The days of employers ignoring the opioid crisis are over

How can employers help reduce the risk of the opioid crisis? The CDC estimates prescription opioid misuse in the U.S. cost $78.5 billion per year. Read on to learn more.


Productivity, medical claims, work injuries, and the company’s bottom line — what do these things all have in common? They are all being drastically affected by the effects of substance abuse. The opioid crisis that is running rampant across the United States is having an impact on employees at every level.

As an employer, what do you need to know to support your employees and reduce the risk of this national crisis?

First, you need to educate yourself on the facts. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day, more than 115 people in the U.S. die after overdosing on opioids. It is not just the deadly heroin/fentanyl combination that we have been hearing about in the news, sources of opioid addiction include prescription pain relievers such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, oxymorphone, morphine, codeine, and other prescribed substances.

See also: A look at how the opioid crisis has affected people with employer coverage

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates prescription opioid misuse in the U.S. cost $78.5 billion per year; affecting medical spend, productivity, and law enforcement supervision.

Substance abuse does not discriminate on any demographic, however if your business is construction, entertainment, recreation, or food service, the National Safety Council found your employees are twice as likelyas the national average to have substance abuse disorders.

Secondly, you need to take action. The most important thing an employer can do is to have a proactive plan in place to help your employees live a healthy lifestyle. It is easy to get in the habit of saying “that does not happen here,” but the reality is substance abuse can — and does — happen anywhere.

Solving the opioid crisis won’t happen overnight, but here are some steps to take to build a better relationship with your employees and quite possibly help someone overcome a substance abuse problem.

Train your staff. Explain what resources are available to help them help your employees. If you have an employee assistance program in place, leverage it, and have the information easily available so any employee can access the information at any time. This will help lower the fear barrier for employees who are not ready to ask someone they know for help. If you do not have the right resources in place today there are many programs available, and it is important that you adopt one that will fit your culture and help employees be high performers.

See also: Employers take steps to address opioid crisis

Show employees you care. Look for signs and symptoms that an employee might have a problem with substance abuse. Make sure supervisors, managers, and team leaders are aware of these signs and what actions they should take. Have an open door policy, and make sure your employees feel they can ask for assistance when they need it. It is important to know how to handle sensitive, often painful, discussions in a professional and action-oriented manner. It is essential that you have the right steps in place to ensure leadership is aligned with the organization’s strategy on how best to help your at-risk population.

Be transparent. Have clear policies in place that promote a drug-free workplace. Consider expanding your drug testing panel to include opioids.

Share the savings. Consider sharing the dollars a successful well-being program will save your organization’s bottom line through lower prescription drug costs and less lost productivity due to illness and time away from work.

See also: Taking A Page From Pharma’s Playbook To Fight The Opioid Crisis

If your organization is struggling with how to successfully address the challenges of substance abuse and opioid addiction, seek out employee benefit consultants to help you develop a strategy for success. Like anyone with an addiction, there is no shame in asking for help.

SOURCE: Panning, C (7 September 2018) "The days of employers ignoring the opioid crisis are over" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/employers-cannot-ignoring-the-opioid-crisis?feed=00000152-a2fb-d118-ab57-b3ff6e310000


Construction Risk Advisor: September 2018

Industry Overspending $177 Billion Per Year

The average time construction professionals in the U.S. spend on avoidable issues like conflict resolution, rework and looking for project data costs the industry over $177 billion annually, according to a new report.

The participants surveyed for the report said they spend 65 percent of their time on “optimal” activities like communicating with stakeholders and optimizing resources that keep projects on track. They spend the remaining 35 percent of their time on “nonoptimal” tasks like hunting down project information, resolving conflicts and dealing with mistakes that require rework. That amounts to almost two full working days lost per person each week.

Some of the reasons for the nonoptimal costs include poor communication, constrained access to data, incorrect data and the lack of an easy way to share data with stakeholders. Another possible reason is that more than 80 percent of the survey’s respondents said they don’t use mobile devices to collaborate and access project data, despite the fact that mobile devices could help them work more efficiently.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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States Say Contractors Must Guarantee Wages

Maryland’s General Contractor Liability for Unpaid Wages Act becomes effective on Oct. 1, making private contractors for prime construction projects in the state financially responsible for unpaid wages of subcontractor employees. And unless the reason for nonpayment is related to a legitimate dispute, general contractors could be held responsible for up to three times the amount owed, plus attorney fees.

