DOL Fact Sheet: Final Overtime Rule

The Department of Labor (Department) is updating the earnings thresholds necessary to exempt executive, administrative or professional (EAP) employees from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

The Department is updating both the minimum weekly standard salary level and the total annual compensation requirement for “highly compensated employees” (HCEs) to reflect growth in wages and salaries. The new thresholds account for growth in employee earnings since the currently enforced thresholds were set in 2004. The Department believes that the update to the standard salary level will maintain the traditional purposes of the salary level test and will help employers more readily identify exempt employees.

The Department estimates that, as a result of the final rule, 1.3 million currently exempt employees will become nonexempt.

Links and Resources

The DOL has published the following resources to help employers prepare for and understand the final white collar overtime exemption rule. The DOL’s final rule is available here.

Highlights

Important Changes

  • The final rule increases the standard salary level for the EAP exemptions to $684 per week ($35,568 per year).
  • The final rule increases the HCE salary level to $107,432 per year.
  • The final rule permits using an employee’s  nondiscretionary bonuses toward 10 percent of his or her salary level.

Important Dates

  • Sep. 24, 2019: Final overtime rule is announced.
  • Jan. 1, 2020: Final overtime rule becomes effective.

Key Provisions of the Final Rule

The final rule updates the salary and compensation levels needed for workers to be exempt in the final rule:

  1. Raising the “standard salary level” from the currently enforced level of $455 to $684 per week (equivalent to $35,568 per year for a full-year worker);
  2. Raising the total annual compensation level for HCEs from the currently enforced level of $100,000 to $107,432 per year;
  3. Allowing employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) that are paid at least annually to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level, in recognition of evolving pay practices; and
  4. Revising the special salary levels for workers in U.S. territories and in the motion picture industry.

Additionally, the Department intends to update the standard salary and HCE total annual compensation levels more regularly in the future through notice-and-comment rulemaking.

Standard Salary Level

The Department is setting the standard salary level at $684 per week ($35,568 for a full-year worker). The salary amount accounts for wage growth since the 2004 rulemaking by using the most current data available at the time the Department drafted the final rule.

The Department is updating the standard salary level set in 2004 by applying to current data the same method and long-standing calculations used to set that level in 2004—i.e., by looking at the 20th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage census region (then and now the South), and/or in the retail sector nationwide.

HCE Total Annual Compensation Requirement

The Department is setting the total annual compensation requirement for HCEs at $107,432 per year. This compensation level equals the earnings of the 80th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally. To be exempt as an HCE, an employee must also receive at least the new standard salary amount of $684 per week on a salary or fee basis (without regard to the payment of nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments).

Special Salary Levels for Employees in U.S. Territories and Special Base Rate for the Motion Picture Producing Industry

The Department is maintaining a special salary level of $380 per week for American Samoa because minimum wage rates there have remained lower than the federal minimum wage. Additionally, the Department is setting a special salary level of $455 per week for employees in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

The Department also is maintaining a special “base rate” threshold for employees in the motion picture producing industry. Consistent with prior rulemakings, the Department is increasing the required base rate proportionally to the increase in the standard salary level test, resulting in a new base rate of $1,043 per week (or a proportionate amount based on the number of days worked).

Treatment of Nondiscretionary Bonuses and Incentive Payments

In the final rule, in recognition of evolving pay practices, the Department also permits employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level. For employers to credit nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments toward a portion of the standard salary level test, they must make such payments on an annual or more frequent basis.

If an employee does not earn enough in nondiscretionary bonus or incentive payments in a given year (52-week period) to retain his or her exempt status, the Department permits the employer to make a “catch-up” payment within one pay period of the end of the 52-week period. This payment may be up to 10 percent of the total standard salary level for the preceding 52-week period. Any such catch-up payment will count only toward the prior year’s salary amount and not toward the salary amount in the year in which it is paid.

Updating

Experience has shown that fixed earning thresholds become substantially less effective over time. Additionally, lengthy delays between updates necessitate disruptively large increases when overdue updates finally occur. Accordingly, in the final rule the Department reaffirms its intent to update the earnings thresholds more regularly in the future through notice-and-comment rulemaking.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor


How to Take your 2020 Benefit Change Rollout to the Next Level

Employers are faced with the challenge of how to engage employees each year during open enrollment. Instead of printouts and email campaigns, try a new communication method this year. Read this blog post for easy tips to try this open enrollment season.


