The “Official” Lowdown on Physical Activity

Are you looking for wellness tips and information on staying active? The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is the official voice of authority when it comes to physical activity and health. Continue reading this blog post for guidelines and recommendations from the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.


You can read fitness magazines or online blogs, get tips from friends and neighbors, or make up your own rules and regimens for staying active. But when the federal government speaks, you should probably listen.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans is the voice of authority when it comes to physical activity and health. The guidelines are based on scientific evidence and provide recommendations for Americans of all ages. The second edition of these guidelines came out in 2018 and includes some intriguing facts:

  • About half of all American adults have at least one chronic disease.
  • Seventy percent of the most common of these diseases can be improved by physical activity.
  • A full 80 percent of adults aren’t getting the aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity recommended.
  • This lack of activity has been linked to 10 percent of premature deaths.

Yikes! Not good, right? If this gets your attention and you’d like to up your activity level, here are the top recommendations from the guide:

  • Kids ages 3 - 5 should be active at least 3 hours a day.
  • Kids 6 - 17 should strive for at least an hour of moderate to vigorous activity per day. This should include aerobic activity (anything that speeds up heart rate) and muscle-strengthening activities. This activity has been shown to help with things like bone health, heart health and even learning.
  • Adults need at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week and at least two days of muscle-strengthening activity (lifting weights, push-ups). Physical activity brings immediate health benefits, like lowering blood pressure and improving sleep. Over time, physical activity can lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, dementia, weight gain, and eight different cancers, among other health risks. It also helps improve overall quality of life.
  • For people who already have a health condition, physical activity can help with pain, slow the disease’s progress, keep depression and anxiety at bay, and improve brain function for people with Alzheimer’s disease, MS, Parkinson’s, and other conditions.

When it comes to government, you might not like everything you hear and read. But for the real scoop on activity levels and health, our friends in Washington seem to know what’s best. Remember, any activity is better than none, so get out of your chair, step away from your desk, or otherwise get moving!

Source: Health.gov. Physical activity guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/10things (Accessed 6/20/19)

SOURCE: Olson, B. (14th August, 2019). "The “Official” Lowdown on Physical Activity" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: http://blog.ubabenefits.com/lowdown-on-physical-activity


USPSTF Issues a Final Recommendation Giving PrEP an “A” Rating

Recently, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published a final recommendation, giving an "A" rating to preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment. Read this blog post from UBA to learn what this final recommendation means.


The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) published a final recommendation that gives an “A” rating to preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment. This means that the USPSTF recommends offering PrEP with effective antiretroviral therapy to people at high risk of HIV acquisition.

Group health plans and insurers subject to the preventive services coverage mandate must provide coverage for evidence-based items or services with an A or B rating recommended by the USPSTF without imposing copayments, coinsurance, deductibles, or other cost-sharing requirements when delivered by in-network providers. Group health plans and insurers subject to the preventive services coverage mandate generally must cover preventive services that are recommended by the USPSTF one year after the recommendation is issued.

SOURCE: Hsu, K. (14 August 2019). "USPSTF Issues a Final Recommendation Giving PrEp an 'A' Rating" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: http://blog.ubabenefits.com/uspstf-issues-a-final-recommendation-giving-prep-an-a-rating


Tailoring Benefits Plans

Are there benefits to creating customized benefits plans? New studies are showing multiple benefits to tailoring to employee's specific needs. Keep reading the blog post to learn more. Read more


Keeping It Real

Keeping it real in human resources now involves avoiding "deepfakes". What used to be rare technology used is now spreading and could potentially harm employers.

Blame Forrest Gump. The 1994 movie used new technology to edit Gump's character into scenes to make it seem like he talked with John F. Kennedy or sat next to John Lennon — an editing magician's trick that won the film accolades.

That technology has evolved into what is now referred to as "deepfake" technology: a mix of AI and machine learning that allows users to alter videos, audios, and photos in powerful ways.

One deepfake example: A widely-shared video of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi that was doctored to slow down the speed of her speech, creating the impression Pelosi was impaired. Deepfakes can make it seem that someone is saying something or doing something they may never have — and that can create a new kind of security woe for employers of all types.

Just because deepfakes haven't showed up at your company doesn't mean they'll stay away forever, Randy Barr, chief information security officer for Topia, a global mobility management software company, told HR Dive; "We're going to start to see a lot more than this as soon as technology is readily available for people to use and try."

What can HR do now to ensure employees are safe?

It's all fun and photoshop until someone gets hurt

Deepfake technology can have positive purposes, such as in the creation of digital voices for those who have lost the ability to speak, or the David Beckham video that shows him explaining how people can protect themselves from malaria, using deepfake tech to look like he's speaking in nine different languages.