California and Oregon also enacted similar laws earlier this year. In California, general contractors are now liable for the unpaid wages of any employee who furnishes labor to or through them, plus unpaid benefits and interest.

Oregon’s wage protection law creates liability for the general contractor only if the worker’s subcontractor employer has not yet been paid in full.

Mitigating The Risk

In order to reduce the risk of general contractors having to pay their subcontractors’ employee wages, some industry experts are recommending that subcontractors provide their own payment bonds.

Opponents of the recent laws argue that it could be difficult for subcontractors on rocky financial ground to meet bond underwriting requirements. And since large projects could require several new bonds per job, overall project costs could increase significantly. Plus, if subcontractors don’t pay up, prime contractors will have to pay twice for the same labor.


Safety Focused Newsletter: September 2018

Staying Safe When Traveling for Work

Many jobs require employees to travel for work, sometimes even abroad. While this can be a fun experience, staying safe can be much more difficult if you are in an unfamiliar area. To keep yourself safe when traveling for work, remember the following tips:

  • Familiarize yourself with local customs and laws, as you are subject to them while traveling.
  • Avoid hailing taxis on the street when possible. Instead, have your hotel’s concierge service book a reliable driver or car service for you.

Research is essential when it comes to ensuring a successful business trip and maintaining your safety.

  • Keep hotel doors and windows locked at all times. When you arrive, and any time you leave and return to the room, make sure the locks are working.
  • Ensure that your room has a working peephole and use it to verify the identity of anyone visiting your room. If an unexpected visitor claims to be a hotel employee, call the front desk to confirm.
  • Take photos of important documents and information, like your passport and driver’s license, and leave copies at home.

Research is essential when it comes to ensuring a successful business trip. Planning ahead and remaining vigilant can make all the difference.

Ways to Communicate with Peers You Disagree With

In your professional career, you’re bound to have to work alongside people you don’t agree with. For some, this can be a source of stress, particularly if you have to go out of your way to keep the workplace relationship civil.

In these situations, it’s important to know how to interact professionally. Not only will this display a high level of maturity to your co-workers and managers, but it can also help you avoid making a bad situation worse.

To work with peers you disagree with, do the following:

  • Listen more than you speak. Diversity of opinions is important, and allowing yourself the time to process what another person wants can help you understand where they’re coming from.
  • Think before you respond. Choose your words carefully when responding to something you disagree with. Doing so ensures that you can justify your arguments in a sincere, respectful tone.
  • Try to find common ground and avoid dragging others into an argument.
  • Avoid personal insults. Discussions should be civil and focus on workplace issues.
  • Ask questions. Sometimes disagreements come from a lack of understanding. Asking questions in a friendly tone can be a good way to steer a conversation into a more positive direction.

Working with people you disagree with can be difficult, but it’s an important part of most jobs. If you are concerned that you and a peer will never get along, consider speaking to a supervisor.

Newsletter Provided by: Hierl's Property & Casualty Experts

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5 steps to improving employees’ mental health

Many employees are making themselves available 24/7. This “always on” mentality is costing businesses big time due to workplace stress. Read this blog post to learn more.


Technology has transformed the way many of us work, but it also has almost completely eliminated our ability to unplug, de-stress and take care of our mental health. Many employees make themselves available 24/7, checking email before they go to sleep and as soon as they wake up. This “always on” mentality is costing everyone — businesses spend $300 billion each year on absenteeism, diminished productivity, employee turnover and insurance fees due to workplace stress.

Stress and mental health are increasingly important issues in the office. Elevated stress levels lead to mistakes, lower productivity, lower employee morale, higher rates of absenteeism and even physical illnesses such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

Up to 14% of mental health issues could be completely avoided by reducing workplace stress, according to the National Institutes of Mental Health. Now, more than ever, employers need to make sure their employees have the right resources to help combat depression, anxiety, stress and job strain.

Here are five ways employers can improve employees’ mental health.

Remove the stigma. Improving the mental health of your employees starts with talking openly about it. Employers should focus on mental health as part of a wider wellbeing program — calling attention to the need to relieve stress and seek help for mental health problems.

Workplace training to help employees and managers recognize the signs of stress and poor mental health can also bring attention to the issue.

Provide and promote stress-relief activities. Employers can build in activities to help relieve stress during the workday. Yoga, exercise classes and walking groups can help employees cash in on the feel-good endorphins that come from physical activity.

Some larger companies take stress relief to the next level. Office gyms, weight rooms and boxing gyms provide stress relief outlets. Some companies even employ in-house psychologists and other professionals to help teach employees how to manage their stress and fears.