With open enrollment right around the corner, employers are faced with the annual question: how are we going to get employees engaged, while helping them make the smartest benefit decisions for their individual situations?

This year, instead of plain old printouts and email, try a new method. Whether you are changing providers, introducing new features, or simply showcasing existing options, switching up your enrollment process can be easier and more enjoyable than you’d think. Give these quick and easy tips a try for a better time come January 1.

Have a Lunch & Learn

Who doesn’t love a lunch & learn? Free food and a little break from the status quo is a much-welcomed way to get on board with the changes 2020 will bring. Whether you are opting for an informative webinar or an in-person presentation, providing a free lunch is a great way to encourage employee participation while boosting team morale.

If you are hosting an in-person benefits presentation, be sure to have your information nicely (and concisely!) summarized. Having a paper takeaway or a digital follow-up is key, as sometimes open enrollment can be overwhelming. Many people prefer to have something they can reference at a later date to help make their decision, so be sure those materials are available.

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

If it’s possible, why not get the whole team involved in asking questions and brainstorming? Benefit changes can be complex and confusing, and sometimes people feel too shy to ask questions during a formal presentation. Try breaking up into smaller groups and challenging each mini-team to answer ten questions related to open enrollment and benefits. The group that gets the most right answers wins a prize!

Design Your Rollout Mobile & Digital First

Mobile. It might seem like a no-brainer, but employees are going to be quicker to respond to changes if there’s an easy process that meets them where they are: their mobile devices. Reminding employees of a mobile registration option is a great way to capture high engagement rates. The key to a user-friendly registration is making it as turnkey as possible. If employees have to fish around for URLs, passwords, group numbers, et cetera, they are going to be less likely to complete these items in a timely fashion. Provide all the information you can upfront.

Add Social to Your Strategy. If you are not taking advantage of a social strategy such as Facebook, Slack, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more, the time is now! Digital quizzes, surveys, and chat channels can work wonders for engaging your employees during the open enrollment process while facilitating knowledge sharing. Why not create an internal Facebook group or Slack channel where your team can ask questions and exchange information? The outcome of benefits decisions usually lasts all year, so it’s important for people to have their questions answered in a casual, user-friendly environment. A big benefit for your HR team is that a digital-first strategy will cut down on “random question” drop-ins and interruptions at your office. Send everyone to one place in the digital space!

SOURCE: Olson, B. (15 October 2019) "How to Take your 2020 Benefit Change Rollout to the Next Level" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved fromhttp://blog.ubabenefits.com/how-to-take-your-2020-benefit-change-rollout-to-the-next-level


Commercial Risk Advisor - October 2019

The Cost of Employee Turnover

High turnover rates can be incredibly costly to an organization, making employee retention vital to success. While established employees can offer valuable insights based on their experiences in the organization, when they leave the organization they take all of that experience with them, forcing resources to be used on finding and training a replacement.

The cost of turnover can be divided into two types: direct and indirect.

  • Direct costs include those tied to replacement costs such as advertising the open position, and interviewing and testing candidates; and the costs of training new hires.
  • Indirect costs include factors that cannot be measured directly but are costly nonetheless, such as lost productivity and knowledge, and lower morale as a result of turnovers.

While the exact cost of each turnover varies, estimates suggest that replacing an employee could cost as high as 200% of the annual salary of that departing employee.

Keeping Turnover Low

Employee turnover is often caused by insufficient employee engagement. While compensation is typically a factor in turnovers, the lack of opportunities to advance and a stressful or otherwise unsatisfactory work environment are also contributing factors. Focus on improving company culture, pay and benefits, and providing a clear path for career development. Offering the ability to submit suggestions and complaints anonymously can encourage otherwise intimidated employees to share their insights.

Additionally, conducting exit interviews with departing employees can offer valuable insight into the exact cause of turnovers and what can be improved to increase employee retention. Any recurring complaints indicate areas for close examination and improvement.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor - slips, trips and falls account for over 95 million lost work days every year.

10 Tips to Avoid Slips, Trips And Falls at Your Workplace

Slips, trips and falls account for a large percentage of workplace accidents. As an employer, it is your responsibility to make certain all of your employees are following proper safety procedures and guidelines set in place by your company to ensure their safety.

Thankfully, there are various actions you and your workers can take to help alleviate workplace injuries caused by slip, trip and fall hazards.