But unlike the altered content from Forrest Gump and Instagram filters, the audience isn't supposed to know that the deepfakes are manipulated pieces.

On top of that, the technology is often used explicitly to create trouble, Niraj Swami, CEO of SCAD AI, an AI consultancy, told HR Dive"It stems from leveraging controversial material…offensive content or offensive perspectives," he said. When this material pops up in social media, it creates media confusion, he said, and many viewers react emotionally to the false information.

Some deepfake videos can be identified relatively easily, Barr said. "One of the simple ways of detecting it is if you look at the video, see how often that individual blinks, because [with] the current AI technology and deepfake, it's hard to impose the face over a body if the eyes are closed," he said. Other tips are to look for a mismatch in skin tone, and placement of the eyebrows and chin, he added.

Just as deepfake technology is becoming more sophisticated, so is the technology used to identify altered media, with improvements on both sides expected to continue.

How deepfakes can harm employers

Although most deepfakes thus far have targeted politicians and celebrities, the technology has been seen in the work environment — and it may be used with increasing frequency, experts said.

Imagine a CEO placing an urgent call to a senior financial officer requesting an emergency money transfer — except the CEO's voice was deepfaked by criminals, as Axios reported happening to a number of companies already. Deepfakes could be used to attack a company, Barr said; "[It] could be the evolution of how ransomware takes place."

Remote employees could use deepfake tech to disguise their identities and hand off work to subcontractors, Swami said. This could be concerning if the subcontractor is not supposed to be offshore or if the initial employee had a security clearance, but the subcontractor does not, he said.

For HR leaders, deepfakes could lead to tricky situations, Forman said. What happens if an employee finds an altered photo or video of them on social media that uses their company ID or picture? What obligation does the organization have to investigate? "It's becoming more difficult. You have workplace morale issues, compliance issues with your policy and procedures that all jump up because of deepfakes," he said.

Guarding against deepfakes

HR leaders are used to discerning fake information, from exaggerations on a resume to doctored emails, but as technology improves, it becomes more challenging to anticipate potential issues. While HR is not expected to analyze media for alterations, leaders can take steps to protect employees and the company from being manipulated by deepfakes.

Review company technology policies, said Forman. New technologies up the ante for the workplace and the employer and employee relationships because of the increased risk for misconduct, he said. An employer may want to take an existing policy regarding anti-harassment, anti-retaliation, and anti-discrimination, and make sure the guidelines address the new technology, he added.

Companies should decide how they would respond if a deepfake incident occurred, Forman advised. Although there may be no one right or wrong answer, being prepared to react to the threat is necessary.

"The biggest thing is awareness," Swami said. If employers see an incendiary video, they can't have a knee jerk reaction if it is presented as evidence of wrong-doing, he said. Managers might not be able to believe their eyes, so employers may need to ensure its managers gather more information. "You can't have a single source of truth."

SOURCE: DeLoatch, Pamela. (5 August 2019). "Keeping it real: What HR leaders need to know about deepfakes" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.hrdive.com/news/keeping-it-real-what-hr-leaders-need-to-know-about-deepfakes/559475/

 


Summer Days, Summer Hours

Employee retention is important and so is knowing how to maintain it. A new study provides insight into what type of effect summer hours could have on a company. Keep reading to learn more!Read more


Up-Leveling Your HR Team

Human Resources can at times be a department that is looked over. However, this is a crucial department in any workplace and one that is constantly evolving. Keep reading to find out how you can up-level your team.Read more


Paid Leave Pitfalls

Paid leave is a crucial benefit for employers to give and is one that attracts new hires to a company. While there are many pros to paid leave it is important for employers to avoid the pitfalls.

Here are four potential pitfalls of paid leave, and how employers can avoid them.

1. Be careful what you call “maternity leave.”

Employers have long been granting leave for new moms in the form of disability coverage. In fact, the top cause of short term disability is pregnancy. Disability insurance usually grants new moms six to eight weeks of paid leave to recover from childbirth.

Because this coverage applies to the medical condition of recovering from childbirth, it shouldn’t be lumped in with bonding leave.

Guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says leave granted for new moms for bonding must also be extended to new dads, so separating disability leave from bonding leave is crucial to avoiding gender discrimination.

2. Don’t make gender assumptions.

The amount of bonding time for new parents after birth, adoption or fostering must be granted equally for men and women. Companies that don’t provide the same amount of paid leave for men and women may find themselves in a discrimination lawsuit.

It’s not just the time away from work that matters, but also the return-to-work support provided. If new moms are granted temporary or modified work schedules to ease the transition back to work, new dads must also have access to this.