Consider a flexible work policy. On a more basic level, creating a more flexible work policy throughout the day can also help. Everyone needs to take care of personal business from time to time, whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or a home maintenance issue. Take advantage of technology and allowing your employees to work from home or change their hours can help reduce stress.

Develop a financial wellness program. Financial fears are stressing out your employees. More than half of workers say they are stressed about money, and the younger the worker, the more likely he or she is to be worried. Creating a financial wellness program that educates employees on how to better manage their money can help remove this stress. A program could include helping younger generations balance paying back student debt with budgeting and saving, while older generations may focus on putting their kids through college while saving for retirement. Other topics to cover include making big purchases, such as a home or a car.

Highlight your employee assistance program. Draw attention to benefits that can help people cope with mental health issues. You very likely already offer an EAP, but you may not stress enough how it can help employees who may need assistance. Generally, an EAP includes telephone-based or in-person counseling, referrals and other resources to help assess and treat mental health issues. Communicate the details of your company’s EAP often (not just during open enrollment) to give employers another way to improve their wellbeing.

Your employees are your greatest asset; ensuring they are healthy is in your best interest. Facing mental wellbeing head-on can help you keep your employees happy and healthy, and help you boost your business.

SOURCE: Newman, H (25 June 2018) "5 steps to improving employees’ mental health" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/improving-mental-health-in-the-workplace?tag=00000151-16d0-def7-a1db-97f03ad90000


OSHA Proposes Change to Electronic Record-Keeping Rule

On July 30, OSHA issued a change that would eliminate the need for employers with 250 or more employees to electronically submit certain data. Continue reading to learn more.


Worksites with 250 or more employees would not be required to electronically submit certain data to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under a proposal to roll back an Obama-era rule.

The Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses rule requires employers that are covered by OSHA's record-keeping regulations to electronically submit certain reports to the federal government. Certain establishments with 20-249 employees are required to submit only OSHA Form 300A each year—300A is a summary of workplace injuries and illnesses that many employers are required to post in the workplace from Feb. 1 until April 30 of each year.

In addition to Form 300A, larger establishments (those with 250 or more employees) were supposed to begin submitting data from Form 300 (the injury and illness log) and Form 301 (incident reports for each injury or illness) in July. However, in May, OSHA announced that it would not be accepting that information in light of anticipated changes to the rule.

As expected, on July 30, OSHA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to eliminate the requirement for large establishments to electronically submit information from Forms 300 and 301.

"OSHA has provisionally determined that electronic submission of Forms 300 and 301 adds uncertain enforcement benefits, while significantly increasing the risk to worker privacy, considering that those forms, if collected by OSHA, could be found disclosable" under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency said.

The electronic record-keeping rule has faced considerable opposition from the business community, in part because some of the data submitted will be made available to the public.

The proposed rule would also require employers to submit their employer identification numbers (EINs) when e-filing Form 300A. "Collecting EINs would increase the likelihood that the Bureau of Labor Statistics would be able to match data collected by OSHA under the electronic reporting requirements to data collected by BLS for the Survey of Occupational Injury and Illness," the agency said.

Anti-Retaliation Rules Remain

OSHA's electronic record-keeping rule also contains controversial anti-retaliation provisions. These provisions, which went into effect in December 2016, give OSHA broad discretion to cite employers for having policies or practices that could discourage employees from reporting workplace injuries and illnesses. For example, the provisions place limitations on safety incentive programs and drug-testing policies. OSHA has said that employers should limit post-accident drug tests to situations where drug use likely contributed to the incident and for which a drug test can accurately show impairment caused by drug use.

Prior to the new rules, many employers administered post-accident drug tests to all workers who were involved in an incident. The anti-retaliation provisions create another layer of ambiguity for employers, because they have to justify why they tested one person and not another, which may lead to race, gender and other discrimination claims, said Mark Kittaka, an attorney with Barnes & Thornburg in Fort Wayne, Ind., and Columbus, Ohio.

OSHA has not announced any plans to revise the electronic record-keeping rule any further. Many employer-side stakeholders were disappointed that OSHA made no effort to revise the anti-retaliation provisions, said John Martin, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Washington, D.C.

There are still undecided lawsuits in federal courts that challenged these provisions back when they were first issued but have been put on hold while revisions were pending, Martin noted. OSHA's proposed revision clearly did not resolve all of the challengers' concerns, so they are now deciding whether to ask the courts to resume litigation, he said.

What Now?

