Bringing personal services to work

Are you looking to incorporate onsite benefits in your employee benefits package? Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more about the different onsite benefits employers are offering.


Onsite employee benefits that go beyond big-ticket items like health clinics, gyms and child care centers are now within the reach of many employers.

When Cassandra Lammers, vice president of total rewards at Audible Inc., a publisher of audio books in Newark, N.J., wanted to encourage employees to schedule regular dental visits, she focused on the large percentage of the firm's employees who are part of the Millennial generation. These younger workers tended not to use their dental benefits, claims records showed.

To address the situation, Lammers began researching mobile dental services, looking for a vendor that would provide dental care onsite during the workday. That was not as easy as it sounded. "Most of these services are designed to help the elderly and the disabled who are not able to get to a dentist's office," she noted.

See also: 15 employee benefits on the rise

After many months of looking, Lammers connected with Henry the Dentist, a mobile dental office that parks its trailer at an employer's location for a few days to provide onsite dental services. The trailer offers state-of-the-art dental services and can serve three patients at a time.

The biggest selling points for Audible were the convenience for employees and the fact that all of the dentists were in-network providers for the company's dental plan, so audible does not have to pay for the service.

"We now schedule a few days each quarter to help employees get into a normal cycle for dental visits," Lammers said. The initial visit was scheduled to last only two or three days. However, employee demand for appointments was so great that the visit lasted six full days to serve 189 employees. Lammers expects to schedule five days per quarter going forward.

"The feedback from employees has been fantastic, and they love the convenience," she said.

Alexandria Ketcheson, marketing and brand director at Henry, said that under the company's current employment model "all our dentists are full-time employees of Henry," and that "a large part of our promise to our corporate clients is that their employees will see the same medical staff during every visit."

Fill'er Up

Onsite benefit programs should be designed to save employees time and to make their lives easier. Miami-based Carnival Cruise Line offers a range of onsite benefits to accomplish just that, including dry cleaning, a coffee shop and deliveries from a flower vendor every Friday so that employees can buy fresh flowers for the weekend.

"This is all part of our effort to be an employer of choice," said Tami Blanco, the company's vice president of shoreside human resources. "We focus on providing services that employees use or need regularly. Employees want to spend their time off with family, not running errands."

One of the more popular onsite benefits is access to Neighborhood Fuel, a service that comes to Carnival Cruise employees in South Florida and fills up their gas tanks in the parking lot while they are working.

See also: The Changing Landscape of Employee Benefits

By using a smartphone app, employees can request a fill-up, leaving the gas cap door ajar on their cars. Once the fuel truck completes the fill-up, the app sends an alert with the total cost of the gas.

So far, half of Carnival Cruise's Miami-based employees have signed up to use the service, and 75 percent of those employees say it is of great value to them, Blanco said.

Beware Upselling

When an employer offers any onsite benefit to employees, it comes with an implicit endorsement of the vendor's services, so it's important for employers to proceed with caution when choosing those vendors.

Carnival Cruise Line, for example, often offers new services to one group of employees as a pilot project to see if it is something the company wants to offer to all employees.

Before offering onsite dental care, Lammers not only read the reviews of the dental providers working for Henry the Dentist but also asked pointed questions about how the service ensures the safety of employees while they are walking to and from the mobile facility and while they are inside receiving treatment. "We also wanted to understand how they operate [and] how they interface with employees, ensure confidentiality, et cetera," said Lammers, who inspected the mobile dental facility personally.

See also: How millennials are shaping employee benefits

Once employees begin using any onsite service, employers should check in periodically to make sure employees are happy with the service and comfortable using it. For example, if employees feel a vendor is putting pressure on them to buy more or to upgrade, that's something an employer may want to address directly with the vendor so that employees don't feel pressured.

SOURCE: Sammer, J (5 July 2018) “Bringing personal services to work” (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/bringing-personal-services-to-work.aspx


What to Know in the Immigration Debate Now: “Queen-of-the-Hill”?

What will be the fate of those who dream to come to America? Explore the immigration debate in this article from SHRM.


Immigration reform is filled with complexities.  Just to name a few are the politics, the body of law and policy and often the use of terms that only add confusion. During the 2007 immigration debate, I recall the term “clay pigeon” (a Senate floor procedure) confused even the experts.  Right now, the term that is turning heads is “Queen-of-the-Hill”. So why does it matter you ask? Well let me explain.

A bipartisan group in the House has called on leaders to consider a proposal for a "Queen-of-the-Hill" (most votes wins) immigration rule (H. Res. 774) and urge action to vote on a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. SHRM and CFGI are members of the coalition for the American Dream which issued a press statement in support of action.

A vote on this issue matters because earlier in the year votes in the Senate failed. Right now, 190 Democrats and 50 Republicans in the House (a majority of the House) support H. Res. 774 and a debate and vote on immigration DACA related proposals.  If Congress, could begin to move proposals forward there might be a chance (if even a small chance) to break the logjam on immigration reform.

Specifically, "Queen-of-the-Hill' is a House procedure that has not been used since 2015. The procedure would require separate votes and consideration of (four immigration) proposals on the House floor and members could vote in support of as many proposals as they want.  The proposal that receives the greatest number of votes would be adopted. If none of the proposals receive a majority-of-the-votes, then none of the proposals would be adopted.