Tips to Avoid Slips, Trip and Fall Hazards

To make sure all of your employees are working in a safe environment—the following 10 tips can help you and your workers minimize slip, trip and fall hazards at your company:

1. Maintain good housekeeping practices. A clean facility is your first line of defense against slips, trips and falls.

2. Require employees to wear the appropriate footwear required for specific job duties (e.g. nonslip, closed toe or  water-resistant).

3. Encourage employees to stay alert while on the job by eliminating any distractions that could cause them to lose focus and overlook a potential hazard.

4.  Place wet floor signs by all spills or wet surfaces to alert workers of a slipping hazard.

5.  Ensure spills are cleaned up immediately after they occur—try instating a cleanup procedure that explains the proper protocol for quickly and effectively cleaning a spill.

6.  Verify that all areas being utilized by employees are well-lit and that lightbulbs are being replaced regularly.

7.  Keep all high-traffic areas free of any objects, spills or debris in order to provide a safe walkway for all employees.

8.  Perform regular maintenance on all flooring, safety rails and stairs to avoid any instability that may lead to an injury.

9.  Assign workers cleanup responsibilities to help minimize various hazards that can accumulate throughout the day.

10.  Conduct regular inspections of your workplace to identify and resolve any slip, trip and fall hazards.

Discuss these tips with your employees to help reduce injuries caused by slips, trips and falls.

A turnover could cost as much as 200% of the annual salary of the departing employee.

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Cyber Risks and Liabilities - Fourth Quarter 2019

3 Risks Associated With Removable Media Devices

Portable hard drives, USB flash drives, memory cards and other types of removable media are vital for the quick storage and transportation of data. For many businesses, removable media can be used as backup storage for critical digital files or even free up additional storage space for work computers.

While removable media is easy to use and has many business applications, it isn’t without its share of risks. The following are some considerations to keep in mind when using removable media at your organization:

  • Data security—Because removeable media devices are typically small and easy to transport, they can easily be lost or stolen. In fact, every time you allow an employee to use a USB flash drive or other small storage device, your organization’s critical or sensitive information could fall into the wrong hands. What’s more, even if you encrypt your removable storage devices, you will not be able to recover lost files once the USB flash drive or other device is lost.
  • Malware—Simply put, when employees use removable media devices, they can unknowingly spread malware between devices. This is because malicious software can easily be installed on USB flash drives and other storage devices. In addition, it just takes one infected device to infiltrate your company’s entire network.
  • Media failure—Despite its low cost and convenience, removable media is inherently risky. This is because many devices have short life spans and can fail without warning. As such, if a device fails and your organization doesn’t have the files backed up, you could lose key files and data.

Thankfully, there are ways to mitigate risks associated with removable media. To use these devices effectively while maintaining data security, consider doing the following:

  • Develop a policy for related to removable media use.
  • Install anti-virus software that scans removable media devices.
  • Ensure all removable media devices are encrypted. Passwords to these devices should never be shared.
  • Instruct employees to never use unapproved removable media in a computer.
  • Have employees keep personal and business data separate.
  • Establish a process for wiping all portable media devices when they are no longer needed.

Cloud Computing 101

There are many benefits to adopting cloud computing at your organization, such as reduced IT costs and increased scalability. However, it’s important to note that there are different cloud service and deployment models, each with their own benefits and risks. There is no single type of cloud computing that will work best for everyone, so it’s important to conduct research to determine the right fit for your organization.

Types of Cloud Computing Service Models

There are three distinct cloud computing service models: Software as a Service (SaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

The SaaS distribution model provides you with an application that is managed by the service provider and accessible through the internet. As such, SaaS applications need not be installed or updated on individual computers.

The PaaS model allows organizations to safely develop, test and deploy applications without needing to manage the underlying infrastructure. This provides flexibility that allows deployments to scale quickly.

The IaaS model provides organizations with a specified amount of cloud storage space to do with whatever they want. This allows the greatest amount of flexibility, as the organization is responsible for accessing, monitoring and managing their data that is stored in the cloud. In this case, the service provider typically only manages hardware, storage and networking, though other services may be provided at additional costs.

Types of Cloud Deployment Models

Just like with service models, there are various different ways that a cloud can be deployed. This includes a public cloud, which is cost-effective and efficient but means that your data may be stored on the same server as others’. A private cloud, however, allows your organization greater control over infrastructure and computational resources by having them located on private networks.