Employers should keep in mind that OSHA's electronic record-keeping rule refers to "establishment" size, not overall employer size, Kittaka said. An establishment is a single physical location where business is conducted or where services or industrial operations are performed, according to OSHA.

Large employers still need to electronically submit 300A summaries for each work establishment—office, plant, facility, yard, etc.—with 250 or more employees, Martin said. If they have work establishments with 20-249 employees and they are covered by OSHA's high-hazard establishment list, then they must also submit 300A summaries for those smaller establishments.

The proposed rule is open for public comment until Sept. 28. "OSHA made clear in the proposed rule that the agency was only seeking comments on the electronic submission and EIN" proposals, said Tressi Cordaro, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Washington, D.C.

SOURCE: Nagele-Piazza, L (14 August 2018) "OSHA Proposes Change to Electronic Record-Keeping Rule" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/osha-proposes-change-to-electronic-record-keeping-rule.aspx/


Shifting from employee engagement to employee experience

What is employee experience and why is it replacing employee engagement? In this article, Cabrera discusses why employers are shifting from employee engagement to employee experience.


The way businesses view their employees has changed. From mere workers and resources, employers started adopting the mindset that they should give their employees benefits and values, instead of just extracting value from them. The concept of employee engagement applies to this. A lot of studies and researches came out on how employee engagement helps increase employee performance and profitability. Recently though, a shift is happening, with the term “employee experience” gaining steam.

What is Employee Experience?

So, what exactly is employee experience or EX? According to this article, employee experience is “just a way of considering what it’s actually like for someone to work at your company”. It is a holistic model. It includes what the employee experiences in the workplace and within teams—bringing together all the workplace, HR, and management practices that impact people on the job.

Why the shift?

Employee engagement tends to focus on the short-term. For example, there’s an upcoming engagement activity. Once the activity is done, what happens? Most likely, the employee returns to their work, the event just a memory until the next one.

See also: 5 Tips to Improve the Employee Experience from an Employee Happiness Director

The change in workforce demography creates new demands. The millennial generation, which currently dominates the workforce, have different priorities than the previous generations. The Generation Z’s are now also entering the workforce with a new set of expectations.

Making little changes that impact employee morale and motivation is important. Employee experience is more long-term and big-picture focused. Its scope, from an employee’s point of view, can be end-to-end—from recruitment to retirement.

See also: Why Employee Engagement Matters – and 4 Ways to Build It Up

The challenge of EX is immense. Fortunately, technology is on your side. Various HR tools have been developed to help you get the data that you need, as well as make it easier for you to design the programs you want. Deloitte lists down what you could do right now:

  • Elevate employee experience and make it a priority
  • Designate a senior leader or team to own it
  • Embrace design thinking
  • Consider experiences for the entire workforce
  • Look outside
  • Enlist C-suite and team leader support
  • Consider the impact of geography; and
  • Measure it

The best way to conquer the challenge of EX is by starting now!

SOURCE: Cabrera, A. (23 January 2018) "Shifting from employee engagement to employee experience" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://peopledynamics.co/shifting-employee-experience/


Five Practical Ways to Support Mental Well-being at Work

Mental well-being impacts engagement, absenteeism and productivity. Discover how help make the workplace atmosphere and environment more pleasant with these tricks.


The American Institute of Stress reports that stress is the nation’s top health problem. This makes sense, as mental capacity is highly valued in the workplace but can also be highly vulnerable. Today’s workplace, with technology, fast-paced growth and decreased resources, can contribute to increased stress.

Companies should value the mental health of their employees as a top asset and fiercely protect it. Mental well-being impacts engagement, presenteeism, absenteeism and productivity — all of which impact businesses bottom lines. More importantly, supporting and protecting the mental health of your employees is the right thing to do.

Here are five best practices to support mental health in the workplace.

  1. Normalize the conversation.

Top-down support of mental health is crucial in creating an open dialogue, as is an open-door policy. Senior leaders should participate in the conversation about mental wellbeing to show buy in. Normalizing the occurrence of a grief reaction or stress disorder can insure that your employees seek help when it happens to them.

Establishing mental health champions within your organization is another way to encourage a healthy dialogue. People with mental health conditions who want to help others are great candidates for this role.

Use awareness days that focus on stress and mental health as external nudges to educate staff about these important issues. Importantly, remind staff that a diversity of perspectives, including those with lived mental health experiences, are valued and encouraged in inclusive environments.