Some companies may choose to differentiate the amount of leave and return-to-work support for primary or secondary caregivers. That’s compliant as long as assumptions aren’t made on which gender is the primary or secondary caregiver.

The best way to avoid potential gender discrimination pitfalls is to keep all parental bonding and related return-to-work policies gender-neutral.

3. Avoid assuming the length of disability.

Be careful about assuming the length of time a new mom is disabled, or recovering medically, after birth. Typical coverage policies allow six to eight weeks of recovery for a normal pregnancy, so assuming a new mom may be out for 10 weeks might be overestimating the medical recovery time, and under-representing the bonding time, which must be gender-neutral.

4. Keep up with federal, state and local laws.

Mandated leave laws are ever-evolving, so employers should consistently cross-check their policies with state and local laws. For instance, do local paid leave laws to treat adoption the same as birth? Are multistate employers compliant? What if an employee lives in one state but works in another: Which state’s leave policies take precedence?

Partnering with a paid leave service provider can mitigate the risk of improperly administering leave. Paid leave experts can help answer questions, review guidelines and provide information regarding job-protecting medical or family leave.

They can also help flag potential pitfalls, ensuring leave requests from all areas of your company are managed uniformly and in accordance with state and federal laws, including the EEOC.

SOURCE: Bennett, Angel. (29 July 2019) “4 pitfalls of paid leave and how clients can avoid them” (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/list/pitfalls-of-paid-family-leave-and-how-to-avoid-them


Disability Insurance. Do You Have It?

Auto-enrolling:

There’s a substantial gap between people who believe they need disability insurance and those who actually have it. What’s concerning is the likelihood that employed adults will need disability insurance at some point in their lives.

We have relied on communications during open enrollment to educate employees about the value of disability coverage, but what we often find is that employees steer clear of benefits they don’t want to need. They also may simply be overwhelmed by the number of choices they need to make, or may not review their benefits at all and just keep the selections they made the previous years.

The recent letter of clarification issued by the Department of Labor explains that employer clients covered under ERISA may automatically enroll workers into group disability income insurance plans, similar to the auto-enrollment process for 401(k)s. While many workers may question why they are being enrolled automatically, it's encouraging and reassuring having your employer say, “this is an important coverage that you should have. If you don’t want it, you can opt out.”

Sun Life recently surveyed brokers, employers and employees about the benefits of automatically enrolling employees into disability plans. Respondents used words like ease, safety net, and worry-free. Brokers and clients alike agreed that auto-enroll protects employees who don’t always realize they need protection — but are glad they have it when they need it.

Auto-enrollment means people can rely on disability coverage without having to think about it during enrollment season. Should an employee encounter a major health event that requires leave from work, they also get, in addition to income replacement, the support services affiliated with disability insurance, including support from interdisciplinary teams, including vocational rehabilitation/retraining to create individualized action plans to return an employee to work, health and productivity.

Income protection
Disability insurance replaces income and provides a financial cushion during a time of upheaval in a person’s life. According to the Council on Disability Awareness, one in four working Americans will miss up to three months of work due to illness, injury or pregnancy/maternity leave during their career. The Federal Reserve says that most Americans do not have enough savings to cover three months of living expenses, and nearly half of consumers today say they could not pay an unexpected bill of $400. To put it simply, even a short term leave of absence could leave many families with a hefty financial burden — which can impact mental and even physical health, potentially slowing recovery and increasing leave duration.

Disability is not just income insurance, it covers the process by which someone can receive the help and support they need to recover and come out the other side to return to work. This can including vocational training for a different position, behavioral health analysis, clinical consulting, workplace accommodations and treatment.

Perception vs. reality
Although considered a valuable coverage, people are woefully under insured when it comes to disability. There’s a substantial gap between those who believe they need disability insurance and those who actually have it. In a recent Sun Life survey, of the 35% of employee respondents who do not currently have disability coverage, 76% say they believe the benefit has value. A recent LIMRA survey showed that while 48% of respondents felt they personally needed the benefit, only 20% actually had it. A common misconception is the ease with which someone might obtain federal disability or social security support — only about 35% of applicants receive benefits, and the appeals process can take years.

Successful implementation
Although auto-enrollment is not a new concept, it’s not as common with disability and so employees will need in-depth, strategic communications to ensure they understand what they’re getting and why it’s a valuable asset to their financial security. Feedback from brokers, employers and employees in Sun Life’s recent survey showed that auto-enrollment fills a need of coverage regret, where employees realize too late and wished they had enrolled in the benefit.

A communications strategy should be mapped out for the year, not just at enrollment season. Once a strategy is determined, multiple, spaced out employee communications will help employees understand the process, learn more about the benefit and opt out if they choose.