Lastly, a hybrid cloud combines on-site infrastructure with a cloud environment. This allows organizations to utilize different types of service providers based on what is ideal for each business requirement.

Best Practices for Contracting With Managed Service Providers (MSPs)

While working with a managed service provider (MSP) can be efficient and cost-effective, it’s important to carefully consider the organization that you plan on working with and get a holistic view of its operations and security. Because an MSP has direct access to sensitive systems and information, working with one is not to be taken lightly. While doing so puts your IT infrastructure in the hands of experts, it also comes with its own risks. For example, MSPs may be a target for cyber criminals, as compromising one MSP potentially compromises every organization that it works with.

To help keep your organization’s digital information and resources secure, there are a number of best practices and security considerations to keep in mind when contracting with managed service providers:

  • Perform a detailed risk assessment and enforce associated mitigations before working with a managed service provider. Some considerations include:
    • How a cloud service (if used) is implemented and managed
    • Who has access to data and how it is secured
    • The intended purpose of engaging with the managed service provider
    • Potential challenges that may arise during incident detection and response, such as the managed service provider’s availability during off hours

  • Keep operating systems and software up to date.
  • Ensure that an MSP follows organizational security, privacy and legislative requirements.
  • Find out how closely the MSP adheres to an IT security management framework.
  • Use secure computers with multifactor authentication, strong passwords, few access privileges and encrypted network traffic to administer the cloud service.
  • Do not provide the MSP with account credentials or access to systems outside of their responsibility.
  • Use cryptographic controls to protect data in transit to and from the MSP.
  • Consider full data encryption for critical information while at rest and while maintaining control of encryption keys.
  • Employ full hard-drive encryption to ensure data at rest on storage media is not recoverable should the MSP replace or upgrade physical hard drives.

For more risk management strategies related to cyber exposures, contact Hierl Insurance Inc. today.

Portable hard drives, USB flash drives, memory cards and other types of removable media are vital for the quick storage and transportation of data.

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Why 24/7 Work Culture is Causing Workers to Burn Out

Burnout was recently classified by the World Health Organization as an "occupational phenomenon" that is characterized by chronic work stress. Workplace cultures that encourage employees to be available 24/7 may be causing burnout, according to Dr. Michael Klein. Read the following blog post to learn more.


Workplace culture that encourages employees to be available 24/7 may be causing burnout and other mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

That’s according to business psychologist and workplace adviser Dr. Michael Klein, who says companies that encourage employees to work anytime and anywhere is making it more likely that burnout will occur.

“The problem now is when you have the ability to work from wherever you want,” he says. “It’s so important for general wellness to make time to exercise, time for family and to not check work email.”

In May, the World Health Organization classified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon” that is characterized by chronic work stress that is not successfully managed. Research shows that continued stress at work can lead to more serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

As a result, Klein predicts the next few years will see an increased need for on-site mental healthcare which could be offered through employee assistance programs. Offering EAPs, flexible work options and family-friendly benefits like onsite childcare are just some of the ways employers can reduce stress for workers.

And HR may need to take the lead. Misty Guinn, director of benefits and wellness at Benefitfocus, says finding HR professionals that can handle difficult conversations around mental health may be key to addressing the problem. But many are not comfortable enough to have those kinds of conversations.

“Most have yet to achieve that level of comfort with conversations around mental health,” she says, noting that younger generations are often more comfortable talking about mental health issues. “We’ve got to enable people, especially within HR, benefits and management to have those conversations and be comfortable with them.”

Guinn also says that EAPs alone may not be enough to address mental health issues for workers because these programs are often scarcely utilized. Subsidizing mental health co-pays, work-life balance and PTO policies are benefit options employers to create a meaningful difference for workers mental health, she adds.

“Too often employers make the mistake of believing that offering an employee assistance program sufficiently checks off the mental health box in a complete benefits package,” she says. “In reality, these programs generally have low utilization because employees don’t have confidence in how confidential they are.”

Klein and Guinn agree that employers should consider more ways to support the total well-being of employees. Companies who prioritize their people will do better in the long term, Guinn adds.

“Employers need to take purposeful actions within their policies and programs to reinforce their support of total well-being for employees and their families,” she says.