  1. Implement strong policies and procedures.

Disclosure can help an employee seek the appropriate resources and care before conditions worsen, so having proper policies and procedures in place are important in removing barriers to disclose.

This includes protection against discrimination, which is usually a top concern for employees, as well as providing appropriate workplace accommodations. Ensure managers are aware of key resources, like employee assistance programs, and maintain confidentiality when an employee discloses information.

Beyond this, educate employees on policies, procedures and proper protocols to increase employee awareness. Here’s a tip: Repeat key messages and tailor your communications to better reach your staff.

  1. Prevention is better than cure.

It’s essential to remember that anyone is susceptible to stress and a resulting decline in their mental health, whether a preexisting condition exists or not. Big life events like having a baby or losing a loved one and every day struggles like money worries, relationship issues or work-related stress can cause or aggravate mental health conditions to the point of interfering with work. 

Mental wellness sessions or work/life balance programs can help. Bring in an expert and talk to your staff about how to safeguard their own mental health, build resilience and recognize signs of distress in others.

  1. Tailor your benefits package to support mental wellbeing.

Choose a major medical plan that gives employees access to quality mental health specialists in network, as these costs can add up significantly. Helping employees have access to and triage the right specialist support is crucial in managing conditions.

EAPs can act as a first line of defense for a wide range of problems – from money and relationship worries to support for working caregivers. They provide both practical and emotional support for employees through confidential counseling and can help prevent issues from escalating and impacting productivity. These programs are often offered as part of a major medical or disability plan, so your company may already have access to them.

Money worries can also take an emotional toll on wellbeing. In fact, financial concerns were the leading cause of stress across all generations in a recent consumer study conducted by my company, Unum.

Help your employees establish a strong financial foundation by offering financially-focused benefits, like life and disability insurance, retirement savings options and supplemental health benefits that can close the rising financial gap in medical plans.

If your budget doesn’t cover these benefits, consider offering them on a voluntary basis. Access to financial protection benefits are more affordable when offered through the workplace, even if the employee picks up the cost.

Flexible hours or remote working options can also help employees schedule their work days when they’re feeling most productive. This can help reduce presenteeism for mental ill-health, and it also signals to employees that you’re supportive of a healthy work/life balance.

  1. Encourage self-care.

Self-care plays a critical role in overall wellbeing. Encourage employees to do small tasks that’ll help them build resilience over time.

The basics like getting plenty of sleep, eating healthy, drinking water, and exercising are foundational in overall wellbeing.

Beyond these staples, developing appropriate time management and work/life balance skills are also important. Delegating and collaborating are also key to ensure healthy work behaviors which also decrease stress.

While technology and our always-on culture make it hard to disconnect, encourage employees to set device off-times so they can fully recharge before the next day. And most important, model this behavior to your staff and limit after hours work and emails.

Having a holistic mental well-being strategy that includes prevention, intervention and protection is essential for unlocking a workforce’s true potential.

 

SOURCE:
Jackson M (4 June 2018) "Five Practical Ways to Support Mental Well-being at Work" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from http://www.workforce.com/2018/05/18/five-practical-ways-support-mental-well-work/


Student loan benefits more popular with workers than employers

"While a student loan benefit is the most-requested financial benefit, it’s only third on the priority list for HR professionals." Find out more in this article.

If you ask them, 78 percent of employees laboring under a load of student debt will tell you that they want their bosses to provide a student loan benefit that will help them dig out.

Bosses, not so much. While a student loan benefit is the most-requested financial benefit, according to an HRDive report, it’s only third on the priority list for HR professionals.

Related: The problem with student-loan repayment benefits

It’s not just younger workers who want it, either. The 78 percent of employees who wish their jobs came with a student loan benefit includes 65 percent of workers over age 55 who have problems with current or future loan debt.

The report points to a CommonBond study that finds student loan benefits not only help to keep employees on the payroll and even better their job performance, but they also help in recruiting new talent. The study finds that 75 percent of all workers have paid for their own education via student loans, and 21 percent plan to take out student loans for a child or another family member in the next five years.

Oh, and another disconnect between boss and worker: while 75 percent of HR executives think their benefits offerings are innovative, only 50 percent of workers agree.

Money, of course, is a big worry for workers—and it’s not all about salary, with 44 million Americans weighed down by some $1.4 trillion in student debt. Worrying about lingering student loans also cuts productivity at work, in addition to subjecting workers to increasing stress, so it’s really an employer’s problem too.
Not only do students owe an average of more than $25,000 by graduation, figures from The Student Loan Report indicate that the loan default rate and delinquency rates are more than 10 percent and 5 percent, respectively—not exactly conducive to either peace of mind or high productivity at work. So employers are increasingly getting involved, considering tuition payment programs for employees who want to pursue a degree or add new skills.