Disability auto-enrollment provides a safety net to every employee, without the arduous steps within the enrollment process. It helps to reduce time spent on enrollment (particularly if using a benefits administration platform) and if communicated and rolled out effectively, can become an integral part of benefits enrollment strategy.

SOURCE: Healy, David. (5 August 2019). "Advantages of auto-enrolling workers in disability insurance" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from: https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/advantages-of-auto-enrolling-workers-in-disability-insurance

 


Commercial Risk Advisor - August 2019

Dress Code Policy Considerations

Clothing and fashion choices can be a fun way for your employees to express themselves while also helping them feel comfortable. But, not all types of expression and comfort are appropriate for the workplace.

The reasons for establishing a dress code can vary, whether maintaining professionalism or guaranteeing safety. Regardless of why your company might need one, it’s important to put thought into crafting your dress code.

Think about these five considerations when putting together a fair and appropriate dress code:

  • Safety—Keep the work environment free of any unnecessary hazards. For example, do not allow employees working with machinery to wear loose jewelry. Also, require appropriate footwear when necessary, such as steel-toed boots or non-slip shoes.
  • Equality—Your employees may come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Make sure that your dress code does not discriminate when it comes to race, religious beliefs and employees with disabilities. Apply the same standards for men and women.
  • Culture—When drafting your dress code, be consistent with the culture and image that your company projects. An organization that claims to be casual and relaxed should think twice before implementing a formal dress code.
  • Balance—You want your workplace to be professional, but you also want your employees to be comfortable. It makes sense to ask employees to wear a suit if meeting with a big client, but otherwise, consider letting them dress down.
  • Current social norms—Understanding current social norms are important. For example, in today’s society, many candidates may have tattoos or piercings. Talk about what is acceptable for your company. A dress code that is too strict can have a negative effect on your organization recruiting top talent.

Four of the 10 costliest hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred in the past decade.

Preparing for Hurricane Season

Hurricane season runs from June through November and brings plenty of risks. Threats relating to hurricanes don’t only apply to homeowners and aren’t limited simply to physical damage either.

There are plenty of ways that a storm can blow away your business. According to FEMA, over 40% of small businesses never reopen after a disaster, and 90% close within a year if they aren’t able to reopen within five days.

An organization that claims to be casual and relaxed should think twice before implementing a formal dress code.

Protect your company and your employees by taking these steps to be as prepared as possible:

  • Reinforce your workplace from weather hazards with things like window shutters to block flying debris, and sandbags to absorb floodwater.

  • Have an emergency response plan in place and make sure that your employees are trained to follow it. Emergency response plans can include steps such as establishing warning and evacuation procedures, ensuring reliable means of communication, and having supplies such as food, water, flashlights and batteries on hand.
  • Beyond protecting your employees and your physical workplace, it is also important to ensure that your business can function following a hurricane. Back up your data off-site regularly, and test the recovery process to make sure that everything is working properly.
  • Make sure that you are prepared to contact the correct people to get back on your feet. Try to connect with a contractor or restoration company before a hurricane strikes.
  • Even if your business is prepared for a hurricane, others might not be. Companies that you partner with or rely upon could be damaged and hinder your own ability to function. Talk to other businesses that you work with and make sure that they have contingency plans.

An organization that claims to be casual and relaxed should think twice before implementing a formal dress code.

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Trucking Risk Advisor - August 2019

CVSA Brake Safety Week: Sept 15-20

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance’s (CVSA) Brake Safety Week is scheduled for Sept. 15-21. Roadside safety inspections on commercial motor vehicles will be conducted throughout North America by law enforcement officials. Brake Safety Week is an initiative by the CVSA in an effort to lessen the severity and number of crashes caused by faulty brake systems.

Although all components of a motor vehicle’s brake system are crucial to overall safety and function, the inspectors will be paying close attention to a vehicle’s brake hoses and tubing this year. The result of last year’s three-day International Roadcheck enforcement campaign showed that brake system violations made up 45% of all out-of-service violations.

If your commercial vehicle fails to meet the CVSA braking standards or any other inspection item, your vehicle may receive a violation that will result in traveling restrictions until the violation has been corrected.

Inspectors will be looking at four main factors when checking the hoses and tubing of a commercial motor vehicle’s brake system, checking to make sure they are:

  • Undamaged
  • Properly attached
  • Leak-free
  • Appropriately flexible

In order to pass the inspection, all commercial trucks and combination vehicles over a gross weight of 10,000 pounds must have a braking efficiency of at least 43.5%. In 14 jurisdictions, this calculation will be determined by using performance-based brake testers (PBBT), which calculate overall brake efficiency and force over the total gross weight.

Avoid violations during this year’s inspection by conducting regular maintenance on all vehicle operational systems.

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