SOURCE: Hroncich, Caroline. (June 10th, 2019) "Why 24/7 Work Culture is Causing Workers to Burn Out" (Web Blog Post) https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/24-7-work-culture-is-causing-workers-to-burn-out


6 voluntary benefits your employees want

Today’s workforce is no longer finding the run-of-the-mill benefits plans adequate. This is making voluntary benefits more important than ever in this age of the multigenerational workforce and a tight labor market. Read the following blog post for six voluntary benefits employees want.


In this age of the multigenerational workforce and a tight labor market, a one-size-fits-all group benefits model with medical, prescription, dental, vision and a retirement plan just doesn’t cut it. A workforce with Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, Millennials and Generation Z means that employees are going to find the run-of-the-mill benefits plan inadequate. Ditto for job seekers.

What follows is that voluntary benefits are more important than ever. Offering a range of voluntary benefits can help meet the needs of employees at all life stages.

Voluntary benefits add value to benefit plans and are typically easy to administer. They’re low-to-no-cost because employees pay for them, and maintenance is often handled through a payroll deduction. Many voluntary benefits also offer guaranteed acceptance at a lower rate than medical benefits, so even if a small group within your company chooses a particular benefit, they’ll be covered.

This landscape is changing quickly. Here are six trending voluntary benefits your employees want.

Student loan debt repayment assistance

Debt among college graduates has grown to nearly $1.6 trillion. It’s preventing the largest employee segment at most companies from buying houses or cars, saving for retirement, having kids and getting married. To help employees repay their student loan debt, some employers are helping employees pay down student loan debt through a direct payroll deduction.

Others are offering a new, IRS-allowable retirement plan match swap where an employer can opt to increase its defined contribution match, enabling employees to reduce their retirement match and contribute funds to repaying student loans instead.

Interest in this benefit continues to grow. Employers looking to offer student loan debt repayment should be aware that not all platforms are created equal. Look out for high per-employee, per-month fees.

Individual long-term care

A growing number of people are beginning to understand the value of long-term care insurance because they have taken care of or currently care for a friend or relative who needs round-the-clock care. Long-term care insurance covers home or institutional care if a person is no longer able to perform at least two activities of daily living--eating, bathing, dressing, moving from a bed to a chair or using a toilet.

Employees are interested in buying long-term care insurance through their employer because they can offer better rates for simplified issue plans. If you plan to offer long-term care as an employer-sponsored benefit, I recommended rolling it out with a strategic project plan and a benefit counselor or a technology platform capable of providing decision-making tools for a smooth application process.

Executive reimbursement plans

Employee retention — especially executive retention — is on the minds of many employers in the midst of this thriving economy. Filling gaps in medical and prescription coverage is one way to provide executive teams with premium benefits they may be looking for.

Executive reimbursement plans provide reimbursement for out-of-pocket expenses, access to facilities and level of service not normally covered under most group health plans. Rather than simply increasing compensation to help cover out-of-pocket expenses, premiums for these plans are tax-deductible for the employer, and benefits are non-taxable for employees.

Executive individual disability insurance

Traditional employer-sponsored long-term disability (LTD) is likely not enough coverage for highly-compensated employees or some sales staff who depends heavily on commission and bonuses. Normally, LTD pays employees 50-70% of their salary up to a certain amount.

Employers can carve out additional coverage for employees based on their management level, performance or tenure. Individual disability insurance plans can protect employees until they turn 65; they can also protect job titles or levels until employees are well enough to return to work. Executive individual disability insurance, like executive reimbursement, can be offered as a form of compensation, or a form of financial asset protection for higher incomes.

Telemedicine

The rise of consumer-driven health plans has led to the need for telemedicine. Telemedicine provides a way for employees to see a physician or provider by video and get a diagnosis and/or prescription quickly. The success of telemedicine is leading some carriers to integrate it within their plan. However, standalones still exist and can provide employees with an easy way to get care faster and cheaper than before.

Pet Insurance

Pet parents spend nearly $70 billion on veterinarian costs for their pets, but just 10% of dogs and 5% of cats are covered by medical insurance. As pets begin to play a larger role in our lives, more employers are offering pet insurance to their employees to help defray the cost of unexpected medical expenses.

There are a number of plan options, and setting up a plan for employees’ pets is simple. However, it’s vital that employers do their research to ensure the veterinarian network includes the best vets.

As part of a voluntary benefit offering, be sure to develop a rollout strategy and communications plan so employees are thoroughly educated and you meet group minimums.

SOURCE: Park, N. (25 September 2019) "6 voluntary benefits your employees want" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/6-voluntary-benefits-your-employees-want