And that can help both groups as employers become increasingly desperate for a more skilled employee base. It also helps employers as employee stress falls, potentially cutting health care costs as well and making workers more productive.

Source:
Satter M. (7 May 2018). "Student loan benefits more popular with workers than employers" [web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://bit.ly/2wi9yA0


April 2018 Safety Matters: Elevator Best Practices

Elevator Best Practices

Millions of employees use elevators each day at work. While elevators are considered one of the safest forms of transportation, it is important to follow best practices and safety precautions when using an elevator.

Boarding the Elevator

Take note of the following procedures for entering an elevator:

  • Make sure you are aware of the risks associated with riding the elevator prior to boarding, such as falls and accidents.
  • Allow all passengers to fully exit the elevator before you begin boarding.
  • Watch your step when entering the elevator, as it may not be exactly level to the floor.
  • Steer clear of the doors once you enter the elevator. Keep all clothes, carry-ons and body parts within the car. Never attempt to stop a closing door.
  • Pay attention to the elevator’s capacity limit. Do not attempt to board an elevator that has reached capacity.

Riding the Elevator

Keep in mind the following procedures for riding an elevator:

  • Stand as close to the elevator wall as possible. Be sure to leave as much room as possible for others.
  • Pay close attention to floor indications and transitions to ensure you are able to exit at the right time.
  • Press the “door open” button in the event of the elevator stopping on a floor without opening its doors.
  • Be courteous of other passengers on the elevator. Do not push other riders in front of you when exiting and be sure to move out of the way of passengers when they exit the elevator.

Watch your step as you exit to avoid tripping on uneven ground.

In Case of Emergency

Although rare, elevator accidents and malfunctions do happen. Keep in mind the following procedures in the event of an elevator emergency:

  • Never use an elevator in the event of a fire. Always take the stairs.
  • Remain calm at all times. If you are in a stalled elevator, utilize the alarm button or phone button to contact emergency services.
  • Reassure those who are panicked in the situation. Remind everyone that they are safe inside the elevator.
  • Do not engage in horseplay.
  • Do not try to exit the elevator or pry open the doors. Always wait for trained professionals to arrive.

While elevators are considered one of the safest forms of transportation, it is important to encourage best practices and safety precautions to all employees or building occupants that frequent the elevator.

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RISK INSIGHTS: April 2018

The #MeToo movement.

The #MeToo movement has spread across the globe since gaining traction in Hollywood, and small business owners should see it as a wake-up call for preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

Small Businesses Most Vulnerable to Sexual Harassment Claims

In wake of the #MeToo movement, awareness of sexual harassment has increased, but not necessarily at small businesses. Unlike their larger counterparts, small businesses are more vulnerable to sexual harassment claims because they’re less likely to have formal workplace policies in place.

According to the CNBC/SurveyMonkey Small Business Survey of more than 2,000 small business owners, only half of businesses with 5-49 employees had formal sexual harassment policies in place. That number decreased to 39 percent at businesses with less than five employees. That’s a stark contrast to businesses with 50 or more employees, as 85 percent said they had formal sexual harassment policies in place.

Eleven percent of the businesses surveyed said they issued companywide reminders of their sexual harassment policies and reporting procedures as a result of the #MeToo movement and other high-profile sexual harassment accusations. Nine percent said they’ve reviewed policies regarding diversity and gender equality. Seven percent have required new or additional training, and 4 percent have issued new reporting procedures. However, 61 percent of all businesses surveyed did not take any of the above precautions.

Role of HR

Complicating matters for small businesses is that two-thirds of those surveyed lacked an official human resources professional, meaning that the business owner was responsible for handling any harassment claims.

Only 3 percent said it was the job of human resources personnel to handle harassment issues and 10 percent said they had no specified way to handle harassment at all. Without a designated, unbiased person to speak to about harassment, employees may be afraid to report it for fear of retaliation.

Protect Your Business

A lack of a formal policy and procedures for handling sexual harassment in the workplace doesn’t mean that a business owner is exempt from liability. Although federal law exempts small businesses with less than 15 employees from the requirement to have a sexual harassment policy, it’s in their best interest to establish one.

Other than the fact that state laws may have smaller thresholds for requiring a formal policy, the financial and reputational costs are too high to risk running a business without one.

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