, they don't see their families. Is it the same for you during open enrollment?

Faber: (Laughs) I grew up in an accounting family and I can attest to that. It is all hands on deck but our goal is to help clients get their decisions out of the way in Q1 and Q2. We try to help them with decisions that don't require immediacy and don’t have to be made right away, like life and disability insurance, and voluntary and wellness benefits. You can make a lot of those decisions in April, May and June.

 

 

Source:
Albinus P. (30 October 2017). "Data transparency, debt consolidation and ID protection lead open enrollment wish list" [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/data-transparency-debt-consolidation-and-id-protection-lead-open-enrollment-wish-list-says-hub-international-midwest-coo-jeffrey-faber?feed=00000152-1387-d1cc-a5fa-7fffaf8f0000

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