The proposals that would get a vote under H. Res. 774 include:

  • The Securing America's Future Act (HR 4760), a bill that would allow DACA recipients to apply for three years of work authorization and deferred deportation that may be extended if they qualify. The bill also includes other provisions like mandatory E-Verify, historical limits to family sponsored green cards, a reallocation of visas to employment-based green cards and a new agricultural guest worker program.
  • The House DREAM Act (H.R. 3440), a bill that would allow DACA recipients and DACA eligible individuals to apply for work authorization and deferred deportation, legal permanent residence and a five- year path to citizenship if they qualify.
  • The USA Act (H.R. 4796), a bill that would allow for DACA recipients and DACA eligible individuals to apply for work authorization and deferred deportation and legal permanent residence if they qualify.
  • A yet to be unveiled bill from House Speaker Ryan (R-WI)

Whether there is any chance for success will be up to House leaders, as the House bipartisan group is asking leaders to support H. Res. 774.  However, the resolution may be far from successful. House Speaker Ryan (R-WI) has publicly stated he does not believe it makes sense to bring a bill through a process that only produces something that would get vetoed by the president. In this scenario, it is possible that any immigration bill that could pass the House might not make it through the Senate let alone find support from the president. 

Given, the president’s resistance to many DACA related proposals, perhaps in the end, he will be the “King” of this “Queen-of-the-Hill” strategy.

This article was written by Rebecca Peters of SHRM Blog on April 23rd, 2018.


The Cadillac Creep Will Impact Your Econo-Health Plan

How will the Cadillac tax effect you in the near future? From SHRM, get the details in this article.


As an HR Professional in 2010, I recall thinking, as I struggled to wrap my mind around the myriad of complex provisions included in the ACA, that the Cadillac tax was probably one provision that I didn’t need to concern myself with.  After all, it was years in the future and only applied to those other, richer plans, right?  Time for a fast forward reality-check. 

The Cadillac tax has been delayed in the past but is set to begin in 2022 on high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage.  It will tax health coverage that exceeds $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage at the rate of 40%.  This includes contributions made by employers and employees toward health coverage premiums but not cost-sharing amounts such as deductibles, coinsurance or co-payments made when care is delivered. 

But, employers, like mine, have certainly not been idle during the last eight years.   We have continued to work to design health care plans that will attract and retain top talent while ensuring that coverage meets minimum value and affordability requirements mandated by the ACA.  All the while, health care costs, particularly driven by prescription drug costs, continue to climb.    Studies suggest that prescription drugs will continue to represent a larger portion of the overall health spending.   I have seen this firsthand with the employer-sponsored plans I manage where prescription drug costs may represent over 30% of total health claims spent.   

This leaves employers with some tough decisions to either reduce the benefits they offer to maintain a cost-effective plan that still meets minimum coverage and affordability standards or absorb additional costs.  And then, there’s the Cadillac creep. A monthly individual premium of $10,200 annually or $850 per month no longer seems far-fetched as I stare into a future where drug cost inflation rates outpace wage increases. 

I’m a proud member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which encourages Congress to fully repeal the excise tax.  I support and join in SHRM’s advocacy efforts to defeat this tax because over 178 million Americans get their health care through employer-sponsored health plans.  We can’t afford to let the Cadillac creep impact employers and employees.

This article was written by Crystal Frey of SHRM Blog on April 20th, 2018.


5th Circuit Ruling Leaves DOL’s Fiduciary Rule in Limbo

 

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When the Dallas-based 5th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the Department of Labor's (DOL's) controversial fiduciary rule on March 15, just two days after the Denver-based 10th Circuit upheld the same rule, it created a split among the circuits. As a result, the U.S. Supreme Court may eventually decide the rule's fate. In the meantime, President Donald Trump's administration continues to review its options.

"Pending further review, the [Labor Department] will not be enforcing the 2016 fiduciary rule," a DOL spokesman said in a statement to CNBC. Prior to the court decisions, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said that the DOL was considering public input about revising the regulation and, if necessary, will propose changes in consultation with the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators.

However, unless the fiduciary rule is definitively repealed or replaced, employers that sponsor 401(k) and similar defined contribution plans should continue to take it seriously and closely monitor their vendor arrangements, benefits advisors said. The Obama administration's regulation, formally known as Definition of the Term "Fiduciary"; Conflict of Interest Rule-Retirement Investment Advice, began taking effect in stages in June 2017.

The rule requires anyone being paid to give investment advice to retirement savers—whether to participants in a 401(k) or similar employer-sponsored plan or to those with individual retirement accounts (IRAs)—to follow the fiduciary standard of conduct under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). In other words, investment advisors can only make recommendations that reflect loyalty to the "best interests" of plan participants without regard to commissions and fees rather than investments that are just "suitable," and must disclose any potential conflicts of interest. Failure to do so means that advisors—and the plan sponsors that hire them—could face class-action lawsuits brought by participants and ERISA-violation penalties.

In the 5th Circuit ruling, a three-judge panel split 2-1 in vacating the rule where the court has jurisdiction—Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The court, in particular, held that the DOL went too far in extending the fiduciary standard to advice provided to IRA savers. "IRA plan 'fiduciaries,' though defined statutorily in the same way as ERISA plan fiduciaries, are not saddled with these duties, and DOL is given no direct statutory authority to regulate them," the majority opinion stated. Days earlier, in a March 13 decision, the 10th Circuit held that the fiduciary rule was the result of a sound regulatory process. "Relying on the record before it, the DOL could reasonably conclude that the benefits to investors outweighed the costs of compliance," the two-judge panel said.

—shrm.org